Practice Negative Space
I'm gonna show you how it works with a cell phone. Oh, I don't have my cell phone. Well I'm gonna imagine, which I think we can, I feel like we can all imagine a cell phone, right? Unless somebody wants to donate me one. So I want you to think about a cell phone. Here, I'll take a new piece of paper. And let's look for those three types of space, starting with physical. So here's our phone, it sort of looks like that, I think, doesn't it, with a big button there-ish. Right, so physical space. The physical space on this phone. What do we have here that's negative space? We're using the screen, what's left? What do we have on a phone? We have the back of it. The physical space, and I'm assuming that we're gonna just put a hand holding it. There's a hand holding it sort of. So let's assume that our context is just a little box around my hand holding the phone. So first of all, we're gonna look for our physical. So in terms of a mobile phone, perhaps it's the back of the thing. There's not...
anything we're actually actively doing with the back of the phone. And that's probably why you see people with those little glue on wallet things, right, where you can put your little card in the back and do all sorts of tricks. In fact, I've seen in LA a phone cover that has a switch knife that pops out of it, so you can actually knife somebody when you're not using your phone, which is quite random. But the idea is that there's this whole shape to a phone, and we're only using the front screen. So all the other area on that phone is available negative space that you could utilize, do tricks with. That's physical, now how about time? When is the time negative space on this phone? When you're not using it, right? So when this thing is switched off, so perhaps when we're asleep. I don't know about you, I don't actually ever turn my phone off, but I should. Like assume that we do. So time is when it's not actually working as a phone. So then you have negative space opportunity. What else is this thing? You could argue that in fact we also have very highly optimized phones because when it's not working as a phone, we're taking photos, or videos, or recording, or we're listening to music, and we are, in terms of functionality when it's switched on, pretty optimized, and that is the whole intent, I think, of every smart phone. But what about when it's off? It's just a brick. How about some of these research companies that are actually harnessing the off power of the iPhone to charge up and use, aren't they using it to make more big research genome projects where you can link in to a whole lot of smart technology when it's not being currently used. So you could actually use the power of the crowd to like sap off calculations or algorithms, or uses of the phone. This idea that you can harness everybody's phones in on their off hours is sort of interesting. So that time when the phone is off, like if you had a mirror on it, or if you had some other function of it, that would be a use of negative space. And then how about emotional? If positive space is when we want to use our phone, where is the negative space of a smart phone? So when we don't wanna hear it. When we don't wanna, that huge argument that went down on micro-interactions, when somebody's alarm went off in the opera. Remember, and the micro-interaction guy that designed the Apple phone that had gone off in the middle of the opera, which caused the conductor to prevent the opera from continuing. The micro, I actually interviewed the micro-interactions designer, and he said, well yeah, we made a call, we made a decision, that it was more important even when the sound was turned off for somebody to hear their alarm than it was to be the cause of disruption. Now does that make sense? Than to not disrupt. So basically, they made a decision that even if your sound was turned off, your alarm will go off. So that might be an emotional instance of negative space. Like your alarm goes off when you didn't want it to happen. But it might also be how you feel when you turn the phone off and you have to unlock it. There was a app designed called Switch by some Stanford graduates that basically took that moment of unlocking, and turned it into options that were a survey, and they were selling the space of the then six seconds of unlocking a phone. So that instead of pressing buttons and having it, it's now been superseded, obviously, by a code. But at the time it was an unlock. They took the six seconds of unlock and gave you little pictures, and then sent the results of what you chose to those companies as a way to try and monetize that tiny six seconds. So this is this idea of these micro-interactions, and also when you're not using something. When you don't wanna use something, and how you might transform that experience. We're gonna have a go at negative space so that you can try the mindset. And I guarantee you that when I ask you to do this second step, your immediate reaction will be, that's ridiculous. But I beg of you, push through. And if you're watching live, please try this. Because the key to adventurous thinking is activating. It's action, you don't wanna just listen to me. The irony of this workshop is that you are listening to me, and we are not cross-pollinating. But in an ideal world, we will be talking to each other about this stuff. And of course, ask me any questions you want. So here, I want you to think about this. What is your favorite activity? I want you to write it down on a piece of that paper. If you've doodled all over everything, that's awesome. Just ask for more paper. Okay, so when I ask what's your favorite activity, I want something that brings joy to you. And it may be the physicality of the activity. It may be the community that that brings. But I want you to think about what it is that actually brings the joy. If you're a gardener, is it the digging, is it the dirt, is it being outdoors? Is it breathing the air, is it looking at the stuff, or is it the solitary beautiful zen moment? So have a think about something that really moves you. And just spend a second really trying to work out what part of that is the key, the core, 'cause we're gonna need it in a minute. So, we've written something that we really love. Now this is really handy. Now when we're trying to optimize negative space, of course, you can find the negative space and stuff, and then go, how am I gonna optimize it? The world is my oyster. Sure it is, but there are also tricks that you can do to get your brain thinking in that direction, and this is it. So we've got the activity, everybody's got an activity? Now, forget the activity. I want you to think about how you traveled today. Or any day to work, or any day anywhere. I don't really mind, I'm just trying to pick something that we can throw negative space at fast. So I want you to think about the negative space in your travel experience. So we're talking about the time it took to travel from A to B. That is your first boundary, okay. Your first constraint is the time. Then we're gonna look for how it felt. Did you love it? Were you stuck in traffic? Were you bored? Did it feel longer, did it feel shorter? Were you riding a bike and you felt fantastic? The wind was in your hair, and even though it took 15 minutes, it felt like it was a five. You know, were you on your own? So if you think about the cool thing about transit, it can be very, very easy to draw your physical boundary. So if you're in a car, like say you're in the car, Prius, and your negative space is you're here, you're sitting in the middle, so your negative space, let's discount the engine, is basically the passenger compartment, maybe it's empty, maybe there's a person in it. Maybe the back seat's empty too. So your negative space in this little scenario is just gonna be wherever you're not in this car. Whatever actual space you have. But then, if your context is a little larger, it's also gonna be, who else is on the road with you? Is it really full, or is it empty? Are you in peak hour, are you cramped up with other people? Is your car full, did you just bring a ton of people? Do you car share every morning, and it's chalk full of people? So your negative space needs to look at all of this. Physically, your mode of transport, is it packed full or empty? Where's your physical space? Is it up above your head in a train? Is it down around your feet? And then where's your emotional space? Do you love being there? Do you wish you were gone? Do you wish you were working? Are you bored, are you super happy? And then how long has it actually taken? Is this a commute that's like a two hour thing, or are we gonna pick like my flights back to Australia, 14 hours? Whatever it is, these are gonna give us our boundary. So are we ready, does everybody have a mode of transport? Something, and you understand your negative space? Because this is the moment where you're gonna go, that's ridiculous. And I will tell you before we do this, before you think that, that many people, I'm gonna say over a thousand people before you have thought the same thing, and I have never found a scenario to be impossible. So, the key to adventurous thinking mindset is you're not afraid of failure. I don't want you to think of anything you already know. So if the scenario that comes to mind in the next slide, you go, oh that's been done, not hard enough, you're still an expert. We need to be thinking impossibility and imagination. We need to think big. We need to basically think of something that our friends would go, that is awesome, I love that. I wanna be part of it, I wish I was on that. Alright, are we ready? I want you to fit that activity, whatever is the core of it, into part of the negative space of your transport. So I have had people fit the sensation of surfing into car. We've had gardening buses, with like those baby incubator things down the side, so you can put your hands in through the gloves, and not get dirty, but still garden. Everything is possible. Do you feel your brain going, this is not gonna work? Good, now I want you to push, because it is always possible. And just because you can't think of how it's being done is a really good reason to push further, because that means it hasn't been done, and you'll be the first. This will be your first experience into bearable discomfort. Where you know it isn't possible because it doesn't exist yet. You have to push and make it so, or have a crack. It's always important to have a crack. So you know, often people are talking about, I love to exercise, I love to spin, perhaps I love to spin. And I've already found examples of spin buses. In fact, I don't know why we don't have whole carriages on our train system with reading groups and meeting rooms and stuff. And maybe a book learning library, I don't know. Because we have this captive audience of people, most of them who want community. Mostly the feedback I get on activities is that much of what people love is about interacting. And so how do we transform our journey into either a zen moment where we just get our time back, or a community moment where we actually get to idea and cross-pollinate? Are you thinking really, really hard? Has anyone got anything amazing? Keep thinking, that was not five minutes. But I'm rushing them a little, 'cause I can't wait your five minutes. But it is incredible to see what we've got, and often what happens when I talk about having a boundary and then expanding it, what can often happen is if you find, say you're driving in a car and you're driving on your own. And say the thing you really love is learning new languages. So you're like, oh, well I'll just put on a cassette, like a Rosetta Stone or something, and I'll just listen to it in the car. No, that's just something you already know. That's not a solution. That's something we do. We're not working in our imagination doing that. So now you might think, well how else am I gonna do it? I have this empty car, I have this long commute. Perhaps I'm gonna design an app that allows me to pick up people along the way who are also interested in talking about languages, or travel, or food, or books, or anything. Perhaps I'm gonna design something that enables me to bring cross-pollination into my commute and fill up the car, and hey, maybe they'll pay for gas. I never think of that, but maybe they will, I don't know. But it's gonna allow you to have that experience that you love. Do you love book group? Do you love discussing things? Well then you can look at that negative space in your commute, and you can actively communicate with other people. If you're riding to work, and you really love it, and then your favorite activity was bike riding, that's awesome too. 'Cause then you can think, well how can I share that with more people? Maybe there's a like-minded bunch of people that we could actually unite, somehow, on doing this thing together. Maybe that makes it better. Or maybe it's all about sharing these crazy paths you know that do get you around the traffic. I guess that's called Waze. But maybe there's other ways of doing it, so that you bring together like-minded people. So what tends to happen is you start small. You start with you and your personal form of transport. Your carriage on the train, or your bus, but as soon as you've got that, you've got a concept, you can start expanding that thing up, and making it more about the group, and taking it to community. It's pretty exciting. How does it feel? Are we pushing hard? Do we feel a little change? It's bearable discomfort, it's hard to think outside what you know. You've really gotta push yourself to come up with something really good.
So the ideas that I'm thinking about aren't groundbreaking, but my activity was wine tasting,
Oh, I love it.
and there's an element of socialization, and relaxing, and community, and learning, and I actually bike part of my commute, and then I BART, and BART, we always talk about how it's not the best experience for the most part.
Crazy though, with all those people there, and the amount of commerce you could have.
Yeah so I was thinking of possibly, like I said, it's not that groundbreaking, but you know, maybe having some sort of screens where, topics related to the bay area or things like that, where everybody can relate to these topics. Maybe you learn a little bit, and there's somewhat of a sense of community that kills the time that you're in there, so your commute doesn't feel so long. I don't know, that's...
Yeah, I usually, I've just finished running a rail conference back in Australia, and they're all talking about the future of rail, the future of public transport, and I'm thinking, but what you're missing is the sense of community. We're all on this string of carriages where rooms full of people on this string of carriages, and this commute is taking ages, and we have this possibility to have these incredible discussions with people that we would never normally meet. We just happen to be on the train. We cross age, we cross career, there's all this mush, this melting pot of people, and all we're doing is hanging off a strap, or maybe trying to do some work, or holding our bike, or whatever we're doing, and all of that potential. In our fast-paced day, the one place that we could actually have these amazing, quick, idea-sparking conversations with people that would make us all feel really awesome about our day isn't orchestrated. And I was asking the people that are designing the new trains, I'm like, well could you do like, could you make it so that upper level could be united by apps for people that wanna talk about common stuff, or yeah, show slides, or share stuff, or you could do wine tasting. That would be a drink and think. You know, could you? It will be so amazing.