Archive for October 2nd, 2008

Merlin Mann reinvents the 43 Folders brand

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Merlin Mann has announced that he’s “shifting gears” at his famed 43 Folders personal productivity site. In effect, he’s reinventing the 43 Folders brand. The site is changing from a brand of personal productivity to a brand of personal creativity. It’s brand deliverable is changing from improving one’s core efficiency to improving one’s creative output—and one’s personal relevance in the world.

The shape of a new brand

The new 43 Folders brand approach is evolving as we speak, but we can glimpse its general shape and direction. It’s RIP for “productivity pr0n.” The new focus of the site, in its own words: is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.   . . .

This is now a site for people who want to finish things that they care about — but who still occasionally need help, inspiration, and the courage to push all the bullshit off their work table. This is about clearing that space every day, and then using it to do cool stuff that makes you proud.

Right now, 43 Folders is focused on an arc about how to improve the quality of your career and life by managing your attention in a way that allows you to work your ass off on the creative projects that matter most to you.  . . . .

I want to help you identify and remove any obstacle that keeps you from making things that you love. And then I want to help you figure out how to make those things even better. That’s pretty much it.

The person the new brand will create

It appears that the new person that the 43 Folders brand intends to create will be one who can enjoy a creatively-focused life in the context of a workaday world. This is a trans-cubicle, integrated approach that opens up a lot of possibilities. Defining oneself as a creative individual who articulates a passion can dramatically refocus one’s life; it can actually make certain mainstream “productivity” issues irrelevant. One’s life jumps to a whole new level.

Some questions

  1. It’s not clear yet if the new approach will concentrate on workaday people with passionate hobbies, or also lean toward serving artists and creatives. Will this be a new 43 Folders for the “creative class?”
  2. The original 43 Folders approach helped spawn a “productivity process” movement where process took center stage. People flocked to GTD and joined the Moleskine militia. However, a strict focus on productivity process can be limiting to an individual’s growth. Will the new approach be more “philosophical,” with less emphasis on process? In other words, will the journey take precedence over the journal?
  3. Who might serve as a model practitioner of this new approach? Every new brand should bring to life a new model of customer, someone who incarnates the brand and serves as a reference.
  4. A brand “arc” or a brand journey?
  5. What are the brand possibilities inherent in a DIY approach? How might these trump factory brands? This might be the basis for a multithreaded brand from the bottom up.

The incumbent challenge

Of course, there’s one dark shadow hanging over this new 43 Folders initiative. The last word on creative productivity has already been uttered, and immortalized, by Father Guido Sarducci, two decades ago. It’s hard to top that.

Illustration: Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook entry for a flying machine. (Leonardo could have used 43 Folders. He was notorious for starting many projects and finishing very few.)