Experiments and the Studio Model

By August 11, 2014Uncategorized

Originally posted to Tumblr

Inspired in part by listening to another podcast in which Gary discusses side projects, showing your work, and not being afraid to try new things, this week I got to thinking about the overall direction and goals I have for SSG, and I took a stab at clarifying and redefining my ideas for what I want to do with the project, both now and in the long term.

The first half of the Orbital Boot Camp has been a great help for narrowing vision, paring down, and launching something small and manageable. I’ve started to do that, and have my work cut out building and improving my email course. But at the same time, I’ve been feeling kind of constrained and unsure about the bigger picture of what I’m doing, and also feeling that I’ve maybe lost some of the wild experimental spark that I think I could be better harnessing to test out more things during my time at Orbital.

I’m lucky in that outside of the parameters of this class, I have no hard deadlines, no revenue goals that I must meet, no impending end of a runway or KPI minimums that will determine whether I can keep working on this project. I have relatively high freedom of time and money, I like my day job, and I’d like to start taking more risks and challenging myself more. So I want to figure out how to do that in the most efficient, effective way possible…and also have fun doing it!

Self Starter’s Guide started out as a name for a series of books, educational content guides that I’d write and publish on important topics for 21st century learning. But my current thought is that it should be something more open-ended, with an explicit mission of experimentation. I’m now excited to try making it a kind of “education innovation lab”, trying out a variety of different approaches and projects related to the future of learning. I like the metaphor of a laboratory, and the idea of defining a kind of open-ended umbrella organization for the work I’m doing, and aim to do in the future. I like the approach that Tina has taken with her series of kitchen experiments, testing out several interesting ways in which people can interact with food and recipes and cooking — mini-projects that aren’t necessarily closely linked in their specific implementation, but that share a philosophy, spirit of inquiry, and design approach.

I want to do more things like this — experiments like the one I’ve been running, but faster and more aggressive and more diverse than my approach so far — and set up a place for sharing them. Right now I have the SSG Education Design email course (off to a fairly slow start, but making progress!) I have the beginnings of a SSG Library which I think has some good potential, and I have a bunch more ideas for cool things that I may try rolling out in the coming weeks

I’ve started to restructure my site so that the focus of the homepage is on highlighting different projects — different arms of the larger SSG octopus. I want to keep my work focused and specific where appropriate (and possible) but also allow myself room for growth and evolution. I’d also like to create a more focused and better-organized blog, and focus on timeless, “evergreen” content that could begin to seed the site with the beginning of a knowledge base of original content that could draw people in. And finally, I’d want to give SSG a more clear focus not only on learning, but on making/doing/creating — active learning, play and experimentation, synthesis and combination, and generative creativity.

I’m really interested in the studio model of running a company or organization, through some blend of incubator, agency, product design studio, startup, guild, or other hybrid ways of working and collaborating. I like the idea of developing lots of ideas at once internally, launching many things of varying sizes at staggered times, and trying to play around and see what sticks. Of course there’s tremendous variation in how such a company’s bread is buttered — experiments subsidized via more conservative work; income cobbled together from many streams; one thing takes off and subsumes the rest… Whatever the outcome or exact model, I think it’s cool how this gives more opportunities for hitting on something really cool and successful. I recognize that it’s also a big challenge to maintain focus and be vigilant in killing off things that aren’t working, but I think I’m up for it!

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