charles leadbeater

My landscape

A significant part of my Masters project is to adopt an intelligent, mindful, distant view of myself as a practitioner and a commentator. To help me with this I have made my world tangible by simply dividing it into parts that resemble boulders and pebbles.  This method of visualising my landscape was inspired by an metaphor described by Charles Leadbeater in his paper "Coming Crisis of the Creative Class". 3523204704_be9eeb2ed0

This model is composed of boulders, pebbles and micro pebbles. These individually weighted and labeled parts have enabled me to ask meta level questions about the value that I add through my work and to view my everyday work holistically and see where the gaps are.

When I look at this landscape I am asking these questions:

  • Who visits my beach?
  • What boulders work with pebbles?
  • What pebbles are growing to become boulders?
  • How do the boulders make money?
  • Are there any pebbles growing taller than the boulders?
  • Who should I invite to visit?
  • How is it being sustained?
  • What can I see in the distance?
  • How do I find the pebble I am looking for?
  • How do visitors navigate their way around?
  • Are there any dangers on the beach?
  • Do I like working on the beach?
  • What is missing?
  • What is driving me to maintain and enhance this beach?
  • What will the beach look like in five years time?

It has made me realise I need to be more conscious of how often I roll a new boulder onto the beach. This takes time, dedication and focus. I am only one person and I can only sustain a certain amount.

There is rising tide of pebbles on my beach. Every minute millions of people throw a pebble onto my beach: a blog post, a YouTube video, a picture of Flickr or an update of Twitter. A puzzling collection of pebbles in different sizes, shapes and colours , in no particular order, as people feel like it. How is this managed?


This very simplified version of my world into boulders and pebbles has focused my thinking on hybrids and collaborations. I hadn't realised until now the vast amount of opportunities I have to create new collaborations and organise my pebbles to new heights.

But what does it mean when pebbles grow taller then the boulders? My network is rapidly become the tallest attraction on the beach. The nature of social networking allows me to connect with pebbles who are friends, and twitter allows me to create lots of really tiny little pebbles.


I am really keen to hear your thoughts and opinions on this model. It is up to you if you throw a pebble towards me in the form of a comment or a little micro pebble reflection in the form of tweet.

The independents

picture-51 This afternoon I read The Independents by Charles Leadbeater. "Across Britain, thousands of young Independents are working from bedrooms, workshops and run-down offices in some of the fastest growing sectors of the British economy: cultural industries such as design, fashion, multimedia and Internet services. The authors set out the current state of cultural industries and recommend new approaches to education, business support, finance and arts policy to help provide these new cultural entrepreneurs with a firmer base to build upon."

The independents work within networks of collaborators within cities, and thrive on easy access to local, tacit knowledge.

What encourages them towards entrepreneurship is their values.  We do not fit into neat categories and thrive on informal networks.

Charles' advice:

Be brave enough to be distinctive. If you are doing what everyone else is doing you are in the wrong business.

Hold onto that unshakeable self belief in your distinctive talent.

We Think

We Think, by Charles Leadbeater is all about communities, mass innovation, the power of mass creativity and how it all fits together within the internet.

Watch a nice little video that illustrates what this book is all about, I like Leadbeaters style - black and white, handwriting and simple statements get across his complex ideas really well.

This book is different from any other book I have ever read because of the way it was put together and distributed. The first three chapters can be read online, which is unusual. It started on-line through a unique experiment in collaborative creativity involving hundreds of people across the world.

You are what you share. That is the ethic of the world being created by YouTube and MySpace, Wikipedia and Facebook. WeThink is a rallying call for the shared power of the web to make society more open and egalitarian.

We Think reports on an unparralleled wave of collaborative creativity, as people from California and China devise ways to work together that are more democratic, productvie and creative. This book is a guide to the new culture of mass participation and innovation - the generation growing up with the web will not be contect to remain spectators. They weant to be players and this is their slogan: we think therefore we are.

He discusses the idea of a commons, which I found really interesting. A commons is anything like the street on which we drive, the skies through which planes fly, public parks and the beaches on which we relax. A commons belongs to a community- sometimes a tightly defined community - sometimes everyone.

A day on a public beach exemplifies the commons in action. Beaches are ordered without being controlled. No one is in charge. A publicj beach is a model civil space - tolerant, playful, self-regulating, democratic in spirit. As the day unfolds everyone takes their spot, adjusting to where everyone else has pitched their towel. Normal rules do not apply because there is no private property. The web is bringing the spirit of the beach into the sharing of ideas and information.

The more content we create, blogs, videos, myspace, bebo etc.. the more we need We Think to sort it. When you think of pre-industrial forms of organisation - the commons, peer to peer working, community innovation and folk creativity. These are all very old.

Where as if you mix this with the brand new blogs and wikipedias etc, you have a new working model - a social form of creativity for everyone - giving us the capacity and tools to think, act and experiment.

Another book which I have been reading online is Back of The Napkin by Dan Roam it is easy to read and digest. I have also been interested in visual thinking within design and this book is helping to to visualise my ideas more freely. "Doodle aloud and erase even louder...the combination of simultaneous creation and narration is magic..." Check out his blog , I am keen to try out the 'best ever visualisation tool' that we all have on our computer within Microsoft powerpoint.

I liked this phrasing on what The End of the World could potentially be. We Think is creating new ways for these conversations to emerge - conversations that enable people who combine their different skills, insights and knowledge to explore a problem.

I also liked Leadbeaters interpretation on language - service designers are striving to create a universal design language to help others understand and relate to the work they do.