In this hyper-connected digital world, we should leverage the projects, practices, products and services around us to live, work and play better. This was the theme of PSFK 2015.
From an early morning yoga and dance session with Tasha Blank through an evening cocktail reception, participants were guided along “the path to effectiveness, balance and personal growth” by host Piers Fawkes, the organization’s founder and editor-in-chief. The event featured a series of five to ten minute presentations from a diverse group of speakers, ranging from startup founders and marketing executives to environmental activists and media personalities.
The sessions were filled with life advice, industry analysis, products demos and founder stories. Although a handful of presentations felt more like commercials than conversations, the vast majority held actionable advice and inspirational stories. Several of the speakers are profiled below. The most powerful quotes and advice from throughout the day are shared at the end of this article.
In a moment of pure irony, the building’s fire alarm went off while the first speaker, Becky LaFranchi of IKEA, was advising the audience on finding happiness, despite the daily stress and chaos in life. LaFranchi maintained her composure and seamlessly resumed her presentation once the situation was resolved. Her main advice: “Create your happy place. Literally.”(She also encouraged attendees to make their bed every day, which has been shown to improve happiness.)
Sascha Lewis, the Cofounder and CEO of Flavorpill, warned the audience about the dangers of an over-stimulated world, comparing our collective need to be busy throughout the day to an addictive drug. After recommending that people be more “present” in life and at work, he encouraged the audience to practice yoga, then led the group in a brief deep breathing and guided meditation exercise.His main advice: “Find a practice that works for you and fits your work style. Once you find it, stick with it. Invest in yourself and do the work.”
Daniel Lubetzky, the CEO and Founder of KIND, gave powerful advice on a host of topics, jumping from management and hiring to ideation and confidence. Lubetzky also touched on the company’s recent issues with the FDA and resulting media coverage. With a slightly dazed expression, he explained that KIND had been a media darling for 11 years, with no negative coverage, until the FDA accused the company of using the word “healthy” inappropriately when describing four of their 50 products. His advice to the audience: “Figure out how you can embrace your challenges to make them opportunities.”
Jamin Warren of Kill Screen suggested that companies use games for research and development purposes. He presented a long list of successful consumer apps and tools that started as or in games. Warren then described his lifelong love of games before transitioning into a clear-eyed and unsentimental analysis of “Gamergate,” a recent controversy in the video game community. His main observation was that a small group of organized people can outweigh a large group of unorganized people, no matter their intentions or message.
Amanda Parkes, the CTO of Manufacture NY, introduced the hybrid fashion incubator, manufacturing facility and R&D center for the future of fashion and wearables. She questioned the future of factories and expressed a desire to bring back high quality middle class jobs in manufacturing. Parkes warned the audience that the world is running out of metals and needs to move into fiber science. Later, she briefly touched on the future of wearables and the recent launch of the Apple Watch. “The tech industry can have the wrist,” she said. “I want the rest of the body.”
Don-Ping Wong, cofounder of +POOL, and Daniel Barasch, cofounder and executive director of The Lowline, presented their NYC-based public projects, which promote the use of science and technology for social good. Wong is designing and creating the world’s first water-filtrating floating pool, which he plansto constructin the Hudson River. Barasch is creating an underground community green space in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Manoush Zomorodi, host and managing editor of New Tech City, closed the event with a high-energy discussion about boredom. She walked the audience through “Bored and Brilliant – The Lost Art of Spacing Out,” a recent radio project she conducted with her fans, supplemented by research and interviews. Zomorodiwarned that there are consequences to our plugged-in, tech obsessed, never bored culture. She recommended the purposeful use of technology and the active pursuit of boredom in order to unleash problem-solving skills and creativity.
“We’re very good at being busy. It’s a drug.” – Sascha Lewis, Flavorpill
“Create your happy place. Literally.” – Becky LaFranchi, IKEA
“In the future, we will be able to live and work and play underground.” – Dan Barasch, Lowline
“A great work environment should be beautiful. For creative industries, it’s an absolute necessity.” – James O’Reilly, NeueHouse
“Doing good is better for business.” – Daniel Lubetzky, KIND
“Transparency raises standards. And the quality of the work improves. People are proud of what they do.” – Liam Casey, PCH
Our technology plays us more than we play them – Douglas Rushkoff, Author of Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now
“We took a stand for play. To play is every kid’s right.” – Bjorn Jeffery, Toca Boca
“Culture is replacing our words.” – Adam Leibsohn, Giphy
“Performance increases when you are outside your comfort zone. Especially for New Yorkers.” – Sara Schiller, MEET
“If you want to understand fan work, pay attention to how people play. – Kenyatta Cheese, Everybody at Once