Planning-ness 2016 is a wrap. The successful eight year run has come full circle, with the final event taking place where it first began, in San Francisco.
True to form, the un-conference united creative minds from across the U.S in interactive sessions that covered everything from creative problem-solving for water resource issues to understanding the paralyzing effects of stress. One session even had the audience horrified as we watched a brave attendee dodge a hungry shark and then be wheeled through a mental institution… via virtual reality. Luckily, the last day ended with a much needed guided meditation by Strategic Planning Director-slash-yogi, Brenna Smithson.
The mission of Planning-ness has always been to “provide education and inspiration to the ‘creative thinker’ community.” A few of my favorites this year were Mark Barden (co-author of A Beautiful Constraint) and Caroline Webb (author of How to Have a Good Day).
Mark talked about constraints – the all too familiar situation of being presented with an endpoint or goal that has no feasible connection to the starting point. Said another way, we never seem to have the time or resources we need. This forces us to think outside of the box, and when we truly do, we discover our ability to find unique solutions that would not have otherwise occurred to us. Caroline is a behavioral economist and former Partner at McKinsey who projects that rare mix of brilliance and relatability. She talked about the power of perception, the control that we do actually have over our daily ups and downs, our productivity and brain power, and the concept of realistic optimism – “finding ways to make our days subtly but significantly better.”
The final Planning-ness did not disappoint. W5 is proud to be the founding sponsor of an event that has brought so many bright minds together over the years and helped to further the Planning discipline!
We hear so much these days about the “localism” movement: eat local, buy local, keep it local, et al. Here in Chapel Hill, where I reside, we take things a step further by using local money, not U.S. dollars.
That’s correct. In many instances one does not have to use dollars to buy things, instead we can use “Plenty.” For over a decade, our community has been issuing, just like the Confederacy a hundred and fifty years ago, a local currency to use in place of federal dollars. The big difference from back then is that Plenty meets all legal criteria for currency as currently defined by the IRS, Federal Reserve, and U.S. Treasury. It isn’t that hard to do, all that’s required is that it must: (1) not look like U.S. currency; (2) equal at least $1 in value; and (3) have a U.S. dollar equivalent, for taxes – it’s this third point where the many Confederate currencies went astray, i.e., they stopped sending tax dollars to Washington.
The purpose, like any “localism” initiative, is to promote local commerce, self-reliance, and overall community-centric responsibility.
There are, and always have been, local currencies in the U.S. The concept falls in and out of vogue, but nevertheless there are currently over 100 U.S. communities that currently take part in such transactions with ‘hard’ currency, debit cards to mutual credit databases, i.e., digital exchanges. Given recent discontent with the political process, as evidenced by both the GOP and Democratic support for Trump and Sanders, it will be interesting to see if such initiatives take further root should discontent with the electoral process play out. Localism may morph beyond the farmers’ market and hipster restaurants down the road to core structural issues of governance – just look at how the “red versus blue” states dichotomy further aligns itself, a by-product of discontent with federal policies; no one ends up happy, and in fact, just more pissed off.
History has a heck of a way of repeating itself; maybe localism is the new kickstarter for a xenophobic zeitgeist; for localism has always had a heavy dose political ‘edge’ in its message. Tell that to the amply bearded dude serving you your unpasteurized local goat cheese appetizer this weekend.
The world recently observed Earth Day so it felt natural to check in and take cultural stock of how the US environmental ‘movement’ is doing in 2016.
Much of today’s eco-messaging seems geared at myth busting and actively trying to reposition sustainability around ‘smart’ business, valuing workers and the experiential benefits of ‘going green’. The end goal appears to distance itself from the stereotypical ‘tree hugger’ persona and incentives limited to the moral ‘feel good’ factor.
Cultural trends tend to be behavioral markers of broader, deeper attitudinal movements and shifts so it makes sense that different trend categories can share the same perceptual foundations. Finding those connections between categories is the fun part. Below are some armchair observations on possible areas of cultural overlap:
- Minimalism Is In – Beyond design or aesthetics, this trend is also informing lifestyle choices and consumption habits (who doesn’t have a copy of Marie Kondo’s book?), and the back-to-basics/whole foods/locavorism movement. Consumers want to buy less, and buy better. The impact this has on sustainability means less waste and a greater emphasis on ‘mindful consumption’.
- Go Big or Go Home – Much like the diehard adherence to certain trends around exercise (e.g., Crossfit, High-Intensity Interval Training – HIIT) and diet (e.g., Paleo, veganism) there appears to be manifestations of extremism in “green” behaviors as well, with the philosophy of ‘go big, or go home’ infusing the conversation around how much of a ‘true’ environmentalist one is (e.g., zero waste proponents, air travel abstainers).
- Empowering the Consumer – Much of the messaging is about raising literacy levels so consumers can make informed choices and effect change with their purchase decisions. The idea is that informed demand can and will affect supply, making sustainable options the norm rather than the exception at the store or workplace.
- Worker’s Rights – Think of the Occupy movement and conversations around minimum wage, not to mention presidential nominee platforms. Emphasis has shifted to workers’ rights, the 99%, and resource intelligence that extends beyond natural to include human resources. Corporate responsibility, fair trade, and profit sharing are all practices some consumers now actively seek out in their brands.
It will be interesting to watch the continued ‘mainstreaming’ of the green movement — and its interplay with broader cultural forces – as well as how the national and international conversation (and legislation) changes as a result.
You don’t need to be a market researcher to notice a shift in how products are marketed to women. While seeing less pink and weird blue fluids are well received in my book, I have noticed something about the way some of these ads are framed, particularly in think pieces from marketing and advertising newsletters that I wasn’t sure if I agreed with: hailing these advertisements as empowering to women. I fully support efforts that educate consumers and provide them with the necessary information to make best decisions for themselves. But I had to wonder what exactly does it mean for these advertisements to empower women and do they really hit the mark? Read More
It’s nice to see more and more art and architecture being preserved by businesses as they renovate their spaces. Here in Durham, North Carolina the re-imagining of manufacturing sites, office buildings, store fronts, etc. have resulted in a collection of old-meets-new style spaces, including the American Tobacco campus, Golden Belt, The Durham Hotel, and the 21C Hotel downtown.
In St. Louis, a lobby ceiling sculpture by Isamu Noguchi was recently rediscovered in a U-Haul office when drop ceilings were removed. As a result, the regional office owner decided to restore the ceiling and display it for all to see.
It’s refreshing to see that progress doesn’t always mean throwing out the existing or traditional, especially in our public and business spaces which can often feel cold or impersonal as new spaces are designed and built. The New York Times highlighted this recently in an article regarding airport spaces that seem to forget the people actually using them.
Next week San Francisco will host the final Planning-ness as we bid adieu to an event that has become a staple in the Planning and Design community.
For those of you unaware, Planning-ness has been the “un-conference” for creative thinkers across the U.S. and Canada since 2009. Unlike other conferences, speakers don’t just talk at you, they teach you how to do things. That’s why each sessions has the words “how to” in the title, as well as a workshop component where you put what you heard into action.
As the founding sponsor, W5 will retire with Planning-ness’ under our belt. Each year the speaker line up, attendees, and social events (let’s not forget about the parties) make waves in the host city. The 2016 Planning-ness is no different. With a stellar speaker line up and trendy venue, 1446 Market Street, we are looking forward to closing out this chapter with a bang. Tickets are still available at planningness.com! Sessions announced include:
- Douglas Atkin, Head of Community at Air BnB – How to Build Community;
- Gareth Kay – How (and why) to Care Less about Brands;
- Ana Andjelic – How to Create a Modern Luxury Brand;
- Mark Barden – How to Embrace Constraints;
- Gabrielle Tenaglia – How to Create an Entertainment Brand;
- Heidi Hackemer – How to Build a Creative Company;
- Pamela Pavliscak – How to Design for Happiness;
- Blair Atkins – How to Plan for Virtual Reality; and
- Caroline Webb, best-selling author of How to Have a Good
You can check out Caroline Webb as she recently joined Talks at Google in London for a conversation with Matt Brittin to discuss what it takes for us to be at our best and make the most of every day.
Additional bios for 2016 speakers can be found below.
Every once in a while, we like to share what we’ve been up to, including how our research engagements have helped our clients achieve their business goals and some of the lessons learned. This case study highlights W5’s approach to an exploratory ethnography study that sought to understand how consumers maintain their cars.
The project was an example of how in-depth ethnographic research, combined with compelling and human deliverables can shed light on a complex topic and tell the story internally.
EXPLORING AUTO MAINTENANCE ATTITUDES
A leading advertising agency, on behalf of its client, an auto maintenance provider, partnered with W5 to uncover consumers’ attitudes related to car repair. The client sought to better understand consumers’ relationships with their vehicles, auto maintenance habits, and related behaviors.
W5 conducted ethnography in a series of markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. In-depth interviews were conducted with consumers while their vehicles underwent routine maintenance. Brief interviews were also conducted with mechanics and maintenance providers to gain their perspective on the consumer experience.
The W5 ethnography team included a professional documentary filmmaker who captured the interviews, as well as overall experience related to routine auto maintenance.
W5 identified a series of insights surrounding the anxiety consumers experience related to their vehicles. The findings were focused on emotional triggers associated with auto maintenance ways to overcome related anxieties.
W5 also developed a series of video deliverables that helped communicate the research insights to a broad internal audience. The deliverables varied in length and detail to suit the needs of various stakeholders for both the client and their ad agency.
I’ll admit it: I hate eBooks. Much to the ridicule of others, I refuse to jump on board the digital bandwagon, instead opting for the added weight to my backpack and the labor of physically turning pages. Whether it’s the sense of satisfaction seeing how big a dent I’ve made in “The Sound and the Fury” or the excitement when I discover a cheap copy of “The Sun Also Rises” at my bookstore, paperback books fulfill me in a way eBooks never will.
Fortunately, I’m not alone. Fatbrain, a UK-based book retailer, polled their readers to explore why they chose hard-copies over digital books, all detailed in the infographic below. According to the poll, many readers feel the same way I do—tangible hard-copies provide a much deeper, engaging experience than eBooks.
Which do you prefer?