Artwork Petervan 2015 - Thinking Man - Pencil and watercolour
Since a couple of months, I am chewing on a couple of themes that feel interrelated. Themes like scale, uniqueness, and beauty, eternal, ephemeral, one-ness, and only-ness.
I started wondering:
- What if scale is not the answer?
- What if I would start focusing on my uniqueness?
- What if beauty becomes more important than function?
I was on a track where I believed that scale and uniqueness where opposites, and I only wanted to do things that were unique, one-time, never repeating, and NOT trying to create efficiencies. NOT trying to create economies of scale and/or scope.
I spoke to many people about this, and every time I saw their eyes glazing, wondering what world I was living in, and whether I was completely disconnected from business reality, or from reality full stop.
I was more or less told to conform, to behave, to try to do what everybody else was doing: running around at being very busy and being hyper-efficient in doing and scaling things that in my mind were not very meaningful.
During a walk-n-talk months ago with Nilofer, she hinted that uniqueness and scale are in different categories.
Some others hinted me at the concept of doing something that is NOT designed to repeat and permanence made them also think about the opposite, when one created with the objective of only happening once, designed to be ephemeral. Like making a drawing on the beach that is washed away by the waves. If you were not there, you have not seen it. At best it’s documented on video. But the performance itself was unique, only happened once.
Like the snow Art by Simon Beck: working hours on one snow drawing, enjoying the ephemeral beauty of it, but with the certainty that it will be gone with the new thaw of the next snowstorm
I took all the advice, and kept thinking.
I thought I landed on something named
But that started smelling too fast like slow food or some other sort of new fashion. It was also a different “unscale” than Hemant Teneja’s https://hbr.org/2013/10/economies-of-unscale-why-business-has-never-been-easier-for-the-little-guy/ .
It was also a different “ephemeral”, different from the ephemeral messaging like Snapchat who were just valued at 10B USD.
I was reading Amanda Palmer’s foreword in Cory Doctorow’s latest “Information does NOT want to be free”, where she mentioned there will always only be one Grateful Dead.
They realize that companies won’t be manufacturing millions of identical things, but will need to make hundreds, perhaps thousands, of slightly different things
Learning how to do that—how to make an evening interesting for an audience, with just me and a stage and things I’d written, partly because it seemed to me that one day it might not be as easy to make money from selling stories in the traditional way
Many of us became authors in order to avoid getting up on stages in the first place
I started looking in to the concept of “One-Ness”, which is about integrated meditative consumption, unity, even Greek mysticism.
I started reading some of Nilofer’s first articulations of “Only-Ness” http://nilofermerchant.com/2013/01/17/onlyness-the-topic-and-the-talk-at-tedxhouston/
Onlyness is that thing that only that one individual can bring to a situation. It includes the journey and passions of each human. Onlyness is fundamentally about honoring each person: first as we view ourselves and second as we are valued. Each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. That unique point of view is born of our accumulated experience, perspective, and vision. Some of those experiences are not as “perfect” as we might want, but even those experiences are a source for what you create. For example, the person whose younger sibling has a disease might grow up to work in medicine to find the cure. The person who is obsessed with beautiful details might end up caring about industrial design and reinvent how we all use technology. The person who has grown up under oppression might end up advocating for freedom of speech and thus advance the condition of his country. This individual onlyness is the fuel of vast creativity, innovations, and adaptability.
Embracing onlyness means that, as contributors, we must embrace our history, not deny it. This includes both our “dark” and our “light” sides.
Each onlyness is essential for solving new problems, as well as for finding new solutions to old problems. Without it, people are simply cogs in a machine – dispensable and undervalued – and we’re back to the 800-pound gorilla approach in organizations (and our economy). With it, gazelles [employees, community members, and partners] are singularly unique and able to contribute meaningfully.
And then it suddenly dawned on me: I was mixing up several dimensions.
I tried to articulate my insights in a Powerpoint slide:
There are 3 dimensions in this slide. I was balancing in the zone between uniqueness and ephemeral. But found it difficult to integrate the 3rd dimension of Scale/Scope. In fact, the slide was two-dimensional only. I needed a sphere. I decide to hand draw it:
Dimension-1: the spectrum from Permanent to Ephemeral
- Permanence, the same tone as “Long Now”, “Many-Ness”, things that are designed to last
- Ephemeral, the same tone as Short Now”, “One-Ness”, things that are designed to disappear, not to last, like the snow art
Dimension-2: the spectrum from Uniqueness to Commodity
- Uniqueness, the same tone as Nilofer’s Only-Ness
- Commodity, the same tone as “Multi-Ness”
Dimension-3: the spectrum from Scope to Scale
- Scale: what everybody seems to focus on. Investors don’t invest if it does not have the potential to scale, to be viral. The tone of “economies of scale”. For some sort of efficiency game. Still don’t like it, even if I can imagine something when Only-ness starts to Scale
- Scope: what seems to count when one thinks platform business or platform economics.
I don’t want to scale nor scope my Only-Ness, my Petervan-Ness.
I want to create unique performances, multi-media, trans-media experiences, where I touch my audience at another (additional) level than the pure cognitive. I’d love to resonate at a subconscious level, with very unique storytelling and narratives. All build up from my own writing, artwork and self-composed music, sound and light landscapes.
I am entering a period in my career of “multiple gigs”.
I have installed a small studio at home. Maybe the embryo of Petervan Productions. Trying to master new tools. Trying to have the first story ready for dry-runs by March 2015. And a first live performance around summer. For small audiences only. Not to scale but to un-scale my Only-Ness.
Let me know if you want to be part of one of the dry-runs.