Manoush Zomorodi: Bored and Brilliant at TED2017

Just in time for #NationalRelaxationDay, our very own Manoush Zomorodi’s Ted Talk has been posted online. Filmed in Vancouver this past April at TED2017, Manoush talks about the art of being Bored and Brilliant, and gives a preview of what is to come when her book is released in September.

Here are some highlights from Manoush’s talk:

I started talking to neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, and what they told me was fascinating. It turns out that when you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the "default mode." So our body, it goes on autopilot while we're folding the laundry or we're walking to work, but actually that is when our brain gets really busy.

But could this cycle be broken? What would happen if we broke this vicious cycle? Maybe my listeners could help me find out. What if we reclaimed those cracks in our day? Could it help us jump-start our creativity? We called the project "Bored and Brilliant." And I expected, you know, a couple hundred people to play along, but thousands of people started signing up. And they told me the reason they were doing it was because they were worried that their relationship with their phone had grown kind of ... "codependent," shall we say.

I mean, you know the feeling: that amazing episode of "Transparent" ends, and then the next one starts playing so you're like, eh, OK fine, I'll just stay up and watch it. Or the LinkedIn progress bar says you are this close to having the perfect profile, so you add a little more personal information. As one UX designer told me, the only people who refer to their customers as "users" are drug dealers and technologists.

In the end, 20,000 people did "Bored and Brilliant" that week. Ninety percent cut down on their minutes. Seventy percent got more time to think. People told me that they slept better. They felt happier. My favorite note was from a guy who said he felt like he was waking up from a mental hibernation.

So the next time you go to check your phone, remember that if you don't decide how you're going to use the technology, the platforms will decide for you. And ask yourself: What am I really looking for? Because if it's to check email, that's fine -- do it and be done. But if it's to distract yourself from doing the hard work that comes with deeper thinking, take a break, stare out the window and know that by doing nothing you are actually being your most productive and creative self. It might feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but boredom truly can lead to brilliance.


If you are interested in booking Manoush as a speaker, drop us a  note !

If you are interested in booking Manoush as a speaker, drop us a note!

On the Future of Travel: an interview with Hotel Tonight's Amanda Richardson

The latest Fast Forward conversation: an interview with Hotel Tonight's Chief Data and Strategy Officer, the fabulous Amanda Richardson. Dan and Amanda discuss "real-time pricing, the incredible power of user data in crafting products, and the existential threat of Google swallowing up all service industries."

July Updates: Independence and Innovation

July is halfway over, and while the summer months might make us nostalgic for the days of summer camp, road trips, and one hit wonders, the Studio Kairos crew has been working too hard to think about anything other than the next project. (and we have some exciting new work on the horizon!) In the meantime, here's what some of our speakers have been up to... 

Josh Robin reported from Queens on the 40th anniversary of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, the first Hindu temple in North America.  Opened on the site of a former Russian Orthodox Church, the temple was first opened on July 4, 1977. Congregants weren’t welcomed into the neighborhood right away, so they welcomed the neighborhood into the congregation. Located on Bowne Street, the temple was smack dab in the same location where John Bowne had fought for religious freedom in the colonies.

Dan Costa was recently asked to define what PCMag fights against. Not used to thinking in these terms, Dan finally realized, “Some enemies are worth having, and some battles reveal who you really are...I'm talking about PCMag picking the right fights. So let's get ready to rumble!”  Dan and PCMag are fighting against Brand Spin, Payola, Fanboys, and Hack Journalism.  You can read more about it here.

Sophia Stuart spent time at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles learning about IVEY, “a small, —just 13.5 inches tall—robot named for the IV procedures it helps young patients endure.” IVEY is just one of the new technologies being used at CHLA - there is also a family Fitbit challenge, and an entire program dedicated to innovation.  

Since we can’t take IVEY home with us, how about adopting a puppy named Cramp, Satty, or Booncy? John Keefe spent one Saturday creating a program that generated an algorithm mimicking dog names. Unfortunately, the names aren’t real, but if you adopt a dog, we’re sure John would be happy to let you use one.

Last month’s blog post mentioned Dan’s trip to D.C. to interview Peter Cherukuri, President & Chief Innovation Officer for DC startup incubator 1776, and Aneesh Chopra, who was the first U.S. CTO under Obama. The podcasts are up on - keep an eye out for new Fast Forward podcasts in the upcoming weeks.

To get in touch with Josh, Dan, Sophia, John, and the rest of the Studio Kairos team for an event or project, say hello and tell us about it! We'd love to hear from you.

June Updates: Books, Cyborgs, and Apple

Time is flying - it's hard to believe that it's almost summer, even though it's been in the 90's in New York City this week. Summer certainly doesn't mean down time for the Studio Kairos crew, and here are some of the things we're working on this month.

Manoush is working on the audio recording of her book, Bored and Brilliant, which will be out this fall, on September 5. Place your pre-order here. While she's doing that, we're working on an October book tour as well as other appearances that go well into 2018. 

Sophia continues to write for a number of publications, including PCMagWWD and Singularity Hub, as well as some lucky private clients. When I last sat down with Sophia in Los Angeles, we got into deep conversation about how Hollywood plays a role in technology development and why Los Angeles is the city of the future. Two thought provoking topics worthy of further exploration and discussion, for sure.

Photo by Melpomenem/iStock / Getty Images

Dan's latest Fast Forward podcasts have had him in San Francisco at the recent Apple event and at the Hotel Tonight HQ talking with Chief Data & Strategy Officer Amanda Richardson, as well as in Washington DC where he chatted with Peter Cherukuri, President & Chief Innovation Officer for DC startup incubator 1776, and Aneesh Chopra, who was the first U.S. CTO under Obama. Stay tuned for those podcasts, which will be posted on very soon. 

Meanwhile, you can listen to Dan's conversation with Go Kart Labs' Adam Dole, recorded last week at Go Kart's launch event (which we produced) to celebrate their new DC location. Adam interviewed Dan about the Apple news, AI, and what to expect in the digital home market.

As always, to have Manoush, Sophia, Dan, or any of our other smart speakers swing by to talk about what's coming in the ever-changing world of technology, or just spark some inspiration with a future-forward talk, please get in touch.

The Future lives at Moogfest

The future of music festivals and tech conferences is embodied in Moogfest. It's taken awhile for people to catch up, but each year the festival goes on, another round of people head to Durham to celebrate their interest in music along with a fascination - and concern - about our collective future. It's a wonderfully diverse, edgy, and true to it's mission, future forward experience. 

"At Moogfest, the technology, in turn, pointed toward ideas about what happens at the human-machine interface: scientific, spiritual, pleasurable, dystopian. It celebrated not only the gizmos that humans invent to play music, but also the ways that music plays the brain." - NY Times

City Brilliance: New Orleans

After many years of traveling the world to meet with clients and work on projects (plus, I just like to travel) you might think that my favorite places are far-flung locations that require an overnight flight and subscription to Duolingo. It's partially true - there's nothing quite like landing in a city or country where you don't speak the language, can't make sense of the landscape, and need to adapt quickly to new cultural norms. (Jan Chipchase recently wrote a great post about this) But guess what? That can happen in this country, too.

The iconic Blue Dog by artist George Rodrigue.

The iconic Blue Dog by artist George Rodrigue.

New Orleans is America's most exotic city. Put simply, it's not like anywhere else and arriving there can be a shock to the system. The accent is southern but different somehow, and often difficult to understand. The streets feel more European than American. Mother Nature plays all her keys here -- a damp chill in winter, unbearable heat in the summer, and when it rains, it feels like the world is about to end.

To people who don't venture far outside the French Quarter, I suppose it feels like a Hollywood studio or Epcot - not real, just an escape from reality where the world is made of beignets, Hurricane cocktails, pretty plantation homes and jazz music. That's certainly part of it. But to me, New Orleans is as real as it gets. The city has a deep and complicated history, and there is a true sense of place. The best way to visit New Orleans is to see it all, even if you've only got a day or two. It's one of the world's most enriching destinations.

So, when I had a client project that was focused on improving storytelling capabilities (read: rethink their marketing message, give better presentations, increase engagement), simply running a workshop in a meeting room was not going to do it. They needed to get out in the world and find some stories of their own so they could get some fresh perspective and get back into practice. The obvious solution: an off-site, immersive working session in New Orleans. 

The famous above-ground tombstones.

The famous above-ground tombstones.

From Tennessee Williams to Anne Rice to Louis Armstrong and Lucinda Williams, New Orleans-born and bred writers, artists, and musicians have been telling their stories to the world throughout history. So, we spent our days with storytellers. We began by grounding ourselves in the place itself via a walking tour with the charming Dr Gumbo. "The Cure for the Common Tour" was a walk along the riverfront, through the colorful history of the city, finishing up - as you do - in a bar, cocktail in hand. We spent an afternoon inside The Cabildo talking about writing and storytelling with Tom Piazza, one of the lead writers on HBO's "Treme". We had lunch at the Contemporary Arts Center with a jazz band, learning about the importance of improvisation in music and art (and, innovation) in between musical interludes. 

We worked into the evening, albeit around the dinner table or at the bar, learning about the history of cocktails from one of the city's best bartenders (because bartenders = good storytellers) or doing a whisky flight with a meal to connect the flavors of food with drink. After dinner, we found our way to Frenchman Street, where I let everyone go off to find their own adventures (totally awesome and potentially dangerous).

They all made it back in one piece and the next morning, they all had stories. 

Inside Preservation Hall

Inside Preservation Hall

You don't have to go far to change your perspective or inject some adventure into your life, professional or otherwise. New Orleans is a great place to get it done. Here are a few places to add to your itinerary:

STAY in the Warehouse District or Garden District, not the French Quarter. I like Old 77 and the Henry Howard

IF YOU MEET for business, don't meet in the hotel - book a space at one of the city's amazing museums, like CACNO

DO see some music. It spills out from everywhere so it's an easy to-do, but make sure to hit Frenchman Street and Preservation Hall. Add Tipitina'sMaple Leaf, and Candlelight Lounge.

It may seem weird to visit this museum, which is located in a residential neighborhood in a former funeral home -- but, if you want to go deep into New Orleans culture in an easy and interesting way, this is a cool experience. Backstreet Cultural Museum in Treme.

EAT everywhere. The food scene is outrageous, as you can imagine. I'd have to write an entire post dedicated to my favorite places in order to include them all. Here are two that I visit every time I'm in NOLA: Herbsaint and La Petite Grocery.

DRINK same as above: everywhere. Some of my favorites: Bouligny Tavern in the Garden district. French 75 in the French Quarter. Addiction Coffee. Catahoula for coffee and cocktails.

For more ideas, feel free to drop me a note.

Building Emotional Machines

In another conversation from SXSW, Dan talks to Sophie Kleber, Executive Director of Product and Innovation at HUGE, about building emotional machines. AI was a major topic at SXSW this year, from concerns about machines taking jobs from humans to the amazing things that machines will be able to do for us in the future. Sophie talks about what emotional computing is and gives some examples, along with why designers (and product developers) need to start designing for emotional intelligence now.

Shot at the HUGE Speakeasy in Austin at SXSW.

Spring 2017: Updates from the Network

Photo by amenic181/iStock / Getty Images

The year is heating up for Manoush Zomorodi, who is in Oxford this week speaking at the Skoll Foundation World Forum. She heads to Vancouver mid-month to speak at this year's TED conference. And this fall, her book "Bored and Brilliant: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Spacing Out" will be released on St Martin's Press. (pre-order it here)

We're super excited to announce the addition of a new speaker - Matthew Brimer, co founder of global learning experience General Assembly and the awesome morning dance party Daybreaker. I first saw Matt speak in this video (HustleCon 2015), loved his story as well as his businesses, which are designed to build communities. His thinking on the future of work and education is especially timely now, as people seek to update their skills to move forward in their careers or start on a new journey personally and professionally.

Finally, we made it back from SXSW in one piece, with a ton of new content for Fast Forward, Dan Costa's interview show about living in the future. If you've never been to SXSW, his series from Austin will give you a snapshot of what you'll see and hear while there; and if you have been, you know how overwhelming the festival can be -- think of this as a curated program from 2017. The interviews will be posted each week, starting with his interview with VP of Product for Pandora. Pandora launched a new premium service at SXSW, one that rivals Spotify and delivers a "unique set of playlist features tailored to each person's distinct preferences".  

Fast Forward with Dan Costa: Interview with Chris Becherer, VP of Product, Pandora

Sign up here to receive news and updates.