The Overlap : Becoming Meta

I just read Steve Portigal’s account of The Overlap unconference and LukeW’s and thought to add my few words.

The most powerful message I’d say that emerged from The Overlap would be what Richard Farson said, as part of the sensemaking effort at the end, yesterday.

"Be meta," he said, "Try to become a meta designer, or meta whatever area you are in. What being meta means is to look not just at the details of what you are doing, be it design or business or whatever, but take the big picture view, the ‘meta’ view, and see how every action you take has a larger impact above and beyond the obvious."

As someone who suffers from terminal apophenia, how could this not resonate with me.

So let’s take a meta look at The Overlap.

Overheard in Chris Conley‘s rented PT Cruiser, while on a beer run:

LukeW "This is unfun"
Jim Leftwich "Structure makes me break out in hives"

Yes, the consensus at Overlap was ‘unconference’ is good, fluidity and fuzziness about the agenda are good, the conversations were powerful. I can’t remember who said,

"The whole weekend has been about the kind of conversations that take place in the hallways and during coffee breaks at other conferences".

Meeting Niblettes, in person. And continuing our conversation offline without a pause from our online conversations.

Stopping at the McDonalds on the drive down with Damien Newman and Brad Nemer and analyzing their brand experience in real time. Ha! Of course we arrived just in time for dinner, and let’s just say the fish was bad, to put it diplomatically.

Common consensus: The food was bad at Asilomar, but it didn’t matter because the conversations were food for thought. I couldn’t resist that cliche.

Richard Farson began our first and only full day of events at Asilomar with a powerful and moving speech. Perhaps one couldn’t say that one agreed with all his points, but I’m sure that everyone there resonated with some of his words that would have spoken to them particularly. Harry Max, however, voiced his opinion and said that as far he was concerned the entire weekend was worth it for him because he had heard Mr. Farson’s comments during Chris Conley’s presentation. I’m trying to recall his exact words and hope someone can help me out, but I know he said something like this:

Don’t learn by your own failures and other’s successes; learn from your own successes and other’s failures.

Something to think about…

Robin Uchida lives in limnos, in the threshold between what was and what will be, in the now, as I discovered around the requisite bonfire on the beach.

The collegial aspect of it all, to quote Manuel Toscano, "it feels like after skiing", said while all of us lounged in front of a roaring fire in our hotel building drinking and talking about global politics, the world in which we live, and the power of storytelling until late into the night of the new moon.

Which prompted Stephany Filimon to say that without urban night lighting, the darkness in Asilomar was pitch black. And you could see the stars at night, in all their constellational glory.

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2 Responses to The Overlap : Becoming Meta

  1. Richard Farson also said, in encouraging us to be meta, that the designer always gets the girl. I admit I didn’t quite follow that leap.
    Farson, during Conley’s presentation, pointed out that the Pixar example (a blurb about process in the making-of portion of the Incredibles DVD) was highly edited and presented to us in an idealized form. If we aspire to these unreal examples of perfection, we will suffer, emotionally, as performers, and as managers. He compared to what he had seen with marriage counselling and family therapy when examples of perfect parenting or couples are seen in videos, and when people can’t achieve that, they suffer, and even turn that suffering outwards.
    That was one thing that struck me – the risk we run into personally if we buy into IDEO’s PR (that’s just one example, not to pick on IDEO) or anyone’s – that it’s not real, and we can’t live up to it and we suffer inside for some supposed failure on our part.

  2. niti bhan says:

    Thank you for adding your insights and recollections to add so much value to my bit on Overlap, Steve.
    What I think Mr Farson was saying was that designers have always had a touch of ‘coolness’ around them, in form or the other for a very long time. Designers like Loewy and Eames, architects like Wright and Sullivan, were considered eminent personalities of their day. Sorta like rockstars, ‘cept this was before the invention of ‘rock and roll’ 🙂

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