Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Journey of One Day

A day can mean quite a lot. Especially when you happen to spend your days traveling around the world, on a ship.

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In life with Unreasonable at Sea, the days can be complicated, emotionally, mentally and physically draining, and more often than not, overwhelmingly inspiring.

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The work that we do is challenging, mostly because of the environment and circumstances under which we work:

Imagine working with your coworkers every single day, without even a full 24 hours of break time.

And living with them.

Not just as housemates, but as roommates.

In tiny compartment rooms,

On a ship,

As you travel to 13 countries,

Creating events and programming around the world.

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Perhaps one of the most challenging roles I have ever had with regard to a working environment, Unreasonable at Sea has also become a gateway to understanding, and an opening for some of the most incredible experiences in my life.

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I’m not sure that an “average day at sea” even exists, but perhaps today is a good example:

The day began with a rocky start, with some complex logistical and systematic challenges, including new travelers, new visa issues, and new event details to send out.

It dipped significantly into an intense, emotional conversation with some of my teammates about current team dynamics and disturbing upcoming changes, and left me feeling drained and distraught just in time for lunch.

Lunch on the ship was shared with friends Matt & Shawna from the Unreasonable at Sea Media Team, filled with hilarious stories of in-country travel (And for anyone who knows Pedro Delgado Ortiz, you know how hilarious and crazy the story must be!), and followed by a quiet ride into town in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Next a nice stroll around the city center, ending at a beautiful hotel, that included coffee and most importantly, free Wi-Fi.

After a wonderful lobby-work session (aka gyshido time), with classical music playing in the background and a powerful rooftop poolside discussion with my teammate/roommate/amazing friend, Taylor Rowe, I finally felt clarity about the earlier team issues.

As evening approached, an adventure through streets filled with lights and celebrations for the new year led me to the very best part of my day, one of the most inspiring dinners I have had yet, shared with Khalida Brohi.

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Khalida is one of the bravest people I have ever met, responding to the death of her friend and her background growing up in the beautiful yet restrictive environment of a tribal area in Pakistan with conviction to speak out against honor killings, violence, and injustice and to use her venture, Sughar to create tangible change that reaches over one million women.

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Our rather happenchance dinner included delicious Vietnamese food combined with a shared space for ideas, thoughts, and reflections, with topics including spirituality, religion, traditions, entrepreneurship, funny stories, painful stories, and intense and determined hope for the future.

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Each new day at sea is a challenge; each new day is an adventure.

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One of my wise and wonderful teammates and mentors, Laura Anne Edwards, said the following back when we were walking around Kyoto, Japan:

“I promised myself I would never have another ‘gray’ day. Days could be good or bad, have ups and downs, but I wouldn’t waste any more time on days that I won’t remember. No matter what, it has to be memorable.”

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Days working for Unreasonable at Sea have perhaps more ups and downs than I have ever experienced. But I find Laura’s words could not be more true of this journey; the days we spend on this voyage are some of the most beautiful, terrifying, and memorable that I have ever seen.

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How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives

 

– Annie Dillard

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NOTES BY SHIRABEE: Unreasonable at Sea!

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From Constraints to Creativity

My role in designing structures for Unreasonable at Sea

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As the oh-so official scheduling & logistics guru on board the MV Explorer (also known as the Associate Director for Unreasonable at Sea) my days are centered around one overwhelming challenge:

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(1) TAKE: 20+ radical, forward thinking, unreasonable entrepreneurs

 

(2) DESIGN:  structures, schedules & programming

 

—>   THAT RESULT IN = one epic, creative environment for rapid ideation

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SAMPLE PROJECT:

The first way I usually describe my role in this process is with an example:

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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: VISA PROJECT

Main Objective [MO]:  Get our incredible, out-of-the-box thinking, rule-breaking, unreasonable entrepreneurs, & our entire team (40+ people representing 12+ different countries) to successfully gain entry to all 14 port stops along our voyage.

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Action Items:

  • Ensure completion of all necessary forms & processes for customs & immigration
  • Convince last-minute planners to set their travel plans in advance (as much as possible)
  • Ensure each traveler obtains all necessary visas & permits to enter 12 different countries around the world (with different regulations and requirements based on citizenship, region, and feelings of the person who happens to be at customs that day)

    

While I would consider our work on this challenge to be exceptionally successful both at the front end of our voyage and as we continue to encounter new surprises & regulations along the way, it is clear even in description that I am using the typical method of addressing operational challenges:

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(1) Visualize the objectives

(2) Develop a strategy

(3) Turn plans into action

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And while this method has worked relatively well previously, in traveling around the world with a community of design-thinking, unreasonable people, I am learning to evaluate this strategy in a radically new way.  On the ops team for U@Sea (which consists of myself + the incredible Chief of Staff, Taylor Rowe) we are pushed to go beyond the method mentioned of addressing challenges, and to leap out into the environment of experimentation design that exists on this unique voyage.

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Because when you work for a creative entrepreneurial community, it isn’t simply about getting the logistical and scheduling tasks completed; the real challenge is how to take the logistical aspects of the voyage, and turn them into opportunities for increased creativity.

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How do you set up daily schedules and logistical tasks in a way that will actually ENHANCE the creative atmosphere rather than stifling it?

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Turns out, logistics and structures are not so opposite to creativity after all. As I have learned in our daily workshops on board, one of the core principles to design thinking is as follows:

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Constraints inspire creativity.

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So the new [MO] for our U@Sea Ops team is to:

Take a constraint, of which there are many as we logistically navigate across the globe, and turn it into a design challenge; a communal experiment for how to operate most effectively and creatively on a world-traveling ship.

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As our 10 teams of entrepreneurs rapidly prototype various elements of their projects and solve challenges daily, our U@Sea team is learning to work with the same principles to address the challenges of running the program.

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As George Kembel (our co-founder of U@Sea, founder of Stanford’s d.school of innovation, and someone for whom my admiration seems to build daily,) stated in our very first team meeting in San Diego:

 

When you begin to frame each project, each encounter as a learning experience, everything changes.

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Working in a logistical, operations-heavy job at Unreasonable at Sea, I am reminded daily that no matter what role we play in our community or in life, we are all challenged to push ourselves to experiment and learn in every way possible, and to take on the opportunity to design our experience. 

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