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Hackerspace Architect: Why Are We Here?

Hackerspace Architect: Why Are We Here?

In the last blog post I talked about three essential planning elements for hackerspaces. Missions, Planograms and Maps.

I’m going to focus on Missions today. I know from having talked about this, many in the Hackerspace world, and outside of it baulk at the word mission. It’s one breath away from “mission statement” or “mission vision” which, on the whole, are things we’ve learned from popular culture and from bad companies, are unpleasant lies that force us to do something disingenuous for a capitalistic company and uncaring boss that we hate.

Not going to lie to you. I’m talking about the same thing here, only 1. We aren’t horrible companies and 2. We’re going to write good inspirational statements, hopefully. Let’s examine some mission statements or visions. I like picking on Blockbuster, so we’ll start with them. (on an unrelated, but related note, I was amazed to learn that as of the end of March 2019, there is still 1 Blockbuster Store left)

The Blockbuster Mission Statement.

"At Blockbuster, we are committed to supporting the communities that our members and employees call home."

The Blockbuster Vision Statement.

“…diversity means valuing differences. It's a corporate value that must be continually developed, embraced and incorporated into the way we do business."

…now ask yourself. Could you answer ANY question or make ANY decision based on these statements? Try to think of some challenges Blockbuster management had? Let’s try one…

“Our big competitors just launched with no late fees. Should we cancel late fees thus loosing $800 million dollars annually, 16% of our revenue? Let’s see what the mission statement and vision tell us?…. erm…” Don’t get me wrong, I love a wooly statement about community, home and diversity as much as the next person, but it’s hardly a rousing call to action.

Lets consider instead the Blockbuster slogan!

"Never be without a movie"

Now THIS I can get behind. Now try answering questions from a point of view of GENUINELY believing your customers should NEVER be without a movie… I think its pretty clear how the motivation changes. If they meant it, really meant it. Would they have shunned streaming? Would they have kept late fees? Would they still be around today? In a world where technology changes from people having VCR, to DVDs to super fast broadband connections, if you keep your eye on the prize, the prize of “Never be without a movie” of COURSE you’d adapt. You’d probably be finding ways to move the technology forward, not fighting in court to hold it back. Another interesting way to look at it is this. Blockbusters could declare a victory. Mission accomplished they could say. If I download a Netflix movie to watch later on my smart phone, and I never leave the house without my phone, I can truly say that I’m Never Without a Movie! Thanks Blockbuster!

Have no doubt, creating a simple and effective mission is SUPER HARD. This is why it’s a good idea for the Hackerspace Architect to set the mission early, before there are too many stack holders to kill it with committee discussion. Besides, if you have a shitty mission, you’ll have no committee members to discuss it anyway, no one will rally to it and it’ll die a Darwinian death. Here are some good mission statements that you might like (*do bear in mind that they change from time to time).

Alzheimer's Association:

A world without Alzheimer's disease.


A computer on every desk and in every home.


To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy.


To revolutionise space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.


Creating a global trading platform, where practically anyone can trade practically anything.

The United Nations:

The maintenance of international peace and security.


Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
If you have a body, you are an athlete.

European Space Agency (ESA):

to shape the development of Europe's space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.

Ada Fruit:

to create the best place online for learning electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. 

Maybe you’re thinking. Yuk. I hate them. I hate Nike, I hate Tesla and I hate Microsoft. Yuk yuk yuk. Here’s another prospective.

Language is a technology. It’s a particularly strange one that’s made of squiggles and sounds and maps of meaning, but like any other technology, it’s hackable. So’s writing.

Mission statements are a language hack that brings together the goal of your business endeavour into a short statement. It helps drill down to what really matters to you and your company.

But Guy Kawasaki says forget about mission statements. Use mantras. A mission statement is a boring remix of dead business-speak.

A mantra is a magic spell.

The above is from the Adafruit blog. Which was inspired by this blog post from Guy Kawasaki. So whatever you call it or how ever you hack it, make sure you have a mantra, or a statement or a mission or a slogan or a why we are here 4 panel comic. It will make it much easier to achieve the thing you want to achieve you’ll have everyone on the same page and you won’t go the way of Blockbuster.

Today’s thumbnail is me holding a can of emergency orange spray paint from Montana store in Nottingham.

Hackerspace Architect: Planogram

Hackerspace Architect: Planogram

Hackerspace Architect: Essential Tools

Hackerspace Architect: Essential Tools