Posted in Sparks at work, Sparks in the wild

Like herding cats…

This morning at work was one of those mornings, when you know it would have been better for everyone if you’d just stayed at home in bed. After a particularly annoying email, as I tipped my head back and released a silent scream, I was reminded of a You Tube clip that someone had sent me years ago. The term was used a lot when working in professional services HR, but could apply to pretty much any workplace/looking after kids/organising an event/managing home renovations: “This is sooooo hard, it’s like herding cats”. I’ve always felt it was a powerful image to sum up that point of utter frustration and despair, when people just would not agree or fall in to line. Here’s the video that still makes me laugh every time I see it – I think it was released as one of those magical SuperBowl ads, back in 2009. Enjoy!

Posted in Sparks at work

EverydaySparks CEO, Idea #274

I’ve posted quite a few times about my brilliant ideas that I will implement when I am the CEO. The CEO of what? Dunno. But the organisation will be pretty cool, don’t you worry about that. Today, I wanted to share a possible office design for EverydaySparks Inc, via the awesome Cool Hunter website. Located in Bangkok, the headquarters of telecommunications company dtac has got to be one of the best office spaces in the world. And my professional HR opinion is that any job that you do would have to be more fun if you did it there. Don’t believe me? Check out these pics…

Now THAT’S a breakout area. Who needs a desk, I say.
Oh the bookshelves, the bookshelves!

And there’s a ‘FunFloor’, featuring indoor soccer, table tennis, and concert & performance spaces. Oh, and a running track. Uh huh.

Run away from annoying colleagues.

You can read more about the incredible dtac office on The Cool Hunter site here. And I am accepting applications to join EverydaySparks Inc, if you’re up for an undefined role in an unclear organisation. With rockin’ office space.

Posted in Home sparks, Sparks at work

Anthropomorphise!

Think Geek promises to sell “stuff for smart masses”. But not all of their stuff is especially geeky or designed for techos – today’s find made me giggle and I think it has a huge potential for adding a spark to the everyday items that we have around our homes and workplaces. Customers who have bought the kit have even sent in their own photos (which are then added to the product page) to show how they’ve used the stickers to add a bit of personality to things that would otherwise look pretty boring. See what you think…

In case you’re not familiar with the term ‘anthropomorphise’ (I wasn’t either), I’ll let the good people at Think Geek explain it far better than I can: We do it every day, though mostly without thinking about it – we get angry at the stapler that mangled our presentation, or the phone when it can’t get a signal. We say we “love this coffee mug,” and sometimes we even imagine a face on the clock on the wall. It’s called anthropomorphizing, and it’s where we imbue human characteristics to inanimate objects.

So they’ve taken this one step further and sell “Inanimate Character Stickers” – over 100 stickers of “eyes and mouths in various shapes, sizes and expressions, waiting for you to give life to the lifeless.” This idea is right up my street – I love it! From fruit to office products to shoes, people have submitted photos of what they’ve managed to achieve with just some kooky looking eyes and a toothy grin.

And the possibilities are endless. If others keep borrowing your stapler and forgetting to give it back, a scary face might be just what you need. Or if you want to encourage people to eat the orange cream biscuits that no one else wants, maybe stick on a nice little friendly face and watch them win people over. I’m thinking that doctors could take medical implements to a whole other level with a well chosen pair of eyes and a smile – except the only thing worse than a needle coming at you is surely a needle with a maniacal face coming at you…

I think these stickers could change our lives. Or, at least, they could help make us smile as we go about our business every day. And that’s a step in the right direction. If you’d like to check them out, they are available from Think Geek here.

 

 

Posted in Sparks at work, Sydney sparks

Festival of Dangerous Ideas

I’m excited. I love a good Festival and am proud to say that in Sydney, we’ve become pretty reliable as awesome Festival-runners. I say ‘we’ using the royal plural, of course, as I do nothing more than buy some tickets from time to time and turn up to be entertained by super-talented people. So last weekend when I was at the Opera House with my mum seeing The Pearlfishers (one of my all-time favourites – sooo beautiful), I noticed a collection of newspaper-like ads for an upcoming festival. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas. It’s on at the Opera House from 28-30 September and the topics are thought-provoking, to say the least. “Have an opinion” is the request / demand of the curators, although if you don’t yet have one – am sure there will be plenty on offer for you to borrow.

Among the heavy hitting topics is The Devil is Real, featuring a Catholic priest (Fr Julian Porteous) talking about what it might mean if the Devil is real – “an active presence who moves among us every day”. Not sure if he is referring to the bus driver who sees you running down the street and drives off anyway, or the bank teller who ignores you in the queue and pretends to count a stack of envelopes and rearrange their pens, or noisy teenagers lounging around the shopping mall. But if he has suggestions on how to deal with those everyday devils, it could be worth checking out…

Then there’s the topic guaranteed to set HR professionals’ hearts a-flutter: My Workplace is a Cult. The speakers are a journalist and the Creative Director of Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney. Make of that what you will. They ask: “Are you expected to devote inordinate amounts of time and energy to your work? Do you spend more time with your work colleagues than anyone else? Has your work taken over your life?” I’m guessing that most people would nod along in agreement, so I’m intrigued to hear the proposed solutions to “set us free”.

I’ve interviewed with a few cult workplaces in my time – #1 was a firm that I’ll call Flandersen Consulting, which has since morphed into a different organisation (and perhaps that says a lot), back when I was a fresh uni graduate. They even took 50 of us from around the country (and a few from NZ) to a beachside ‘conference’ where they convinced us we were Leaders Of The Future, who should undoubtedly join their firm. To harness our combined super powers, I guess. It’s a memory that’s seared in my brain – after I asked some frank 20 year old kinda questions (I’m sure they weren’t actually that confronting) in one formal interview, the next meeting I had with them began with the very senior female interviewer picking a post-it from my file as if it were gum on her high heeled shoe and saying slowly, I understand that you have some concerns with the Andersen lifestyle. Uh huh. That was probably a sign that it wasn’t for me – well, that and two other things: every time I visited, the firm’s elevators were full of eerily similar looking Barbies and Kens in conservative navy or grey suits; and a selling point was that they often worked ’til midnight, but at 9.30pm, someone would say, “hey, let’s order pizzas”. And they would. Crazy kids.

Anyways, back to the Festival. Bono & Bob – Get Out of Africa features award-winning British comedy writer, journalist and author, Jane Bussmann. Jane claims that “mainstream media is burnt out by “Bono and Geldof’s Poverty Industry”, which deliberately painted Africa as depressing for two decades to line its own pockets.” And as far as I can see, this is the point of the Festival – to throw ideas out there for you to consider, poke you out of your comfort zone and challenge what you thought you knew to be true. All in an hour-long presentation. Sounds good to me!

There are also some delicately titled panel discussions: All Australians are Racists; Children are Not Inncoent; Abolish Private Schools; All Women Hate Each Other. And the closing event of the Festival sees the panel of experts solving all of the world’s problems in an hour. Technically, that particular show goes for 1 hour and 15 minutes, but I’m sure that doesn’t sound as cool in the title.

If you’d like to find out more about the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, you can check out the Sydney Opera House website here. They’re also on Twitter and Facebook, so you can join in the fun from wherever you are.

Posted in Sparks at work, WWWhat?

Honestly, thumb people…

If you’ve spent much time with little kids – especially little kids who start to cry or get cranky – there’s probably been a time when you’ve had to resort to singing weird songs to distract them. And maybe you’ve even put on strange voices and pretended that your thumbs/a toy/a piece of apple/a shoe is magically able to talk. In the hope that the talking is enough of a funny surprise to stop the crying. Or perhaps you remember that childhood game where your thumb battles another thumb, with the gauntlet being thrown down: 1,2,3,4 – I declare a thumb war. And then it’s on – sort of like an arm wrestle for thumbs. Of course, if none of this sounds at all familiar, you can just ignore this opening paragraph and you might still like this product that I saw on the Matomeno website, which never disappoints…

The post was called My thumb is my friend! which sounded wacky enough for me. And now that I’ve seen this product range, I think it’s something that we could all use at home, in the classroom, or in the office. In fact, I could have made this another EverydaySparks CEO post, as these little beauties will be mandatory for performance review discussions and will most certainly help at salary review time. Basically, there are five stampers (so, technically, I guess you could use them on your thumb and fingers if you wanted to create a whole gang), which you ink up and use to bring your digits to life.

Whatevs, I hear you say. That’s not so exciting. Well, of course that’s not where it ends – the good folk at Mikke Remikke have taken it to another level with costumes to accompany each of the faces. That’s right, you can choose from five characters: Timmy, Michael, Cathy, Bob or Andrew. Uh huh. Each comes with its own costume and hair-do. And accent and personality, presumably – but that part is up to you. I’d keep an eye on that Timmy – not sure if it’s the pink ‘fro or those overalls, but I think he’s an accident waiting to happen. Oh, and look out for Andrew – anyone wearing a personalised sweatband as a jumper is probably not a-ok.

Perhaps you know someone who finds it difficult to communicate in conventional ways, or someone who’d like an instant gang of new friends. Or maybe you’d just like someone else to blame for dumb things that you might say or do. Whatever the reason, you can find out more via the Matameno site here or you can buy them (and read a bizarre translation of the product and its purpose) at the Rakuten Global Market here.