Archive for the ‘The Big Idea’ Category

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.

The Big Idea in a Software World – What to Do?

February 2, 2011

The role of the Big Idea has to be thought through, gazing at it with Agile glasses. Recently I had a discussion about leadership, thinking about Steve Jobs as leader and inspiration.

George Lois – let’s use him as a Steve Jobs of Advertising. In Advertising we may not necessarily be able to wait for the George Lois to come up with something, but must form a team that has to come up with something that a George Lois will sign off on. What I’m doing to tease out how Agile techniques might help is to see how the offline people (people who do TV/print) do their work. It strikes me they are already sort of working in a way similar to Agile, except – it is farther towards chaos than Kanban is in terms of rules. It’s more the Creative General model, with the all-mighty mind barking orders at his/her minions.

Our problem set for online people is the same as it has been for IT guys. Marketing dreams up stuff for IT guys to implement; Offline guys are dreaming up campaigns and then throwing it over the fence to digital creatives.

So how to solve?

Agile Scrum for Managing Creative Projects

December 11, 2010

The discussion here by Kevin Donaldson on Balihoo is about moving away from the factory mentality – in this sense:

Seth Godin uses a broader term in his book Linchpin where he defined a factory as:

“… an organization that has it figured out, a place where people go to do what they are told and earn a paycheck”

When rolling out Scrum process to a team used to waterfall I’m noticing that a lot of team members are not comfortable *not* being told what to do.  Being told what to do is safer, I guess.

“…as business’s mature, it is inevitable that parts of the organization will become a factory –  areas where the work is repeatable and comoditized.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however more and more things in modern business cannot be ‘systematized’.  This can be scary to many people that want to work in a job with a map to tell them what to do.   It can also be a thorn in the side of traditional process engineers who love to create process maps for everything.  What some fail to consider is that if a process can be mapped, it is likely that it can be copied and therefor starts a march down the path towards comoditization.

In the creative economy process engineers and the process’s they create can actually reduce operational effectiveness when they attempt to systematize everything in the organization.  Six Sigma works great when trying to create lots and lots of high quality microchips, but it doesn’t work as well in value-add service offerings.  Process engineers can fine tune accounting processes but it doesn’t work as well when trying to create a musical.  Traditional process engineering is valuable but not when it is used like a hammer and every aspect of a business is a considered to be a factory/nail.”

Possible Principles

November 22, 2010

1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the client through early and continuous delivery of valuable advertising.
2. Welcome changing needs, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the client’s competitive advantage.
3. Deliver advertising frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a reference to the shorter timescale.

** For the above: does this work in the Ad World of Campaigns?  or does it work better than “Campaigns?”

4. Business people, creatives and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation (but not an hours-long unfocused meeting with a large number of team-members).
7. A deliverable (commercial, print ad, or digital object) is the primary measure of progress.
8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The clients, business people, artists, developers and customers should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
10. Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.
11. The best advertising, architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. 

(These are based on Agile principles – I copied and pasted from NetObjectives and then edited for Advertising.  Just seeing if it works).