Monthly Archives: June 2010

When We Grow Up

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Technology: The Barrier?

Technology continues to become part of our lives, and it’s inevitable that we find a push against it. Just as Henry David Thoreau set out into the woods to practice Transcendentalism–named so, literally for the idea of transcending the impact of the industrial revolution and returning humanity back to a state of nature–we found ourselves facing a similar conflict.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with technology. It’s a marvel that I can send an email halfway around the world in a single click–especially when there was a time one would have to wait weeks, if not months, for the same correspondence. And let’s not forget the fact that you can read this post from wherever you are in the world right now. We owe a lot to the power of our technological age. So why the resistance?

Ph.D. of Anthropology, Grant McCracken, explains his understanding of the recent fondness for low-fidelity products. In his post, McCracken posits three reasons. One is simply our own nostalgia. We always miss what we used to have, even if it’s been improved. We always look back on the past as “simpler times,” while growing aggravated with the advancements which obscure that cherished, rose-colored view. The second “is a wish for groundedness.” McCracken suggests that the world has become too shiny and seamless, and, as a result, has lost its aesthetic of authenticity. In other words: we like the imperfections, because everything has become too damn perfect. The third reason suggests that lo-fi products reflect the way we view our world now–the idea that technology has made our world simpler, and, at the same time, way more complex, distracting and fragmented than we ever bargained.

Even the people my age–the ones called “Digital Natives” for having grown up with all this technology–find comfort in the idea of disposable cameras in the face of accessible, professional grade quality. And that’s what makes Pilot’s newest website a brilliant piece of work.

You can view the video below for an explanation, but the hook is this: our words have lost their personal touch since switching to these “modern typewriters” we call computers. Nowadays, we all communicate in the same crisp, clean digital fonts, and Pilot has created the means for anyone to bring their handwriting to the computer.

Intentional or not, Pilot has tapped into the Lo-Fi trend by speaking directly to the issue, blurring the line between our own handwriting and the technology that has obscured it. What a great way to draw people back to the idea of writing by hand, and creating something share-worthy under the banner of your pen brand. And, while handwritten fonts are nothing new, the ease of use this application provides is something certainly novel.

My only complaint with the concept is that it does not allow the user to download the font permanently to their computer. Rather, you’re limited within the confines of the site to use the font. This is a bit short-sighted on Pilot’s end. One would expect a major drop off after the first use if it requires signing in every time you want your font.

Had these restrictions been removed and allowed users to propagate, Pilot might have seen an increase of people using their handwritten fonts on blogs, in email exchanges and even in printed mail. Instead this great idea is held back by its own self-imposed constraints. Still, much credit to the planners behind this one. The method and the message are dead on.

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The Instruction Manual

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Money Isn’t Everything

Keep your cash. A lot of people my age would rather swim in a Scrooge McDuck-sized pool of our own passion. It’s a fact many of us have worn on our sleeve: just give us the facilities and opportunities we want, and you’ll never have seen such a cheerful, hard-working person in your life.

According to Dan Pink, TED Conference Speaker and author of the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, this is not just a Gen-Y attitude, but something much more fundamental to human motivation as a whole.

Watch the video below for the full description of Pink’s theory. Since it’s more about the journey, I have no qualms ruining the ending for you: In a society where complicated tasks now require more conceptual, creative thinking, money does not motivate better results. In fact, if you want to produce more innovative thinking in your employees, you’re better off focusing less on promises of a higher salary and more on providing them control over their passion.

So money is a bad motivator for the kind of work many of us do today. If you promise me a higher salary, it won’t always equal greater work. But Dan phrased something about initial salary very well in his video: “If you don’t pay enough, people won’t be motivated…The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. Pay people enough so they’re not thinking about money; they’re thinking about the work.

Makes sense, right? It’s as basic as when you first learned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If I’m worried about how I’m going to keep a roof over my head or pay for groceries, then work isn’t my greatest concern in life, is it? Instead, I would be more focused on getting more money from the job than being motivated to do the kind of quality work that earns more money for everyone.

After watching Dan’s video, how does your organization structure compare? Do you see potential weak points where you’re paying people less for mechanical tasks where they would be motivated with the promise of more pay? Do you see opportunities in areas of creative thinking where you could be giving people the “innovation bonus”? What ideas does this talk spark for you? Let’s start sharing those ideas and produce for each other better work and better lives.

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Where To Begin

This blog was never abandoned; just prioritized to the point of not being a priority.

In the course of time since my last post one might imagine much has taken place. One would be right.

First, I was working full-time freelance, copywriting for the boutique NYC ad agency, Fly Communications. While there, I handled web work for books under the Scholastic brand, dabbled in some new business pitches for Israel Tourism and the Harry Potter Book Series, and wrote some direct marketing pieces for American Express OPEN.

Commuting between New Jersey and New York, the basic gist of my life at that time was: eat, train, work, eat, work, train, eat, sleep, repeat. I used my weekends to enter a short story contest (I didn’t win) and act as a contributing writer to a Gen-Y blog project known as The Next Great Generation, or TNGG. This lifestyle carried on for around four months when a copywriter position opened up at Mullen Boston. “We’d like you to interview.” And so I did.

Now I’ve been in Boston since the beginning of February, working as a junior copywriter in Mullen’s digital creative department. It’s a great office filled with great folks and great thinking. I talk just as freely to people with a C in their title as I do with the interns. And don’t let the moniker “digital creative department” fool you, my position has me work equally on both digital and traditional media.

Once at Mullen, I first faced the matter of settling in and getting into the groove of all the separate brands I would work on. Then it became a matter of our new business pitch for the airline jetBlue. Being involved on that–working through four weekends in a row–it was a challenge that affirmed why I love what I do. The fact that we won their business didn’t hurt, either.

Now I’m all settled in, working hard and have my weekends back (sort of). That brings us back to this blog. Admittedly, I could have rebooted it sooner, but paralysis set in when I saw the date of my last post. I was a bit embarrassed. It was the internet equivalent of a bookshelf covered in dust and cobwebs.

So what was I to do? How would I overcome this anxious feeling? Where to begin? I thought today, and this post, would be a good start.

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