Fun, games and the late stage capitalism rebel alliance - LuLd #006
Looking up, looking down is a regular collection of clues and hunches for innovation and strategy practitioners
Looking up, Looking down is our regular drop of recommendations for reading, watching, listening and doing. Think of them as clues and hunches that we’ve bumped into - they’re not yet joined up into a fully-formed narrative but they hint at a bigger story and feel useful and interesting enough to share. Subscribers get them delivered to their inbox every two weeks
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They range from 10,000ft views of emergent change and how it affects our world, to down-at-two-inches hacks and smart reframes to learn from, to reference and to use as a way to keep your thinking fresh, refilling your wells of insight and creativity.
Like any good innovation practitioner, we’ll aim for to make it mostly relevant - though never too relevant. Have we got you thinking? Keep the conversation going in the comments.
Hate scrolling? Here’s the list…
Here’s why we think they’re interesting…
What Is Fun? Can I Have It? Will We Ever Have It Again?
TOBY: Fun is something that drops into business in some incredibly clunky way where it is just forced fun because it ticks some box, fits some HR requirement, and is expected to drive some metric of engagement or performance or productivity or whatever. But what if fun were just a good thing? Well fun is just a good thing, and it has all manner of positive impact on how we think, how we refresh ourselves and how we access different parts of the brain, as well as the pure wellbeing it brings. The article does a great job of looking at different aspects of fun. I am not an advocate of “fun days” at work, but am one where it is part of the fabric of a business.
TOM: That’s the thing about fun isn’t it? It’s a slippery concept (oo-er) - the more you try to control it, the less it manifests. And yet as Toby says, fun is the very essence of innovation - it’s the moment when we loose the constraints of ‘normal’ and explore the intriguing, sometimes dangerous possibilities beyond. Should work be fun? Yes it should. Should meetings be fun? Hell yes. We spend enough time on them after all. How do you do it? I think it comes down to openness and trust. Openness to challenge the orthodoxy, and trust that behind the fun lurks a purpose that in turn drives action - at least during in office hours.
TOBY: There are so many reasons to love this. 1. The takedown of McKinsey (read most consultancies) pushing another hype with dodgy insight. 2. The clarity of opinion and insight that cuts through to what is going on - this is gaming today. 3. The openness to what the metaverse could be, he isn’t pitching a self interested version. 4. The refreshing quality of a strategy officer having a clear, well thought through and articulate point of view, and figuring that this is their job, not running some kind of strategy process or endless workshops.
TOM: The brilliance of this talk is the framing at the beginning that draws a parallel between Facebook’s mid-2010s manipulation of video numbers and the current institutional hype-machines that are whirring full tilt on Metaverse bollocks. Bravo. Not so sure that this isn’t a self-interested pitch though. I still see a brilliant strategy from a Strategy Officer for a gaming agency: distilling the full breadth of the philosophical concept and human experience of what the Metaverse might be into one simple direction: ‘it’s all about gaming’. Smart.
The Metaverse is not a place, it’s a communications medium
TOM: Opinions are like… well… google it. Suffice to say everyone’s got one, and right now, that’s particularly true for the Metaverse - you can’t move today for want of opinions about it. The job to find the ones that move beyond the ill-informed and the me-too-ism to find original thinking and provocative framing (Toby’s suggestion above is a good ‘un). This is another, from internet old-timer (and I mean that with huge respect) Tim O Reilly is worth the read for two reasons: first, good, informed provocations on what to look for and where the value might be, but more importantly, a brilliant, simple reframe that challenges the predominant way that we think about it, what it actually *is*. It’s a sharp reminder of how important language is. The words that we use to explain ideas and concepts immediate anchor your audience in mental models, which in turn can limit or boost their potential to build on your idea, to take it to the next level.
TOBY: Another take on what the metaverse is/ should be..
I like the reframe by using a metaphor and how maybe this isn’t real estate, which brings in new ideas, and his view on vectors and reads from the future. Reframing from real estate to communication is both banal (shared Peloton, is that the metaverse?) and really different. But it feels like it was worth more exploration. Otherwise I get lost in the lists of things that could be and might be, and wonder on what he might have said about what is hiding in the real estate metaphor (scarcity, ownership etc) vs the communication metaphor (engagement, sharing, etc.) . That felt like a really interesting article.
TOM: This is a wonderful, wonderful interactive piece of communication that explains the capabilities and moral maze of face recognition in a disarmingly funny way. You’ll learn about the worrying amount of data that can be collected, and the worrying level of inaccuracy that can exist in a system when bad data or bad assumptions or both wash around the system. Stepping back, it’s a brilliant demonstration of how to tell a complex story in a simple, engaging way. I think it’s brilliant. The fact that it thought I was 15 years younger that I actually am is just a coincidence…
TOBY: This is a really provocative and thoughtful way to pass a message and experience a tool, rather than some high falutin’ academic jargon and white paper. It gives you a much better feel for what this thing called face recognition is, and how you can be duped along the way, scary, thoughtful and a real inspiration on how to bring something to life.
Don't Read History for Lessons
TOBY: This is a really helpful take on how not to just replicate something from the past, but rather use past experience as a way of building up a rich library of examples around a concept or observation. One of the best of tools, and one of the worst of tools in innovation is the Related World or Analog tool. This is where you look for a pattern somewhere else and use it as a way of thinking about your problem. Where it so easily falls down is the blind application of the answer to your problem (in the 2010s it was typically “oh we should build an app”). When it works well it opens up possibilities and provides confidence, as well as some areas to explore.
This reflection from Cedric Chin is a great dissection for thoughtful reading of events and history, and how not to buy into “if we don’t learn from history we are bound to repeat it”, or more currently “it doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme” that favour some off the shelf explanation for what is going on, rather than actually explore and sweat it.
TOM: I like the point here about history being good for concept instantiations, but not for lessons - which I understand to mean that history is full of *good examples* of an idea or a series of related events, but that you’d be unwise to take the direct lessons from the specifics of what happened. So use it as a way to search for evidence and confidence that your hunch about the present and future may be true - but don’t use it to predict the future.
TOM: If there was any online property that seemed ripe for an NFT goldrush it would be Minecraft: massively engaged, digital native audience, unlimited supply of unique digital instances, existing ingame currency and marketplace. So why would they do it? I like that they have turned down what might be a massive short term moneyspinner because they recognise where the real long term value lies - the playability of the game - and presumably the fear that adding an NFT layer might have create perverse incentives and turn the underlying joy of the game into a vehicle for production and consumption. It reminds me a little of Bill Watterson, the cartoonist who created Calvin and Hobbes, who refused to license ANYTHING. No T-shirts, no lunchboxes, no to spin-offs, just the books, and a belief that cartoons are an art form that should stand on their own. Contrast that with Harry Potter, which has been licensed ad-absurdium. Of course, JK Rowling is much wealthier for it, but there’s something sad in it too. Am I wrong? Comments below please!
TOBY: A thoughtful, and hence unusual take on NFTs that highlights why they don’t work in a world where you want inclusion and abundance. Which is essentially what digital allows . The notion of artificial scarcity just to monetise turns otherwise enjoyable experiences into something that becomes about money, and Minecraft has called out the technology in this space for what it is. That is not to say there aren’t plenty of useful applications for NFTs, just that pure speculation shouldn’t be one of them. Minecraft as the final frontier on late stage capitalism, the rebel alliance started here!
That’s it for this edition, thanks for reading, if you know someone who you think would enjoy it, please do us a favour and forward it.
Toby and Tom