Archive for August, 2008

Our Attachment to Closing Doors

One of my favorite new business books so far this year is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. It addresses all kinds of issues from the motivating power of pain, pleasure and just plain placebos, explanations for why the honor code in the workplace (leaving a dollar in the conference room for your coffee and doughnut) really does work, and more.

But the most interesting examples for me where those where Ariely explores the all too human penchant for keeping as many options as possible open, even when the choice to do so is clearly, obviously, detrimental. Ariely even created a game (try it out for yourself here) where you have the choice to keep options (doors) open or not, all while trying to achieve the highest score. Even knowing what you’re “supposed” to do to win, most people will find themselves clicking to keep as many possible doors open, rather than optimizing their score. Why?

“Closing a door on an options is experienced as a loss,” Dr. Ariely explains. “And people are will to pay a price, sometime a significant price, in order to avoid to emotion of loss.” In the game of course, the trade-off is a lower score for more open doors, but in life sometime the trade-offs aren’t as obvious: wasted time, missed opportunities, lowered creativity, etc. All because we’re afraid to firmly shut the door an option, a project, a colleague, etc.

And flip this to the client side…how much information is too much for clients? Whether they gather it on their own, or we supply it them, the more options they’re presented with, the harder time they have coming to decision. And from Dr. Ariely’s research, this is an ingrained human habit. So don’t get too upset with your clients for dithering…instead think of ways to simplify and clarify the decision-making process for them. Plus keep in mind that they might be willing to pay in order to keep options open! 

As for the “option habit” in our own businesses, I’ve been making a conscious effort to truly weigh what keeping certain opportunities “live” costs me, and I’ve found I’m more willing to cut the cord on them than I was before reading this book. But make no mistake, it is an effort, and it often does cause little mental twinges and spasms of doubt and regret…but I also feel less cluttered mentally and emotionally than I have for a while.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!

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13 August 2008 at 1:01 pm 1 comment

Squint!

I’ve been spending several weeks this summer helping clean out an old family house in Chicago. Four generations of Schultz’s have lived there and there is pleeeenty of stuff to sort through, categorize, clean and acquire. My favorite finds so far, in addition to the treasure trove of vintage souvenir scarves collected by an aunt, are several pairs of vintage eyeglasses. I finally made it to the optometrist’s this week to see how much my eyes have changed in three years (not at all, yeah!) and to see how much getting prescription lenses in some of these will cost me. 

All of this is just a roundabout explanation for how and why I picked this week’s design focus subject. Squint, a favorite of Deb and mine’s since we first discovered it three years ago, is a custom upholstery and design firm based in London. Launched in 2005 by artist Lisa Whatmough, who was originally looking for a way to put to use her collection of antique and vintage textiles, she burst onto the scene with brilliant patchwork upholstery on classic furniture pieces.

 

The York sofa by Squint

The York sofa by Squint

 

The Vienna chaise by Squint

The Vienna chaise by Squint

She soon added lighting and accessories and as demand for her pieces grew, she had to abandon the vintage pieces/vintage fabric combinations, although those types of items are available by special order. She now designs her own patterns and furniture blanks, although a custom mix-and-match option is available. Take a closer look at Squint!

A small custom cabinet by Squint.

A small custom cabinet by Squint.

 

 

A silk and velvet mirror by Squint

A silk and velvet mirror by Squint

Gives the term “patchwork” a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

10 August 2008 at 4:47 pm Leave a comment

Uniform Disaster: Project Runway, Season 5, Episode 4

What a bunch of totally crazy, often fugly looks walked down the runway this week! And how many of the designers were so caught up in their “design vision” that once again, they completely ignored the “givens” of the design challenge? I mean, what Jerrell put up there, however inventive and well constructed it may be, could in no way have been feasible, applicable or even desirable as a Olympic ceremony outfit.

My top three this week were Leanne, Joe and Terri. I thought Korto’s was ok, but the proportions of the vest to the pants looked odd and it didn’t seem as “sportif” as the outfits Leanne and Joe sent down the runway. And Terri’s design was, to me, a marked improvement over the much-heralded official Ralph Lauren uniform.

 

Ralph Lauren’s Beijing Olympic uniform

Ralph Lauren’s Beijing Olympic uniform

Image via Guest of a Guest

 

Terri’s Beijing Olympic uniform

Terri’s Beijing Olympic uniform

But while there were plenty of missteps this week, there’s no doubt it was time for Jennifer to leave. From the beginning she kept referencing “surrealism” in her designs and yet I found little trace of it in her Chanel/prep/WASPy looks. It reminds me of that line from “The Princess Bride” when, after Vizzini has exclaimed “Inconceivable!” after each of The Man in Black’s many escapes, Inigo Montoya says: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” That’s Jennifer and surrealism.

Here’s hoping I score more points this week!

10 August 2008 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

Overcoming Overwhelm

As solopreneurs we are at a high risk for overwhelm—one missed deadline by a supplier, one mis-shipped material, one mis-placed file—and our carefully planned project schedules are thrown into a jumbled mess. Or somedays it’s the thought of having to be the collections officer, the bookkeeper, the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the office manager, etc., when what you really got into business for–the design–seems like the last thing you can get to.

And so you slip into that frame of mind, where you’re sure the next phone call is going to be even worse news, the next e-mail will just be more trouble…and your negative feelings become self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling, because when you believe you are overwhelmed, everything seems overwhelming! Your main thought is “I don’t want this, I can’t handle this,” but when anyone tries to offer assistance, the main response is often a childish “I fine, I can do it, just leave me alone.” Nice.

The thing I’ve come to realize is that “overwhelm” is often a great shield to hide behind. We can get so caught up in the drama of everything that needs to be done, of all the problems and issues and concerns, that we can use it as an excuse for missed deadlines, poor behavior, and a wide range of other bad habits. Other people, we think, will realize that these things are beyond our control because there’s just soooo much going on.

And here’s the thing, giving into overwhelm diminishes your responsibility and shifts the “blame” to others: your vendors, your clients, your co-workers, etc. It’s “their” fault you’re in this situation.

So the next time you feel yourself getting caught up in the drama of overwhelm, take just a minute and think about what it gets you. What’s the prize for feeling rushed, stressed, abused, mis-understood, etc. That it shows how much harder you work than anyone else? That you care more? That you’re more committed? Those are the most positive spins to be on it, and if true, surely there are better, more productive, less draining ways to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment! Or is it about sticking it to “them”, you know, the “them” that put you in this situation?

I found that the key to calming the storm of overwhelm is to recognize how self-perpetuating overwhelm is and how much “being the victim” helps me justify not-so-professional behavior. And that’s not what I want to be known for, not what I want to project and not how I want to live. Now I’m not perfect, by any means, and still find myself in that overwhelm state of mind. But now I force myself to be aware of it and think about what trade-off I’m making: overwhelm or ????

6 August 2008 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Style Definitions

So somewhere in the blogosphere I came across a link to a style definition quiz and it turned out to be a fine way to spend a sticky summer afternoon. My problem is I don’t have one “style” I like, but many different looks, and I’m in a constant struggle between the “mom” in me who wants everything spic, span and in order and the “boho soul” who enjoys the visual adventure of found treasures, piles of books, etc.

So, on my first go-around with the style quiz, I was dubbed a “Home-Coming Queen” with the following general definition:

“Nothing – budgets included – stops you from putting your all into creating a dream home. Your look is quintessentially feminine: cool, pretty colours; layered patterns and textures; and flawless attention to every detail. You like to spend every spare moment on home improvements and making your fantasy become reality. Your home is as pretty as a chocolate box and almost good enough to eat.”

And here’s one of the key photos I choose in the process, a modern classic living room by Fox Nahem Design. I definitely love it, but it’s not totally me.

 

Fox Nahem Design

Fox Nahem Design

So I went in search of other photos that perhaps represent other other facets of my style and this is what I came up with.

 

Bedroom from an older copy of Marie Claire Maison

Bedroom from an older copy of Marie Claire Maison

 

 

By designer Matthew Smyth

By designer Matthew Smyth

 

From Inside Out magazine, date unknown

From Inside Out magazine, date unknown

 

 

 

A luminous bedroom by Lucinda Symons

A luminous bedroom by Lucinda Symons

All of these bedrooms speak to me, each appealing to a slightly different aspect of my style personality. I went back and took the test a second time and ended up with a different result…I might just drop by on a regular basis!

Take the test and let us know your results.

6 August 2008 at 9:07 am 2 comments

Deja Vu: Project Runway, Season 5, Episode 3

Ok, maybe it’s because my PR team isn’t doing so well, but I have say, I’ve found PR to be a little blah so far this season. So far they’ve repeated two of the same challenges without producing nearly the same interest on the runway that the originals did. And if Austin Scarlett was back to be the judge for “grocery store” challenge, why wasn’t Jay McCarroll judging the photo inspiration challenge? Evidence of the not-so-happy relationship between McCarroll and PR?

Anyway, the most interesting thing about this episode for me was the runway, simply because you saw so few process shots and so little mention during the episode of Jerrell, Joe, Korto, etc. And then when you saw their designs on the runway, it was a revelation. I thought for sure Jerrell would be in top three with that gorgeous flamenco-inspired dress and although we so saw little of it, Kelli’s top look a-maze-ing. Not my taste, but interesting, innovative and clearly related to the challenge.

The judging overall was bewildering to me. As soon as I saw Kenley’s dress I remarked to my fellow PR-watcher “They’re either gonna love it or hate it for the late ’80s LaCroix reference.” It also reminds me a bit of the current, very structured looks from Balenciaga SS08.

 

LaCroix Dress

LaCroix Dress

 

 

 

Balenciaga S/S 08

Balenciaga S/S 08

And while I didn’t find Emily’s dress that interesting, I actually think it was more polished than Blayne’s slightly similar piece and more visually appealing than Daniel’s bronze & black asymmetrical look.

I don’t really know still who I would’ve sent home, I thought there were plenty of boring, not-so-great looks on the runway, but I am still surprised at the top three. Ok, Stella’s grommet jeans and “leathuh” vest appear to fit the model perfectly and she looks hot, but Stella needs to break out of her rocker chick groove…if all she wants to do is work with “leathuh” why is she on PR? 

And Terri’s design? It seemed ill proportioned and bottom heavy to me. I thought slimmer pants, a cigarette pant or something similar would have looked much better with that rather floopy dress. And although Michael Kors was impressed by the dress/pants combo; it’s a look the hipster chicks already took up and discarded three summers ago.

I’m very disappointed in the season so far…I hope episode 4 includes some drama and some decent fashion otherwise I’m going to be very grumpy.

5 August 2008 at 3:34 pm 2 comments


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