Archives for posts with tag: Creativity

This lecture should be sprinkled on our breakfast cereals each day. It is a foundation for starting a day, a career, and a life. Demanding creativity is like yanking on a seed to pull out a flower.

One of my favorites, Jonathan Harris of We Feel Fine, gave a talk during CreativeMornings’ Arts + Tech themed month done in partnership with RISD. Jonathan revisits different phases of his life and the medium that marked them in his work as an artist. Starting with paint, Jonathan speaks on data, life, himself, and tool(s) — addressing both the positives and negatives of each medium as well as what he hopes for the future of arts and technology.

Here’s a great example – From Digiday:

“TNT gave a dream brief to Breakfast, a tech-hacker marketing boutique of sorts, to help promote its new psychological crime show “Perception“: make something cool in a storefront space in New York City’s Herald Square.

Breakfast hatched what it’s calling a “real-time electromagnetic dot display,” an updated version of old signs in train stations with letters and numbers that flip over as they change. The twist: The display changes based on motions of those in front of it. When walking by, the sign displays mirror images of the people in front of it, reacting immediately to their movements. You wave, your dot-matrix doppelganger waves back. The movements knock away words, revealing clues to anagrams that the star of “Perception” uses to solve crimes. The idea is to physically involve participants in experiencing the plot of the show.”

A well-executed creative idea that’s perfectly aligned with changing consumer demands.

Goertz, a former client, reinvented the shoe buying experience. According to digitalbuzz: “How does a German online shoe store grab some attention in the real world? Well, a virtual shoe fitting installation makes sense right? Yep, here it is, the Virtual Shoe Fitting Store from Goertz, an Augmented Reality, Microsoft Kinect powered installation that is plugged into a giant screen, then rolled out as virtual shoe stores at central stations and shopping centres across Germany.

Using 3x Microsoft Kinects, a beefy computer and giant screen, this virtual shoe fitting station is basically an Augmented Reality Shoe Store, tracking 3D versions of their entire range of online shoes to your feet, allowing you to choose your favourite brands, flip through colours, sizes and then post to Facebook for feedback before buying on your mobile via a dynamic QR code that is displayed on screen.”

A good example how retailers can leave their static stores and create immersive product experiences.

Creativity says: “According to McCann Vice Chairman/Global Deputy Chief Creative Officer Andreas Dahlqvist, a key goal was to extend the life of the catalog in consumers’ homes. Its average lifespan is about two weeks, but with the digital offerings, content can be added and updated on a regular basis, making the catalog relevant year-round.

The print pages tease the additional materials with a smartphone icon that encourages shoppers to scan to see more. The app uses image recognition software from Metaio, and not QR codes, which makes it convenient to add further content to other pages in the future. With those, viewers may be alerted to new content via billboard callouts, for example, said McCann Associate Creative Director Koen Malfait.”

I’m dubious about that execution. In the age of ADD, it doesn’t seem likely people will engage with the catalog as envisioned. Personally, I would have left the catalog mostly alone. It’s a coffee table book, something you engage with as a still product. Aren’t we asking too much from people to pull out their phone constantly to engage with us?

Data will give us the answer. No matter, the advertising innovation train continues to speed up. Hold on tight, it will only get faster.

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Everybody is talking about creativity. When politicians start talking about creativity, you know we’re in the middle of a creativity bubble.

What does creativity look like? Where should it come from? Who’s responsible? How best to harness it?

In a client-agency relationship, the creative department is typically tasked to express creativity and keep it limited to that department. What’s the purpose of creativity within an agency?

Is the model of creativity a new idea support model that we can sell to clients? Is it a model focused on consolidating creative output within core, traditionally creative functions? Resulting in hiring ‘creative’ people who act different than the rest of us.

Or should we expand this model and give everyone in the agency the opportunity to be ‘creative’, whatever your title or rank? This model requires that creativity becomes more accessible, more within reach for those who don’t traditionally regard themselves to be ‘creative’ for whatever reason.

We need both.

I bet there’s no agency in the world that doesn’t want more creativity at its centre. At the same, viewing creativity solely as the preserve of a certain ‘type’ is all wrong, and probably cuts you off from potential value people can bring. Because a creative organization places creativity within the reach of everyone.

Creativity is about making new connections. And much more: Creativity is open-ended. Creativity is never finished, or a box you can tick. It relies on knowing more stuff so that you can make more connections.

Which raises an interesting question:

Do agencies really want creativity?

Creativity can actually be harnessed pretty simply given the right processes and a certain level of organizational commitment. If more connections come from knowing stuff, then agencies need to create a culture of curiosity.

Which is much harder.

Curiosity is an innate motivation. It’s established early in your childhood. You can’t brainstorm yourself to curiosity. It comes from people and can’t be engineered. It might be stimulated through feedback. It shouldn’t be considered as its own reward. It should be required as a basic mindset to be regarded for an agency job.

Should there be a Curiosity Director? A Curiosity department?

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Only 25% of people believe they are living up to their potential to be creative, and more than 75% of people feel that their countries are not living up to their collective potential to be creative.

Are you a 25%er?

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Tiger Woods was a planned superstar. When he was three he appeared on the Mike Douglas Show, at age five he appeared on Golf Digest. So far, he has won 14 majors and he might win more than Jack Nicklaus’ 18. His career is about control and planning. Nutrition, swing, attitude, psychology: he’s the poster child of planned success.

Enter Bubba Watson.

Watson has never had a coach, a trainer, a nutritionist, or a sports psychologist, and he’s proud of it. He has never had a golf lesson. And he just won the Masters.

I’m sure he broke Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, I’m sure he spent much of his waking time perfecting his game. But, it’s apparent he did it on his own accord. Following his rules. His mindset. And he succeeded by being creative.

According to a new survey of 1,500 chief executives conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEO’s identify “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future. That’s creativity – not operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication. Coming out of the worst economic downturn in their professional lifetimes, when managerial discipline and rigor ruled the day, this indicates a remarkable shift in attitude. It is consistent with the study’s other major finding: Global complexity is the foremost issue confronting these CEOs and their enterprises. The chief executives see a large gap between the level of complexity coming at them and their confidence that their enterprises are equipped to deal with it.

Until now creativity has generally been viewed as fuel for the engines of research or product development, not the essential leadership asset that must permeate an enterprise.

If I was betting man, I’d put my future money on Bubba. He’s good at improvising, not following the advice of experts. He’s good at listening to his own voice, not listening to a coach.

Go Bubba.

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As we all know and feel, America seems to be on the decline. GDP, education, infrastructure – misery all around.

Need further proof?

The recent Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum showed America slipping from 4th to 5th in the world.

When you consider the glass half empty, this decline is a permanent process.

When you consider the glass half full, this decline is a temporary dip. Something we can overcome by reinventing ourselves. Again.

The only way out is to dig deep into our creativity to maintain relevance in a shifting global landscape.

Unfortunately, new research coming out of Cornell, suggest our biggest stumbling block to be ourselves: Humans face massive challenges to accept creative ideas.

A few highlights from the Cornell paper:

– Because creative ideas are also new, they seem to give rise to uncertainty or even discomfort for others who depend on the tried-and-true way of doing things. To reduce uncertainty, subconsciously rejecting a creative idea may be easier than accepting it.

– Basically, everyone was evaluating an idea that their peers rated as being creative but the people who were feeling a sense of uncertainty were biased against the creative idea and favored the idea that is purely practical.

– “What we found is that people are perfectly willing to claim they want creative ideas but they can nevertheless hold a negative bias that causes them to reject creative ideas,” Goncalo wrote. “That’s what makes this so insidious for people who are trying to be creative [because] biases may lurk beneath the surface.”

To survive and, hopefully, thrive in a global economy, America needs to become the biggest supporter of creativity and creative people.

In any environment.

In anything we do.

Creativity has to become the mission of this country.

It has to be taught in school.

Rewarded in professional life.

Celebrated in each community.

Creativity shouldn’t be limited to a Creative Director.

An agency,

A division.

Something that’s cool or weird.

It should be a mandate in our society, part of what we are.

Creativity used to be a rare object.

The starving artist.

The weirdo.

The crazies.

We need to weave the weirdness and craziness into the fabric of our lives.

We are all creatives now.

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Do me a favor: Watch this video. Trust me, it’s worth each of its 778 seconds.

You will hear fascinating stories about sodas (Sweet Blossom floral-sodas from Romania, made from real crushed rose petals, anyone?) You will learn that the CRV laws were made for the big soda companies, not for small shops. And, you will discover the golden past and the golden future of business: Providing value to customers. Value through great products, a passion for your products and industry that translates into memorable stories.

I’ve watched a lot of football yesterday. And even more commercials. I have problems remembering one.

But John Nese and his Galco’s Soda Pop Stop will be with me for a long time to come. Makes me think, all this talk about ‘media snacking’ might be just a lame excuse for poor content.

Or as John Nese says: “The important thing is to set yourself apart and provide your customers with something that nobody else has.”

P.S.: I live a few miles from the store, never visited it before. Guess what I’m doing this evening?

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My first impression: It’s still early in the game. Very early. We’re still wrapping our head around the whole concept of VRM. Since the idea was to bring together visionaries/practitioners of VRM and CRM, the discussion often reverted back to CRM and how to monetize the customer/data. Clearly, all of us have problems transitioning from the old marketing/advertising paradigm into a new world where advertising is pure demand creation, driven by the attention economy, and relationships between brands and people fall under the VRM umbrella, purely intention driven.

CRM was designed to control customers even better. VRM is an added layer to provide customers with controls. To create an ecosystem that delivers value to all parties. Value doesn’t necessarily mean monetary value. To build all these systems to get $1 off on a deal doesn’t seem worth all the effort. The value is in creating real relationships between people and brands. By collaborating and co-creating value with customers. The future of business is in creating something more valuable and meaningful than just pure shareholder value.

As Umair Haque says in his “Smart Growth Manifesto”,

21st century economies will be powered by smart growth. Not all growth is created equal. Some kinds of growth are more valuable than others. Where dumb growth is unsustainable, unfair, and brittle, smart growth is sustainable, equitable, and resilient.

Here are the four pillars of smart growth – for economies, communities, and corporations:

1. Outcomes, not income. Dumb growth is about incomes – are we richer today than we were yesterday? Smart growth is about people, and how much better or worse off they are – not merely how much junk an economy can churn out. Smart growth measures people’s outcomes – not just their incomes. Are people healthier, fitter, smarter, happier? Economics that measure financial numbers, we’ve learned the hard way, often fail to be meaningful, except to the quants among us. It is tangible human outcomes that are the arbiters of authentic value creation.

2. Connections, not transactions. Dumb growth looks at what’s flowing through the pipes of the global economy: the volume of trade. Smart growth looks at how pipes are formed, and why some pipes matter more than others: the quality of connections. It doesn’t just look at transactions at the global, regional, or national level — how much world trade has grown, for example — but looks at how local and global relationships power invention and innovation. Without Silicon Valley’s relationships powering the development of personal computing and the internet, for example, the volume of trade between Taiwan, Japan, and China, would be a fraction of what it is. Smart growth seeks to amplify connection and community — because the goal isn’t just to trade, but to co-create and collaborate.

3. People, not product. The next time you hear an old dude talking about “product”, let him know the 20th century ended a decade ago. Smart growth isn’t driven by pushing product, but by the skill, dedication, and creativity of people. What’s the difference? Everything. Globalization driven by McJobs deskilling the world, versus globalization driven by entrepreneurship, venture economies, and radical innovation. People not product means a renewed focus on labour mobility, human capital investment, labour market standards, and labour market efficiency. Smart growth isn’t powered by capital dully seeking the lowest-cost labour — but by giving labour the power to seek the capital with they can create, invent, and innovate the most.

4. Creativity, not productivity. Uh-oh: Creativity is an economic four-letter word. Why? Because it’s hard to measure, manage, and model. So economists focus on productivity instead — and the result is dumb growth. Smart growth focuses on economic creativity – because creativity is what let us know that competition is creating new value, instead of just shifting old value around. What is economic creativity? How many new industries, markets, categories, and segments an economy can consistently create. Think China’s gonna save the world? Think again: it’s economically productive, but it’s far from economically creative. Smart growth is creative — not merely productive.”

While many VRM initiatives will be driven by innovative divisions within enterprises, the real change agent will be customers. They will be the enzyme in the evolution of VRM. We have to help them understand that tools will be soon available that give them equal footing with brands, that give them power to engage with brands on their terms. That’s a powerful message. Especially in this new normal economy, people want to extract more value out of brands than just a coupon or a silly loyalty program.

And, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If done right, VRM tools will revolutionize all aspects of our lives: health care, government, education – you name it.

From what I gathered from the workshop so far:

  • We’re close to achieve data portability
  • While Doc Searls believes VRM code should be open source, I heard some dissenters
  • The value proposition for people is still too vague to excite people outside of our bubble
  • We’re too focused on transactions. Instead, we should focus on value exchanges
  • We still have to identify the change agents within organizations. Marketing? Customer Service? (Gulp) IT?
  • How can fourth parties create stakeholder value?
  • How can VRM complement legacy VRM systems?

I don’t think anybody was expecting comprehensive answers for all these questions in a workshop. On the contrary, I hope for more questions to arise on Day 2. My goal for this workshop was not to get all the answers. My goal was not to stop questioning.

Below a few Twitter highlights from Day 1:

@jyarmis: 1995: the invention of the cookie. the end.

@missrogue When we solve problems for individuals, we actually end up solving problems for businesses in the process.

@mjayliebs Search is really the entire set of activities i perform, including talking to friends, neighbors, trusted sources,oh, and google

@nitinbadjatia User driven search (VRM search) – control over input, control over output and control over who gets to help you

@glfceo enterprises trying to predict customers intents will fail

@joeandrieu John McKean: the real challenge is the behavioral one: will individuals move from a CRM-directed world to a self-directed one?

@joshuakahn yeah, a lot of the stuff I’m hearing here is early, but actually alot farther along than I thought.

@missrogue With VRM, I have the opportunity to say, “You earn my trust and I’ll give you the key to all of my information.”

@kevinmarks Josh Weinberger: who are the best communicators in your org? your support people. Why get them off the phone to customers?

@mkrisgman Business is based on exchange of value, power, expectation, and degrees of valuation.

@mjayliebs VRM and CRM are whole lot closer to each other than people think – the gap is culture and understanding as much as principle

@DeanLand For VRM enterprise level uptake: leverage data, show benefits (aka: enable the information) create a VRM ecosystem.

@nhbaldwin vrm offers the vendor a b2b relationship, tighter personalization, with the consumer

@candres this is the confluence of intention and solicitation.

@joshuakahn cookies; designed to be low level machine ID’s, not useful for human ID’s, no matter how you bake ’em. <- Craig Burton

@jyarmis privacy is only as good as the number of people you can be confused for

Looking forward to Day 2

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The World Cup is upon us and as a lifelong soccer fan and player, I reflected on a few insights that the soccer game taught me that can be applied to small and large businesses.

1. Embrace and live your culture

I started playing soccer when I was 5. We practiced twice a week and played each Saturday. Raised in Germany, our practice consisted of 90 minutes running and 30 minute playing time. Fairly insane when you think about it: forcing 5-year-olds to run for 90 minutes through the forest or doing laps after laps. But that’s the German culture for you. We were no masters on the ball but my team could outrun anyone. We won 90% of our games in the last 10 minutes because we never tired. (I hope there’s more balance in today’s practices in Germany, though)

Each country has a specific soccer culture: the playfulness of Brazil, the physical intimidation of England, the defensive discipline of Italy, the exuberance of African teams. While you need to embrace and live your culture to be successful, you shouldn’t fall in love with it and be always open to change. Brazil wasn’t a dominant force in the 70’s and 80’s because they focused too much on playfulness and not enough on execution. Once they added execution into the mix, matches and World Cup’s were won again.

2.) Hire entrepreneurs

Most soccer coaches last only for a few years. It’s a tough job to gather all your players from clubs all over the world, fight internal bureaucracies and deal with the press. Coaches, just like players, are superstars. They have to take huge risks in order to succeed and most of them fail. Just to rise on some other bench to try it again.

Soccer is a team sport but individual decisions make or break a team. The collective approach to soccer will always fail. Both coach and player are entrepreneurs, and the more creativity they display, the more leeway they are given. Coach and players have two different tools of influence to impact the outcome of the game.

The coach can create a cohesive, yet competitive culture that rewards creativity and innovation, build team spirit and nurture team culture. He has strategic tools at his hand (formations, substitutions, etc.) but his input won’t lead to innovation or moving the game to a new level.

This is done by 22 feet of 11 individual players. Players innovate on a daily basis to get a small but significant competitive advantage. They need to surprise other players with new ways of dribbling, moving, passing and reacting. The coach is there to create the right environment for players to innovate. Daily. With every move.

3.) Dramatic innovation is rare. Daily innovation a must.

As a soccer aficionado, it’s very interesting to watch games from the past and compare them to today’s sport. The game was much slower, formations not as fluid as they are today and positions have been redefined over the years. But, what’s even more intriguing is that these changes take years to really come to life. Franz Beckenbauer perfected the position of “Libero”, the “sweeper” before the goal-keeper, freeing him from marking a direct opponent. (Rather revolutionary, if you think about it: Instead of marking a person, you’re defending a zone.) He played his first World Cup in 1966, not really filling the position of Libero yet. In 1970, he showed massive improvements on this new style of play but it took him until 1974, when he crowned his career with a World Cup win and a performance that showcased his evolution from support player to innovator.

Innovation didn’t happen in one game. It happened over more than a decade. And influenced generations to come.

4.) Don’t blame technology. Don’t worship technology. Just use it.

Each time the World Cup comes around, there’s a lot of talk about the new ball. Some people fear it, some embrace it. Most players don’t care. The ball is just a tool they use to accomplish a task. Because it’s new, players will have to find the challenges/dead spots when handling or shooting it. Introducing a new ball right ahead of the biggest sporting event seems wrong. But it is a great way to determine the best playing team and the team that answered this challenge with a strong creative approach. There’s nothing to fear. And a lot to explore.

5.) Play. Hard.

I could write about the beauty of soccer, get all poetic and philosophical. But the real beauty of this sport is that’s it’s still a game. When players have a creative thought, they can implement this idea immediately. And fail. Or succeed. At the heart of American Football is strategy. Creativity is not rewarded. At the heart of soccer is creativity. (Based on a foundation of technical excellence, supreme conditioning and mental toughness.)

Tomorrow the World Cup begins. A clean slate. For all we know, North Korea might win it this time. Or South Africa. History exists only in the books and in our heads. On the grass, there’s no history. Just opportunity. Possibilities. The best playing team will win the tournament.

And, that’s the most important lesson soccer can teach business: Business is a game that reinvents itself each and every day. The basic rules remain the same, your team defines how to play with these rules creatively. As an executive, it’s your responsibility to assemble the best players, to lay down the rules and develop plans. At the end of the day, the players have to play to move your business. Let them play. And enjoy each moment of it.