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Dear Nike and Wieden+Kennedy, have you thought about running a school?

Dear sirs,

I do two things that have inspired this post. I mentor a 6 yr old boy, who was recently excluded from school on account of his behaviour. He is sometimes what might be described as hyperactive, and I’ve found that the way to engage him best is by playing sport.

 

I also work in communication, and I’m a huge fan of W+K’s work for Nike. It’s just brilliant: Grid, Boom (below), What Should I Do?, Write the Future – terrific, inspiring stuff.

 

 

So I put the two together. and thought: nike schools.

 

nike schools

 

(for kids that can’t sit still)

 

you’ve got the ethos of the school down already: just do it; the ‘be whatever you want to be’ vibe. Write the Future? How is that not a school motto already?

 

A lack of aspiration is generally the classic failing in kids from lower income families, kids stuck in the poverty trap – their parents don’t have high hopes for them, their community doesn’t inspire them, they have no aspiration.

 

And then at school we compel kids to sit still for hours – when they are built to run around (see Sir Ken Robinson on kinetic learning in this TED talk)

 


There is a generation of young urban males being switched off schools. 

So what do they aspire to? Sports stars. They look up at sports stars as the ultimate achievers – partly because due to the awesome branding that Nike does.

 

So let’s teach, reward, discipline, guide kids through sport. they’ll lap it up. trajectory and distance of free kicks; the speed of the football is distance over time…

 

Now I’m guessing Nike aren’t prepared to run a school – but they don’t have to; you find a willing partner running an academy, and you sponsor them with some cash, they design the lessons around sport, or ensure there is vast amounts of sport in the school day.

 

In return, Nike provide loads of sportswear, which forms rewards for good academic and sporting achievement; and more importantly, Nike or W+K provide all the branding and ethos advice the school can take. 

 

Imagine a giant orange swoosh on the black perimeter wall of the school – bright orange letters that greet the kids with ‘Just Do It’. The constant association of high sporting achievement with high academic achievement

 

don’t know if it would be good marketing, but it would be amazing for the kids.

 

just do it.

 

best,

joe mitchell

 

p.s. I’ll stop writing about Nike/W+K for a bit now.

 

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How to be smarter: be wrong. Notes from Kathryn Schultz at the RSA

I like the idea that failure is good. Not all the time, cos we’d never get anything done. But it’s not always bad. And sometimes it’s essential. Seen it commercially celebrated at Wieden + Kennedy’s London office. Sorry to go on about them. They’re a ‘creative agency’, i.e. the guys that come up with TV ads and images and things for adverts. They’re fun places. And they embrace failure. (Not so much that stuff breaks. Presumably they can’t all be embracing failure all the time. But still.)

Kathryn Schultz has written a book on it. She spoke at the RSA about it ages ago, and I made some notes. They are as follows.

Mistakes are like cockroaches: fascinating, but nasty.

‘We think of mistakes as unwelcome, disgusting inhabitants of cognition.’

Wanted to understand the origins, and propose a different way of thinking about being wrong.

Story of a woman who’d suffered a stroke, gone blind. But didn’t know she was blind. A real condition, very rare. Some stroke victims similarly don’t know that they are paralysed.

Helps establish that there are no outer limits of being wrong. [Descartes would have agreed.]

‘There is almost no belief we can have about the world that is not under certain circumstances, a fallacy.’

 (This is not Descartes.)

What does it mean to be wrong? Those strange medical conditions again: they remember the sensation of moving, and they think that that memory is actually happening. But they’re wrong.

Wrongness reminds us that there is a gap between our mind and the world. 

To be blind to our own blindness is a condition of all of us. Being wrong doesn’t feel like anything. Realising that you’re wrong might lead to all sorts of feelings. But just ‘being wrong’ – nothing. 

Wile E Coyote could run off a cliff for a short time and keep running; he’d only fall when he realised there was no ground below him.

On the enlightenment, there should be a shift in metaphors – we think of coming from the dark and going into the light. But championing a certain set of beliefs might not be condusive to a culture of enlightenment. Accept the darkness. Insist on space for ambiguity, error.

Original enlightment thinkers understood this.

Doubt is the way forward for enlightenment. Start asking: ‘what if i’m wrong?’ It’s exciting!

When belief systems collapse, that’s when things get interesting – you learn, reconstruct your view of the world for the better. Creative minds of every era understand the centrality of doubt. 

I love this. I think it requires a bit of discipline to remember to stop and ask the question. And it’s difficult when nobody around you is. But all the more important. 

 

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Nike and Wieden+Kennedy produce the best digital marketing campaign of the year

Nike is run by marketing geniuses. Or it’s something to do with Wieden+Kennedy, their brilliant ad/creative agency.

In my favourite digital marketing thing of the year, they took over phoneboxes across London, and challenged people to run between them. Faster and further than their neighbours. It was all done by postcode, so it was all hyperlocal. And it happened over a 24hr period – runners got a code that they bashed into every phone box they ran to, and every run was logged online. Badges were awarded for running between postcodes, running furthest, running fastest, and points were tallied live on NikeGrid.com. After 24 hrs, the champion of each postcode was announced. Both on the website, but also on local electronic billboards. 

 (Flickr credit: Birdsigh)

It was genius. It was like being in some weird secret society, where you knew you were up against other people, but didn’t know who they were. They were rivals, but cos you were both doing this faintly underground challenge, they were comrades. It was all managed digitally, but it took place in the real world – racing down London streets rather than sitting in front of a monitor. It’s like one of those massively multi-player online games, but not online.

And now NikeGrid is running again. This time they’ve added the option to run as a team (London university students will lap this up) and instead of 24hrs, it’s 15 days. 

All of the ‘Grid’ stuff is branded and designed beautifully: underground, gritty, urban etc. Check out their hexagonal honeycomb-style map of London below (given out to those who ran last time – keeping the ‘club’ thing going). It’s a pretty long way from the Nike that sponsors giant football teams or puts great cinema ads together. This hits a real active audience in a way that they want to join in. 

Imag0022

The other clever thing is that you have to sign up through Facebook, which of course means “You irrevocably grant NIKE, its group companies and third party commercial partners the right indefinitely and throughout the world, without any expectation of compensation, further permissions or notifications to: (i) use your photograph, video or film portrayal, image, likeness, voice and any other means which identify you”

Ah, good times. Privacy is dead. Long live Facebook.

 

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Thinking

Why Capitalism is so 1.0

In my general love for social media and the internet, and how they change everything, utterly, I’ve been thinking about markets.

Markets work: they produce vast quantities of things rich people don’t need at huge environmental cost” isn’t what the Buttonwood columnist in The Economist wrote recently.

They wrote, of course, that ‘markets work’ and paraphrased Friedrich Hayek as saying that markets ‘represented the individual decisions of millions – the wisdom of crowds, if you like’. This made me think of all the hype about social media: the combined efforts of millions on Twitter, Facebook etc. Wikipedia as a remarkable product of 100m hours of ‘cognitive surplus‘. The websites that try to harness the ‘wisdom of crowds’ or are platforms for collaborative creation: e.g. Beta CupJovotoHypios

I was taught that economics is about one problem: the allocation of resources, such as capital, land and labour. Who gets what resources, how the resources are used, what is produced, who contributes, how products are distributed; that sort of thing. And the capitalist model, best elucidated by Adam Smith, says that markets provide the best solution, by managing millions of personal decisions about what’s best for an individual. Through the cumulative effects of personal decisions, the market sends signals (mainly in the price of goods/services) about what should be produced and how, where things should be sent, who gets what, etc. The ‘invisible hand’ distributes the resources.

The problem is that this means that you only get a say in the what/who/where if you’ve got money with which to signal your desire. ‘Money votes.’ It’s not particularly revolutionary to suggest that this might not best way to organise things. The reason for listening to you shouldn’t be due to whether you have money or not. No money no voice. Capitalism and democracy aren’t logical partners: an old argument.

So I wonder what Hayek and Smith would have made of the internet.

It seems to me that the internet provides an alternative way of solving the economic problem. Technologies like social media allow management of vast quantities of information, previously unknowable or unmanagable. Rather than market-based information like prices and profits as signals, we can allocate resources based on much deeper, more personal, more real information. We can account for those without capital. Anyone with a digital voice can take part in a global conversation about the what/who/how/where of resources.

What this physically looks like, I’m not sure. But it might be something like NeighborGoods, and similar non-profits or social-goal driven companies, like Kiva, etc. They’re all pretty small-scale at the moment, and deal with things that are tiny in the grand scheme of things. But perhaps it starts with these.

Exciting times.

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Notes from Amartya Sen’s chat on Global Justice @LSEpublicevents last week

Sen was great. Like a mischievous imp, but in 77yr-old Harvard professor form. Lots of jokes about ties. Indeed, just lots of jokes.

And the following thoughts, which he offered simply as ‘thoughts’ on global justice, rather than any defined argument. He and the audience often referred to his most recent work: ‘The Idea of Justice

  • Global justice faces a problem in an unwillingness to look beyond borders
  • A challenge to global justice is in the two conflicting understandings of justice: (1) Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau & Kant’s understanding of justice as an ideal; relating to nations, institutions (a state of ‘just-ness’ which is arrived at)  (2) Adam Smith, Wollstonecraft and Sen’s understanding of justice as a comparative thing; something that you could rank
  • Smith criticised early British Empire as not taking account of the interests of non-Brits and used the Greek infanticide example to show that understandings of justice change over time 
  • Thomas Nagel said that global justice may be a chimera
  • Democracy as public reasoning is an important idea (propounded by JS Mill and Walter Bagehot), but that justice and democracy aren’t completely interdependent
  • There always has to be a reason, so there is never a total absence of thought/argument [though the space can be confined, and you can’t force people to engage?]  
  • On global warming, China and India must forget the past (of the West causing climate change), and help solve the problem; but this requires more balance in the (global?) reasoning process: COP15 showed a failure of reasoning. Good argument takes time!
  • The removal of injustice is the key. Less concerned with what justice is. We can identify a perfect state, but that doesn’t help solve the problems of the imperfect or unjust. 
  • A definition of justice is unnecessary: we won’t agree, and it won’t help.
  • The global ‘public reasoning space’ [I made that up] is improving. Networks like Al-Jazeera have increased the number of voices. [missed an obvious point to sing the praises of the internet here?]
  • Jesus Christ asked ‘Who is the neighbour?’ – it was the Good Samaritan. We need to start defining neighbourliness beyond locality. With globalisation, we have relations with people all over the world: ‘the boundaries of justice are ever wider’.
  • UN is great, but has its limits, such as funding. Doesn’t really have a role in ‘justice’, but its work on gender and human development all contributes.
  • Center for Disease Control in the US (CDC) is an amazing thing – not it’s purpose, but it does have an impact on injustice. 

For reviews of the Idea of Justice, there’s a short Times article and Guardian article.

For more on Sen, he wrote a mini-autobiography for the Nobel website in 1998. The sort of humane, brilliant, witty chap you want to be when you grow up.

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A few notes on digital collaborative health inspired by @cshirky @LSEpublicevents

A quick note of Clay Shirky’s lecture on Cognitive Surplus can be found at DavePress

This is just a point about one of Shirky’s key examples, patientslikeme, cos it’s amazing.

As he pointed out, it completely throws open what we assumed about medical data. And particularly mental health. 

US citizens are voluntarily publishing vast amounts of data about their medical conditionsThe site then aggregates the data, creating some funky charts (e.g. charts of average dosage per drug), and, it claims, revolutionising medical research, treatment and understanding for both suppliers and users.

Plenty will worry about people self-medicating; one comment says

 “PatientsLikeMe is the main reason that I concluded I had been mis-diagnosed depressive, instead of bipolar, and just recently decided to try new medication.” 

Presumably that would worry a lot of doctors – but it’s unstoppable. The medical profession is going to have to change…but how? Will sites like this increase the average knowledge of medicine, enable peer-to-peer practitioning, or simply indulge hypochondriacs? Will a clinician’s role be in moderating sites like these? 

But for champions of transparency and open data, it’s almost a holy grail: people are volunteering what would have been considered their most private data. The strictest rules apply to its release by organisations, so patientslikeme gets the individuals to ‘open’ it. They don’t seem to have to try that hard to convince:  http://www.patientslikeme.com/about/openness

we believe sharing your healthcare experiences and outcomes is good. Why? Because when patients share real-world data, collaboration on a global scale becomes possible…

 

Currently, most healthcare data is inaccessible due to privacy regulations or proprietary tactics. As a result, research is slowed, and the development of breakthrough treatments takes decades. Patients also can’t get the information they need to make important treatment decisions. 

 

Furthermore, we believe data belongs to you the patient to share with other patients, caregivers, physicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and anyone else that can help make patients’ lives better. Will you add to our collective knowledge… and help change the course of healthcare? 

Never mind an online encyclopaedia. Collaborative healthcare is coming to a laptop near you.
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Nuggets from @nesta_uk & @the_young_fdn work on how public services can foster innovation

  I’ve been looking at the Young Foundation & Nesta’s Open Book of Social Innovation over the weekend – super interesting. Here’s a quick précis:

Premise: We’ve got a problem…

“The classic tools of government policy on the one hand, and market solutions on the other, have proved grossly inadequate

“The silos of government departments are poorly suited to tackling complex problems which cut across sectors and nation states. Civil society lacks the capital, skills and resources to take promising ideas to scale.”

“The prospective cost of dealing with these issues threatens to swamp public budgets, and in the case of climate change, or healthcare in the US, private budgets as well.”

Solution: Social innovation, leading to…

 “an emerging social economy…Its key features include:

 

•  The intensive use of distributed networks to sustain and manage relationships, helped by broadband, mobile and other means of communication.

•  Blurred boundaries between production and consumption. 

•  An emphasis on collaboration and on repeated interactions, care and maintenance rather than one-off consumption. 

•  A strong role for values and missions.

They point to the growth of “global infrastructure, social-networking tools” and an “increased focus on the individual and relationships rather than systems and structures”, as distinctive characteristics of the social economy. 

“The role of the consumer changes from a passive to an active player: to a producer in their own right.”

Role of public sector in making innovation happen:

“Innovation in the public sector always risks being a marginal add-on – small scale in terms of funds, commitment of people and political capital.” 

That’s sad.

But happily, NESTA and the Young Foundation have some suggestions for improvement. I’ve copied in the most interesting below and added links:

– have a dedicated innovation fund, like the NHS’s £200m fund
– voluntary taxes – no, honestly, apparently the Mayor of Bogota asked, and 63,000 gave! Awesome.
– community pledgebanks (perhaps with matched public funding?)

And of particular interest for civil servants:

– Tithes of working time for self-directed projects (Google’s 20% is often mentioned (and it’s important to recognise self-directed products), but is it still their policy?)
– Secondments into ‘skunkworks‘ projects: basically given a free role, unhampered by bureaucracy (imagine the competition for these jobs!)

And my favourite:

– “‘A-teams’ of young civil servants commissioned to develop innovative solutions” – but also from universities, private sector etc in this South Aus example

Top stuff – take a look at the full book, it’s full of ideas, not just for public services, but grant-making organisations and private and informal sectors.