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Do you ask the right questions (for building with culture in mind)?

Kevin Kelly has written many good books and said many wise things with regards to digitalization, technology and constant change. Often very technology focused and visionary but always touching on culture. After all, he is somewhat of a futurologist. With his last book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future (which I haven’t read, only pod-heard about and from) he goes into how great leaders ask really good questions. Although it’s in relation to AI and super powers that help provide answers, it’s relevant far beyond that. It really resonates well with me.

Given how digital transformation, as the figure below, from McKinsey Quarterly shows, has shifted from the more technical and concrete aspects and focus areas, to a much more abstract one – namely culture – so must our questions. Question is: have they?

Culture for a digital age - McKinsey Quarterly, July 2017

Have you asked who (or what focus) needs to be onboard besides the, so far, frequent and apparently obvious head of digital, chief technical officer, innovation officer, digital director, chief data strategist, data guru, chief head of atomic big data machine learning robot executive master etc and so on?

Have you as someone responsible for transformation work, leader or in other capacities, developed the powerful questions behind the questions? Have you developed or stumbled upon ways of understanding and approaching the problem behind the problem (and opportunity within the opportunity)?

brands as a part of our environment and more

Camper is a quirky shoe brand from Mallorca, Spain. You react when you see them, from the characteristic “one-way-show-string” models, to the “rounded soldier boot meet clown shoe” inspired style but perhaps primarily their stores, in which their shoes are presented in a very artful way. It’s somewhat of an experience to browse the models which is nice.

I like the reflection below, about how Camper and its stores is part of the cities they’re in. And when you design a store, you can take cultural (and perhaps even political!) differences into account, hence looking at it from the perspective of adding, changing or commenting something that exists, in the greater context of things. In the case of Camper, using different designers to design stores around globe, resulting in drastically different experiences, it’s
“more a cultural thing”, rather than commercial, says Miguel Fluxá.

When we started to open stores outside Spain we thought it was interesting not to repeat them. The world today is becoming a little bit boring, everything is becoming the same. So we thought it was interesting for the brand, and for the cities, to do different designs from one place to the other. We started to do this many years ago and it’s something that has given us a lot of identity and has worked quite well over the years.

– Miguel Fluxá of Camper, via Dezeen

Camper in-store design
In-store design, from Dezeen.com

the revolution that wasn’t a revolution

A man in a large crowd stares into the camera. His eyes are wide open. If you didn’t know what was happening, you’d have a hard time telling if he had a stare of anger, victory or happiness. It was a mix of all three. He was in the start of a revolution.

There was a panel discussion at FutureEverything in Manchester some time back, about digital and the future. Ela Kagel, a curator focusing on free culture and the open web, had a talk about value transfer, crowd funding and the challenge of future revenue models for artists and cultural workers. It’s a very interesting subject, and indeed her project called Free Culture Incubator is too.

What I find quite interesting with this is that arts grants and other official cultural support functions have been about the process of creating art. Support for the doing, so that artists can then sell the final product. And although many artists, who have always struggled, may find bootlegging and copying a major problem and maybe even a spit in the face, they now have so many new ways of getting support for the process and the actual doing from a much larger community. A visionary idea or project like Molly Crabapple’s Week In Hell can get $17,000 from supporters that don’t know what’s going to come out at the end. We don’t just buy the final art, we buy into a thought, idea, culture or movement. Below is a graph of the different types of projects that get funding from Kickstarter.

“Are we prepared for after the revolution?”

That was the key question that made me squirm in my seat up in Manchester. “Are we prepared for after the revolution?” Well that makes no sense at all, which, seen as I can’t shut up, proclaimed loudly. I got a quiet stare back. The fact of the matter is that only if you’ve been asleep for the last 20 years can you wake up after a revolution. What we’ve been in for quite some time now (quite being the key part) is an evolution and not a revolution. An evolution that many have handled brilliantly and others not so brilliantly. But to blame it on being a victim of a revolution is crazy. Revolutions explode. Those prepared for this revolution are those who saw it as, and treated it as, an evolution early on. Those interested in, or at least realizing, the change. So the question has the answer already. For those who see it as a revolution; no, you’re not prepared.

Why is it important to distinguish a revolution from an evolution? Because it better helps corporations, organisations and brands making sense of it all. That it’s not making sense of something new, but continuously making sense of ongoing change. It might be about an implementation. Only not a solution, but rather a mindset or approach. The quicker they come to terms with the fact that never again will it move so slowly, the better. It’s not a change. It’s change.

But still, wise words from a man who wrote poetry from his thoughts about revolutions. Revolutions will not be televised because the actual revolution has already happened in the hearts and minds of revolutionaries. That cannot be televised. Revolutions, he said, happen within. Only the effects can be viewed and broadcast, and here’s how it looks.


Romanian revolutionaries taking over mass media, a good sign of a revolution.

ultimate artistic expression of remix

Kutiman is at it again. To me, his musical video mixes are the ultimate artistic expressions of what remixes are today. It’s less than professional (but he is a professional producer I hear) in the traditional sense i.e. source material is user generated, distribution is free spread is self-propagated etc. This particular one he’s shot and directed himself which, funnily enough, could be considered taking a step back seen only from a UGC point of view… But who cares.

men have lost some culture


“Men have lost something in terms of culture, you know, so… just saying maybe we should get some of it back”
– Glenn O’brien

Where the line between losing a bit of culture and updating and adding culture can be found, I don’t know. But it’s an observation he’s not along to have made, and to some extent I have to agree. I’m a culprit myself. But back when men did dress up, surely we didn’t have slacker culture…

With every new wave, be it philosophical, style related, art related – anything really – there’s going to be a counter wave. At some point. Slowly beginning to grow in size. Check out Brooklyn Circus, to stay with men’s style and men’s fashion for example.

And actually; trying, doing (expressing) something new is not just how the old way of doing things lose people over to the new way, it’s also how people trying the new find their way back. On an individual level, generation and longer term culture. Small waves and big waves. They share the motion.

Do check out the, by the looks of it, really interesting lifestyle magazine by Jay-Z.

intercultural communications and planning

After flipping through an old book on intercultural communication from the times back in school, it struck me that all communications models therein is more relevant and applicable than any other models (of course the element “clutter” does include “cultural differences” in those models too). Not that any old model is applicable at all.

And the way the world looks today, planners on national level have to take intercultural communications issues more seriously in their work. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I believe it’s a fair assessment. The only thing all cultures share, is the fact that they’re ethnocentric. I’ve heard. And studying intercultural communications, or anthropology, pretty much proves this right (often in an painfully obvious manner).

It’s worth a think.

On that note. Westerners, including me who’s a blond, blue-eyed Swede, are per definition a low context culture. We communicate in a clear, “no bullshit” way. High context cultures leave much more unsaid (verbally) and trust the context and the knowledge about the one you’re communicating with to fill in the gaps. Funnily enough – that’s the type of advertising we like so much in low context cultures. Like: “don’t treat them (advertising victims) like idiots – let them co-create the meaning”.

Funny that. I’m pretty sure it’s to do with being more interesting that way. Less obvious. And again it hits you; why the hell is so much advertising over obvious, to the point of you feeling like you’re treated like an idiot?

That’s a whole other matter.