Kyle is a Founding Editor of MAKEWAY, a guide to artisanal innovation. He has spent his time as a digital innovation strategist for brands like MTV, General Electric, and Coca-Cola, a trends consultant for brands like Microsoft, Samsung, and UNICEF, and a military intelligence analyst for places like the United States Intelligence and Security Command.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
Today’s millennials are tomorrow’s economy. Currently 1.8 million strong globally, this ambitious generation will account for 75% of the workforce by 2025. They will outpace Boomer earnings by 2018, with $2.5+ billion in spending power. Even today, 74% say they influence purchase decisions in other generations. At large, they are more educated than any American generation ever to exist.
But they are finding out they’ve been sold a faulty bill of goods: a industrial-age lifestyle & career outlook that’s simply no longer viable.
They’ve found themselves in an economy that has been in shambles at-large, leaving career futures unclear for an ambitious young generation. A big problem, given that alongside basics like food, shelter and strong social relationships, meaningful work is considered a top determinant of life satisfaction.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
New paradigms require new role models. MAKEWAY is a guide to artisanal innovation, built from the stories of small business heroes mastering the new economy. We celebrate and empower meaningful self-expression through business.
MAKEWAY looks at the intersection of technology and artisanal creativity through conversations with those companies and people delivering meaningful brand experiences and superior products, with fewer resources. Online, via social touch points and through special reports, MAKEWAY provides inspiring stories and research / trend-based insights focused on the future of small business and customer experience.
In other words, we’re building a lifestyle media brand, rallying people around a world defined by its point of view on what running a successful business looks like and how it’s done. We think that provided the right collective vision and the most innovative thinking, more artists can be inspired to bring their inner passion to life through the tools of business.
Why do you do what you do?
We spent years in trends consultancies and big media operations, studying, writing about and otherwise just talking from afar about the future of media and marketing. Frankly, we began to find trends reports boring at best and commoditized at worst. We started to leave our desks, hitting the streets to actually talk with the intelligent small business people leading the change we had to that point just been studying from a distance. And we found so many drivers and elements that no one speaking from 10,000 feet ever discusses.
We started to find that the businesses thriving in the changing economy do so less because they have access to innovative new tools, and more because they’ve developed the mindset required to use them properly. Suddenly we found connections in what these passionate business owners were doing with the lessons of people from a disparate range of fields, like Ai Weiwei who notes that “maybe being powerful means to be fragile.”
We became inspired to build our own take on sharing important and incredible trends in business and marketing, but through narratives that brought all these disparate worlds together. We think that in doing so we can not only unpack big-picture trends but also guide the way to holistic well-being through meaningful work.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
We think of Andy Warhol as a sort of spiritual founder. We think he was right when he said “good business is the best art.”
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
It’s become clear to people who study happiness and wellbeing that people are far happier when they spend on others than themselves. We’re a small team, and we’re lucky enough to have an ecosystem of collaborators who work with us because they’re inspired by a shared vision we’re all after. But people still get paid — and when they do, we’ve been known to do it with the informal request that they spend a portion of it on something other than themselves.
We don’t force them of course, and there’s no way to track this in other way other than the fact that we only work with people that we have a long-term relationships with and run into down the road. But we’ve had a positive response just in asking.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
Before MAKEWAY, when we were doing only consultancy, we would call our work “strategic improvisation.” We drew a lot upon the metaphors and practice of choreography. I’ve even spent a lot of time at the ballet over the last 3 years.
Dance is one form, but improvisation at large is well-known for being a practice of saying “yes.” Of believing that everyone is a partner in moving the scene forward — that the responsibility for moving the scene forward falls only on your ability to find out how, not in blaming others for what you’re given.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
Question optimization. Optimize for sure — but always question it. There’s a spectrum between optimizing transactions and building relationships: for any particular process there’s no way to have both. And there’s no place on that scale that’s right for every practice. So yes optimize but always know what the tradeoffs are.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
In a former life I was a military intelligence analyst. I mean, I was young, so it’s not like I wasn’t like the Carrie Mathison or anything. But for sure, I remember the surreal feeling of knowing that the reason those burning oil fields are on fire — pumping mile-wide clouds of thick black smoke over that city — is specifically so that you, Kyle, can’t look at them with your satellite imagery. And the deep, human panic one can conjure only with the realization that right now, in this second, people who don’t like you are firing missiles directly at you.
How do you stay productive throughout your day?
I don’t; I play a lot of chess. Or rather: I stay productive by playing a lot chess. There’s nothing less productive than burning out. And I don’t mean that on a micro, day-by-day level or even months; I mean over years. I spent my early 20’s being super-over-highly-motivated. But my mid 20’s being just the opposite. I think at this point I’ve learned a bit of balance.
What time of the day do you do your best work?
Early morning. I don’t drink coffee, never have. I used to joke “RSS is my coffee”; just give me the 4 seconds necessary to see something that gets my brain thinking about and responding on how incredibly fascinating and exciting the world is, that’s about all it takes.
Where in the world are you?
How can people connect with you?
I’m on twitter at www.twitter.com/kylecameron
I explain the thinking behind MAKEWAY at kylestudstill.quora.com
and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
for Serious Business it’s www.linkedin.com/in/kylestudstill
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