10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate People (a back-and-forth #blindpost)

10 Ways

A couple weeks ago, I came across a headline in Inc. magazine titled 10 Ways to Lose Friends and Irritate People. “Oooo, this could be a great #blindpost,” I thought. Because we’ve all experienced irritating behavior in the workplace. And, I certainly have a few tips for the offenders. Blind posts are something Jeff Hilimire started doing a few years ago, where he writes his take on a business headline, without having read the article. So, I invited Jeff to join me in a dual blind post. He took it a step further, suggesting we write it together. The result …

Jeff:

#1. Force your religious/political/crazy ideas on them. Personally, I love when people are passionate about their beliefs. But I’ve seen more friendships tarnished by people who force their ideas onto others than maybe anything else. At one point in Spunlogic’s early days I had to ban political conversations from the office because so many people were getting into arguments over it.

Stephanie:

#2. Being an INTERRUPTER. There is the obvious thing — being interrupted when you’re in the middle of a thought is super annoying. And while most of us are guilty of doing this on occasion (you’ve argued with a significant other, right?), people who do it frequently are doing more than derailing conversation. This action subtly (or maybe not so subtly) suggests that your viewpoint is superior. And…that you are. Making your point clear is one thing. Trouncing all over somebody’s thoughts and bullishly forcing your words in small spaces is just … irritating. All of this is not to mention the even more toxic effect of interruption — when you interrupt you’re simply not present in the discussion. Instead, you hear something, latch onto it, brew your rebuttal and wait for the noise to stop long enough that you can interject. Healthy, fecund dialog happens when you really listen to what the other person says – the entire way through.

Jeff:

Knock Knock.
Who’s there?
Interrupting Cow.
Interrupting Cow wh
MOOOOOO.

Ok, just my favorite all-time kids joke that you made me think of.

#3. Over-emailing. Over-sharing. Over-texting. I think this one is pretty self explanatory. I’ve personally taken to sending an #unsubscribe hashtag when I’m in large text chains with friends/family.

Stephanie:

Moo. Did my #2 make you want to #unsubscribe halfway through? (Hey, that rhymed!) Do you think there is undersharing too? Not as egregious as oversharing, but also annoying.

#4.  Eating Chips in Open Spaces. It is the noise equivalent of heating up fish in the shared microwave. Ever tried working through somebody munching on Lays? Good luck.

Jeff:

Wow, remind me not to invite you to Subway for lunch.

#5: Looking at their phone while talking to you. The worst.

Stephanie:

I’m sorry, what? I was checking Facebook.

#6. Being late. To meetings, to appointments, to lunches … cocktails, conferences, whatever. Being late says, “I don’t value your time.” I don’t mean being late once or twice. We’ve all been in unexpected traffic (curse you 285 and GA 400!), or had our kid throw a wild card at us (It’s dress like a President day, I’m supposed to be Martin Van Buren). I’m referring to the habitually late. A grown up can manage time. Being punctual doesn’t just tell somebody you’re prudent and organized. It is a sign of respect.

Jeff:

Oh man, that was going to be my next one! Well played.

#7: Follow up every time your friend says something that they are stressed or worried about with your even worse thing to be stressed and worried about. The classic one-upper. Same thing on the positive side.

“You’ll never believe who I sat next to on the plane! Usher!”

“Wow, adorable. That reminds me, did I tell you about the time I accidentally spilled apple juice on Lebron James and we ended up dating for six months before I dumped him? It’s crazy how we both have celebrity stories.”

Stephanie:

Nice one! Self deprecating humor is great. One-upmanship is awful.

#8.  Taking credit for somebody else’s work. I mean, of the things that suck the most when you’ve worked really hard, this has to top the list. Most people who take credit are aware they’re doing it, other times they’re just not being conscientious. I have always made it a point to give credit to the people that put time into team projects — beyond being the right thing to do, people who work hard deserve recognition. The worst thing about somebody who takes credit for your work, though, is when they do it in front of you in a meeting. Because you can’t call them out, or you look like the turd. You just have to take it.

Aziz-Ansari

Jeff:

Wow, you’ve worked with some real d.b.s!

#9. Canceling on commitments. We all know these people – heck, we’ve all BEEN these people. People who say yes to attending an event or meeting up and then cancel. Over and over and over. Just say, “No, I think that’s a dumb idea so I’m not going to go.” That really bums people out if they’re counting on you.

Stephanie:

Yeah, fortunately, that has not happened to me often. But if you’ve been on the receiving end of someone taking credit for your work, you never forget.

#10. The last minute guy/girl. The one that shows up with a huge problem or deadline at 4:30 on Friday afternoon. This one requires no further explanation. Jerk.

Five Crowdfunded Wearable Tech Devices to Watch

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 8.11.21 AM

We are witnessing — and taking part in — one of the largest shifts in product development of our time. Crowdfunding has completely reinvented what it means to create a product, reducing the time to market and bringing a more complex and innovative set of goods to the marketplace.

Even a cursory look through the popular crowdfunding platforms shows that there are some very interesting products being developed, very quickly, in the wearable tech arena. Here are five.

1. Fin: A ring that makes your hand a gesture based control for common actions (Funded, 4 days left)

Fin is a small ring, fitted for the thumb that turns your hand into a numeric keypad; it also uses gesture-based controls such as hand waving. It’s designed to be connected to smartphones, smart TVs, automobiles and home automation. One can imagine tech like this becoming commonplace for every day use. Plus, it has the very altruistic benefit of helping people with limited mobility or visual impairment.

2. Atlas: Nike Fit Band on steroids, with a Strava-like competitive facet (Mega-funded 18 days left)

As an owner of a Garmin, I was blown away that my device could figure out when I was doing freestyle versus breaststroke. Atlas makes this look like child’s play – it knows a bicep curl from a hammer curl, and even tells you if your form sucks. And, you can teach it new tricks (cross fitters, rejoice!). Oh, and it builds in a Strava-like community that lets you measure your activity against your friends.

3. Haloband: A wristband that controls your smartphone (Funded, pre-ordering now available on Indiegogo)

Perhaps the simplest on this list, Haloband could be a very common device in the very near future – because it is simple to use and can pretty immediately address common problems. An extension of your smartphone, it uses NFC (on NFC enabled phones) to perform tasks, without having to dig your phone out of a pocket or bag. These tasks could include switching songs on your media player, or even taking the place of your office pass card.

4. Atheer One: Google Glasses with a 3D angle (Funded)

Google Glass has spawned all kinds of me-toos. Antheer One does a better than average job of doing so. With a depth sensor, it gives a three dimensional immersive view. And, it combines what appears to be a more complex set of gesture-based controls. Watch the video, it’s hard not to see how these glasses are paving the way for immersive user experiences.

5. Angel: Blood Oxygen Sensor (Funded)

An open API will really give this product an interesting future. Yet, even off-the-shelf, Angel is pretty powerful. Worn on the wrist, it monitors pulse, temperature, activity and blood oxygen level. With funding, the company plans to transfer and integrate that data into smartphone apps, laptops and even treadmills. The device has great potential for not just athletes — who are the obvious first-users — but also for those with medical conditions that require regular monitoring.

http://vimeo.com/74271995

[Originally posted on the Proving Ground blog]

10 ways people should never describe you #blindpost

doormat sweater

Friend and former boss, Jeff Hilimire, has been doing blind posts for a long time. In them, he rips a headline from the news and, without reading the article, writes his own post on the topic. I’ve always thought this was a neat idea, and have finally decided to give it a try myself.

During my daily reads, I stumbled on“10 Ways People Should Never Describe You” from Inc. magazine and decided to give it a whirl. It was insanely hard to not look ahead!

Here it is, in no particular order. Think of it this way, if somebody were to have a conversation with a colleague about you without you there, these are among the words and phrases I’d consider least flattering … and why.

  1. Rigid. This seems like it could be a positive at first blush. But if you’re being called rigid in business today, it’s the equivalent of being a binder clip in a jar of rubber bands, unable to bend and flex with the changing times. And boy, being agile is a skill, isn’t it? Rigid…not so much.
  2. Impulsive. There is being quick to react to things — deciding to make a key hire, putting out a fire, rescuing a little girl from a well — and then there is impulsivity, which generally implies a broken ability for measured reaction. Swift action is good in a technology-led marketplace; it is not OK to do so impulsively.
  3. Cynical. Nobody wants to think they’re that person, do they? The one that can’t see the upside in anything. I call myself Worst Case Scenario Wendy when I behave that way — quick to assess a situation down to its worst possible outcome. In business, a dose of skepticism is good. Being endlessly suspicious of every one and everything is demotivating.
  4. Non-Confrontational. I’ve called this one out before. In summary: I consider this trait one of the biggest marks of an ineffective leader. It transmutes into an unwillingness to make progress, to create healthy debate and to challenge decisions.
  5. Passive Aggressive. This seems to dovetail nicely with being non-confrontational. Not being willing to confront people directly leads those-with-baggage to take it out undercover, quietly…indirectly. This isn’t good for the offender or the offended. Nobody wins. And it’s just juvenile.
  6. Mean. When I was just entering the workforce, I had a boss yell at me about an error I made in a design until I burst into tears. His follow up was to scream, “Don’t f—-ing cry you baby!” Do I need to say anything else? Don’t be that person.
  7. Yes Person. Don’t confuse this with agreeable and willing. “Yes people” never say no. They lack self-respect and confidence. They might as well knit themselves a sweater that says “DOORMAT” because that’s how everyone will see them.
  8. Lazy. I can’t imagine anything more offensive. In fact, I once had a supervisor passive aggressively tell a coworker this about me. It haunts me to this day. I’m not, damn it. To be defined this way is like a whole bunch of horrible character traits all rolled in one — reluctant to take on challenges, too soft to put in a hard day’s work, not a team player. We should all strive to never be defined this way.
  9. Pouty. We don’t always get our way, being pouty about it sucks for everyone surrounding the rejected. I have always wondered if these people were given everything they wanted as kids. This isn’t a play date: get over it. Even better: learn from it.
  10. Manipulative. Worse than the pouter is the manipulator. Quietly aggressive, they must have their way, so they recruit their darkest magic to win over the weak first, and then work their way up. They make everyone uneasy, inviting fear and self-doubt until their targets give in. We all know one — nobody wants to be one.

How Not to Jump the Megalodon: 3 Lessons in Communicating with Raving Fans

Shark-is-Sad

Creating a reality TV drama that exploits the Amish Rumspringa may have been my first major sign that Discovery Communications was walking a precarious line between educational programming and sensationalism. Rumspringa is the term for the time period when teens “break Amish” to explore life outside their faith before (ideally) returning to the church and their families. It’s an intensely personal decision made by kids who have little idea about the modern world, or what it means to put their lives and actions on television. I grew up around the Amish in Michigan. Their presence can be divisive, yet most understand the very private lives they lead. Out of respect, I have never so much as taken a picture of their farms because that is what they wish. Then came Amish Mafia on the Discovery Channel. And (ugh) Here Comes Honey Boo Boo on TLC. Gross.

Then, Megalodon — when the Discovery Channel took the bold leap from unabashed distastefulness to downright betrayal. Creating a mockumentary about the near-discovery of an extinct species of shark just to draw eyeballs for their years-running Shark Week was tasteless at best. How many people sat in front of their television for this show, fully bought in and clueless? 79% did. Ouch.

Wasn’t the channel created to bring science into the mainstream, to demystify and build excitement about science and the world for millions of kids and adults? Sure seems like it’s done just that. When before the Discovery Channel would millions of people get excited about a week of shark education?

The  anticipation of Shark Week has steadily and impressively grown viewership. 2012 set a record of 21.4 million total viewers. The Megalodon episode this year commanded 4.8 million. Fans are intense about Shark Week. They dress up (and dress their pets), create videos, DVR episodes, host viewing parties and ravingly use social media to share and discuss during the broadcast. So why the need to deceive?

What really gets me is that megalodon was real. We have scientific evidence. A retrospective on the now-extinct shark would have been worthy of a premiere slot in Shark Week. To take this unethical step in programming baffles me.

And now the Discovery Channel finds themselves in the contentious position of responding to explosive backlash. Not that they’re even trying — they haven’t even offered an apology. As a result, nobody wins. Given so many viewers were fooled, they will have a hard time shaking this off.

As a communications professional, I cannot understand how this happened. How was this decision made? It’s not as if it was an accident. It was carefully thought out, produced and designed. It was decided months if not a year or more ago. It was a long time in the making. Which leads me to…

Three Cardinal Rules for Communicating with Raving Fans

  1. Be Honest & Transparent. When you’re dealing with an audience that has organically grown into a raving base, it demands transparency. Shark Week kicked off in 1987. They have earned a remarkable amount of trust over those 26 years — enough that people believed their Mega-lie. It’s the breakage of trust that stings so badly. Companies who build the trust have to keep it. Like any good relationship, that is achieved and maintained by being honest and transparent. A single fault and the commitment will forever be questioned.
  2. Engage Your Audience. Make them feel like they are a part of your success. Bring them into the circle of trust, praise their involvement and be active with them. Shark Week is a great success story in building fan involvement. While it hasn’t necessarily been overtly nurtured, it certainly has never been squashed. For many companies, just learning to relinquish some control is a battle. This is a lesson in the payoff of doing so. Shark Week has also embraced their fandom by not only giving the fans latitude, but also by creating new ways for viewers to get excited and involved through social media. Quick Service Restaurant Chick-fil-A offers another great example. Their very first Facebook presence was actually created by a fan and employee, not by the company. Rather than snatch it away, they stood back at watched. Eventually they reached out and worked with her, helping her to grow the presence, only taking over when they were both ready.
  3. Learn from Mistakes. People make mistakes. So do brands. What’s important is that they learn from them. This week, my son’s best friend said was telling me about a neighborhood kid, “He keeps getting in trouble for the same thing. Over and over again. Seriously, when will he learn?” Exactly. Wise words from a 16-year-old. Discovery Channel pulled a similar stunt last year with Mermaids: The Body Found. Though in this case, they did unequivocally state that it was fiction at the close of the program. And, while most people know mermaids never existed, there was still some outrage. It should have been a warning. They didn’t heed it. If they’re smart, Discovery Channel will issue an apology this time around. Work hard to regain trust. And never do this again.

5 Leadership Lessons My Kid with Learning Disability Taught Me

Lake Huron

“He’ll probably never leave home. He won’t go to college or get a degree. He could have a job — something with his hands, like digging ditches.” 

My son was six or so when I heard that gem from a neuropsychologist at an esteemed metro-Atlanta children’s hospital. Not that there is anything wrong with digging ditches…but he was six. Later, when he was 12, another neuropsychologist deemed him mentally retarded: an inaccurate diagnosis and a term no longer used by the medical community.

This parenting journey has been filled with moments of frustration, mystery and dogged-determination. But ultimately there’s acceptance — a space in which I can focus on what this experience has taught me about life and leadership.

My son has learning and developmental disability. He is one of what I call “our nation’s many misplaced youth.” Like millions of children in the U.S., he faces challenges in both education and in life that are not easily overcome. Even though we knew since he was in kindergarten that something wasn’t right, and were fortunate enough to have the financial means to do things like get him a specialized education, therapy and private testing, we really never had clear answers. Mostly, we had confusion, mismatched diagnosis and unclear pathways forward. He’s 15 now. And every answer we’ve gotten and every decision we’ve made have been hard-fought.

Not surprisingly, parenting a child like this teaches you important things. His presence in my life has shaped who I am — instilling qualities that have extended to my professional life. Certainly, my career on its own has demanded intuition, persistence, creativity and even thick skin. And I do have those things. But I’m talking about the leadership discoveries you can only collect from painful, complicated, challenging experiences: from fear, from hope and from love.

1 | Embracing confrontation results in progress

Avoiding confrontation is one of the biggest marks of an ineffective leader — it transmutes into an unwillingness to make progress, to create healthy debate and to challenge decisions. Over the years, experts of all kinds have said my son can or cannot do something and what should be expected. Sometimes I disagree, other times I question their commitment or approach. Being willing to challenge a person’s opinion forces them to think all the way through their rationale. Many times with my son, it ended in the same place, but occasionally positions were adjusted. Either way, it created progress — either because I was more informed or because we found equal ground. Most importantly, we knew where one another stood. In the workplace, that is worth its weight in gold. Avoiding confrontation in business, and particularly as a leader, means employees end up unsure about their performance. If they aren’t challenged or given constructive feedback, they can fall into a complacency grind. Employer and employee both end up unhappy and in a constant stalemate with progress. And in the worst-case scenario, the wrong person for the job gets in the door and stays there — stifling forward movement and bringing everyone around them along for the ride.

2 | Anger is ephemeral

Most parents will understand that at times it can be nearly impossible to avoid anger. And with my son, who needs three times the prompting and who routinely makes decisions that baffle, battling anger can feel like a full time job. Still, as mad as I can get, it always passes with relative speed. Finding your center and not letting the anger sweep you away is a valuable quality. A deep breath and a small passage of time, and the entire situation feels different — it means there are no un-moderated, overblown reactions to situations. This is a huge lesson for the workplace. An employee or a co-worker could do something to spur on our most primal emotion, like not pulling their weight, making repeated mistakes. Rather than impulsively reacting and instead taking an “anger break” will allow you to clear the haze and focus on healthy, professional and composed responses. It sounds simple, yet a disproportionate number of leaders have this under control.

3 | Challenging convention is for everyone

Not everything should be taken on face value. Challenging convention is necessary to growing business. This is certainly not an unfamiliar concept in an age when creativity and innovation are becoming business-critical qualities (See: Nike, Apple, Kickstarter, Spotify). Still, too few business people understand that this is a workplace practice, not just a big business strength. And it applies to everyone, not just the senior most leaders. If I had chosen to listen and take to heart to some of our son’s early diagnoses, time could have stood still. And he likely wouldn’t be where he is now — a well-adjusted teenager with a real future. Not everyone learns the same way, and finding what non-conventional things worked for him has made all the difference in his opportunity in life. This is a lesson in good business: you can accept that convention is convention or you could challenge it instead and find new ways of doing things that fundamentally shift your outcomes into new, uncharted “white space.”

4 | The mind-body connection is real

We’re a culture of “too busy to squeeze in a 30 minute workout.” It is not just creating an obesity epidemic, it’s creating a stress epidemic. With no physical outlet for stress, our brains suffer. For instance, a Duke University study proved that exercise worked as good if not better then drugs in treating depression. I always suspected that physical activity played a role in focusing my son before homework, so play time was always built into the pre-homework routine. More recently, though, I began introducing running as a more explicit form of exercise. It has proven to be a miracle drug, better than any medicine for settling the mind and making good decisions. It is also a leadership lesson — I do long distance triathlons myself, so I know the value of keeping an exercise regimen. Still, work often takes over. Seeing his response to running is a reminder of the reality of the mind-body connection, and how important it is for business people to make time for physical activity.

5 | Perception really is reality

Most people have no idea when they meet my son that anything is wrong. He’s articulate, charming, funny and engaging. And he has an intelligent perspective about the way the world works. He knows his strengths and his weaknesses and has learned to play his cards to his advantage. This is, in fact, a strength of many successful business people. In a 2007 study conducted by London’s Cass Business School, 35% of US-based entrepreneurs are said to suffer from dyslexia, with the average population being more like 15%. The logic behind why more entrepreneurs have learning disability then the general population makes sense. These people learn to compensate, and it often translates into traits that are the makings of a successful businessperson — delegation, conflict resolution and oral communications. The bottom line is that perception really is reality. If you know what you’re good at, and what you’re bad at, you can play up your strengths and find solutions that complement your weaknesses.

The Business of Creativity: An Interview with Heather Alhadeff, founder of Center Forward

At Midtown Alliance’s event this Thursday, July 25th, we will discuss the business of creativity. While it’s become a hot topic among notably big businesses such as Google and Apple, the concept is spreading. Organizations of all kinds, big and small, are beginning to realize the value of operationalizing creativity. Through this event, which I am helping to produce with Midtown Alliance, we’re hoping to take a little of the mystery out of it, and to create a conversation that gives our members a sense of what it means to be creative in their own businesses. Registration is now closed, but you can still read the interviews!

The following is an interview with one of the event’s three speakers. Heather Alhadeff is the founder of Center Forward, an Atlanta-based business focused on resolving complex land use and multi-modal transportation challenges.

Image

Heather, your company tackles these challenges through effective community involvement. To successfully integrate a collaborative process in the complex projects you tackle means that you do things a little bit differently. We would love to get your take on what role you think creativity has played in your business.

1. Let’s start with a little background on Center Forward. What made you decide to launch your company?

Through both my public and private sector work I am often asked to help with unique issues or complex projects that aren’t being resolved or implemented with traditional methods. The economic downturn has really changed the nature of the Planning, Architecture and Engineering world. The more urban and entailed projects now require a team of different individuals rather than just one large firm. Creative and inter-discipline thinking is more important than ever. Starting my own business means I can focus on providing those niche services at a lower cost, and I get to work on more Atlanta projects. The variety of work and the people I get to work with is phenomenal!

2. You have said that you see creativity in many, less visible aspects of your business — including communication. Can you speak a little to this? 

People think of city building as a process of just thinking and implementing efficient systems. However, the business of creating successful and vibrant places today has to do with providing an efficient thing (a building, street, etc.) and creating a better experience.

The process of designing solutions requires one to be an incredible listener of many different styles of communication and interaction. Accents, backgrounds, levels of education, experiences — they all shape the dialogue.  Different disciplines talk and think in opposing ways. Talking with an engineer, elected official, and citizen in the same room requires lots of communication dexterity.

Creative visuals are the fundamental way to overcome these varied mindsets and backgrounds. The Planning and Engineering industry, in my opinion, has done a dis-service to our cities and places by providing overly technical, un-readable visuals to the public. The confusion and frustration to the client, decision maker, or the public is often unnecessarily high.

I truly enjoy thinking of creative ways to display, communicate and ask questions. The experience is positive and you can get to resolution much faster. For the projects I work with, it is personally and professionally pleasing to see people’s faces understand and light up about improving the places they move around or live in.

3. What role do you think creativity has in innovation?

Innovation is absolutely only possible with creativity, which is the ability to see familiar things in a new way.

For fun, I took a left brain, right brain test. I wasn’t surprised at all to find that I have a 56-44% split. I see physical objects (buildings, streets, parks, etc.) and think about their purpose and effectiveness as well as the relationship and emotions generated between those things and the observer. People get frustrated with systems (transit, roads, shopping areas, buildings, restaurants, etc.) if maneuvering through it is frustrating. On the other hand, if the experience is efficient but mind numbing, humans react negatively as well. Everything is about ease and pleasantness.

Detroit solved congestion and made an efficient and huge highway and street system. But the design they chose had a huge cost over a long period of time. It sucked out the life or experience of the City, so everyone that could move. That highway system funded the growth of their suburbs at the cost of their beautiful city. Now they are bankrupt and that costs the whole nation.

Fundamental to people are the efficiency and experience. Creativity is ALL about the experience aspect. The cities that are doing well are focused on the experience just as much as providing the service.

The Business of Creativity: An Interview with Tim Habeger, PushPush Theater

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working with Atlanta’s Midtown Alliance on an event: The Business of Creativity. We plan to bring together three speakers from very different fields to talk about what role creativity plays in their organization. It’s a strategy that I expect will give our audience a diverse view of the topic and a chance to learn from businesses they may never interact with under normal circumstances.

In prep for this event, I interviewed one of our speakers, Tim Habeger, founder of Atlanta’s PushPush Theater. He provided a complete and extremely insightful commentary on creativity, living and working in Atlanta, entrepreneurship, and the technology-guided shifts in doing business that are forever changing the game for him — and nearly every organization.

The event is on the evening of Thursday, July 25th. If you’re interested in attending and are in the Midtown Atlanta area, drop me a line at scritchfield at gmail dot com.

Tim Habeger, PushPush Theatre
Image credit, Stacey Bode Photography

Tim, you’re the most obviously creative of all of our presenters — you operate PushPush Theater, which is an artist-run incubator of original stories by independent artists. You’re a writer, a storyteller, an actor and … a businessman.

Tell me what made you decide to create and launch PushPush Theater.

I had just moved from New York to Atlanta and was really surprised not to find continuing professional development programs for performing artists and filmmakers. Atlanta’s film and theater scene was growing but there was little to help our own creative artists keep up with the growth or help them have a bigger voice in how the changes would affect them. There were no seminars, professional workshops or affordable spaces necessary for R&D.

PushPush Film and Theater became an affordable place where creative artists could learn, try new approaches, take risks and develop original work for a growing market.

Today in Atlanta, nearly two decades later, Atlanta has several institutions whose main purpose is the continued professional development of emerging artists and administrators: The Metropolitan Foundation, WonderRoot, AFF 365, and C-4 among others are growing and with more of these organizations, we see the growth of world-class, original work being produced in the Atlanta area.

We believe a city’s creative environment doesn’t just magically get better — it improves with strategic planning and steady work.

How are things different now then when you started the theatre back in 2006?

The biggest difference I see is the increased connection between Atlanta and other cultural and business centers. We are more connected and as our “community” expands, so do our options. We face tougher challenges of the bigger field, but we also get new ideas and solutions — new ways to frame our challenges.

PushPush began its international exchange program over 10 years ago and this program has been the biggest asset to our company’s growth and improvement.

Were there any obstacles that forced you to pivot/course-correct along the way?

We have changed directions three times in our 17-year history. The first was from doing other people’s work to developing our own original work. We realized a prime definition of creativity is the evidence that our work is being imitated or copied by others. We changed from copying other artists’ work from New York and LA to establishing our own place as an original content incubator.

The second change was the development of personal planning. We went from an organization motivating its staff and associates to allowing individual planners to take responsibility for their own career paths. And through responsibility, exert a greater voice in the decisions that affected their own work.

The third major change was to get rid of our reliance on the old notion of theater as a place to show plays and films. We went digital — and mobile. We are currently in this phase that is marked by connectivity, relying on existing networks, and collaborative, open-source thinking.

Conventional thinking might lead people to believe that creativity in its purist form is for people in the arts. Nancy Nersessian from Georgia Tech will likely talk about why she believes this isn’t true. I’d love to hear your take on what you think creativity means, and whom it belongs to.

 Richard Florida writes about the rise of the creative class — the newest, largest segment of society that sees its job as coming up with new approaches, solutions and ways of seeing the world. I think this is true, and cannot possibly be seen as merely an artistic phenomenon.

Computer programmers, marketing people, business strategists and others face the same challenges as screen writers and other artists who create worlds out of thin air. They rely on inspiration and ideas for their own success.

Lately, there is a big intersection where cultural artists and other creative people overlap. They are coming up with new ways to create work-models and approaches. They are creating new ways to assess the value of work and to define terms like “community” and “scope.”

Hopefully the arts will become more viable and sustainable through this, and non-artistic organizations will become more creative, original and fluid.

The outcomes of the changing dialogue are good for all those willing to continue their development. The changes will also strike fear into those who see change as threatening to their way of life. But like it or not, we live in the greatest period of change the world may have ever seen.

What role has technology played in what you do — especially right now, when social media, crowdsourcing, on-demand and online communities are so ubiquitous.

At every step of PushPush’s evolvement, the changes we’ve made have been prompted by the way our people use technology — both our audiences and our artists. The Internet and its social media have changed the way we create.

We founded PushPush in the 20th century as a bricks-and-mortar operation with a hierarchical infrastructure.

As for the bricks-and-mortar notion, we believe that artistic organizations can only maintain their own space with heavy subsidies, or by compromising their integrity and/or simply producing low-end marketable sweets for the masses.

Regarding the hierarchical notion, film and theater have mainly valued the “auteur-theory,” that argues for a single leader — nearly always a white male — to lead the rest with his artistic vision for nearly every aspect of a creative project. For generations, we justified the lack of diversity in a variety of ways, and held tight to the belief that things were changing.

In 2001, we found ourselves in a new century and for the first time more of our audiences were online than were not. They had access to information and choices. The person of the year was “Me.” More and more, we all had an immediate, connected, informed and active network of creative partners that wanted a stake in the results of their work.

We quickly moved from a small, local organization that served live, local audiences to one of the first theaters to bring digital technology into our programming on a daily basis. In ten short years, we have helped to develop 30 hybrid productions, 250 short films and 10 features, five of which have worldwide distribution.

Our bare-bones style and our mission to be an incubator of new ideas were helped enormously with the introduction of affordable HD digital technology. This affordability has also met well with our desire to be inclusive and diverse.

The technology changed our operating model which in turn, brought down the auteur, opening the door to more diverse voices and that has resulted in more work and a wider audience.

Social media has made the change possible allowing us to have active, daily partnerships with global partners and to share our work affordably, quickly and without the pressure of a large price tag.

Atlanta has received a lot of attention lately for brining movie filming to the area. What has it been like to have launched and grown your career in Atlanta?

I’ve been around long enough to see a lot of ups and downs in the film industry in Georgia. My first major production was ABC’s Breaking Away television series in 1979 and since that time, we have been through union struggles, economic declines and industry booms — and somehow ending with our current situation where tax credits and a world class infrastructure has made Atlanta a go-to city for the film industry.

I went to film and theater grad school in Georgia and I feel better now than at any point in the past three decades. We sit on a major challenge and opportunity. And that is whether we want to invest in Atlanta as a center of unique culture – whether we want to be the creative voice, or continue to produce work created elsewhere.

Atlanta has a younger cultural scene than most other cities and we are changing faster than nearly any comparable city in the United States. We have a unique opportunity to invest in our own creative voices that can speak to the world about the biggest issues of our time.

It’s going to take courage. Moving forward from the oft-told stories of civil rights and the civil war. Moving forward from southern stereotypes and backward humor and using our unique experiences to tackle the current issues.

What project(s) are you working on right now?

PushPush is currently producing a follow up to our biggest production to date, SeeThrough, an interactive audience experience involving over 30 of Atlanta’s most promising visual artists. SeeThrough also includes a performance event and 10 of Atlanta’s new musical groups.

We are also creating a new work, Worth, about how we perceive time in our daily lives. Based on some of the newest ideas in physics and biology, Worth is about how we create truly new ideas and how we can act on this creative thinking. This is a follow up to our last touring partnership with LA’s Padua Writers Group and Berlin’s Ballhaus Ost.

Our biggest project right now is GRFX (pronounced “graphics”), funded by The National Endowment for the Arts’ New Media Program. This project is a serialized television story about a struggling comic book company. GRFX hopes to provide a new way to distribute original Atlanta work on a global scale as well as serving as a world-class discussion of creativity itself.