Sunday Book Review : Next: The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis

Next: The Future Just HappenedNext: The Future Just Happened by Michael Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy Lewis’ writing in general, but I particularly liked where he went with Next: The Future Just Happened. Showing how the Internet boom has changed everything. Telling the tale of the revolution with real life stories from those leading it. With a 13 year old son interested in technology and already making money on it, truer words couldn’t exist. The Internet exposes so much yet hides things in a way that a pre-teen can be a legal expert or a stock trader. After reading this you might have to ask yourself how aware you are of the future. Because it is now.

Available on Overdrive.

View all my reviews

MailChimp Christmas Gift (Minion Handbook)

At Integrum we use MailChimp to send out our AgileWeekly Newsletter.  We love the experience and the product.  One of the things that is apparent to me is that MailChimp knows how to have fun.  I suspect it has to be one of their values.

When I stopped by Gangplank over the holiday I found a package on my desk from MailChimp.  I opened it and was AMAZED. It was a nice box set. The first thing I pulled out was the post card.

Front of Card

Back of Card

This would be “normal” for a company to send. Impressive. Great design. Light hearted. Kudos.

However, that was the just the tip of the iceberg. Next was a full comic “Th’ Adventoorz of Freddie & Mannie”.



Jacket Cover

I don’t have any idea the meaning of the comic book, but it was brilliantly designed. A pure work of art. If this was all it contained I would still be writing this post, but oh noes. MailChimp knocked it out of the park by including the Minion Handbook.


So what might you find in such a handbook? How about the Minion Oath?

or maybe Dressing and Grooming Standards?

or a Frequently Asked Questions, including how to read your leader?

If all that wasn’t enough at the back of the handbook one can find a minions notes

I can not tell you how impressed I am by the thought, care and design found in this. I am completely perplexed what we did to deserve receiving it, but it was by far and a way the most memorable gift a vendor has ever sent as a gift.

Well done. MailChimp. Well done.

Gangplank Connecting Citizens

There is a wealth of information out there on connecting people, human behavior and civic engagement.  The problem is how do you use it in the face of changing world.  A world that is adapting to technology at a rapid pace.  The Monitor Institute put together Connected Citizens: The Power, Peril and Potential of Networks for the Knight Foundation.  I strongly recommend if you are in the social change, connecting communities or civic engagement arena to check it out.

Connected Citizens: The Power, Potential and Peril of Networks from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

At Gangplank our work lines up very well with the model put forward to help in connecting citizens and mobilizing them to action.  In a nutshell here are some good practices.

Listen to and consult the crowds.
Actively listen to both online and offline conversations and openly ask for advice.

  • Make participation fast and easy.
  • Show you’re listening.
  • Develop a clear contract with participants and abide by it.

Design for serendipity.
Create environments, in person and online, where helpful connections can form.

  • Make it easy to enter.
  • Build trust through repeat interactions.
  • Design the space, NOT the outcomes.

Bridge differences.
Deliberately connect people with different perspectives.

  • Develop systems for establishing reputation and trust.
  • Use influence to recruit diverse participation and catalyze bridging.
  • Make it FUN!!!

Catalyze mutual support.
Help people directly help each other.

  • Leverage existing and underutilized resources.
  • Provide enough structure for immediate benefit and enough openness for new opportunity.
  • Build trust in the system.

Provide handrails for collective action.
Give enough direction for individuals to take effective and coordinated action.

  • Give clear instructions for action.
  • Make it gratifying.
  • Build platforms that structure individual contributions into something greater.
  • Develop leadership.

We do some of these things really well. We suck at some of them. We have a number of things underway to start leading in this area. A better Arizona relies on strong citizen involvement to move us forward. If this stuff is interesting to you, join me in trying to figure out ways to make Arizona better.

Creating The Arizona We Want

I was recently named a Tech Titan by the Phoenix Business Journal. I was asked to speak on a panel with Jeff Pruitt, Craig Barrett, Wendy Jameson moderated by Patrick O’ Grady at the formal event unveiling the Titans. Here are some of the questions that came up.

The Arizona We Want

What are the biggest challenges facing the technology sector in Arizona?

Lack of talent. We think we have a lot of entrepreneurs, but that isn’t the same as the workforce needed to execute. Scaling a company to thousands of people in a year or two is an enormous task if you have to train every employee from the ground up. As our market heats up the lack of talent will only increase and so will the pain.

Lack of density. We are too sparse. People are not connected enough to allow for maximum serendipity. We have to start thinking of ourselves as a region with cores in various cities. No one wants to hear this, but it is a reality. The other option is embracing this and figuring out a way to make it an advantage.

Lack of culture\tolerance. We don’t have the essence of placemaking at our core. People love the weather and the outdoor activities, but we aren’t creating the attachment to physical place. Music and Art are poorly supported. Tolerance for view points outside those made famous by our politicians is limited in most areas.

Lack of leadership. We are a young state. We lack quality leadership in nearly every way civic, education and business. Those with experience aren’t connected to Arizona. Accelerating young leaders needs to be a top priority.

How are small technology companies being pushed to succeed in the state, and what more needs to be done to develop more technology companies.

I believe at this point we have more incubators, collaborative spaces and angel groups than we do actual entrepreneurs. Excuses shouldn’t be accepted anymore. What is missing?

Experience. We lack “smart” money. We don’t have the “pay pal mafia” or “Tony Hsieh’s” that have been there and done it in the new economy to invest in the next wave.

Cohesiveness. Arizona is fiercely independent. Every cowboy wants to own the gold mine. I think this is a by product of our land development mindset. Everything is fear and scarcity based. Instead of trust and abundance based. Arizona needs to learn to work together.

Workforce Development. The need for a digital blue collar exists. Think of operations at Paypal, Go Daddy and Yelp. They require technical literacy but not advanced technical knowledge for a lot of their positions. We need to have programs in place to transition people through the entire chain of technical opportunity.

Education. We need to be fast tracking technology the same way we do healthcare professions. High school students should be graduating with enough skills to be workforce ready or primed to fast track through university. Arizona could lead in this category. Hello EVIT and WESTMEC.

What are the biggest opportunities available for Arizona technology companies?

Climate. Creatives like to get out and explore. Arizona is primed for outdoor activity 300 days out of the year and is a great base camp to explore the entire Southwest. We can not under estimate this asset. We need to stop gutting our state park system and instead INVEST heavily in our open spaces.

Young. Arizona may be 100 years old but it didn’t really start attracting people until the 60’s when air conditioning became mainstream. We are a mere adolescent compared to other states. This means the business leaders of today will define the future of Arizona. It will be difficult work, but will offer significant rewards to those willing to pioneer.

Affordable. The cost of living here and doing business here is just hard to beat. We need to leverage it while we still have it.

Family. Despite what the overall numbers say, most of the suburbs have fantastic school systems. Neighborhoods are safe. We are well positioned for raising families. We should recognize and embrace that.

Cities such as Boston and Austin have been successful in developing an ecosystem for technology companies, both in terms of developing them and recruiting them. What can those cities and others show Phoenix about developing its own ecosystem?

Culture. Culture. Culture. Boston was at the center of the creation of this country. Austin has made a point to be weird. They are willing to be unique and embrace their DNA. We should be willing to do the same.

Tolerance. Tolerance. Tolerance. To be blunt we are the laughing stock of the world in this department. We need to stop judging, oppressing and silencing those that aren’t like us. Ideas and execution need to matter more than appearances.

Sense of place (Density). People need to be able to identify with landmarks, neighborhoods and memories. We need to engage people and make a mark on them. Transportation plays a part in this.

Define a better tomorrow. We need a deeper university system. More research, more private options. See education above.

Boston had deep pockets (Venture Capital). Austin had Dell and University of Texas. Portland, Seattle, Boulder and Las Vegas are all rising. We need to use our unique attributes to differentiate ourselves.

What do you see as the role of groups such as the ACA, GPEC and cities in developing technology companies?

Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). They need to be influencing legislation. Help implement everything listed above.

Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC). They need to continue recruiting and doing site location. They need to be fostering/amplifying what is already happen. They need to drive density cluster activity without picking winners/losers.

Cities. They need to provide the infrastructure for success. They need to emphasis place making and strengthen their downtown cores. They need to build talent hubs and provide migratory growth patterns for high growth companies.

How do you bring together the different sectors of technology, from software and hardware to everything from aerospace, renewables and green, together to speak with a unified voice to further the future of technology in the state?

Technology is technology. Stop trying to specialize. Load up with smart people. Create the right envirnoment and get the hell out of the way.

Talent. Everyone needs it. Focus on that. Unify on making sure that a pipeline of quality talent is here for years to come.

ACA has outlined a strategy that focuses on aerospace, entrepreneurs and renewables in its approach. Are there other legs to the stool that need exploring?

Stop picking winners. Let the market decide. Help existing clusters.

Richard Florida says it well. Technology. Talent. Tolerance. The three T’s. ACA get on that. Help stop stupid policy and encourage good policy.

I am ready to make Arizona better. Are you? What are your opinions? What is the Arizona We Want?

Arizona Art Project – Influx AZ Comes to Chandler Arizona.

IN FLUX a innovative multi-city initiative.  It demonstrates a holistic approach to temporary public art projects.  Influx showcases installations created by local Arizona artists.  They are preparing for their third cycle.

Local Arizona Art

This cycle has three Arizona artists displaying working in Chandler, AZ. Textile artist Ann Morton, sculptor Craig Randich and mixed-media artist Denise Yaghmourian will be displaying their work.  This temporary display is intended to help show case Arizona Art.  There is plenty of FREE covered parking in Downtown Chandler.  Additionally, the installations are all located the Valley Metro Bus Rapid Transit line for those looking to leave the car at home.  Come make an afternoon of it by walking the path and visiting the Vision Art Gallery.  Stay and grab a meal at one of the fine eateries before heading back out.

We are excited that Gangplank will be the host to one of the installations. Here are the locations and a proposed walking trail.  Installations should be ready to display in the next two weeks.

In Flux Arizona Art

In Flux Arizona Art

Shirky’s Sharing Model : Personal, Communal, Public and Civic

Clay Shirky enlightens us in Cognitive Surplus that, “the organization of sharing has many forms” and that those forms have varying output values.  He gives us a way “we can identify four essential points on the spectrum”. The four essential types of sharing/value are:

Personal Sharing/Value
“done among otherwise uncoordinated individuals”
examples: ICanHasCheezburger, most general uses of Facebook, etc

Communal Sharing/Value
“takes place inside a group of collaborators”
examples:, etc

Public Sharing/Value
“when a group of collaborators actively wants to create a public resource”
examples: open-source software such as Linux and Apache, WordPress, Wikipedia, etc

Civic Sharing/Value
“when a group is actively trying to transform society”
examples: Pink Chaddi, organized protests in Tunisia, Egypt etc

It is interesting to look at this when evaluating the world of accelerators, incubators, coworking spaces, maker spaces and movements.

Personal Sharing/Value
I have some space that I want to subsidized by others.
examples: executive/shared office space (Regus, etc), incubators

Communal Sharing/Value
I am interested in creating community and getting people involved beyond on the surface level
examples: Most coworking spaces, maker spaces, accelerators, evolved incubators

Public Sharing/Value
I want contribution from everyone at any level to build something meaningful for all
examples: Evolved coworking spaces (New Work City, IndyHall, etc), maker spaces

Civic Sharing/Value
It is about changing humanity for the future
examples: Coworking movement, Maker movement, Startup America, Gangplank

While sharing any form of cognitive surplus provides value. Shirky argues that personal sharing is not as beneficial to society:

“We should care more about public and civic value than about personal or communal value because society benefits more from them, but also because public and civic value are harder to create.”

What kind of value are you creating today?

What Makes Gangplank Magical?

For a while there was a #whygp push going on to ask people what made Gangplank unique to them.  You can see the results at What is Gangplank.  The truth is, Gangplank is magical.  It is often cited as being so, but rarely does anyone try to explain it.  So here is my feeble attempt.

Gangplank is a community of creators that fuses family life, civic life, creating and earning a living into this unique blend where anything is possible.  The support and tenderness offered is counter balanced by a gruff and forceful exterior making participation daunting to most.

Recently Gangplank’s executive director, Katie Hurst, took the next step in her journey and headed to Portland with her husband, Tyler Hurst.  What would your family do if one of it’s children were leaving the nest to explore what the rest of what life had in store for them?  What rite of passage would you embark on?  At Gangplank the choice was made by, Amanda Blum, to transform the space into the Land of Oz for the day.

Gangplank Oz

Photo by James Archer.

Could there be a more a beautiful metaphor for the magic of Gangplank than the Wizard of Oz?   Much like Dorothy when you first set foot into Gangplank your entire world is transformed.  Regardless of what tornado brought you through the doors, you find something different about this world.  It has a quality that tends to comfort while providing endless possibility.  The playfulness of munchkins pervades the space, often making you think perhaps you have landed back in middle school.  While the wicked witch may be looming or lurking in any number of forms, you are encouraged to keep exploring and finding the truth you are looking for.

Along the way you are sure to make friends that make the journey exciting and attainable.  They will have their own quirks.  Each searching for their own selves, but thats okay you are all in it together.  Eagerly anticipating each part of the journey.  Whether you stuff your brain with knowledge along the way, find your courage to be the creator longing to escape from within or find the passion to fuel you to your destiny or whether you are just looking for home.  You will find what you are looking for in the end.  It will never be what you really expected.

The status quo and her band of flying monkeys will guard the castle of the entrenched, but with your new friends you will brave the storm and push forward to victory.  When you have conquered the walls of your former cubicle, your own self doubt and the mediocrity of the norm.  You will have learned that the magic of Gangplank was in you all along.  Once you have been to Oz it will always be a part of you, same with Gangplank.

Don’t believe me?  How else can you explain the above group of connected souls literally floating across the canvas of Downtown Chandler on their journey home?  Sometimes it pays to believe in magic.

10 Steps for Planning a Great Event

The most difficult part about planning an event is knowing where to start. At Gangplank, we plan a lot of events. We have created a simple process that allows us to jump right into planning.

We assemble those involved in the event planning (it could be 1 person or 20) in a room with a white board. We put each of the following 10 steps up as columns on the white board. We start on left (first step) and work our way to the right. The steps are in an order because generally knowing the item(s) in previous steps makes answering the following steps easier.

  1. Purpose: This is where you brain storm the “why”. What is the goal of this event. Why do you want to do it? What does success look like?
  2. Audience: Based on our purpose who do we invite to the event? This can a list of specific people or as board as general groups. (ex: Phoenix Area CEOs)
  3. Format: What is the format of this event? Is it a traditional one track conference? Multiple track? Open Space? Bar Camp? Is it multiple day? Half-Day? Weekday? Weekend?
  4. Content: What are the primary topics? If you were to do a call for speakers what would you want them to speak about?
  5. Schedule: Since you know the format, you should be able to set a loose schedule. This helps give you an idea of how long to make sessions and how many there will be. Whether to include breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc.
  6. Venue: Since you know the format, audience and schedule you should now be able to brainstorm a number of potential venues. Be liberal here, because you will need options.
  7. Speakers: This is a brainstorm of potential speakers you would like to invite to the event to speak, assuming your format requires it. This could also be persona’s of type of speakers you would like to accept on an open call for papers.
  8. Time Frame: This can be a very specific date or it can be a general time frame (ex: early March 2012). This will allow you start finding a venue. Generally the closer the event the more specific this will be.
  9. Sponsors: Who will help make this event happen. We usually split this into three categories. Media sponsors, those that help us get the word out. Partners, those that let us use resources (including their mailing list). Financial sponsors, those that are financially contributing.
  10. Determine Next Steps: Now that you have all this brainstorming done. You create a punch list of action items to do based on what has been discovered.

We find that this exercise takes anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Tasks can usually be distributed and fairly quickly the event is ready for promotion.