Extrastatecraft, the Game of Go and Digitalization as an Oxymoron

In “A Thousand Plateaus”, in a chapter entitled “Treatise on Nomadology: The War Machine”, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari utilize the model of the game Go to illustrate the dispositions of the “war machine” – an array of conflict that is “exterior to the state”.

What might be the implications of this notion when it comes to the infrastructure of the internet?

Any infrastructure is a setting that controls our lives to a certain extent.

“Microwaves bounce between billions of cell phones. Computers synchronize. Shipping containers stack, lock, and calibrate the global transportation and production of goods. Credit cards, all sized 0,76 mm, slip through the slots in cash machines anywhere in the world. All of these ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous features of our world are evidence of global infrastructure. – In the retinal afterglow is a soupy matrix of details and repeatable formulas that generate most of the space in the world –“

So begins the dystopian story of the infrastructure of our time, “Extrastatecraft” by Keller Easterling. This epic book describes the prevailing conditions of the global digital and physical capitalist system.

In this book, Easterling sets out to analyze the current situation via the themes of “zone”, “disposition”, “broadband”, “stories”, and “quality”. The approach, case studies and perspective in this book are very leftist, but will carry relevance to anybody interested in these topics.

As reflected upon by Easterling, the sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour has written that networks and infrastructure are composed of both social and technological actors. Think about the most popular social networks. According to Easterling, they may be “conglomerates of many surprising sets of agencies”.

Whichever corporations control the algorithms of these conglomerates, however, have rapidly taken over the framework and infrastructure where we operate in our daily lives.

I would argue, in the spirit of Easterling, that the algorithm of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, for instance, are very powerful ones, in as much as they control our current social lives and actions online.

As Easterling describes, for Deleuze and Guattari, “the war machine conquests operate in the “smooth” space of Go, instead of the “striated” space of chess.” The main distinction here is that whereas chess offers hierarchy, and each game piece operates via established hierarchical routines, Go only allows areas of black and white stones to move on a grid as each attempts to conquer ever-changing territories.

What are the implications of this notion for the 21st century and the digital industries?

Coming back to algorithms, and taking the algorithms of our most powerful social media tools as example, any attempt to run an agile and successful software company should be based on the game Go, rather than the game of chess.

My next question, then, is, how to make the algorithm appealing to masses, and  what might then be the driving values that eventually make successful companies with this operating system, as these must matter as well? Or do the values matter?

Digitalization is an oxymoron in the sense that it implies to a change, whereas now it seems that in our current economy it only adds a layer of infrastructure upon it.

I firmly believe now more than ever any aspiring startup entrepreneur must consider the social and global impact of their service and product, and play a game of Go.

Get “Extrastatecraft – the Power of Infrastructure Space”, 2014, by Keller Easterling on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Extrastatecraft-Power-Infrastructure-Keller-Easterling/dp/1784783641/

or

Get “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia”, 1987, by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari:

https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Plateaus-Capitalism-Schizophrenia/dp/0816614024/

Culture Still Eats Strategy for Breakfast?

Working time takes up a grand majority of our lives. The overall impact of working life conditions in the mental and physical well-being of employers is huge.

This weekend, I am attending a well-being hackathon event related to solving and reducing the negative impact of burnouts. The event is organized by the Finnish insurance company called Varma.

In philosophy, the term ‘well-being’ (and ‘welfare’, ‘utility’, etc.) refers, in a nutshell, to the manner of how an individual’s life manifests desires, objectives, and needs—among myriad more diverse variables—and how these affect the individual’s perspective.

Keeping up motivation for working and working life in general has sprouted numerous efforts at workplaces to improve upon the employer experience. Some workplaces offer free fruits, others set up a lounge with Fatboys for breaks. It is a common practice everywhere to host office parties, even working holidays.

I took part in an inspiring workshop last week that I feel deserves some attention in this blog while preparing for the hackathon. The workshop was organized by the fab Antti Harjuoja of a company called Milestone, devoted to improving upon the working life conditions via researching and recording the atmosphere at workplaces.

The groundbreaking notion in the tools developed by Milestone is that any improvements upon the customer experience are largely dependent upon the mindset of the employees involved in delivering the customer experience of a certain organization. The main methodology to solve commonplace issues and to make improvements in working life culture of Milestone here is to utilize a quantitative matrix that highlights with different color codes the several factors affecting the employer experience.

With the 5 people, most of the attendees being HR professionals, attending the workshop and discussion facilitated by Harjuoja the atmosphere was relaxed and easygoing with results that will hopefully be of assistance in developing these tools further.

Agile is a buzzword with a huge relevance in the evolution of organizational culture. “Agility is about flexibility and the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt and steer itself in a new direction. It’s about minimizing handovers and bureaucracy, and empowering people” says Bart Schlatmann, as quoted by Nordkapp’s Creative Director Sami Niemelä in a speech he recently delivered in New York.

I suggest you read the full paraphrase of “The New Invisibles” by Niemelä, I think this has very much to do with how the employees are being empowered and how design can have a positive impact in solving prevailing global challenges.

With trickle-down hierarchy, it is hard to make people realize their full potential as employees and the pace of change is slow. Waterfall hierarchies being still commonplace, I think we are in dire need practical tools to improve upon the employer’s attitudes and motivation towards their work, as well as the agility of organizations.

Design sprints can certainly be of assistance in this as well as solving many other problems. This weekend’s VarmaHack event will be a chance to see several practical digital solutions to these commonplace issues and burnout rehabilitation being prototyped by several teams. Excited to be attending the event and to see the outcomes.

This is the 50th blog post on this blog. I feel like I have reached a preliminary goal I set myself ex tempore around 1,5 years ago.

Read the paraphrase of the speech delivered at IxDA global conference 2017 New York by Nordkapp’s Creative Director Sami Niemelä: https://blog.nordkapp.fi/the-new-invisibles-a-look-into-the-changing-face-of-design-31531b7326d6

or

Get to know Milestone (site only in Finnish): https://milestone.fi

About Purchasing Artworks Online

One of my favourite hobbies is collecting prints. This hobby has so far revolved around the excellent online service of Saatchi Art, http://saatchiart.com. In case you are not familiar with this online gallery and art store, I suggest having a look!

I currently own four limited-edition prints of artists featured at Saatchi Art.

Having been employed by the Finnish National Gallery as a Digital Planner for 2,5 years until the end of last year, I got to see world-class exhibitions being prepared close by. The exhibitions of the Finnish National Gallery regularly feature contemporary artists such as Ernesto Neto and Mona Hatoum last year, not to mention big and lesser known names of modern art, such as Amedeo Modigliani or Alice Neel.

The Finnish National Gallery broke all-time visitor records in Finland last year! The number of visitors last year in its three museums, the Ateneum Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, and the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, exceeded 700 000 people by far. In a small country inhabited by approximately 6 million people, that’s not too bad for a museum institution!

But let’s not forget, that Finland has a very lively and original, more marginal contemporary art scene.

A very cool online gallery, accessible for all, called Tabulaland, emerged in Helsinki a few years back. You can have a look at the featured artworks of this excellent gallery online at http://tabulaland.com.

This gallery, owned by Aiju Salminen, is smaller than Saatchi Art by far, and mostly features Finnish artists. Acquiring an original by such Finnish contemporary artists as Anssi Kasitonni is easy via Tabulaland! You can place an order through the online store, or alternatively, contact Aiju for assistance. Purchasing an original artwork from a remote country such as Finland has never been easier.

Contemporary art has a notorious reputation of being hard to “get”. I certainly do not get where the hard part is here, and I am not sure it matters if you “get” or miss the point in an artwork – if you enjoy viewing it, be the artwork placed in a gallery space or at home.

I wish more people would enrich their lives by visiting art exhibitions, as I certainly enjoy this hobby myself.

NB. The original copyrights of the artworks in the above post photo taken by me at the Helsinki Art Museum HAM belong to the Finnish artist Robert Lucander.

A Website Makeover Overnight and Other Recent Events

So the Steps Helsinki website finally got a complete makeover this weekend!

Feel free to check the new site out at http://stepshelsinki.fi.

I am fairly happy with the resulting look and feel, as well as with the new design-related photos and colors that I used in the design.

Migrating the site over to a WordPress Business Plan as well as a complete redesign of the site was in my interests since the very beginning of this year – but I have been putting this project off for some time now, since my weekends seem to fill up with social events.

Last night, I also took the time to revamp the rest of the contents of the site, and will also shortly start writing a blog about marketing and service design and related topics in Finnish to spice up the website.

So stay tuned for that, dear readers!

Steps Helsinki now has 80 followers over in Twitter, and nearly as many followers as that in Facebook and LinkedIn combined.

Joining Twitter, finally, has been fruitful and rewarding. I still need to speed up and to boost my sales, as the two deals I was aiming for to get started with fell through before the end of the year. I am very much looking forward to closing some deals soon.

My agency will be moving in next month with Pentagon Design Oy. This is great news, as their premises are located conveniently enough in the hip Suvilahti area of Helsinki, and only a 10-15 minute walk away from my place in Kallio.

And who knows, perhaps there will be some joint efforts design projects coming up too.

The “Upea Ura!” -festival event is coming up soon. I have been planning the event as for the theme of strategic and creative thinking together with Riikka Pellikka. Our invited keynote speaker in the event as for this theme will be Anne Stenros, the Chief Design Officer of the City of Helsinki. Also, Maija Tanninen-Mattila, the Director of the Helsinki Art Museum, and Piritta Kantojärvi, the CEO of Grape People, as well as Marianne Tenhula, a Service Designer currently working at the design agency Palmu, will be giving talks.

I will be facilitating a few practical exercises during the event. Looking forward to the festival!

In other news, it seems my studies at the University of Helsinki are currently at a complete standstill since last autumn. I did give a presentation on the issue of street art and the Berlin Wall last year in an international summer school conference of the Nordic Summer University (NSU), however, my beloved master’s thesis is a work very much in progress right now.

I will just have to see if this upcoming summer may offer me a chance to work on that.

I am mentoring a group of four students and my peers this semester. Most of them are currently looking for a job. It seems to me like my university background has always come second to my studies in the university of applied sciences when it comes to getting employed and my next career moves.

I hope, nevertheless, that I can inspire this group of students to get to know their strengths in the current job market and to find an intriguing position. I think university background gives a huge advantage for many vacancies.

Like many in the academia here, I am worried that we will shortly be facing tuition fees in universities and other arrangements that will greatly affect the equality of access to higher education.

I think it goes almost without saying that a university-level education certainly gives a substantially stronger background for getting employed in many fields besides studying in a polytechnic institute. The current budget cuts in the university world of Finland may come at a cost in the long run, because we do need workforce with higher education in Finland, to boost the economy and the startup-spirit.

On the Relevance of Lifestyles in Service Design

Customers and the end users of services are obviously the best people to evaluate their experiences. This is the reason why the design of any new, innovative product or service should always be based on in-depth research on their lives, aspirations, desires and needs. By this kind of material I do not mean only data and analytics, but also qualitative interviews, or other extensive research, on people’s daily lives and habits.

Most service design methods are firmly based on the initial research conducted.

Research on people’s preferences should always be based on several in-depth-interviews, or alternatively, extensive analytics, or other quantitative material on the potential customer’s lives and lifestyles.

In literature on sociology, marketing and consumption, discussions of customer experience are closely linked with the concept of lifestyle.

And correspondingly, questions concerning value construction, lifestyle and taste lay at the core of most service design research methods.

The sociologist Antoine Hennion has written about taste as “a reflexive activity”, and as “a collective technique”. Questions of taste define our choices to a certain extent, and should not be overlooked.

Hennion says that analyzing taste helps us to understand the various ways we make ourselves sensitized to objects, to ourselves, to situations and to moments – while simultaneously controlling how those feelings might be shared and discussed with others.

Hennion has also defined amateurs as connoisseurs who have “a spiritual enthusiasm” for the things they do. In my experience, this kind of enthusiasm for a certain lifestyle is shared amongst like-minded people.

It makes perfect sense to limit initial research objectives to certain customer segments, and choose the people interviewed and researched based on their overall lifestyle, interests and enthusiasm.

Individuals are, of course, essentially, very social creatures. They do not live in a void – nor are they steady members of certain consumer segments for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, we all live in a rapidly evolving world, with technology taking huge strides all the time.

The properties of a certain product or service re-evaluated and tweaked, after the initial iteration. Service design and qualitative research on lifestyles of consumers can be of assistance in this phase as well.

The lifecycle of any iteration of a digital product or service should also perhaps be considered limited.

The image below describes the situation from the viewpoint of a design team. This picture has been initially published in a book called “The Convivial Toolbox: Generative Research for the Front End of Design” (2013) by Elizabeth Sanders and Pieter Jan Stappers.

 

 

About Facilitating Competencies

Today, I took part in a workshop on facilitation organized by the Finnish Association of Facilitators (FAFA Ry) at the HUB13 Business Hub in Helsinki. I am a member of the association, as of last year, when I first met Piritta Kantojärvi, the CEO of Grape People and the author of several excellent books on facilitation.

FAFA Ry is the Finnish chapter of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). The IAF is a worldwide professional body established to promote, support and advance the art and practice of professional facilitation through methods exchange, professional growth, practical research and collegial networking.

During the workshop, the participants collaboratively took on to examine the core competencies of a professional facilitator. I found the event a very interesting one in the sense that it gave me insight and information on the competencies of a certified professional facilitator.

I am also a member of the Finnish “Fasilitointi 2.0” network since last year, and have so far taken part in two meetings of that group. I have found these meetings give the participants a great deal of new ideas, information on useful methods, and boost the professional competencies of the participants.

The very first time I took part in a meeting of that group, the theme of our discussion was “How to deal with difficult people?”.

As even professional facilitators may sometimes encounter participants with negative attitudes in a workshop or other collaborative event, and it may also affect the outcomes of the event, I think sharing experiences and insight on difficult situations and how to solve these with other professionals is very important.

The outcome of our discussion of that theme seemed to revolve around creating “a safe space”.

To me, this simply translates to that the people participating in a collaborative event must be able to trust the facilitator. There are many external factors that might affect the situation, of course.

But basically, the facilitator must be able to create a relaxed creative atmosphere.

To me, this means being relaxed and confident yourself, first getting people to know each other via ice-breaking exercises, and only then establishing a clear context of the session, and evoking a sense of a shared mission in the group. I find that keeping up with the original plan for the session and schedules during the session is very important as well.

If some disruptive behavior or a conflict should arise, the facilitator must be able to face that issue with diplomacy, assume a neutral position, and gently lead the group on to create a collaborative resolution for the situation.

In brief, it makes sense to hire a professional facilitator for a collaborative event of any kind.

The core competencies of a certified professional facilitator are listed at the IAF website.

You can find the list behind this link: https://www.iaf-world.org/site/professional/core-competencies

The Emerging Trends and Seismic Shifts in CX, UX and UI Design

What are the major issues dominating the field of design right now? As the holiday season is now over, it is time to skim through the relevant details.

Let’s get started with a few statistics. By 2017, a whopping 89% of marketing people expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator at the global and local marketplace, says Gartner Group. Furthermore, 72% of businesses now say that improving the customer experience is their “top priority”, Forrester states.

This year makes for a highly interesting era as for the evolution digital and service design then.

In a recent article “Service Design Trends for 2017” John Knight describes the current “seismic shifts” in customer experience and user experience design right now.

The inevitable huge strides technology, internet of things and artificial intelligence are changing the landscape of digital services. “As smart machines start to replace human actors, UX will need to move from delivering simple usability to dealing with more complex domains that blend human and technological agency”, Knight states. Many others in the field of service design seem to agree.

While I do not consider this to be the main concern for many companies still during this year, in the very near future this shift will be one most designers and businesses will simply have to find a way to deal with in order to keep up with the others.

Knight views micro-interactions and micro-moments as another important trend for this year. “Beyond removing barriers to conversion, building value creation into all touchpoints and weaving it in as a design element. It will no longer suffice to make check-outs easy but instead UX will need to deliver sustainable engagement”, Knight says.

Accordingly, maintaining a sustainable and striking visual and contextual consistency over different devices and different mediums will be more important than ever before in service design. With more people spending more time on various devices, designers will need to maintain their attention and create engaging experiences. I think, like many others, that the use of video clips and fresh illustrations, and a bolder use of colour and typography, will be growing trends in UX next year.

Another emerging trend seems to be that UX design is a more widespread discipline than ever. “Just like the eponymous DJ, everyone is a UX designer nowadays”, Knight exclaims. I agree with Knight as for the fact that “has many repercussions for UX as a discipline, practice and job. In the longer term, everyone doing UX will require a tighter, more focused and stronger core discipline”.

In an article in Forbes magazine online, Shep Hyken says, almost as if stating the obvious, that this year customer service is getting better (even if it doesn’t look like it), value and experience created continue to trump price, and that personalization eventually creates a better customer experience. Coming back to Knight, he says that “this shift will require a much more agile approach to design where rather than single solutions there will be multiple segmented and highly tailored interaction patterns.”

When it comes to personalization, privacy, security and trust will be the next issues involved. As Knight states, “The robustness, clarity and visibility of organisations trustworthiness and security will become a primary part of the customer proposition”, and I firmly believe that statement is true.

Data supplied enables every customer experience to be personalized, starting with the browser cache and cookies and with our latest online orders lists. However, it seems a growing number of people are not that willing to share even this much information with the corporate world.

Engendering the feeling of trust in a product or service is now an important task for any good CX or UX designer.

I am currently working full-time for the small service design and marketing consulting agency Steps Helsinki since the beginning of this year. Exciting times!

As the discipline of service design remains largely unknown in many companies over in Finland, not including many big companies and startups of course, I will need to work hard to cut the first deals.

It seems to me that traditional marketing and graphic design is by far easier to sell here in Finland than service design, but I find these two must come second to well-designed digital services and streamlining the overall customer experience. To me, it all starts with an approach that involves multidisciplinary stakeholders from the start and takes them through the entire process of design.

Also, happy to tell you that the blog has had around 1,000 unique visitors last year, even though I have only managed to push around three posts per month online. A warm thank you to you all for reading.

I wish for an excellent new year for all!

 

 

 

Happy Independence Day 2017 Finland!

With the unique Slush 2016 tech event of last week now behind us here in Helsinki, Finland sets out to celebrate a hundred years of independence in 2017.

Independence day celebration being about history and looking back on our accomplishments, 100 is a very nice round figure for not only reflection on the past – but also to contemplate where we want to go next.

It goes without saying that there is a major cultural paradigm shift going on for our country, and as for the rest of the world, perhaps too. Over the next one hundred years, Finnish companies, like others, will have to make services and products that put the needs of the customers first, without compromises.

The global stage, especially the digital, is a very competitive one.

Finland has a long tradition of approaching product and service design from a technological standpoint. Perhaps this is a key element in what originally placed Nokia cellphones, as well as many other innovations, firmly on the global market. But equally importantly, we tend to base our design on the needs of our customers, as well as to approach industrial design and IT from a Nordic aesthetic standpoint.

Take the Iittala products, spatial design by Alvar Aalto, Visit Finland’s brand, and the Helsinki-Vantaa airport as prime examples.

For me, this year’s independence day celebration incorporates mixed emotions, as our current government seems to emphasize values that differ from many things that I most value in Finnish culture.

Finland is currently facing heavy cuts of budget on the overall education and cultural sector, and the startup spirit of the Slush event seems to have not hindered our decision makers from reducing the education budgets in Finland to the bare minimum.

However, without our education system and most Finns in the field of IT and design being professionals with a polytechnic institute or university level background, we would hardly be able to host such amazing events as Slush and we would certainly not have witnessed the success of Finnish design and technology globally.

Independence day celebration here in Finland also being largely about fighting the Russians during the Second World War it is a very curious fact that in the ongoing crisis in Middle-East – caused chiefly by the absurd and offensive politics of the United States – is a cause of little or no concern for many Finns – even so much so, that a small minority of us Finns would present racist attitudes towards refugees fleeing from war.

With that being said – I am very happy about being born a Finn and here, as there are still many heavy issues to tackle in many other places in the world.

Finnish women won the right to vote a hundred years ago, and Finland, in fact, was the very first country in Europe to grant women that right.

Equality between the sexes and equality among people from different backgrounds being a key element in how our parents built this country, I wish we as Finns could promote these kinds of values more, both in our own country as well as globally.

On the Complex Relationship between Meditation and Productivity

With the great Black Friday deals at Amazon and other bookstores around it is now time to order the most inspiring books on your bucket list by the holidays. I am very much looking forward to having the time to catch up on reading.

My most recent purchases for this upcoming holiday season include books on the several aspects of meditation, mindfulness and creativity.

With meditation and mindfulness having become popular and widely researched practices, there is an abundance of great literature as well as excellent, in-depth online content available on these topics. Reflecting on the main purpose behind meditation and mindfulness practice, however, should perhaps be highlighted more in these sources – and reflected on in-depth by anyone who has an interest in these topics.

Charlie Amberlan, the founder of @dailyzen Twitter account, has written a great article on this issue called “The Real Benefit of Meditation”.

Amberlan describes the relationship between meditation and late capitalism as follows: “At some point during the strange confluence of “self-improvement” ideas of the 20th and 21st centuries, Zen became tied in with the cult of productivity. Meditation is often sold as a cure to the modern worker’s ailments— lack of focus, lack of creativity, lack of organization.” Much of this is obvious by the related literature and online content.

The clarity and calmness that one achieves during meditation has many benefits, of course, like Amberlan also states in his article. But what is meditation, then, in its essence, besides experiencing the crystal clear state of mind ultimately achieved by the means of it?

In Amberlan’s view we are in danger of bypassing the original purpose of meditation. “Meditation is an easy sell to companies and workers because it makes you a better person”, Amberlan states, and continues: “But it improves you through detaching you from desires, attachments, and the need to improve.” It is exactly the detachment of these structures of our minds that makes us transcend our prior capabilities. In Amberlan’s words: “In detaching from notions of superiority, you become superior.”

The bottom line is that “basic professional or creative benefits are merely surface-level symptoms of the deeper changes that occur in the mind of the person who meditates every day”, says Amberlan.

Accordingly, Amberlan encourages to “stop practicing spirituality as a way towards productivity or as a means to an end”. Amberlan continues: “The whole point is that it is a means to itself. In doing it for its own sake, you learn to live for its own sake.”

The surface-level secondary goals seem to dominate the thoughts of many of those practitioners who are above all focused on improving their performance at work via the means of meditation or mindfulness.

I firmly believe that ultimately the goal and purpose of meditation and mindfulness practice should be to eventually transcend these more mundane goals. And I believe, like Amberlan, that achieving a superiorly clear and calm state of mind means that the practitioner is focused on applying spirituality in most, if not every aspect of their lives.

Read the full article by Charlie Amberlan, “The Real Benefit of Meditation”:

https://medium.com/@dailyzen/the-real-benefit-of-meditation-dfa983c2e557

or

Read and join in to follow Daily Zen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dailyzen

DYDJ and Stepping Out on an Adventure

These last two months have just flown by! And what an intense period of 8 weeks it has been! So the big news is this.

I will be opening a small marketing and service design agency, Steps Helsinki, in central Helsinki, on 4.11.2016.

My main business idea is to promote strategic service design for the Finnish companies that have so far not established their own service design departments – and the secondary business idea is to offer other agencies and big companies that would like to outsource a part of their service design tasks the chance to do so.

So the official opening and the housewarming party for the agency is in 5 days, next Friday, 4.11.2016. The invites have already gone out, and I will open the website for the agency in a few days as well. My new business cards should also arrive next week.

The new cards will state, that my new professional position is a planner and a strategist, as well as the CEO of Steps Helsinki Oy.

The very final decision to start my own business was made approximately 2 months ago, during the two-day workshop I attended called “Design Your Dream Job”.

That excellent and well-planned workshop was organized by Hellon, an award-winning service design agency operating in London and here in Helsinki, at their office.

The workshop was hosted and facilitated by a group of three ladies, Zeynep Falay von Flittner, the current Lead Designer of Hellon, plus Ida Rainio and Pamela Spokes of Hellon.

And what a ride it has been since.

I could not be happier that I had the chance to participate in the workshop, along with many other peers with university background. I found the “DYDJ” workshop an enjoyable experience, and most importantly, the workshop certainly gave me new insight into my own business idea as well as insight on my best professional skills and passions.

I must also state, that this workshop was in a fundamentally important role in pushing me towards staring my own agency, even though I had considered that option before.

Around 15 years ago, I also happened to attend the Junior Achievement study program when I was studying in Ressu Upper Secondary School in Helsinki.

Our company, Nexus Ny, consisting of four 18-year-old teenagers about to take their matriculation exam, was based on B2B idea, with the sales targeted at marketing research companies. Our company fared well, and was awarded with the “Best Company” annual award of that study program back then. I was not the CEO, though, back then, in that company, but the Sales and Marketing Manager.

The company co-founders back then were Xian Sun, Ilona Mäkinen and Gary Klaukka.

A few years later, I was also employed as a project manager by the Junior Achievement of Finland.

However, entrepreneurship, for quite a long time, has certainly not seemed like a very lucrative profession, even though some of my friends with a JA background have chosen that path early on, and have been very successful.

Take, for example, Mikko Jaatinen, a co-founder of the Nordic Business Forum.

Having given my upper secondary school times, my passion for problem-solving and my professional skillset some thought during the intense workshop by Hellon, I set myself a goal to found my own business by the end of this year.

And another happy coincidence soon came my way.

Upon walking around the Kamppi area of Helsinki, on another Friday night in September, while being on my way to the opening party of Columbia Road, co-founded by Futurice, nearby… I stumbled upon an empty office space located, in fact, on the same street, as CR.

Now, approximately 2 months later, my little agency occupies this space in the Kamppi area of Helsinki. Hope the logo will be on the front door starting next week also.

So I think it is safe to say, that once you really put your mind to the task ahead, the universe will suddenly start working on ways to ease your journey…

For those of you that are interested in my services, I will publish a website for company, at http://stepshelsinki.fi, on the day of the opening, that is, on Friday 4.11.2016.

In the meanwhile, you can skim through all the relevant details on the new agency at https://facebook.com/stepshelsinki/.

Habitare and Art Helsinki 2016

Habitare proved to be a very interesting fair event once again this year – although most of the attending companies seemed to have chosen not to push the limits with their displays of design.

The international friend and commentator of this year’s Habitare event was Alice Rawsthorn, who writes about design in the New York Times and Frieze Magazine. The display of Marimekko, located right at the entrance to the fair, was among her personal favourites. I did not get a chance to peek in at all, as the space was very crowded during the opening day. Other press favourites were the Hakola display, My O My and Garage combined display, and the Tikkurila display with multi-coloured swatches.

Attending Habitare made me think about interior design in the sense that while most people seem to put a lot of effort into the interior decoration of their homes, many office spaces and workplaces still seem to be designed to look very dull and uninspiring. This problem could be fixed with a little bit of imagination or by hiring an innovative, professional interior designer – or by investing in at least a few pieces of nice and functional furniture. This year’s inspiring winner of the Habitare Design Competition, “Syli”, for example,  would brighten the look and feel of any office.

This year, Habitare also included an extensive arts section in the form of Art Helsinki 2016 contemporary art fair, which I got a chance to visit the very first day.

The Art Helsinki exhibition featured works by such artists as Ilari Hautamäki, Tommi Toija and Katja Tukiainen, just to name a few. Hautamäki’s green-shaded paintings and Toija’s sculptures were the absolute personal favourites of mine in the exhibition.

Investing in art or design must be the most affordable and feasible way to make any space, be it the office or your home, immediately look more fresh and inspiring.

The Helsinki Design Week and Other Recent Events

This year, the Helsinki Design Week takes place from 1st of September to 11th of September. So this week I am very busy indeed, attending numerous design-related events. This year’s theme for the event is “Better”.

Habitare, the most extensive annual design event is taking place in the Messukeskus Convention Center, and I have been invited to this event as a blogger. I will be writing an article on the event, so stay tuned for that one!

And make sure to visit Habitare yourselves. This year, with 550 attending design companies, there will be an unprecedented plethora of contemporary design on show at Messukeskus. This year’s event has a separate exhibition space reserved for contemporary art, which I am very keen to explore myself.

Habitare takes place from 7th of September until 11th of September.

Another interesting event this week is the upcoming “Better Cities Together” seminar that will take place in the Helsinki City Hall. The keynote speaker in this event will be Anne Stenros, who has recently been selected as the city’s new Head of Design. As I am very interested in how design can be incorporated into city planning, I am very much looking forward to this event.

I am a member in a local network of businesswomen called “Ompeluseura”, and I recently signed up to volunteer in organizing an event called “Upea Ura!” next year.

Our team of volunteers is thinking about inviting Stenros to be one of the keynote speakers in our event, so I am very much looking forward to meeting her this week. We will have our next meeting of the network where the programme of the upcoming event will be discussed next week at my workplace in the FNG.

Recently, I have also come to think about signing up for a course on design entrepreneurship, and founding my own business. There will be an Open Studios event on 8th September in Helsinki, and I am looking forward to checking out a few locations for an office, such as the Mothership Of Work, located in Punavuori area of Helsinki. I went to a party organized on location last week, and that was a fabulous event.

If I were to go for setting up my own company, it would most likely be a digital design consultancy agency.

But let’ see how the still on-going job-hunt works out for me first. I went to two interesting interviews last week, and there are still more of these to come…!

So this is a brief summary of what is happening in my life right now. Exciting times!

My blog is celebrating its 1st anniversary in one week, and has so far had over 1,000 unique visitors, with 40 posts now published. My most popular post last year dealt with mindfulness and meditation (https://lifeofaplanner.fi/2015/10/22/about-meditation-and-mindfulness/), and the most popular post this year was about designing for happiness (https://lifeofaplanner.fi/2016/03/12/designing-for-happiness/). I think I will write more on these topics soon.

I recently updated the layout of the blog, and I am very happy with the resulting look and feel. For your information, I also opened a Facebook-page for the blog, you can find a link to that one below. I appreciate that so many of you have taken the time to read my posts, and any feedback on these is most welcome!

See Helsinki Design Week programme: http://www.helsinkidesignweek.com/

Follow “Life of a Planner” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lifeofaplannerblog/