Since I started Studio Two back in 1994 we’ve primarily been focused on the task of bringing effective design solutions to our client’s marketing and communications challenges. Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to work on projects with significant scope and reach, and certainly our work has had an impact on profits, jobs, and economic development in our region.
About a year ago I started re-imagining the business; sorting through our successes and frustrations, and examining the core question of “what we do”. Now some 12 month later I’m by no means at a conclusion – indeed, it would appear that one of the findings in my process is that the pursuit of a conclusion itself is likely a mistake – the act of questioning, challenging and planning needs to be dynamic and constant if your intention is to thrive within change. And thriving within change is what we must do – the world around us is changing at a dramatic pace and we need to make that a core attribute of the way we work, organize, and think.
The topic of this post (and this category) is “The Big idea”. What I mean by that is that for our work to have the most impact, and for us to be able to identify those clients and opportunities ahead that offer the largest stage of engagement, we need to consider what the grander challenges are. So here’s a short list that I am thinking of.
– Sustainability – food, farms, land, housing, natural resources, energy: What does this mean? What is local?
– Climate change – I think that the ecology of the planet may be naturally too chaotic to model with accuracy, but change is happening, and will happen, and may accelerate in unpredictable ways. The implications to the economy, business practice, and daily life are likely profound over the next decades, but just as likely to be difficult to discern in the short term.
– Energy – It seems clear to me amidst the race to find renewable sources that we will fall short in the next decades relying on wind and solar. I think that the steady-state nature of geothermal where it is appropriate will change the way new housing is sited and built. I also think that nuclear power in many forms will make a significant comeback.
– The Nation – I think the big idea here is the question of what kind of a country is the USA in the century ahead. Is a decline inevitable as we borrow our way into international obscurity? Or will the USA be ascendant on innovation, education and creativity? I think that the country needs a serious readjustment to the role that risk plays in what it means to be free. Too many laws, too many restrictions, too many opinions stifle creativity and opportunity.
– Technology – In our business designing for the web and working on internet strategies for our clients, I’m very aware that the amazing developments in technology will continue to accelerate in concert not only with Moore’s law, but also in the way that innovative thinking is bringing ubiquitous technology to all of us. These developments will impact every facet of our lives, and change the way we live tomorrow.
-Jobs – Where do jobs come from? In my experience, almost every job in the private sector comes from an act of entrepreneurial initiative. How do you support, create and foster that?
Within the realm of “Big Ideas” are, I feel a number of things which usually aren’t part of the dialogue, which is often concerned with “saving” the world. Among these, for me, are as follows:
– Beauty, Art, Creativity, and Play – These ideas are in concert with each other and with some of the ideas above – in particular the role that energy, technology and innovation create possibility and development. The future is the life of the mind – a mind increasingly linked by technology to other minds, ideas and creations. This new space is resource-efficient compared to traditional manufacturing, and has an almost infinite growth curve based solely on the curiosity and creativity of the human mind. We need play, we need art, we need a pursuit of the intangible.
I don’t really know what these “big ideas” mean yet in the context of my business, but I do know that I will be asking the question of my clients, friends, employees and partners in the months ahead to talk to me about their “big ideas”. I think that it will be revealing. If you have a big idea, and you want to talk about it, drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.