An interesting phenomena occurs when you integrate, align, mix and match objects. The multidisciplinarity of artefacts, issues or processes has become a kind of holy grail to achieve the type of innovation that can ‘disrupt’. A few examples from art, design/media and organizational thinking.

art: Turell and Parreno

James Turell makes art of light. He studied maths and perceptual psychology and he is interested in the experience of light. To him all light (natural and artificial) is conjured by some combination of specific elements and temperature. James TurellWith his artwork he wants to make clear that the way we perceive light and colour is not fixed and constant. His Ganzfeld rooms (Whitney museum, 1980) are drenched in colour. They are designed to recreate the effect of a white-out, a total loss of bearings. In his works he ‘deconstructs through light’ – he describes it as ‘synaesthesia’: to dissect, and bring back together in a slightly different way. He is famous for his attention to detail and James Turell Roden Cratoreffects. He has been working on his masterpiece ‘Roden Crater’ for the last 40 years he is crafting the vulcano he bought in 1976 in a ‘naked eye observatory’. He burrows and pinches pricise holes in the crator to create shafts calibrated to the summer solstice or a particular lunar positioning that occurs once every 18.6 years. A large tunnel has been tuned like a flute with the assistance of an acoustic engineer. Turell gathers starlight, so you can be in that light of stars that might not even be there anymore.

Philippe Parreno: individual works function as components in a larger scheme

armoryonpark.orgParreno’s show in New York’s Park Avenue Armory (summer 2015) is an illustration of his view on ‘entirety‘. He wants to provide a communual space to bring people together and immerse them in a total experience. In the Armory show ‘H{N}YPN(Y}OSIS  various elements can play out simultaneously, the sequences and events constantly inform each other and overlap to create near endless combinations. PARRENO_armory3 ParrenoArmory2 recitals M.Rudy during hnypnosisParrento likes to play with concepts that deal with sharing, with boundaries being crossed, with different timelines and realities. The 55,000 sq ft room of the Armory is an open space or as Parrento sees it “an architecture that is created by visitors as they make their way through space”. An open space enables an architecture of attention. In the show individual objects all have their own identity but they come together to produce a new powerful whole. The idea is that the exhibition constantly interweaves live and recorded elements, designed and spontaneous gestures, reality and fiction to impart a conscious NY-flavour: the synthesis of the experiences is a single, seamlessly unified entity: a space that is animated by the city.

To produce such a multimedia extravaganza is too complex and multifaceted for any one person. True collaboration is needed, teamwork where everyone clicks and is highly respectful of other people’s abilities, makes it possible to concentrate on the process, the journey, and the result emerges from that. Parrento creates a stable of like-minded creatives: Timo Seghal works with ‘constructed situations’ using actors or dancers (dressed up as a Japanes manga character) to perform certain actions, a french sound-designer (Nicolas Becker) and recitals by the pianist Mikhail Rudy create electronic soundscapes. Together they melt boundaries and categories and create an alchemical feeling that expands beyond different labels and boxes. The term that Parrento uses the summ up the essence of the exhibition “synchronicity“: an environment where time seems suspended and you temporarily step beyond the normal diachronous flow of your live and events overlap and occur together in space.

maison et objetmedia/design: adaptive and responsive AR amplifies the intrinsic experience
melomind adaptive musicThe Retroscope (by Amana) makes seemingly ‘normal’ landscape-photography special at the digIT(eyes) Maison & Objet Paris Design show ( with complementary smartphones (an app) that showed flocks of birds emerging. Behnaz Farahi’s 3D printed helmet ‘Synapse’ is an EEG chip that causes the headwear to change shape when triggered by brain activity. Melomind is a head-worn device that tranformes brainwaves measured by electrodes to stress-reducing ‘audio-environments’ via a smartphone-app. Phygital shopping is a mix of the best that physical and digital stores have to offer. Since 2003 we can map the whole genome sequence, according to Illumnia (marketleader in sequencing machines): “the mapping a genome costed millions, today it costs 1000 euro and will be 100 euro’s in the near future”. According to MIT technology review Apple is creating an app that can show genetic characteristics of users. Google and Amazon and the Chinese Genomic Institute are building DNA-databases because they expect to serve applications in the medical (and cosmetic) field in the near future. Decision will be emerge from collected data that can be processed in real-time, by 2020 computational power of machines will outperform human thinking.

transmedia storytelling:

Like games, virtual worlds are created collaboratively, and the audience exists in a meaningful way within that world. The WBI (world building institute) curated a workshop: Traversing Reality. It explored the ways that VR can bring audiences together, physically, to share meaningful social moments and how VR can ‘activate’ an audience in very physical ways.  It focusses on how VR can change how we learn and understand the world. virtual world of rilaoA polifacetic group explored RILAO to discover, study the land, dive in the mysteries of the South Pacific island and unravel its secrets and stories. The groups had to choose and describe one environment, one social or cultural structure and one artifact, from those that emerged from their process. And compile the knowledge and experiences gained during their exploration, as entries for the Rilao Universalis Encyclopedia. The multiple perspectives brought by the participants, among which there were filmmakers, scientists, engineers, architects and designers, produced a radical collaboration and a very rich Worldbuilding process, allowing unique stories to emerge from the team´s multidisciplinary nature. The poliformity favored alex mc dowell creative director 5DIand helped avoiding pre-established media practices or prefabricated narrative structures, usually present with a uniform group. With the objective of achieving a interconnected single narrative during the worldbuilding session, cross-pollination between the different working cells was part of the process. This exchange of concepts, created a perspective revision, that enriched and refined the ongoing exploration with new perspectives and research. The rhythmic switch between focused intimate work in the 5 people Worldbuilding-cells and a open sharing, during the day, propels ideas flow and triggers new levels and possibilities.

Marketing: balancing exploring and exploiting processes

Markets are more diverse, to deal with this diversity companies need to tailor their aproach to strategy and execution to each environment in which they operate. They need to constantly ‘retune’ this collage of approaches. It’s impossible to manage all these shifts using taditional top-down decision making. They need self-learning systems.

Google balancing actTriple A: Agility (rapid adjustment), Adaptation (learning through trial and error) and Ambidexterity (balancing exploration and exploitation). Algorithms (like the one’s recommendation engines from Amazon or Netflix use) strike the optimum between exploiting known preferences and exploring different items that have potential to surface new preferences. Serve up too many safe bets and users will get bored, and the opportunity to collect data that will inform new recommendations will forgo. Serve up too many exploratory options users may become unsatisfied and lose faith in the recommendations. To manage this trade-off dynamically the recommendatoin engines constantly update their suggestions, drawing on an evolving inderstanding of users.

Three interlinked learning loops are base to this. These three loops are all executed in a self-directed manner, without any human decisions, which allows triple-A systems to operate at very high speeds.


  • Generate new options and create a growing library of choices (discover what works)
  • Test: provide recommendations based on knowledge of content and customer behaviour with a degree of randomness
  • Amplify what works: track (click, purchase, rating) rates to learn more about personal preferences and use that information to improve further recommendations

2 – MODULATE – adjust how and how much you experiment, adapt the rate of experimemtation to the environment f.i. with new customers higher rates of experimentation are necessary, this can be scaled back as the algorithms learn more about them. But all users should experience a degree of exploration and surprise.

3 – SHAPE – not only reinforce existing preferences, but also create new ones, f.i. being directed to a new category both reveals and shapes what a user finds interesting.

centrality and distinctiveness:  relevant components – dissected and bought back in a slightly different way – sequences and events constantly inform each other and overlap – self-learning systems
brandmap HBRIn an article (HBR june 2015) Niraj Dawar and Charan K. Bagga present their Way to map Brand Strategy. Their model shows brands’ relative position in the marketplace according to perceived ‘centrality’ (how representative a brand is of its category) and ‘distinctiveness’ (how well it stands out fro other brands) it also captures financial performance (sales volume or price). Brands are positioned in quadrants according to how customers score them on two dimensions (consumers’ perceptions). Each quadrant carries strategic implications for sales, pricing, risk and profitability. The distribution of brands across the map offer insights about competitive opportunities and threats. Asperational brands are well positioned to launch innovations that redefine the category. Mainstream-position calls for risk-averse stewardship, because of their heft they can shape markets and consumer preferences. Pheripheral positioned brands are typically bought as substitute, because they are price-attractive – a model that calls for low marketing and innovation costs (s.a. generic or privte-label players) – adding distinctive features or launching advertising campaigns mght shift their positioning but is an uphill and expensive battle. Unconventional brands are niche players: profitability at low volumes. By making the brand’s unique features more mainstream or adding mainstream features the brand can gain centrality. If it manages to also increase sales volume without compromising distinctiveness it can shift to the the aspirational quadrant. A brands position on the map can vary dramatically depending on geographic market and customer segments. Collecting data on customers’ perception of the brand’s centrality and distinctiveness yields insight but is also an intensive process. Repeatedly charting the position changes that result from marketing initiatives yields insight about what drives customer perceptions – and brand performance.

maturity_bizzdigital-maturityBased on Schumpeters innovation typeMIT Sloan and Cap Gemini Consulting (2012) reported about The digital advantage with their model that identified ‘digiraties’

cross pollinationIf you think of an enterprise as a nested set of processes: the vision articulates the direction and ambition of the firm as a whole, the company deploys businessmodels that bring together capabilities and assets to create advantageous positions. It uses: organizational structure, information systems and culture to facilitate the effective operation. If you take an evolutionary approach, the organization is no longer viewed as a fixed means of transmitting intentions from above, but rather a network that shifts and responses to external feedback. Some draw anologies with music, others (josphine green) call it flat pancakes or like IDEO that calls this: structured cross-pollination. With the acceptance of the holistic networked organization in which cells, workgroups or tribes autonomously work on projects or in units to contribute to the whole or the clan. The question that arises is: Who is accountable for identifying, cultivating and coordinating network effects inside the enterprise and out? The opportunities are clear; the responsibilities are not.

The theatre of the human spirit will become backstage

Neuro Info Bio CognitiveSince four disciplines have found eachother: Information- (BITS) and Nano- (ATOMS) Neuro/Cognitive- (NEURONS) and  Bio-Technology(GENES) an exponentional area of new insights has been developed. With it our ethics (value systems) has to mature. The convergence of these sciences can impact our society when the output starts interfacing with the real world. How will we cope with active intelligent environments, will it change our view on autonomy and freedom? Do we want to become dependent on technology that acts for us? How much vulnaribility do we allow in private/public connections, when ubiquitous systems also include tracking and tracing of out behaviour and mental processes. If we except a limited transparency on our privacy how do we prevent social inclusion and defend justice when tracking devices can be used to controle others? Will bodily integrity influence human integrity when we can change human nature with artificial organs, do we also accept a (re)definition of human beings? And who will be responsible when intelligent systems fail?

Nice questions to keep in mind if you watch Black Mirror – be right back video.

rilao expandedBoth designer/engineers and organizational thinkers boil down to the same question: who or what is responsible (and accountable) when emergent systems become more interdependent (less transparent)? Who can you blame when your smart-sensor did not pick the right data because you didn’t give it the opportunity to learn enough? It is still future technology, but it will creep up, first slowly then suddenly – because exponential developments tend to engulf their context.

Have we build in enough triggers to ensure that transpancy is still an option? Will we know when biases get out of balance and systems overrule emotions (when you’re not with the system, you are against it) Can you affort not to be on social media, nor respond to someones tweet or will the benefit of getting along with the new etiquette? Would you make the same choice as the Mae Holland (main character) in Dave Eggers book?

What we can learn from smart systems is not to monitor the results but the process, the flow or the patterns that emerge. Which indicators we should use, is still a debate. It might be – like in art – dependent on the context to identify those components that create an architecture of attention and true synchronicity.

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