Archive for February, 2011

Important Agency Evolution Decks to Read

February 25, 2011

Before I leave for the winds of the weekend (literally!), I wanted to post these decks as foundation for thinking about evolving the agency.

First up, in this deck, Matt Howell, the President of Modernista! and Board Member/ Boulder Digital Works, talks about the “T” shaped team, with knowledge across disciplines and core expertise. He also talks about using collaborative models to work that look pretty Agile to me.

In this deck, Made By Many proposes a Lean approach to product development:

Here, Made By Many’s William Owens takes on Peter Merholz’s blog post The Pernicious Effects of Advertising and Marketing Agencies Trying To Deliver User Experience Design for a speech given for the APA.  On his blog, Owens calls the deck “The Future of Advertising Isn’t Advertising:”

Next, Fast Company’s article on Hyper Island, in which Danielle Sacks takes a Master Class.

Reading a lot of this work is what started me thinking about how to integrate Agile methods into what and how we do.  The work still doesn’t solve the questions of the Big Idea, stories and leadership, but starts to provide rough sketch marks from which the drawing can evolve.

Turing Patterns Article in Wired

February 24, 2011

Wanted to quickly capture for myself this very interesting article in Wired – something to explore later:  Turing Patterns.  This discusses the appearance of patterns in nature. From the article:

What matters isn’t their individual identity, but how they interact, with concentrations oscillating between high and low and spreading across an area. These simple units then suffice to produce very complex patterns.

Wanting to understand this better, from a quick Google search, found this article from a professor at the University of Salford, Dr. Graham McDonald, discussing relationship to Fractals.

Quick note about Alan Turing is I’ve seen they’ve said he took his own life, but his family suspected it was an accidental ingestion of cyanide. Still, reading his biography in Wikipedia, it seems there could have been the causes and conditions for suicide.

News Corp vs Google

February 24, 2011

Now Murdoch’s News Corp. is using Fox News (Glenn Beck) and the Wall Street Journal to say *Google* was at the heart of the Egyptian uprising because one of their executives used Facebook to participate in the evolution.

This is actually a kind of fortunate turn of events if you think about it.  It’s interesting to consider that the fact that lightening speed communal linking and information sharing is not at the heart of the unrest, but rather that Google somehow was an instigator.  A treasure trove for conspiracy theories.  In any case, to stoke that fire a little, from a New York Magazine article in 2010:

Murdoch has a particular animus against Google. He believes the search giant is stealing his content while wrapping itself in that familiar cloak, albeit one with New Age–y Silicon Valley stylings: “Don’t be evil.” Much as he has done in the newspaper wars he’s fought over the last 60 years, he wants to turn the tables, call Google’s moral authority into question. At its core, Murdoch’s fight is about getting Google to pay to put his content into the search index. Publicly, Google treats this as a nonstarter. “We’re not going to pay for indexing,” says Josh Cohen, the head of Google News. “It’s something we just don’t do.”

Before Murdoch realized that Google posed a mortal threat to his empire, he used to praise it, recalls one former News Corp. employee. “We would be sitting in meetings, and he’d go on and on about the Google guys, and how they had dry cleaning and massages, and what a great company and culture it was,” the staffer recalls. When he bought the Journal, Murdoch thought about making online content free, even though the Journal was one of the few successes in fee-based news sites. And Murdoch and Wendi are friends with Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, though they are not as close lately, given the heated nature of their conflict.

Last year, Murdoch and his senior executives decided they needed an organized counteroffensive. As a code name, they chose Project Alesia, named after Julius Caesar’s victorious siege of the Gallic forces in 52 B.C. Murdoch conceived the fight against Google as a political campaign. He mapped out distinct phases. First, Murdoch and Thomson would make a series of provocative speeches to drum up press, using News Corp.’s media outlets and other interview opportunities to shape the debate. In February 2009, during an appearance on Charlie Rose, Thomson said, “Google devalues everything it touches.” In April, Thomson said in an interview, “Certain websites are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet.” And in December, Murdoch published an op-ed in the Journal declaring that “there are those who think they have a right to take our news content and use it for their own purposes without contributing a penny to its production … To be impolite, it’s theft.”

Read the full article here.

Inspiration vs Laziness

February 22, 2011
Prayer Flags - Wind Horse

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).

View this document on Scribd

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.