Progression not perfection – why it pays to think out loud


I’ve had a few back-and-forth train journeys this week and used the time to revisit some of the interviews I’ve bookmarked in 2016. A few jumped out. They either resonated because of where I am with the consultancy (new city, new clients and a fresh positioning - it's been a gamble but it's paying off) or because they cut through the usual excuses we can all tell ourselves.

Like last week I’ve attempted to knit them together in a single track again.

Studio - Progress not perfection

Room to experiment, space to fail

“There is this magnetic pull to focus more on the short term. And then there’s a sense of, F— that, we’re going to go out here and create the future.”

One such interview was by Surface Magazine with Nike boss, Mark Parker. The designer-turned-CEO shares how he keeps the sports juggernaut curious, creative and ahead of the game. A close relationship with athletes and obsession with technology and data play their part but it’s really a clandestine designer playground keeps the company’s creative juices flowing.

 © Surface magazine

© Surface magazine

Blue Ribbon Studios is a small experimental design lab at Nike HQ. Or as they call it, ‘art school but better.’

Not too dissimilar to Google X it exists to inspire their 700 designers and help dream up ambitious projects beyond current trends. What exactly happens at Blue Ribbon Studios is highly secretive but photos are occasionally leaked on Instagram - it seems not everybody honours the in-house ban on social media and photography!

How seriously do you take your own side projects?

I’m a big believer in side projects. Hunches, passions and prototypes are great fun. Whilst mine haven’t always turned out as planned a good few have gone on to become my main thing or at least a paid thing. Just like this newsletter, I find that staying curious ups my game and makes me better able to serve my clients too.

If you want your side project to have the best chances of success then one thing they’re going to need is your time. And time is something you make not find. Weekends, evenings, pre-work and coffee breaks. They all add up.

There’s plenty of time to be made for your side projects during your working day too...

My top 3 ways to stop wasting time and start making it:

  1. Stop pointless meetings. Longer than 30 minutes? Say no. Not sure what you want to achieve by the end of it? Don’t bother. You won’t believe how much it’s costing you.
  2. Sack clients. Underappreciated? Uninspired? Overworked? Politely letting go of your high-maintenance clients or customers can be hard but it’s often the only way to break out of the rut. I don't know anybody who has regretted taking this step.
  3. Host your own events. I can’t recall a single pleasurable networking event. Ever. Instead meet the people you want to meet by doing your own thing.


"Why do all your buildings look like buildings?"

That was the provocative question architect Bjarke Ingels (BIG) asked a big-time NYC developer early on in his career. The cutting comment obviously made an impression as 10 years later Ingels was handed his largest and most expensive project to date by the same guy. It’s quite some building...

Rolling Stone Magazine’s profile on the now-starchitect is full of stories like this. Another of my favourites was that he put everything he could – contests, ideas, rejected proposals, the lot – on his firm's website. Why? They’re hired for their bold ideas and he believed their potential clients wouldn't care if they were built or not.



In the spirit of sharing, here’s what I’ve been up to...

The collaborative economy is buoyant but it’s yet to really tackle society’s burning issues. Nesta’s ShareLab is looking to change this by finding new collaborative platforms that create social impact. I spent yesterday responding to their latest open call with an idea I’m calling ‘Hutch’ – which I hope can offer some relief for people who find themselves homeless.

Hutch would match spare space in homes and businesses with the urgent storage needs of homeless people. It’s as simple as that. Currently the alternatives are pretty costly and quick estimates make it out to be a £50m+ a year problem.

My quickly made video explains the idea in a bit more detail. Feel free to give it a ‘like’ or to share it with the #ShareLab hashtag if you think it has legs. It might lead to something, it might not. Either way it’s going on my website (thanks Bjarke!).

Your turn. Tell me what you’re working on and I’ll give one business a shout out in next week’s newsletter.



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Stuart Goulden