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The new studio geography

If any of you have gone to architecture school (or know someone who went to architecture school), you’ll know that everything revolves around something called studio. Studio – that’s really all you need to say – is worth many multiples of your other classes and consumes an even greater multiple of your time. What time will you be in studio? How’s studio going? I was in studio really late last night. This is how the conversations go.

So I was intrigued by Seth Godin’s post this morning comparing “working in a studio” to working in a factory. The latter, he says, relies on compliance: “More compliance leads to more profits. Do what you’re told, faster and cheaper, repeat.” And this was very much the narrative of the 20th century and was the model that empowered small-town America to thrive (see yesterday’s post).

However, the studio is different. Here is how Godin defines it:

The studio, on the other hand, is about initiative. Creativity, sure, but mostly the initiative to make a new thing, a better thing, a process that leads to better.

It’s peer to peer. The hierarchy is mostly gone, because the tasks can be outsourced. So all that’s left is leadership.

Initiative plus responsibility. Authority is far less important, as are the traditional measures of productivity.

It is not difficult to tell the two apart, which is how Godin ends his post. But it is worth noting that the studio model also thrives in a different kind of geography, compared to the factory model. So not only is the studio itself a different place, it also wants to situate itself in a different kind of place. So in a way, what we are seeing today is the new studio geography.

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