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Liz Song

Photo of the Month | MAY | Giant Paper Versions of Tiny Technology

May 27, 2011

We made a "How-to" video for our kid testers, to explain all the features of the Zamzee device. So naturally, we needed to create a GIANT rendition of the device. This is just snippet of behind-the-scenes in the creation of the video. We'll post the final product soon. Keep an eye out!


This is the first of a new monthly column sharing one great image from inside HopeLab. We hope you like it!


My Reflections on TEDActive – or How it’s Good to be Wrong – By Dan Cawley

May 23, 2011

Continuing our recent series of better-late-than-never reflections on conferences held in March, Dan Cawley, Vice President, Impact and Evaluation at HopeLab, shares his thoughts and feelings looking back at TEDActive 2011.

The theme of this year’s TED was the “Rediscovery of Wonder” which to me meant to see things a bit differently. It made me want to get a bit out of my own head and see things as a child does  – anew, enormous and incredible in all of its beauty. This, truly, is what I consider wonder to be.

It was also a wonder to bask in the glow of watching our own Liz Song present her amazing photographic eye in a gorgeous slideshow at TEDActive.

There were a lot of wonders presented at TED. When I thought about what struck me most that I wanted to share with our staff, I reflected on what we have been learning together over the past few years: learning organization principles; core ground rules; Myers-Briggs and Enneagram type tools and; Conscious Leadership principles. I also thought about our most recent retreat and remembered stories that we shared with each other. In one exercise someone started a story and passed it on to the next person to continue.  The stories were lots of fun and we laughed a lot. But all the stories went in many different and unexpected directions.

Why?  Because we all see things differently.  And we appreciate each other for just that reason.

One of the first speakers I heard at TEDActive suggested that as workers and individuals, we could see things in a different way. I found his thinking quite reflective of how we think at HopeLab. He suggested that most businesses create jobs to tell people what they can’t do rather than what they can – we took creativity away from individuals and gave them rules to follow. “Oh, You can’t do that”, “You’re going too fast” or “Everyone must play by the rules” – most of these can be fine common phrases to be used at the right time – except when they don’t work. The problem we sometimes face is that these phrases don’t allow for the complexity of life.

I want to share with you a talk by Kathryn Schultz that struck me just as deeply.  Many of those that work with me have heard me say that “I may be wrong about this but…” and then I offer my thoughts. I truly believe that I may be wrong when I say it.  But sometimes I don’t. I fear that I don’t recognize the simple truth that I can be wrong enough in my life. Or better yet, that I just don’t have to be right all of the time. I learn so much more that way.

I’ll let Kathryn Schulz tell you why that may be the case….


Zamzee at TEDxSiliconValley

May 16, 2011

On Saturday Jonathan Atwood, CEO of HopeLab-founded Social Enterprise Zamzee, presented at TEDxSiliconValley. This storify captures some of the highlights of his talk with links for more information.


Massively Multiplayer Offline Thumb-Wrestling and the Impact of Games

May 13, 2011

My colleagues Debbie, Austin, Brian and Mike demonstrating MMOTW.

This week I had the first opportunity to report back to my colleagues about my experience at the South by Southwest Interactive conference held in Austin in March. Looking back at it from a distance it’s interesting what sticks in my mind.

Working for HopeLab I am, naturally, games-focused, and much of what stays with me has a games dimension. In particular I’m still struck by Jane McGonigal’s presentation on her new book Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. Her talk explored the real-world impact games can have, something we are familiar with at HopeLab from our experience with the Re-Mission game. Games can change the way the participants feel, think and interact with the world around them, making them smarter, more confident and more resilient.

Although her talk was inspiring (read more about it here) it was not just her words that stick with me. As she began she announced that as her “talk was about games we’re going to play a game” and introduced us all to Massively Multiplayer Offline Thumb-Wrestling (MMOTW). This incredible game is like thumb-wrestling only, well, massively multiplayer.

In a ballroom of a couple of thousand people each person had to participate in two games, one with each hand, simultaneously. Each game had to have a minimum of three players but could go much larger, with battles of six, eight, ten or more hands. As we all formed these nodes the entire room became connected and at her command hundreds of furious thumb wars began.

I am pleased to report that I represented HopeLab well, managing to win battles with both hands.

After she congratulated us on our successes McGonigal asked us to sit down and revealed that she had really been doing some “crazy brain science on [us]”. When you hold someone’s hand for six seconds a chemical – oxytocin – is released that enhances the feelings of trust and connectedness between people. But how would you get a room of strangers to hold hands for six seconds? Awkward, right? A game however provides a comfortable excuse for us to touch and interact, literally changing on a chemical level how we were feeling about each other.

It was a fun and powerful demonstration of exactly what McGonigal would go on to talk about, how games alter us in ways both subtle and profound, and an incredibly memorable way to demonstrate rather than simply describe this effect.

At our staff meeting this week I ran a game of Massively Multiplayer Thumb Wrestling with everyone and appreciated again the laughter and sense of connection it generated. I highly recommend it for your next team meeting or family gathering!