Posts Tagged ‘people’

New ideas are my drug of choice. I consume them constantly. I can’t imagine life without learning something new – or being forced to think differently about something. The world is full of great thinkers and thanks to the net it is easier than ever follow the ones you know and to discover new people.

When I wrote about consilience, I wanted to share a belief about knowledge that is close to my heart. I believe it is critical for everybody to learn from as many different knowledge spaces as they can. Modern life requires the ability to synthesize and learn from seemingly disparate topics.

In the spirit of #followfriday I want to share a list of a few of the people I have followed through the years. They are in no particular order – they are simply big thinkers that have enriched my life with what they have created.

John is the first site I suggest to people I meet, and is the first site I go to when I need inspiration. Hands down the most influential site for me.

Jerry HirshbergHis book is severely dog-eared and deeply informed my thinking about creativity and teams.

Jaron Lanier – Made me think differently. And wildly.

EBN – Many years ago I worked on a show that featured Gardner Post. Funny and brilliant. They pushed my view of media control to a new space.

Daniel Dennett – Set me on the path to CogSci with The Mind’s I.

Douglas HofstadterGodel, Escher, Bach was mindblowing. It also introduced me to The Musical Offering.

Stewart Brand – From my early interest in the Well and the Whole Earth Catalog to How Buildings Learn I have learned a great deal from his work.

OrbitalSnivilisation is #1 on my playlist.

Richard Feynman – For his curiosity and passion.

William S. Burroughs – His book The Adding Machine was the best thing to read in the middle of the Atlantic.

Who are your big thinkers?

A large part of this exploration is to determine the attributes or characteristics of the type of individual that would excel in dealing with the wicked problem we face. The ability to grasp the whole picture at once is critical to being able to face the challenge. And not just grasp the problem, but understand the interrelationships between each of the components in a marketing experience. With so many moving parts, so many balls in the air, keeping a sense of where they are at any given time is a critical skill.

The definition of situation awareness allows us to break the skill into three parts:

“…is the perception of environmental elements within a volume of time and space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status in the near future.” (Wikipedia, 2009)

Looking at the first part, you can understand that in an air combat context the pilot needs to have the ability to find and track other aircraft in the immediate airspace around him/her. Non-aircraft objects (like the side of a mountain) are also tracked and kept in a mental ‘holding pattern’. It is not until one of the objects exits the theater in some way that the pilot can let it go.

In a fractured marketing landscape the marketing strategist is also required to keep many, many environmental elements in mind as they work towards the resolution of a clients problem. Each channel, the targets, the messaging, the client, the creative, the market, the culture…and so on. The strategist must be able to quickly pick out the salient points.

In the second part, the pilot has to make a quick assessment as to the meaning of the object – is it a threat, how is it operating, what are my options. Being able to grasp the meaning of the object and act on it quickly is the key to success. The pilot must intelligently ignore the irrelevant and focus on that which requires quick resolution.

In the face of the information overload that we currently face, it has never been more important to be able to separate the signal from the noise. Grasping the meaning of a change in consumer behaviour, the appearance of a new trend, the market actions of competitors and so on is critical to achieving success. The key is to also be able to translate that understanding into action that will result in meaningful results.

The third part is about knowing what will happen next. Based on flight path or other signals, a pilot can predict the future state of another aircraft and start preparing the right course of action. Experience leads to a deeper understanding of the possible options and the reactions start to become tacit.

We are all trying to be futurists in what we do. For example, we plan programs based on predictive models or set target conversion rates based on customer behaviour. Planning is really just building a scenario and then acting on it. Research, brainstorming, discovery are all inputs into a scenario – of varying degrees of fidelity. This scenario is then acted upon when the program is produced and delivered.

Those of us that live and breathe in the digital space already exhibit the type of behaviour that builds this skill. Following a large number of people on Twitter demands a certain constant awareness of where others are and what they are engaged in. This has been called social proprioception. I would posit that in a marketing strategy skill context it is better to look at it as situation awareness.

Preparations are underway for the next great discussion about the state of marketing strategy. After a slightly-more-than-two-week hiatus to digest the thinking from the last session it is time to spin up the brains again. This time around, the session will be focused on exploring several themes that were distilled from the raw notes of the first session.

As with the last event, I am really looking forward to engaging in some great debate with some phenomenal minds. I highly recommend you follow those that are on Twitter: @douglasreid @markraheja @passitalong @michele_perras @b_co @johnnygagne. The others are not on Twitter yet, but should be soon. This thinking springs from their great minds and the series of events would not be possible without them.

In the continuing spirit of openness, here is some of the summary that was distilled from the raw notes of the last session. Note: it is still mental raw material and there are several more themes to come.
1. Problem formulation
–    Agencies have limited ways to formulate the problem
–    The relationship between uncertainty, fear and risk
–    We need to define failure differently

2. Canvas change
–    Disappearance of the blank canvas that traditional agencies have depended on
–    We now have a dynamic canvas
–    Channels are outpacing the agencies that are meant to feed them
–    Marketed at vs with
–    In a conversation
–    Engagement = journey thinking

3. Agency model
–    Trad agencies have limited ability to adapt or understand big ideas
–    Is there a way to educate the agencies?
–    Digital teams are leapfrogging traditional creative teams
–    Traditional teams are pushing back on digital
–    When there is a problem, they want to circle the wagons – don’t have a plan
–    A lack of integration with the trad agencies
–    Too many layers of bureaucracy
–    Too much short term thinking
Need to be:
–    Open – tech, engagement, process
–    Embrace – systems thinking and humanity
–    Legitimize experimentation
–    Outcome oriented
–    Proper reward systems

4. Strategist profile

What is it about digital that makes the role so strong
–    The platform and agile thinking
–    A sense of engagement and a journey
–    A better ability to adapt
–    Respect for the person you are communicating with, knowing who you are communicating with
–    Who is the story teller? Online, there is a storyteller
–    Identity needs to be severed from the tools of trade
–    Pure play digital works
–    Is it more about repertoire vs the channel you are in?
–    The transdisciplinarian
–    They live with flux, the ground does not stand still
–    Experimental, committed to take a chance
–    To overcome that which is seen as risk
–    What roles are good at orchestrating chaos?

–    skills to adapt
–    ability to frame problems
–    embracing irrationality
–    focus on outcomes
–    defines failure differently
–    more agnosticism at a low levels in an org

What does that mean?

That is the first question I am asked by most people when I start discussing consilience. Their brow furrows, they take a moment, and inevitably ask me to explain the concept.

Which is a great pity actually, because the idea of consilience is actually quite powerful. It should be pervasive throughout our society. Unfortunately, the rush to specialization has discounted the value of seeing the links between disciplines. It is true that the massive amount of knowledge about a topic has made that specialization necessary, but we let the pendulum swing too far. It is time to bring it back to the middle.

A recent essay by Denis Dutton illustrates the power of consilience. He is bridging the artificial gap that arose between the arts and sciences to create a view of the world that is as unique as it is rich. I highly recommend you read this essay.

I also recommend you read and reread the introduction by Steven Pinker. One of the top minds in cognitive science, he clearly endorses the movement towards consilience:

I see this as part of a larger movement of consilience, in which (to take a few examples), ideas from auditory cognition will provide insight into music, phonology will help illuminate poetics, semantics and pragmatics will advance our understanding of fiction, and moral psychology will be brought to bear on jurisprudence and philosophy.

We will truly begin to tackle our wicked problem when we can look at the challenge influenced by thinking that is a hybrid of (for example): Michael Porter x Yves Behar x Alice Munro x Damien Hirst x Peter Schwartz x Tim O’Reilly x Paola Antonelli

This week a group of smart people from different disciplines but united by the fact they play a role in the strategic process will be getting together to discuss the challenge laid out in the first post. The conversation will play out over some great food and wine at one of the best restos on Queen East. I am sure there will be some spirited debate as every person attending is not a wallflower when it comes to this topic.

To set up the conversation my co-conspirators (@passitalong and @markraheja ) and I drafted a problem statement and a rough discussion guide. It is not meant to be strict, but more of a guide (and I love tangential conversations as well – they tend to lead to the best thinking). The problem statement is also meant to focus the greater mandate and is under constant evolution. To understand why, see the wicked problem post below.

I firmly believe that to make any headway with this challenge everything must be open – it really goes without saying in this day and age. Here is the guide I sent to the participants :

Problem Statement:

The convergence of Strategy, Planning and Design under the term ‘Marketing Strategy’ in the current fractured market has led to challenging situations where the sum of all efforts is less than the parts.
Confusion and inefficiency/ineffectiveness results from a lack of clarity around how disciplines should work together, what they have in common, and what they are required to create.  Disciplines are being forced to redefine how they impact and bring value to the problems our clients increasingly face. In many ways disciplines have become partially incomplete or are now irrelevant.

There is a need to rationalize this convergence; to come to a shared understanding of how the roles, tools, methods and even language, of these disciplines, must evolve.
This understanding needs to be based on three fundamental platforms:

1. The industry requires a ‘unity of knowledge’

2. We need to be more ‘meta’ in our execution

3. We need to be able to truly deliver in a transmedia manner

Discussion objective:

To validate the problem statement and to discuss ideas that stem from it. Ultimately, the results of this discussion will be shared with the group and will form the foundation for a larger event.

[Delicious food]

Welcome, review of problem statement and objectives
Personal Intros – thoughts on the challenge
Discussion Topic 1: How do we achieve a ‘unity of knowledge’?
Discussion Topic 2: What is the new model for teams/agencies?
Discussion Topic 3: How do we deliver in a fractured landscape?

(Thanks to one of the participants for the great phrase “concerned practitioners”. So, so right.)