Archives for posts with tag: New Haven

This article was originally posted in The Whiteboard, a blog serving Connecticut’s entrepreneurial community.  Michael Romano is the editor.  Read more Whiteboard articles here: http://newhiteboard.com/

Elinor Slomba is the founder of E. Slomba Arts Interstices as well as a Whiteboard Community Startup Journalist. In addition to covering the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Connecticut, she has written for The Whiteboard on the Scrum and Agile approaches to collaboration and project management. As a consultant and curator, one of her main concerns is bridging the worlds of art and business, helping artists be more entrepreneurial and businesses more artistic. The exhibition she recently curated, Navigate Complexity, is currently on view at The GroveThe work pictured above, from the exhibition, is “Nebulae #1,” by Jennifer Davies (handmade paper, string, 17” square).

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Monday evening, an exhibition I curated opened at the The Grove in New Haven, showcasing the work of 17 Connecticut-based artist-entrepreneurs and one timely business topic: Navigating Complexity.

The opening reception drew approximately 50 people from the arts and startup worlds, resulting in sales inquiries as well as rich conversation and invitations to participate in future shows.

The exhibition’s theme deliberately addresses a current obsession among the business world’s top-tier thought leaders. Indeed, this year’s Drucker Forum, which just concluded in Vienna, convened under the banner “Managing Complexity.”

The business world is finally catching on to what artists know every time they go into the studio. It isn’t viable to enter a change process with a well-defined plan and expect to follow it. Instead, creative leaders need to trust the emerging solution.

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Judy Sirota Rosenthal’s “Unfinished Prayer” watches over a StartUp Weekend New Haven team burning the 9pm oil last weekend at The Grove.

As a curator and a connector of the arts and startup worlds, I hope to amplify the role that artists have to play as guideposts and model generators for what complexity theorist Esko Kilpi defines as “the science of uncertainty.”

I was introduced to Kilpi’s work this week by a publisher who was reading the introduction to the “Navigate Complexity” catalogue, a passage of which reads:

“Navigating complexity is all about patterns. Selectively reducing the data we absorb is an act of creative intention. The world has become a fiercely complex competition for headspace, so we must design criteria for engagement. The quality of the paths we find and the sense we make reflect not only trust in our relationships but also our orientation to uncertainty.”

In his 2012 essay titled “Complexity, Patterns, and Links,” Kilpi writes:

“Complexity refers to a pattern, a movement in time that is at the same time predictable and unpredictable, knowable and unknowable. Healthy, ordinary, everyday life is always complex, no matter what the situation is. There is absolutely no linearity in the world of human beings.”

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Jennifer Davies, Nebulae #2, handmade paper, string, 17” square

Helping people visualize new paradigms for organizational design is a service provided by visual artists like Jennifer Davies, whose “Nebulae” series graces the space where Independent Software works to help entrepreneurs build products and companies.

I see in Davies’s work the shift we are making from “the net” to “the mesh,” a concept put forward by author Lisa Gansky describing the way web-based businesses are advancing innovation through shareable goods. Says Gansky: “Every part is connected to every other part, and they move in tandem…. Mesh businesses are knotted to each other, and to the world, in myriad ways.”

Italian-born Giada Crispiels has installed ivy made from upcycled newspaper and magazine pages between the office of Big Bang, an industrial design firm, and a conference room. The effect adds organic energy and a touch of whimsy to the space.

Navigate Complexity may travel to other locations after February. A closing reception is planned for February 13th at The Grove.

What’s in the mix for making things flow between people?  Enthusiasm, Curiosity and Desire!  Active, receptive and responsive in kind, these three interpersonal strategies reinforce one another and build lateral engagement in communities.

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Enthusiasm means putting it out there.  Let people see your passions and be happy to see theirs.

Curiosity is the moment when you or I decide to cross the threshold that separates us with a blank and an invitation.  Only an open mind can be receptive to new ideas and grow.

Desire is the spark that encourages people to connect.  It means expressing the notion that there are many good things in the space between us just waiting to be discovered.

When in doubt…

  • TRY enthusiasm.  “I like….”
  • TRY curiosity, “I wonder…”
  • TRY desire. “I wish…”

For best results, try all three!

***

I developed this three-part recipe for Wetting the Cement after some intentional experiments with the ingredients during Summer 2013.   Two sets of results were validating.

1. Getting  invited to become more and more involved with the Stoos movement and organizing Stoos in Action  stoosinaction.dk  The core Agile team of organizers was based in Denmark. Fifteen satellites across four continents responded to our invitation to participate.  The “action” was a 6-hour virtual conference dedicated to improving the world of work.

2.  Submitting the idea for a Guinness-approved world record attempt for Largest Chalk Pavement Art to the Awesome Foundation.  Positive community response mobilized over 1,000 individuals, 18 community groups, eight city agencies and a unanimously supportive City Council.  The current world record holder embraced us, not as challengers but as successors.  The Agile community is now interested in the use of scrum to make public art.

In both cases, the individuals could not have predicted what finally occurred.  Enthusiasm, curiosity and desire magnified in an organic way to global scale.

Find out what happens with YOUR special blend in the mix.   Share enthusiasm, curiosity and desire to connect.  I am always happy to hear from you!

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Deborah Hartmann Preuss A Bigger Game http://abiggerga.me/blog/author/admin/

Akshay Kathari “I Like, I Wish, I Wonder, a framework for providing constructive feedback” https://medium.com/design-startups/ab25a6d5090f

Andrew Bangser, Awesome Foundation, Connecticut Chapter: “What Would You Do With $1000?”  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=734224573257898

Mark Wagner, Drawing on Earth http://www.drawingonearth.org/

CityWide Open Studios (pictured) http://www.cwos.org/

As an artist who “paints in stone,”  Mark Krueger seeks to approach the cohesiveness found in nature, revealing clarity of geometric relationships among interconnected parts.  His chief concern is finding innovative ways to play with those relationships.  Krueger invites his collaborators  – area designers – to use onyx, marble, sandstone, and quartzite in dynamic ways to create order, surprise and delight in interior spaces.

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“Stone has important things to tell us that have not yet been said.  It’s a much more versatile and expressive medium than people think.  I pay close attention to the technical properties as well as the aesthetic possibilities latent in the different kinds of stone, so I can help people unlock them and prepare to live with them.”

He boldly challenges the dichotomous categories of form versus function that keep many artists’ careers from progressing except on a one-sided track.  “Why can’t an artist’s work serve a dual function?  Why can’t it be both art and an armoire, art and an insert in a backsplash?” To suspend judgements about artistic purity can be liberating, in Krueger’s opinion.  “I feel happy knowing someone sees my artwork every day, that it is woven into their daily routines.  Art shouldn’t just be reserved for special occasions.”

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Mark Krueger’s studio is in Wallingford, Connecticut, and New Haven County is his home base.  The market for his high-end customized stone installations extends to Long Island, Manhattan, Westchester, and Fairfield County, Connecticut, where people often take great pride in their aesthetic displays.  Important sources for his materials are Onyx Stone in Woodbridge, Ele Mar Stone Distributors in New Haven and New York Stone in West Haven, CT.  He has also created an alter ego, Armando Bertoli, who represents his work in Europe: armandobertoli.com

In a world of pre-fabricated options, where creating an interior is often simply an exercise in multiple choice, Krueger says: “Make yourself available to the end users.  Lift the limitations.  Show them something more is possible.”  He wants to give people the confidence to be creative, and the assurance that each of his stone installations is the first and only one of its kind.

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Designers help provide continual feedback from customers and become true creative partners.  It is through the daunting work of listening between the lines for what people really want, what might surpass their expectations, prototyping, discussing and elaborating that Krueger stays inspired to inject artfulness into what has essentially remained a rather stagnantly commercial process over the decades.

Krueger’s installations are like murals, belying his roots as a painter.  The work is realized in two-and-a-half dimensions, highly customized and site-specific.  Subtle gradations in finish, from quite rough to a smooth polish, treat the light differently.  “Some day I’ll teach people how to do it. I’d love for other people to do it, but do it by hand.”

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Another innovative tactic he uses to push stone beyond sculpture and mosaic is to bond thin slices of it to glass with clear epoxy resin.  The results can be used in place of what might commonly be a freestanding glass enclosure, such as a shower door, and backlit to produce dramatic ambient effects.

“Those who choose to collaborate with me have access to a whole new palette.”  Onyx is especially suited, Krueger finds, to use as part of unique light fixtures.  Bonding a thin layer of onyx to another stone produces light variation in the underlying stone’s color.  “Shading in this way, if we need another shade of green than one we find normally occurs, we simply make it.  We can literally create new colors of stone.”

Yet, a world of infinite choice is not actually the end goal in our age of extreme complexity and uncertainty.  Krueger provokes collaborators to wonder together, “how do we thoughtfully eliminate information to make life more manageable?”  Arriving at the proper level of abstraction by bringing the information embedded in a project through several stages of reduction is, in his opinion, one of the most important design questions to resolve.  The solution is different each time, speaking to the needs, constraints and reference points that inspire each set of circumstances in which he works.

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Krueger hopes in the future to take collaboration to a new level with other artists.  He notes, “on a nice, big residential project, we can create internal surfaces that have future flexibility.  One of the big unexplored spaces in homes is the ceiling.  In Europe, ceilings are really designed and thought through.  Stateside, you still see mostly white space.”

In place of this blank canvas, Krueger wants to create a system of panels which could be periodically replaced as an interchangeable design element.  An end user could have seasonal sets of ceiling panels, for instance, with different color schemes, or wish to highlight a particular thematic or design element from a particular part of the world.  “The idea is, you don’t have to live with it forever, but you don’t have to start from scratch when you want a change.”

“I want collaborating with me to be a fun form of creative expression, not overwhelming.”  To that end, Krueger invites members of the design community to have him speak about the medium of stone and its untapped capacities.  Images of work in various stages plus actual stone samples make for sensory rich, interactive experiences.  Email mark.krueger1@yahoo.com for scheduling.  You may also see him present live at Pechakucha New Haven on Wednesday, November 13 at Bentara Restaurant. http://pkn-newhaven.org/NextEvent

Staff and youth from The Future Project http://www.thefutureproject.org/ joined E. Slomba Arts Interstices for the program “Opening Your Curatorial Eye”  (see Juicy Programs tab!) at City Wide Open Studios, an annual event produced by Art Space Gallery http://cwos.org/.  The Future Project helps local teens discover their passions and turn them into projects.  Dedicated staff members are called Dream Directors.

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A former Erector Set factory known as Erector Square http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erector_Square houses the personal studios of hundreds of local artists in New Haven, Connecticut.  This high-density of creators made it an especially exciting place to be during City Wide Open Studios.

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Participating teens visited the studios, met with artists and selected works for an upcoming exhibit, Navigate Complexity, to open at The Grove on November 18, 2013.

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Artwork pictured above (middle photo) by Jaime Kriksciun.  Studio pictured above (lower photo) is Daniel Eugene’s.

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On the face of it, running a company with no human bosses sounds like an implausible fantasy or a short-lived experiment. For more than two decades, Doug Kirkpatrick, formerly of The Morning Star Company in Sacramento, California, has been arguing otherwise, stating the case for self-management as a viable alternative to the traditional, hierarchical organization.

Even for creative minds, this can be somewhat hard to visualize. The Industrial Revolution and its legacy of Taylorism have left us with the prevailing notion that organizations are shaped like pyramids, and that structure is set in stone. However, visionaries across many sectors are networking to amend this paradigm.

First, a few stats. Morning Star is the largest tomato processing operation in the world.  It transacts over $700 million per year and employs over 2,400 people (400 year-round). Its products, primarily industrial tomato paste and diced tomatoes, are ingredients in ketchup, taco sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, steak sauce and a myriad of other products. Virtually every American has eaten Morning Star product. It also exports globally. It is a highly successful company. And it has no human bosses.

This growth has come about steadily since founder Chris Rufer purchased land for his newly-conceived Morning Star facility in the late 1980s. He had an interesting concept ready to incubate on his initial 500+ acres of dirt near the town of Los Banos, California.  He had acquired a great deal of business intelligence and was ready to apply it to the new start-up.

Doug, who started off as Morning Star Packing’s first financial controller, had worked with Chris before running another manufacturing company. As he tells it, “I’d put a stack of checks on his desk to sign, and Chris began asking all sorts of questions: ‘Is my judgment really required here?  Don’t these checks represent legal liabilities which simply must be taken care of, no ifs, ands or buts?  What value am I really adding to this process?’”

Chris’ takeaway was that management time and attention often appeared to contribute zero to the bottom line. The conclusion had dawned that hierarchical management might be an unnecessary cost.

In his new leadership role, the founder posed a whole new set of questions as his team brainstormed in a temporary trailer pitched on Morning Star’s construction site.  Assuming management is too costly to afford, how can we maintain ourselves as a company? Could a set of common principles, instead of managers, serve to guide us in day-to-day decision-making?

Two principles in particular, clicked together side-by-side, seemed to create their own internal logic and establish a commonly-understood basis for maintaining proper oversight and equilibrium in all of the company’s operations.  1. People should not use force or coercion against other people or their property.  2.  People should keep the commitments they make to others.

One of the time-tested mechanisms the company has used over the years to help people make clean agreements and stick to these principles is the Colleague Letter of Understanding, or “CLOU” (as in helping to solve a mystery!). Individuals draft CLOUs in order to come to shared understandings about their “portfolio of roles” within the company.  “Every individual in the company is treated as a professional,” Doug emphashizes.  “And everyone is allowed to learn new skills so that they can take on new roles. Job descriptions are only a starting point. They can always be negotiated.”

Decisions of all kinds, including capital investments, vendors and equipment maintenance belong to identified decision-makers, who agree to communicate and collaborate with relevant stakeholders. Morning Star wants to help individuals maintain their ability to get things done without going through layers of management or having to make a case up the chain of command.

“This sounds great, especially to someone who grew up in the sixties,“ says Debra Cash, a Boston-based organizational consultant.  “But what about things like regulatory compliance?”

According to Doug, those issues, while real, haven’t been daunting enough to compromise the company‘s self-managed stance.  “If we need to have 35 names on the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) certificate because of the principle of equivalency, that everyone is equally responsible for occupational safety, then we list 35 names on the certificate.  We want to be compliant, and we strive to fulfill all of our corporate and fiduciary responsibilities.”

However, it is also true that for Morning Star, “the terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ have absolutely no meaning. We’ve paid serious legal fees to defend our self-management philosophy. Overall, self management works for us, as it can work for others. We wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Doug Kirkpatrick is now traveling worldwide and speaking on behalf of this extraordinary company, its story and self management principles. June will see him jetting off to Copenhagen, London and Denver to attempt to satisfy a recent explosion of interest.

Meanwhile, Inc.com just named Morning Star among the Top 25 Audacious Companies.  When asked if the label applies, Doug responds in characteristically down-to-earth fashion. “Now I want a dictionary to look up the word, but certainly, if it means being bold and innovative, then I wouldn’t contest that description.”

What’s changed in the environment that leads people to be more curious right now?  Doug cites three factors: global competition, the availability of live, liquid data and the lighting speed at which business must move to keep pace.

What advice would Doug give to start-ups in 2013?  “To the up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I would pose this invitation. Recognize the opportunity in your hands to start from scratch building a governance structure. Without explicitly considering the question while you’re still a blank slate, there’s a tendency to default to the pyramid.  There are alternatives. And from what we‘ve seen, there is no set of business circumstances, no industry which presents an inherent barrier to the viability of self-management as an operating structure.“

Of course, even among alternatives, there are alternatives. Dynamic Governance, AKA Sociocracy, is one formalized system catching on in the English speaking business world via the work of John Buck, who brought it from the Netherlands (see http://www.socionet.us). In selecting the right level of openness versus formality to suit a particular enterprise, Dan Mezick, author of The Culture Game, advises, “Make sure you ask the right question. Are you working for the structure, or is the structure working for you?”

Artists are thinking along parallel lines. Debbie Hesse, Program Coordinator at Connecticut’s Greater New Haven Arts Council, is interested in these alternative organizational structures. The Council’s Visual Artists Advisory Group discussed the topic Friday, May 17 at a newly expanded co-workspace on New Haven’s thriving Ninth Square, a state-designated hub of innovation (www.grovenewhaven.com).

Artist Judy Rosenthal, known mostly for her ethnographic photography documenting cultural identity in places like Bali, created the body of paintings like the one above while thinking about what is common to all human systems. In her view, “Every individual entering a group does best asking: ‘What am I bringing to this circle?  What can I contribute?’”

Among the best places to step into a circle of professionals from many sectors who espouse self-management principles is the annual Symposium sponsored by the Morning Star Self-Management Institute. This year’s symposium took place on Sunday, June 2nd through Tuesday, June 4th in Sacramento, California, and featured participants from across the United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Australia and Canada. Information about the symposium can be found at http://self-managementinstitute.org/symposia/.

This year’s speakers focused on the networked organization as a source of discovery and innovation. Gabe Fasolino facilitated a half-day Open Space retreat for practitioners to explore how such insights apply to their respective leadership and organizational plans.

Since 2008, Morning Star has maintained a community of practice known as the Self-Management Institute. Its mission is to develop superior principles and systems of organizing people, and to promulgate those principles and systems in the minds of client colleagues.

Documents and data from the Morning Star Self-Management Institute are available to artists who wish to explore these ideas further.  One goal is to develop an art exhibition delving into alternative organizational structures impacting today’s workplace.  Interested artists may contact E. Slomba at artsinterstices@gmail.com and review source materials at http://self-managementinstitute.org/about-us/ .

MANY THANKS to Doug Kirkpatrick for the generous interview he gave by phone on May 8, 2013 from his home base in Sacramento, California.

Worldwide, organizational culture is on the move.

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New orders are emerging that are better suited to our complex era than those that came to the forefront during the Industrial Revolution.  There is so much on this topic to observe and examine, I have invited colleagues to participate in a trans-Agile metaspace to explore these shifting paradigms.

  • March 22 we will discuss cell-like work structures, including this awesome material from the Betacodex Network:  http://www.betacodex.org/node/1316
  • May 10 the focus will be on sociocracy as a workable and equitable governance structure in practice at Green Haven and Agile Boston.

The group is based out of The Grove in downtown New Haven,  a thriving cowork space and one of four designated Innovation Hubs active in the State of Connecticut (www.grovenewhaven.com).  Inspired by the Stoos Network (www.stoosnetwork.org), our first meeting was held on World Stoos Day, Jan 25, 2012.  It may evolve into a Stoos Satellite or remain a platform that is broader than one particular movement or model.  I am curious to experience how the principle of self-organization animates and propels our discussions.

Meanwhile, here’s to the beauty of spontaneous order!

Creative Placemaking Funders Symposium

It has been an exciting journey as Connecticut builds its platform for articulating the relevance of cultural vitality to just about every other part of life, urban and otherwise.  Grant guidelines are now complete – colleagues in the arts community and I have had a hand in shaping them over the past year through meetings and forums held across the state, at New Haven’s Long Wharf Theater and elsewhere.

The main question has been: how do we link cultural activity with specific economic drivers to make Connecticut’s places more livable?  As the Department of Economic and Community Development defines the resources it will bring, local Arts Councils activate their networks, and other sectors engage, the conversation gets bigger and more interesting.

I will be attending this upcoming event at the Bushnell Center in Hartford – happy to customize notes for anyone who wants a briefing.

Many cities have experimented with art openings and related cultural events in a given district or neighborhood engineered to coincide on a monthly basis.  Unfortunately, such predicability can lead to ennui among scenesters.  New Haven is trying something new in its Ninth Square.

The organization on9 has a plan for September which brings to mind a large note-to-self displayed in a former boss’s office: Remember to Breathe!  The public is invited to use this idea as both a prompt and a lens through which to experience culture.

Breathe On9  happens tomorrow evening, September 7th, starting at 6pm in Pitkin Plaza (behind Bru Cafe, in front of Devil’s Bike Gear).  See http://www.on9newhaven.com/  for a full schedule of offerings.

The First Friday event celebrates reinvigorated streetlife and the change of season with a concentrated sampling of body/mind alignment systems.  It will also show off the district’s lean and green foodscape, e.g., Elm City Market, a new(ish) coop where membership is not required and the vast majority of products come from within a 250-mile radius.

A closing reception for three exhibitions at Artspace is fitted within a panoply of experiential services that promote wellbeing.  The art is not on display in the casual manner of a craft fair nor necessarily on view to be “read” and deconstructed by critics (though both can be fun, when done well).  Rather, in this context art is assertively occupying its place as a source of mental nourishment and aesthetic satisfaction without which urbanity would be incomplete.

Do people really want to be this heavily curated?  Is the theme idea working to boost business from pedestrian traffic?  Is the Ninth Square authentically a special place?  Do such events reinforce cultural coolness?  Last month’s photo display from the Noise on9 event appears validating…but I just may check in for follow-up with a few of the participating artists and organizations.

http://www.on9newhaven.com/home/noise-on-9-august-3/noiseon9-highlights/

First Friday themes upcoming this fall:

October / Creative on9

November / Faces on9

December / Shine on9

Must interrupt regularly scheduled TGIF interview about the recent nonprofit development sprint to bring you the following, just published by Mind Edge, learning in innovation (based in Waltham, Mass).

Cheers, and make sure your weekend ROCKS!

http://projectmanagement.atwork-network.com/2012/05/18/qa-elinor-buxton-slomba-on-the-art-of-agile/

Tomorrow, Elm City Dance Collective and other indigenous, urban Connecticut performing artists – including Verbal Slap and Kings Band of Harmony Brass Shout Band – will be rocking city buses across New Haven, live.   How cool is that!?  Not just that it’s happening, but that we know it’s happening..

MANY THANKS to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and CT Transit for presenting Exact Change.  Here’s to more ambient art situated at street-level in the urban environment, sponsored and otherwise.

Details on this round at http://www.newhavenarts.org.

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