Orangutan Swing is about PLAY and LISTENING.
—dare with us to drift, in search of the novel and exciting, and to listen deeply, for connection, engagement and understanding—
Orangutan Swing is a place where you can untether from your “normal” routines, conventions and rules, to play, to share, and to make together something meaningful.
You will hear inspiring stories, told in first person and from first-hand experience, by people just like you and me. It is where everyone has a voice, as a hero of her own adventures.
You will be able to connect with these heroes, in person and online, and have conversations that just might change your life.
The connections could also result in exchange of gifts & artifacts, created by artisans all across the world. It could be a t-shirt made in Kathmandu, fine tea from Darjeeling, or embroidered cards from Punjab. It could be a painting from Chiangmai.
You could even take a big leap of faith, all the way to Gangtok, via a chopper, for a creative retreat.
Everything is possible here. The only thing that limits us is our own imagination and willingness to suspend the idea of what’s possible.
Creativity is increasingly what’s driving today’s economy, and what the world needs to solve its numerous “wicked” problems.
“While market researchers describe how the world is, creative people describe how it could be.”—Marty Neimeier
“Human life is inherently creative. It’s why we all have different résumés. … It’s why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic.” —Ken Robinson
Orangutan Swing is a project of Design Kompany, our legacy design consultancy, which we have run together in many guises, since 1997. Dipika and I spent a lot of time learning and talking about creativity. One big take away, after working with hundreds of people on their businesses and images, was that creativity isn’t something that some people are born with, and some aren’t. It really has nothing to do with the ability to draw, either. But, like drawing skills, it’s something you have to develop, every day, as a practice.
Making sure you have a wide input—in other words, you are hearing from a diversity of voices, and seeing a wide spectrum of things—is one of the essential, and among the most overlooked, ingredients for creativity. What happens, though, to a lot of “creatives” in the field, is that they are encouraged to shut out the outside “noise” in favor of “focus,” so they can “ship” their crafted masterpieces as soon as possible. Don’t get me wrong: I am all in favor of focus and productivity. But too often, we go into this mode as soon as we have the first idea of what we should work on, and cut the very important discovery/exploration phase short.
True creativity incorporates continuous wandering, percolating, and occasional chance discoveries, into a larger process of picking an idea, work on it with a focus, and sharing it with others. One aspect needs the other, in a continuous feedback loop.
The good news is that, to start this process, one only needs to be able to LISTEN—literally and figuratively. Paying attention to what’s around her. I want everyone to have this power of observation—babies are born with it, kids are great at it, but somehow, we tend to lose this over subsequent transition into adulthood—and join me in re-cultivating this skill, so we can ALL become more creative, and not “productive” members of our evolving society.
And the best part of all this? Listening is essential to have what we crave: deeper connections, and better relationships.
Who are we to talk, anyways?
We are interested in a million things: travel, cross-cultural dialogue, roundtables about burning questions we have, most kinds of jazz, art museum openings, mountains, hiking, coworking, sailing, kayaking, and sharing our thoughts on what it’s like to be work-from-home parents. A lot. We don’t have colleagues so we like to get different groups of people together every so often. Always a different crowd. Cliques are boring to us. We like to spark new thinking by mixing it up.
You see, like many of you, we were once just an ordinary pair of somewhat misfit kids, raised in modern, middle class, suburban families. We read sci-fi and fantasy novels, wore glasses as soon as we were teens, shopped in malls and had terrible sense of style. We wanted to belong, but somehow missed the memo as to exactly how one would go about it.
Creativity, in different genres and colors, was our salvation. We made stuff up, drew, played music, listened and read things that were “different.” “Being different” became, to me, a way to belong, even if that club I belonged to had a membership of exactly one.
I stumbled on many things that I care about today: creativity, work culture, creating a community, playing the drums, and travel. I didn’t sit down to plan my life, things just happened around me, and I took the paths less traveled. I am glad I did it this way. In a way, I have been training myself on being slightly uncomfortable, adjusting, and paying attention this way.
A short history, so far
Orangutan Swing was born as an experiment: can we just do the most interesting part of our job, with people that aren’t necessarily our clients? We started with our Year of Dialogue—organizing 40 conversation-focused events in 2012. Then, we thought: how would we make the process of dialogue—listening to and honoring one another’s voice—visible?
The answer was Stitch: a community-sourced, dialogue-driven art project. We gathered words from the community about its wishes for the future, popularity-rank them, and create art pieces around them. It was a bit of a game we play with the community, with tangible results that it could use to manifest its vision.
Now we are in Asia, going from a place to another, creating similar work of art, conversation, and stories. Gangtok, Sikkim, was our first stop, and we connected with locals who cared about the evolving shape of this state of India, which less than forty years ago stood as its own kingdom. Questions of identity in the face of globalization, technological advances, and infusions of new central money prompted a series called, “Modern Sikkim.”
In Kathmandu, Nepal, inspired by the architecture of the city and the people we met, we created a photography series called “Kandinsky’s Window,” and helped a local arts organization get going with their new coworking space.
Currently, we are in Preetnagar, a tiny village near Pakistan border in Punjab and a home to 80-year-old indigenous publication Preet Lari, to brainstorm with the owners on how we could revive this once-flourishing intentional community for artists, to carry out the original vision of their grandfather, who founded the village in the 1930s.
Where are we taking this next? We would like to take our dialogue events and projects like Stitch on the road. Engage and play with the communities in Vietnam, Japan and Singapore/Malay border. Create conversations, practice listening, and play with our own fears of foreignness and uncertainty.
Talk to us
We want to hear your thoughts! Send us an email [chat at orangutanswing dot com], comments here on our blog posts, or:
Orangutan Swing (c/o Akira Morita)
104 Glen Cairn Ct,
Apex, NC 27502
Also, we are over at DesignKompany.com.