Mix and match

Some intriguing research from a multi-disciplinary team at Northwestern University on what makes a successful creative team spotted by EurekAlert:
” We found that teams that achieved success — by producing musicals on Broadway or publishing academic papers in good journals — were fundamentally assembled in the same way, by bringing in some experienced people who had not worked together before. The unsuccessful teams repeated the same collaborations over and over again.”

(A link to the original paper can be found on Does Size Matter)

The idea of slowness

“I love the idea of slowness. It took thousands of years to come to the conclusion that we think of as a chair. Vitra moves fast in comparison to that, but I do think that every object has a natural evolutionary pace. If Charles Eames had said, “We have to finish it fast fast fast!” his chairs wouldnt be relevant a half-century later. I believe in getting things right. In our industry, you cant force something if you want it to be good. It has to become. Every object is a being with a soul. Our work is to find that soul. Sometimes we cant manage to find it, and we have to abandon the project or try again. Were not worried about being first to market, because what we do is unique by its very nature. Good design is relevant for decades; a year matters little on that scale.”
Rolf Fehlbaum, CEO of Vitra
(Thanks to designfeast.com for alerting me to this quote)

On Not Having A Career

There’s a great interview with Joan Bakewell in the Idler. In it she talks about how, after having a number of proper jobs in Broadcasting, Teaching and Advertising, she began to work out what she really wanted to do. Sounds like good advice to me and well worth reading in full:
“By now I was beginning to formulate what exactly I wanted from life. Not from a job or even a career. But from life itself. And I discovered that the ingredients actually lay all around. They just needed to be combined in the right formula to meet my own temperament and abilities. They are not obscure and elusive. They are the very things most of us want: a happy family life focused around good relationships; congenial surroundings both at home and at work, that make life pleasant. I am not talking some ambitious make-over nonsense here. Think instead of being able to watch a particular tree round the seasons, coming into bud, flowering, turning to golden leaf and then fronting the winter with stark, dramatic branches. That seems to be a good ambition to have. Then there are friendships; bosom pals for intimacies and advice; working colleagues for sustaining each other with laughter and encouragement; acquaintances met at odd moments, introduced by others, casual encountered at the school gate. All these friendships settle and regroup over the years, some coming to the fore, others lapsing with time. Yes, the encouragement of friendship seems a worthwhile way of spending time. Finally there is the work itself. My own needs are for variety of tasks within and possibly at the limit of my capabilities, periods of heavy effort interspersed with more reflective times; intellectual engagement with ideas, and a sense of something worthwhile being achieved.”

Prostration quite unnecessary

If you had told me some years ago that I would feel some affection for Harold Macmillan, Conservative Prime Minister 1957-63, I would have found it hard to believe. But over the years I have found myself warming to him, mostly because the man had a sense of humour.
Simon Schama gives a nice example in a recent Guardian article:
“Tripping over a rug in the Christs College senior common room, I rose to find myself face to face with Harold Macmillan’s whiskers. ‘There there’, Supermac drawled, not missing a beat, ‘gratitude understandable; prostration quite unnecessary.'”

Nothing to fear, etc, etc

Last year, shortly after the Madrid bombings, I wrote a short piece, in which I said:
“…as we have seen over and over again there is a kind of symbiosis between the people who plant bombs and the people in authority whose instincts are essential anti-democratic. The number of voices arguing that the rights won by our ancestors at a cost to their liberties and lives must be sacrificed to guard against the possibility of exceptional events occurring is rising. Moves in that direction are dangerous and, as history has shown us, ineffective. And those seductive voices that promise security should make us afraid – our freedoms are more fragile and more easily eroded than we sometimes imagine.”
What has followed since has, if anything increased my fears. So it was encouraging to see that many people are picking up on a talk by security expert, Bruce Schneier, on itconversations , which is becoming one of my favourite sites. Among many interesting points he makes, the one I hope will gain wider circulation and will be remember the next time we a hear a politician proposing some repressive measure on the grounds that it will protect us from some terrorist threat is this one:
“Another thing we have to remember, which is very hard to remember in sort of our fear-laden society, is terrorism hardly ever happens. Very often I hear people from administration saying, Our policies are working because in the two-and-a-half years since 9/11, nothing else has happened, and I think about it and say, Well, nothing happened two-and-a-half years before 9/11 either. You did not have any policies. What does that prove??
What it proves is that terrorist attacks are very, very rare and that were spending a lot of money on something that hardly ever happens. Now, we can decide to do that. We as a nation tend to worry about spectacular and rare events rather than common events, like spouse abuse, automobile crashes, things that kill lots and lots of people every year, and we tend to focus on the spectacular and rare, but we should realize were doing that.”