The Household Physician
An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
1 Allow events to change you. You have to be willing
to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce
it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience
events and the willingness to be changed by them.
2 Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is
what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration
of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as
you stick to good you’ll never have real growth
3 Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome
drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If
process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know
we want to be there.
4 Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as
beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the
long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
5 Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will
discover something of value.
6 Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer
in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the
process. Ask different questions.
7 Study. A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity
of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
8 Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies.
Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
9 Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing
where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
10 Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does,
allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
11 Harvest ideas. Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic,
fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other
hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
12 Keep moving. The market and its operations have a tendency
to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part
of your practice.
13 Slow down. Desynchronize from standard time frames
and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
14 Don’t be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in
black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
15 Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and
innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout
your life at the rate of an infant.
16 Collaborate. The space between people working together
is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast
17 ——————————. Intentionally left blank. Allow space for
the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
18 Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone
too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the
rest of the world.
19 Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to
stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands
20 Be careful to take risks. Time is genetic. Today is
the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce
today will create your future.
21 Repeat yourself. If you like it, do it again. If you
don’t like it, do it again.
22 Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order
to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely
new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so
even a small tool can make a big difference.
23 Stand on someone’s shoulders. You can travel farther
carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view
is so much better.
24 Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone
25 Don’t clean your desk. You might find something in
the morning that you can’t see tonight.
26 Don’t enter awards competitions. Just don’t. It’s not
good for you.
27 Read only left-hand pages. Marshall McLuhan did this.
By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called
28 Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions
demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression.
The expression generates new conditions.
29 Think with your mind. Forget technology. Creativity
is not device-dependent.
30 Organization = Liberty. Real innovation in design,
or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form
of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only
able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The
myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls
a 'charming artifact of the past.'
31 Don’t borrow money. Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice.
By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not
exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain
this discipline, and how many have failed.
32 Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our
orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any
we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety
of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own.
Neither party will ever be the same.
33 Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater
than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive,
interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer
34 Make mistakes faster. This isn’t my idea — I borrowed
it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
35 Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close
as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly
remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of
Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused
imitation is as a technique.
36 Scat. When you forget the words, do what Ella did:
make up something else … but not words.
37 Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it,
38 Explore the other edge. Great liberty exists when we
avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading
edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made
obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
39 Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth
often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces
— what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized
a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference
— the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference.
Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
40 Avoid fields. Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries
and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative
life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold,
complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross
41 Laugh. People visiting the studio often comment on
how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer
of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
42 Remember. Growth is only possible as a product of history.
Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction.
But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite
image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its
quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new,
a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential
for growth itself.
43 Power to the people. Play can only happen when people
feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re
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