Making Stuff That Matters

Every morning i’m seeing increasing numbers of posts about conferences on designing the future. They’re interesting and valuable, but without products that matter to flow through the system being designed they’re as useful as plumbing in a desert.

For the last fifty years, advisory businesses from accounting to design have made excellent livings advising people who make things and helping them improve. We’re at the end of that cycle. We’ve made far too much of what really doesn’t matter and created a plastic economy.

Our shortage now is not advisers – we have shedload upon shedload of them. What we need are people who have ideas about what to make, and how to make it in a world that is in upheaval.

Products and services that will improve our lot, reduce inequality, help heal the climate, restore our ecology and make our souls sing rather than our wallets bulge.

You are out there. You are not head of a corporation, and neither are you likely to fulfil what we need working for someone else. You will not be an adviser.

You will be on fire and frustrated. You will be looking for fellow travellers who will put skin into the game, and share risks. People who will sleep under their desks and worktables whilst pushing to do something remarkable.

We don’t need advisers, we need doers. Makers of things that matter. We need to link them together. Creators of beautiful businesses

The only advisers we need are those who have already done it. Iconoclasts. Warriors for better. People who inspire us by example not advice.

They are worth listening to.

The Self Respect Filter

It’s invisible, anonymous, mutates and is passed easily from person to person. It can quickly overwhelm entire communities in hours.

If we mask up for Coronvirus, why don’t we do so for the media we consume?

My normal habit is to get up early, have a cup of tea (Compulsory. I’m English) and spend some quiet time greeting the morning before too many people have used it. all is well.

Then, I turn on BBC Radio Four, and open my laptop, and whoosh. Like having a shower under Niagara Falls. Unmitigated disaster. We’re all doomed. All those who lead us are incompetent. Only the location and the depth varies.

We have a small cohort of press, politicians and various species of papparazzi for whom deceit, dissembling, and disinformation has become so much of an art form it seems to have become unconscious for them. Like a bad diet.

It’s time to apply the self respect filter and embrace reality. Whilst do do seem to have a remarkable crop of politicians many of whom display compound ineptitude and lack of any reasonable leadership qualities right now, they are temporary, and are not a foundation for long term reality. There are better out there.

We determine our own reality. It is a function of the conversations I have with people I respect. It’s what I notice going on around me, and what those people I talk to see. It’s about choosing to filter what I consume through my self respect.

  • Why am I reading / listeng to / watching this?
  • What is their intent – to inform or shape?
  • Why are they doing it – is it something they believe, or something they are instructed to do by an employer?
  • How will this make my day better?
  • And help me make somebody else’s day better?
  • Would my grandchildren thank me for it?

There are some things we have less choice over – like food, and accomodation, and what we do to make a living to pay the rent, but the information we consume that determines how we see the world is not one of them.

We have a choice.

Do one thing

When times are tough, most people run for cover. They make excuses. “We’ve produced more tests than ever before” when the number of tests is clearly inadequate. “Lessons will be learned” as a way of sidelining a problem when it’s a clear repeat of a previous issue. Putting clear blue water and legal disclaimers between the advice we give and the result of its implementation.

Externalising the problem. Watching, not doing.

Times are tough, and will continue to be. The problems are “wicked”. They won’t stay still and move faster than we do. no matter how hard we try, we are absolutely guaranteed to make mistakes.

Because we can’t do all of it doesn’t mean we can’t to anything. Today, right now, we all have a job to do.

  • We can venture a thoughtful view that might get ridiculed, or perhaps create momentum.
  • We can set an idea free.
  • We can start something that matters. It doesn’t have to be huge.
  • We can encourage somebody who is doing just that.
  • We can forego easy criticism and pay attention to the challenge they are facing.
  • We can talk about important things where none of us know and all of us are uncertain in an attempt to surface options.
  • We can remember that money is by far and away the poorest measure of someone’s value.

If we do just one of these things, or anything that is grounded in generosity of spirit in difficult times, and feel even the tiniest movement forward, it will mean something.

We need to remember nobody is coming to rescue us. It’s down to us.

We may as well start today.

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