The new book by Grant McCracken is called Culturematic. A week ago I went to hear him talk about it.

In the week since I’ve become completely energised all over again by the license we have in his line of work to make our own future.

We can genuinely make something from nothing. In our work environment. For our clients. For ourselves.

We just have to have the right attitude.

We have to stop being so sensible.

In the book Grant talks about uncertainty, what ifs, experiments, trends.

And also what he calls the ‘innovation paradox’.

The paradox is this: we don’t yet know that we need what we will need.

We cannot predict the future. Therefore we cannot plan for it either.

Culture – and that means business, marketing, trends, priorities, stuff – is inscrutable. It is brought about through experiments. We probe the possible, often with very little idea of what will happen, or even what it means to do so.

This is Think Small writ large. It is Labs thinking with a playful edge.

It is improvisational. It is guesswork. And it makes things fun again…

 

So that was Wednesday morning.

Coincidentally, that evening, after work, my team had its first scheduled experiment with Powerpoint Karaoke.

You get 10 charts you’ve never seen before. And you use them to tell a story.

We had no real idea about what it would mean, or what this experiment was for.

Presentation training? Confidence building? Storytelling? Thinking on your feet?

It hadn’t been intended as anything so formalised as that, but afterwards someone described it as having felt like some kind of shared learning.

To me it was startling just how hard people fight to sustain a story.

Everyone had been nervous, but they embraced the trepidation to not only have fun, but also create spontaneous narratives in a way they simply don’t even think of when delivering most work ‘presentations’.

The stories we utter nonsense, of course.

But it felt like something.

The parallels with Grant’s talk were obvious, and some us are thinking about where the experiment might go.

More of the same? A wider group? Publishing the presentations?

We took notes of everyone’s reflections the following day, so we could capture the mood.

But the stories themselves remain fragile. And that feels like part of the charm. We don’t want to kill this thing by affording it too much significance.

We want to keep it as a thing, not the thing…

 

Because that’s been the real lesson for me since Wednesday.

A liberating sense of trying something out in the moment, rather than obsessing over what it’s supposed to achieve.

This is the Culturematic credo. Do things because they feel interesting. Avoid strategising each development.

But also trying lots of things has begun to feel exciting again.

I’ve realised I need more projects on the go.

Lots of bets.

Because we innovate the things we will need by playing with what we have now…

 

All this was Wednesday.

Then on Friday I went to Playful for the first time.

I took a lot of notes.

I won’t do the full write-up. For a brilliant summary go see the post from @purplesime.

But with my Culturematic/Karaoke ears I heard more of the language to help me understand what all this might be about.

I heard about the idea of fictional provocations – making up stories to reveal to ourselves what we find really important.

I heard about the importance of allowing personalities to shine through in the creative process.

I heard about the notion of delighting our minds through the sense of being creative.

I heard about exploratory art that sought nothing more than to uncover the ambiguity and possibility of conventional forms.

I heard refusals of the corporate language we’ve had foisted on us, and with which we understand the networked life.

I heard people celebrate pointless things for their sheer pointlessness.

I heard about how the decisions we make when we’re having fun are different to the ones we make when we’re thinking of ourselves as rational.

And I suddenly remembered again why I called this blog See What Happens…

 

In another bit of serendipitous stumbling upon, the brilliant Brainpickings, captured my mood with a quote from Freud.

The real opposite of play is not what is serious but what is real

Lovely.

 

So that was my week.

And it all brought to mind something from my youth that I hadn’t thought about for some time.

It was a poem that featured on the back of a Mott The Hoople record.

(Photo courtesy of Sinister Salad’s Musikal Weblog)

It’s by DH Lawrence. I’d put it away in my mind as frivolous, perhaps not in keeping with the serious nature of what I thought rocknroll should do.

Serious overthrow of the establishment. Not getting fooled again. All that sort of stuff.

But it makes a lot of sense right now. So I thought I’d share it.

A Sane Revolution

If you make a revolution, make it for fun,
don’t make it in ghastly seriousness,
don’t do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.

Don’t do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.

Don’t do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.

Don’t do it for equality,
do it because we’ve got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.

Don’t do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

Don’t do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.
Let’s abolish labour, let’s have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it’s not labour.
Let’s have it so! Let’s make a revolution for fun!

So, let’s.