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Book Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

June 22, 2010 2 comments

A few good quotes & passages that I wanted to share:

On classifying people: “Cliches and stereotypes such as ‘beatnik’ or ‘hippie’ have been invented for the antitechnologists, the antisystem people, and will continue to be. But one does not convert individuals into mass people with the simple coining of  a mass term.” (emphasis mine) Pg.16

On over-analyzing: “When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process. That is fairly well understood, at least in the arts. Mark Twain’s experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty. Something is always killed. But what is less noticed in the arts — something is always created too. And instead of just dwelling on what is killed it’s important also to see what’s created and to see the process as a kind of death-birth continuity that is neither good nor bad, but just is.” (emphasis mine) Pgs.70-71

On systems: “To speak of certain government and establishment institutions as ‘the system’ is to speak correctly, since these organizations are founded upon the same structural conceptual relationships as a motorcycle. They are sustained by structural relationships even when they have lost all other meaning and purpose. People arrive at a factory and perform a totally meaningless task from eight to five without question because the structure demands that it be that way. There’s no villain, no ‘mean guy’ who wants them to live meaningless lives, it’s just that the structure, the system demands it and no one is willing to take on the formidable task of changing the structure just because it’s meaningless.

But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible (emphasis mine). The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.” Pgs.87-88

Wow – this book came out in 1974 but that last passage could have been written this year. General Motors, Microsoft and most recently BP are all good examples of institutions that will fail to change until they integrate new people with fresh ideas.

Innovation always has to come from the top and it doesn’t matter how smart, creative or talented a company’s employees are if they’re in an environment that stifles change.

BUY IT ON AMAZON Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (P.S.)

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Speaking of poor corporate culture, “Light Touch Key to Product Innovation” on WARC points to a Nielsen study that “…found that greater involvement among senior managers in the ideation and creation processes generally leads to launches that enjoy lower success rates.” Nice.

On the flip side, here’s Ed Cotton’s post on Amazon’s acquisition of Zappos, a company that champions culture: “Zappos and the Power of Soft Intangibles

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Categories: BOOK REVIEWS

TED X Hollywood: June 5th

June 6, 2010 2 comments

This weekend I was fortunate to be one of the lucky people in attendance at TEDxHollywood, “a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.”

The event was held at the LA office of TBWA/CHIAT/DAY, which is basically the kind of cool, funky, creative environment where every ad guy and girl dreams of working.

An office park...literally

The event was organized by Creative Director Tito Melega, who said during his introduction (I’m paraphrasing) on the evening’s theme, Creativity In The New World: “Instead of creating stories people want to hear, we create stories people want to tell.”

The event moved forward with the first guest speaker, photographer Jay Mark Johnson, who creates stunning visuals through the use of what he calls “Space-time Photography.”

Next up was Rob Schwartz, Chief Creative Officer at TBWA/CHIAT/DAY who talked about some of the work that went into the Pepsi Refresh Project, an excellent case study for brands who want to behave as a tool for positive social change. What was really inspiring is the number of incredible ideas people submitted to the campaign: “There’s so much creative potential in this country coming from regular people.”

I loved when Rob showed us a messenger bag created from a billboard that was used doing the Refresh project. It was a great example of a brand using their marketing to literally create something in line with the campaign message. He closed with this Behance-esque quote.

IDEAS WORTH SHARING —> IDEAS WORTH DOING

Mark was followed by singer/songwriter Elizaveta, who pretty much left everyone floored during her performance with her amazing voice. You can download four free tracks here.

The last presenter of the night was Tears For Fears co-founder Curt Smith, who talked about how social media has changed both the music industry and how he behaves as a musician. The key takeaway for me was when Curt said, “I don’t HAVE to record an ALBUM.” He’s realized that the album format is inefficient and outdated, something Bob Lefsetz has been saying for some time now: people nowadays prefer cherry-picking their favorite tracks over buying albums.

Looking back, I’m incredibly grateful to have been a part of this experience. I met some terrific people and I think that it’s great Tito was able to gather such a colorful group of presenters to educate, entertain and inspire us for a short evening — pretty much everything I could ask for in a TED event.

LINKS:

Check out my full Flickr set here

TED X Hollywood Tweet Stream

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