Lung-ta - Wind Horse - Prayer Flags
“Inspiration” for ancient people meant being filled with the breath of the divine, animated, full of life. The etymology traces back to the Ancient Greeks and has the connotation of the Sybil of Delphi, who forecast the future once Apollo had breathed the divine within her. Similarly Himalayan Buddhists talk about “rLung” which loosely means “wind” except in this case Mind rides the Wind (the Breath) like a rider and horse. This is not in the sense of ordinary air that fills our lungs, but a sort of energy keeping us healthy and alive.
Lately I’ve not felt that inspired and could almost say I had a moment of boredom teetering on discouragement with the puzzles I’ve been trying to unravel. Such moods might be attributable to laziness, possibly resulting from when you actually get to a place where you have to thoroughly sift through lots of details.
Fortunately @saritabhatt introduced me to some interesting work that sparked mind to think again. Inspired. Although still probably not the details we need to get to. For now here are two decks.
The first is from Goodby Silverstein (an ad agency in San Francisco) and really digs out the issues agencies are facing. One thing they take for granted in the deck, though, seems still to be the “Big Idea” (which by the way, was partially at the root of the laziness I went through for the past days – but more about that later).
This next deck, by Facegroup, a London-based planning agency, talks about “agile branding.” These guys take on the “Big Idea” and talk about Crowd Sourcing, suggesting a hybrid of “Big Idea” and “user-centered design” (an insufficient shortcut of what they’re saying; check out the deck). Whereas GSP assumes the “Big Idea” at core, not even up for debate. They say in the deck (above) “People engage with ideas, not channels.” Meanwhile, the deck below says “Social is *not* a channel” (slide 54).
All of this reading is in the wake of last week’s continuation of the discussion about the role of “Big Idea” in communications between consumers and brands. Fast Company seems to side with the “Big Idea” with this article. (Great reaction to this here by Open Source, by the way). All coincidentally coming to mind when I’d just had a weekend of trying to figure out when to become involved in the “Creative Process” and when to let the “Creatives” do their thing, “create their magic.”
But is it this “magic,” this breath of the Gods, that will inspire me and others? Is it the “Big Idea” that will help create conditions where we can inspire ourselves to want to do something? Push us to want to live in a particular way? Open a path to something better – something greater? Is it the temporary entertainment of a Super Bowl commercial that features a short Darth Vader? Or is it a crowded square somewhere in Egypt and knowing that Google (SayNow) enabled Twitter by Voice so that people could continue to link to each other? With people at Google evidently using their own free time to make this possible – was that a “Big Idea?” **
Not really a fair comparison. And plenty of writers have discussed whether or not Facebook [edit 2/23: or a Google executive] is at the root of Egypt or not, or was it a PDF on “how to peacefully overthrow a dictator” that has been circulating, etc. But it doesn’t matter. All the cause and conditions, whatever they were, arose to inspire people to do something. It doesn’t seem like there was one great leader doing the inspiring. It seems like the one great leader, President Hosni Mubarek, was actually doing the not inspiring.
So perhaps when inspiration meets the obstacle of what could be the dictatorship of the “creatives,” with the legacy Mad Men hierarchies and stagnancy, that the breath can get knocked out and laziness can set in. At least, this is how I currently feel about “Big Idea” culture. Open to revision as more information appears before this mind. For now there are moments it can feel like a gated community and might as well not even bother trying to talk to the people inside. Feels like these folks don’t even speak the same language. And that’s the laziness.
But then, I don’t speak Egyptian. I do have a former colleague, a usability analyst (user-centered design), who is Egyptian and somehow made us all feel connected back to Cairo, just with simple posts about her family, exchanges with friends on Facebook. So perhaps through links to links to links there’s some hope after all.