The University of Alabama’s College of Communication & Information Sciences invited me to help them plan for the future of the disciplines they cover, from the news to PR and advertising. The sincerity of their invitation bubbled up through the series of meetings we had while I was there.

At the end of those meetings, I gave a talk, followed by four respondents and questions from the audience. You can play the talk by clicking on the image below; the Prezi I used is here.

Jerry at UAI wish Dean Nelson and his colleagues the very best in this process. As you can tell from my talk, they have tricky, shallow waters to negotiate, but there is much to fix and reinvent.

What do you suggest to media schools and practitioners?

Have you ever wanted to browse through the things one person cares about? Now you can.

For the past 17 years, pretty much every day, I’ve taken the things that flow by that are worth remembering and woven them into a giant concept map, using an app called TheBrain. I happen to have been a stop on the company’s first press tour 17 years ago. The moment I saw it, I realized that the way it looked on-screen was the way thoughts looked in my head — more or less.

So I started using TheBrain then, not knowing that this many years later I would be happily weaving more things into that same Brain file. At this point, there are more than a quarter million nodes in my Brain (called Thoughts), linked by more than 440,000 links. All entered by hand, the same way you would add a bookmark to your browser.

ipad-2048x1536-v04Now my Brain data is available as an iOS app, which means it’s portable and convenient. You can find it in the Apple Store here (link will launch iTunes; Android is a couple months away).

It’s an absolute hoot to see your face on an icon on someone’s home screen. It made me reflect also on how the rest of the app icons are inert and abstract: you never get the sense of a person behind them. Here you do, and I love it.

I’ve created a Facebook group for conversations about this Brain; you can read this post for more background. And please be in touch with your reactions and wishes. This is the start of a collaborative web of ideas and relationships that should just get better over time.

Design from trust (my Gain talk)

Jerry —  November 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

So much comes down to design. Not just graphic design or user interface (or experience, or interaction) design, or even urban design. I’m thinking Design with a big D, encompassing all the ways we design our world, from the built environment to laws, regulations, norms and software.

Gain is the AIGA‘s business conference. It’s full of designers, mostly graphic, though Design Thinking seems to be pervasive.

This year’s organizer, Nathan Shedroff, bravely turned the usual  agenda upside-down: Rather than being about the business of design, #GAINconference 2014 was about the design of business — and more. Nathan threw down a fun, broad challenge and invited a bunch of interesting people to take swings at it. Including me. You can see all the talks from Gain here; mine’s embedded below.

My goal in this talk was to help designers read the landscapes they work in, to learn to see the hidden architectures of mistrust, then to design from trust.

Here are some of the high points:

  • We’ve been designing from mistrust.
  • There are architectures of mistrust everywhere, hidden from sight by their social acceptance.
  • Pioneers in many disciplines figured out how to design from trust. Mostly, their disciplines ejected them.
  • Architecture is destiny. Design creates architecture. Intent informs design.
  • Designers face moral decisions daily they can’t identify as moral choices.
  • Mistrust is baked in everywhere, breaking society. Most everything needs creative redesign.

If you’re a designer and you’d like to take a swing at this Design from Trust thing with me, please get in touch.

Thanks, Nathan, for one of the best after-speech Q&A sessions ever! (starts at 22″)

Automation in (of) my life

Jerry —  July 27, 2014 — 1 Comment

I’ve been in the workforce for (ahem) a few years, long enough that I’ve watched a few eras come and go.

The video below describes my first real job, at Mobil Oil (before its merger with Exxon), performing a daily task that we would naturally assume today is done in software. And it is.

I found a picture of the crew that did this with me:

Mobil Stiffs Day

April and I had a blast in San Diego at the wonderfully organized and run Sustainable Brands conference. A big part of what made it special for us was getting to give the opening keynote, which set the tone for the event.

SB14 went for three more days, during which many people started great conversations with us by telling us how the talk had affected them.

Our topic was trust, starting from the observation that many of the institutions and services we take for granted these days seem to have been designed from mistrust of the average person. It’s so common as to be mainstream, but once you know to look for it (for design from mistrust), you see it everywhere.

Our talk (a tag-team talk, minus the Mexican wrestling masks) is available online now. (Note that there’s a four-minute pre-roll ad from Unilever, so now you know how far to skip ahead if you don’t want to watch it. It is moving, though.)

If you believe that consumer, mass-market capitalism is toppling, about to be replaced by something much more open and more authentic, then the FLOK project in Ecuador should be one of the top projects you follow.

Michel Bauwens, the spark behind the Peer-to-Peer Foundation Wiki, has been invited to Ecuador to help convert their economy from the normal growth-addicted model (in which Ecuador is but a little guppy) to a Peer-to-Peer or Commons-Based Economy, in which knowledge is shared openly and all sorts of things ensue.

To get a taste of what this project is and what it means, watch this interview we did with Michel and John Restakis (we = IFTF’s Sara Skvirsky, David Evan Harris & yours truly):

Last week I was in Switzerland, first to run the “Future of the Customer” workshop I described earlier (and will return to), then to attend and speak at LIFT14 in Geneva.

At LIFT, I dove into many of the topics that bubble out of the Relationship Economy: the language of advertising, minding our Commons, seeing the big picture and DFTBA.

Here’s my LIFT talk, plus some Q&A after:

Here’s the Prezi I created for the speech.

This year I’m going to be putting the Relationship Economy’s ideas to work in many ways.

The debut event is a day-and-a-half-long workshop I’m running at the GDI — the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut — an excellent think tank based in Zurich. The workshop will run all day Monday, February 3, and end with lunch on the 4th.

The online description is in German, but I’ll be running the workshop in English. In case your Deutsch isn’t what it used to be, here are a few more details about what we’ll cover.

Consumerism ate the world. It didn’t just change consumer products and entertainment. It changed the way we relate with one another, the way large organizations treat us and even the way we see the Earth — and not all for the better. That consumerist model peaked some years ago, when there were still only a few TV networks and newspapers weren’t falling like flies.

Now we’re in uncharted waters, where a strong point of view on what this big shift is about is really useful. Even better is a strong PoV that has explanatory power looking back at history and out to the future. The Relationship Economy is just such a point of view, and one that is humanist and optimistic to boot (though very messy in the near term). In this workshop we will apply the thesis to that most fundamental area: customer relationships.

Along the way, we will address chewy questions such as, “Are we trustworthy?,” “What are our new sources of value?” and “How is power shifting?” Guests with their feet on the ground in different industries will offer case studies of their experiences. We’ll run through several exercises together. And we’ll wrap up with what to do going forward, to thrive in this emerging Relationship Economy.

If this sounds interesting to you, please sign up here. If you know someone who ought to be at this workshop, please let them know. It’s the best way to strengthen relationships.

Economists and ecologists are often at odds. Why?

In this short video I offer an opinion that gives us a wee glimmer of a possible solution.

Brainstorming a learning platform

Jerry —  September 27, 2013 — 4 Comments

In August I spoke at Catalyst Week, a terrific brain- and heart-blending series of talks and events that are part of the Downtown Project in Las Vegas (more here). The topic for August’s Catalyst Week — they do these pretty much monthly — was education, so I decided to give a speech that would build on the TEDxCopenhagen talk I gave a year ago (here’s a full-text transcript).

Half my Vegas talk summarizes and crystallizes the talks that went before, in order to clear the decks enough to do some serious brainstorming. Of course, there was precious little time left for that brainstorming, so I’d love to continue it here.

On to the new talk:

Jerry Michalski visits Downtown Project Las Vegas from Downtown Project LV on Vimeo.