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Hiring people, managing people, protecting people

It’s always interesting to hear how Google think and does things. I guess anybody in a business where smart and creative people matter – which is in increasingly so as we move beyond the need for mere knowledge workers – would be wise to listen and reflect.

Another management issue with regards to people being able to think up brilliant stuff and producing wonderful ideas, products and services, is that of time, focus and effectiveness. I’m increasingly sure that handling constant interruption, time theft and other sources and reasons responsible for disturbing our cognitive abilities, bandwidth for thinking – basically our time to focus and get things done. One at the time. I really love this piece about his students and multi-tasking, by the brilliant Clay Shirky. He recognises the fact that what the situation calls for, is really protecting people from what they don’t realise. That is a key responsibility and future (present) competitive advantage.

Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away…

creativity design video clip ways of use

The merge bike – for city people

See what happens when you think hard and prototype?! Love this bike built with city people in mind

Charger, lock contraption, retractable storage rack etc. And beautiful to boot. I want this.

Via and made by Horse Cycles

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#himc – a cheap first step towards changing a bit

For a very long time, Hyper Island have been using the #himc tag, which stands for hyper island master class, to share think pieces, concrete advice, brain food and absolute must-reads.

Many organisations need help and advice on how to make better (business) sense of emerging technologies and possibilities – and more importantly subsequent behaviours and implications for business and brand strategy – and I, personally, do a lot of work in that area (both as occasional hyper island collaborator, but primarily under the funny you should ask flag).

In all honesty, just by following the #himc tag (which cost nothing but a few minutes of attention), as they live by the sharing is caring rule of thumb, any company looking to better navigate an increasingly complex reality would benefit greatly. It doesn’t have to take much, but what is a required first step, is to start letting new perspectives, inspiration, opinions and realities through that filter called business as usual.

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artistry and technology

Many years ago I found myself at the swedish head quarter for ABB in Västerås. ABB, founded back in 1883, is one of the leading makers of advanced robots, amongst other things, focusing on process productivity and the reduction of negative environmental impacts (energy saving etc).

You are greeted by an army of robots, most of them in typical ABB orange, exhibited like pieces of art in glass cases where they showcase advanced operations and exact movements. They are used in the auto industry for example, but play a key role in many other industries where automated processes are needed. The over-all feeling you get is exactly that; heavy industry, factories, big facilities and more than one Terminator flash back.

But art, artists and artistry really make the perfect partnership when it comes to humanising technology and/or showcasing technological capabilities. Add an artist and an idea, and you don’t loose any of the functional capabilities of this robot, but you gain a great deal of emotions. Knowing how much that matters in business (no, humans), it’s easy to see something like this being successful at a trade show.

Artist Alex Kiessling with ABB robot, via post at creative applications

Another (successful at that) example is of course Volvo Trucks and ballerina.

And on the humanizing robots note, here’s what happens when you attribute human characteristics to machines (anthropomorphism).

“but those little bastards can develop a personality, and they save so many lives.”

business creativity organizational

diversity, collaboration and process – how will it work for you

LEGO - figures of sorts
from Lego mini-figures tumblr

Lot’s going on in the creative industries with regards to how we/it works. Reflecting over what’s been taken for granted, what’s been simple for a client to buy (the unfortunate dominance of project over process). How might we make it work better?

A few good reads on the subject:
collaborative innovation, by Saher Sidhom, running and exploring things at Forge, at AMV/BBDO London, from

A series in Fast Co.Design on ideation, team collaboration, methods and prototyping at Google Ventures. Always sexy to peak inside of that place.
P1. Conducting your own Google Venture design sprint
P2. 6 ingredients to run a design sprint
P3. Building team understanding
P4. 8 steps to creating story boards
P5. Deciding what ideas to prototype
P6. Lightning fast digital prototype
P7. Testing ideas with rapid-fire user study
By Jake Knapp, designer and product development expert at Google Ventures

This thinking about better processes, methods and skill-sets in order to create better ideas, whatever creative industry you’re in, differ. But the common reason for it is about new technologies, speed, transparency, connectivity and a better general understanding of how creativity works.

To me, personally having worked with strategy and ideation in brand communications (indexing quite high), application development and utility/service design, there are a few things that are so very general that it’s pretty obvious that all creative industries will benefit from looking into it. And doing that is so very easy.

Diversity – something many, probably an absolute majority, are crap at. More perspectives will generate more interesting perspectives and reflections. Why is it not a rule to involve outside brains? Easily fixed. Who doesn’t want to get to know more interesting people?

Plan for iteration – things don’t end up the way you want just when you want it. Fact. In a client relationship, a bit tricky to just change, I know, but it can be done. Go from preparing a client to see/hear what solution we have, to preparing them to meet 4 times expected to input on a load of possible solutions. Takes more time, perhaps. Yields better end result, most likely. Demands another remuneration model for many – so fix it. Demands new processes for ideation – shitloads are out there to use. Will mean you see less of some individuals cracking THE solution – yes, those people will be dangerous in more collaborative processes.

Lose the ego – probably the hardest part, see dangerous people in previously (and present) individualist focused industries. Rethink incentives and goals from individual to group. There are professionals that know shitloads about that subject, how to foster collectivistic energy, pride etc. If you haven’t talked to one, you haven’t even taken the first step in even trying.

You could go on of course. But these 3 are sooo very general that there’s not even a question of doing it or not. It’s ridiculous. As they say; “Just do it”.

creativity design digital technology video clip ways of use

design as building invisibility

government uk screen shot

“Something we’re trying to do in particular is let design get out of the way and let the user get to what they want,” Terrett says. “You shouldn’t come to the website and go: ‘wow, look at the graphic design’. We haven’t yet achieved that in most web interfaces; they’re still getting in the way [and] you can see the graphic design everywhere. We need to get past that.”

– Ben Terrett, Government Digital Service, UK

Design is a multifaceted word/occupation/skill/mindset/purpose/tool/thing/etc. Being much about removing as much as possible, making things invisible, takes it into a very interesting place. A place where Google has been for very long, but very few brands would consider worth going. A place where many art directors would freeze to death, yet a place many artists have lived. A place where minimalism is a close relative.

“I don’t know if I want to make any strong predictions, but I hope that technology disappears more and more from my life and you forget that you’re using it all the time instead of feeling like you’re burdened [by it].”

– Alexander Chen, Google Creative Labs

Whether or not this makes you sad, it kinda indicates what you pride yourself in doing, and what design is to you. If design is making things prettier or more useful. One designer (definition 1) could design useful, human centric service, and another designer (definition 2) could make that design “pretty”. Both say they’ve done their “design duties”. Personally, working in strategy, and creativity that activates that for brands, I’m very much for being purpose driven and hence defining what you do by what happens, the outcome. Everything in-between is a means, and really quite unimportant for very long in a project. The in-betweens, for all I care, can be invisible.

“We’re trying to get design out of the way” from Dezeen on Vimeo.

creativity design digital technology video clip ways of use

brutal focus, simplicity and consequence

An example of brutal simplicity and great (for some) value is this little alarm clock that goes off if it’s sunny, and you really should get outside, and doesn’t if the weather is shit. Perfect for weekends and holidays.

Nivea Sun, Sun Alarm App from AgênciaClick Isobar on Vimeo.

do your exercise or experience blackout

Slightly more advanced idea here, but brutally focused and determined to actually work. Many digital services can fail at solving the real “flesh life problem” because they can be forgotten about, overlooked or – due to laziness and self-deception – not used enough or discontinued altogether. Sure, positive motivational drivers can be effective or maybe even more effective than threat of loss, but that’s another discussion.

From PSFK:

The FitBit tracker is able to monitor and log in various activities such as steps taken, amount of sleep, and calories burned. The hack works by connecting WeMo, an Internet-controlled power outlet, to the FitBit device. When a certain goal isn’t achieved, the power outlet automatically turns off, shutting down connected electronic devices like a gaming console, computer, or even the fridge.

The online/offline marriage is really interesting when the two, if you will, have real consequences and effects for each other should [criteria] not be met. The quantified-self-fork from this years’ CES is one example where this is highly relevant. Let’s call it real life gamification, where the game ain’t necessarily all fun…

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brands – coming alive to the world!

There were a couple of things shared last week that just made a full circle, like a triangulation that zeroed in on an often discussed matter in advertising (and brand management). That of brands being a bit like humans. Or not. Having POVs on issues, showing humor or not, being in the know and so on. Complex like humans. But let’s not get too deep into that.

Absolute Vodka

Absolute Vodka, with their artistic heritage, doing their view on what’s available to us all; more possibilities than ever to communicate and express our individuality. Less and less must conform to furmulas, more styles are in-style at the same time than ever before. You are never more than a couple of keystrokes or swipes away from your “cultural peer groups” wherever they may be in the world. Individuality and uniqueness for everyone.

Campbell Soup

Campbell Soup
image source

At first, Campbell opposed the Warhol artwork but thought again. Today, they’re recognizing that the Warhol artwork evokes so much more than a can of soup and welcome being part of pop art history by working with the Warhol Foundation to celebrate the 50 year anniversary. One can only hope they build on that and keep going beyond that, seen as it’s basically a boring ol’ can.

Oreo Cookies

Oreo Mars Rover Ad
image source

Brilliant ads with this little cookie as canvas.

“Oreo turns out to be really respiratory. When it celebrates Elvis, the Mars landings, or Bastille Day, it comes alive to the world around it. Playful, even. After all, who celebrates French holidays? And the brand has recently taken on the image of the Liberty Bell, the Dark Knight, and the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower.”

– Grant McCracken in HBR

“It comes alive to the world”, what a fitting way to express it. Brands who look outside their immediate self, recognising and tapping into the world around us.

As there is usually a long time-lag between an advertising exposure and the actual act of purchase, effective advertising requires long-term memory (Ehrenberg et al. 1997, p.9). This associations in long-term memory are built on the one hand by repetition and on the other hand through all kinds of other brand exposures, such as WOM, brand usage, POS or even recalling memories. Once associations are stored in the long-term memory, they are hardly ever completely forgotten. As people build highly individualized memory-structures, “[p]ublicizing a brand is [.] about what consumers do with the advertising rather than what advertisements do to consumers […]” (Ehrenberg et al. 1997, p.10). So with long-term memory in mind, advertising’s task is then to find creative ways to publicise the brand, refresh and build new memory traces and “to make the brand distinctive rather than differentiated” (Sharp 2010a, p.353).

Brands can act a bit human in more ways then ever before given social norms soaking the very fabric of most media technologies and platforms for communications. But brands are moved forward by organizations, and those organizations aren’t exactly littered with individuals who understand that we tend to buy more easily from brands who occupy a larger share of our memory. And that those memory structures do not have to be internally worshipped facts about exactly why to buy, and instead be thrilled that “…this ‘mere publicity’ perspective might actually be liberating for creatives, as advertising then becomes “making distinctive and memorable publicity for the brand out of next to nothing” (Ehrenberg quote from Thoma’s thesis).

advertising business creativity just a reflection

a friendly poke at CMOs over at Forbes

I t’s creativity award times and the best advertising (although the advertising part was dropped from the award description this year – thank you) is being scrutinized down in Cannes. There are many different points of views on creativity but I think there’s only two sides and one is wrong. If awards is the end you’re aiming for – you’re way off. If you view it as a good gauging tool for the business effects you tried to achieve – no worries.

Here’s a short piece I wrote for the Forbes CMO network the other day, on the subject but not for Cannes reasons.

A couple of weeks ago I had lunch with an at-the-time hopefully future client. We had shared some early thoughts on how to help their brand grab a substantial share of the very competitive market they are in. One representative said we had to forgive him for being very skeptical of an industry that “only wants to win awards.” He didn’t express this in a disrespectful way leaving me the chance to respond, and there is a very good response indeed.

We know that advertising works. But we also know a great deal more about what type of advertising works and why. Many advertising greats, often equipped with acute observational skills coupled with a large dose of empathy, always knew this. Obviously it would only pass as ‘being pretty sure’, whereas now we know that creativity really matters in business.

No one buys an ad. I should hope. You invest in better business results and advertising is a means to that end. It drives short- and long-term results. The two are tightly linked, and one might argue there’s not one without the other. We know increasingly more about why this is, thanks to an increasing amount of research on advertising effectiveness. CMOs, agencies – marketeers in general – should keep a keen eye on this, because otherwise we’ll never know if all we bought was an ad.

This is very well described and exemplified in ‘The link between creativity and effectiveness’, published by the IPA in 2010 (you can find the report here). In fact creatively rewarded campaigns are on average 11 times more effective than less creative campaigns.

Pretty good news for anyone responsible for investing in better business results. And pretty interesting to then look at one’s own advertising, and analyze and reflect.

So far so good. But based on my subjective experience, I find it a bit strange that you meet so few CMOs, heads of marketing or advertising, who actually know about these things. Especially in a B2B context, which isn’t as different from consumer as many people would have you think.

Why is this?

Shouldn’t this be as prioritised in clients’ organisations as it is in agencies?

And on that subject I read another Forbes piece on client’s views on awards, and it doesn’t exactly help me calm down. I mean, what can you say about the following reasoning by a CMO?

While the benefits for the agency from winning awards, what’s in it for the client? I was shocked recently when the CMO of a top, nationally recognized company, one that has won many awards over the years, told me that he believed that he is entitled to pay his agency a lower fee because the agency benefits financially from his award-winning account by picking up other accounts.

My marketer friend wondered why the agency could be leveraging the awards to win new business, while the client gets no financial benefit from those awards.

Being entitled to pay the agency less is another matter and I don’t think I’d be able to behave had I been there. But the second part about not getting any financial benefit is equally upsetting. Because like I wrote, it shows how very little some of these people know about the stuff they should know a great deal about.

Obviously it isn’t a clear cut case. Not all award winners have proven very effective and there’s a lot of bullshit “hey look how cool things we dream up” examples that understandably adds to some skeptics’ opinions on creative awards. But damnit we have to arrive at some basic level, general knowledge around creativity and business effects in the suit world soon. It’s upsetting if not even ridiculous.

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i agree with everyone; The Mill rocks

I agree with everyone else; The Mill is simply extraordinarily, amazingly, awesomely great. I got one or two goose bumps watching this.

The Mill US Showreel 2011 from The Mill Visual Effects Studio on Vimeo.