7 PRINCIPALS FOR COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION
By saher sidhom, firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a paper based on the TEDx Kiruna Talk I did on the 5th of June 2013. The talk could be watched here: http://j.mp/14osKmqThis paper covers slightly more ground with one or two modifications to the talk and more material not in the talk.
I RUN FORGE AT AMV. It is a new division within AMV BBDO London. Its mission is simple: to make new money from new technology. We do so by tracking disruptive technologies that will change the game for our clients and work to explore, experiment and exploit these technologies to create new products and new ventures. This is relatively new for the communication industry. Traditionally, the business model for advertising and production agencies has been time and materials. The fee-based model is becoming
a. Harder to sustain due to the major squeeze clients are enforcing through procurement.
b. It is actually largely irrelevant in a tech led world.
The real shift in my view is how technology has transformed and will continue to transform any business not just the advertising business. At FORGE this presents itself with both a challenge but fundamentally a brilliant opportunity for advancing our industry.
SUSTAINABILITY IS A FALLACY. It’s partly the industry’s fault that it hasn’t evolved as it could have. In many ways, a great deal of effort has been put into sustaining the existing business models of time and materials instead of evolving it. For an industry renowned for its creativity, it failed to imagine a better future for itself. A talented colleague of mine: Andrew Pinkess often points out there is no such thing as a sustainable business model anyway. In the business world competitive advantages that used to be maintained for 40 years are now down to 12, 5 and even one year. The mission should be how to adapt and innovate rather than chase fantasies of sustainability.
CHANGE IS PREDICTABLE. It’s fashionable to bemoan change and how everything is changing. Really? Is that really a new phenomenon? Actually, the way change changes, is highly predictable. It follows a fairly predictable cycle of birth, growth, maturity and decline. However few companies have a dedicated strategy to look for their next business model. The common strategy is sadly no more than playing ‘catch-up’ and often missing the next wave of innovation that will build new business growth areas.
Needless to say, various studies have shown that companies and organizations that constantly look out for their next competitive advantage and have a clear strategy and commitment to innovation succeed and stay in business more than those that just focus on the day to day business and get stuck in low growth over supplied market and shrinking margins.
TO INNOVATE IS TO ADAPT. The evolutionary metaphor is quite apt for the way our tech-based capitalism works today. As the speed of change increases and as models rise and fall in six months it is the fast and the adaptable that will survive. Those that innovate their way out of problems with every technological disruption are those that are likely to survive longer. However, what kind of innovation are we talking about?
THE SANDWICH AND THE SPAGHETTI. The old model of enterprise as a discrete entity that has a beginning, middle and an end is not unlike a sandwich. Neat, packaged, discreet and stand-alone. However, if you consider the way a modern enterprise today has to function it is really hard to distinguish where it begins and where it ends. It has become more like a plate of spaghetti. As technology becomes the base of everything companies cannot afford to think just of their own value chain. The emphasis shifts towards eco-systems of value. Something that perhaps resembles the value net from game theory is more true to today’s business game. A phone manufacturer 20 years ago used to be concerned with developing the physical phones with little or no attention to what might be in them in terms of software. Today a company like Apple makes the hardware and builds an eco-system for external developers to build on its platform. Even Apple with all its might couldn’t have built the billions of apps on its store. Technology forces us to collaborate and ‘open-up’. The open source movement has disrupted industries as diverse as telecoms (skype), software engineering (Microsoft) and knowledge (Wikipedia)
Yochai Benkler the professor of Entrepreneurial studies at Harvard and author of The Wealth of Networks sums this up elegantly:
“The world is becoming too fast, too complex, and two networked for any company to have all the answers inside, this is not fashion this is deep change”
A friend of mine; matt, just launched a startup that uses somebody else’s API. He’s built a wonderful app for estate agents in Berlin, however he couldn’t have built a new product without Apple’s platforms and devices and without the supplier of the open API for the properties he features. By building on each other’s platforms new value is created. In short, I submit that you cannot spell capitalism without ‘api’. The principal applies to the entire way we do business today not just in terms of integrating technical platforms to create something new. Prior to api’s, big data, crowd funding and Apple-style eco-systems the classic drivers of collaborative innovation have been: cost-reduction, globalization and morphing of sciences. Add all that up and it is the perfect storm for collaborative innovation. It is a fundamentally different way of working that sadly despite its necessity and promise has its own barriers for implementation. This is especially true in large and established businesses.
BARRIERS TO COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION IN BIG ENTERPRISES. Throughout the years I often encountered the same barriers to collaborative innovation. Even in small startups that are meant to be the masters of it. The biggest barriers I encountered are actually psychological, not financial or technical. Here are my top three:
Whenever I set out to cast for individuals to be part of a CI team the biggest challenge was finding people who were prepared to be more than their job titles. I’ve seen it time and time again; somebody might walk into the project as; let’s say, a project manager and walks out a designer. The ability to go beyond self-limiting perception of one’s role is one of the biggest things that get in the way of innovation. Scale that to company departments or entire companies and you’ll get personal and corporate identities tied to a specific (and understandably) reliable definition. Yet, the nature of innovation often demands venturing well out of comfort zones to solve problems that realistically nobody has tried within the team. Self-perception of one’s skill and role severely hinders one’s ability to try to do and be what they’ve never been. The second biggest barrier I found was that of trust.
If you think about it most business training whether in business schools or on the job is an elaborate exercise in learning how to compete. Yet, how much training if any is given to executives or potential business leaders on how to collaborate and find win-win models for operation? Whether you are in the communication business or the technology business I am sure you’ll find your own examples of epic battles between giants who clash over patents and over stealing advantage from their own suppliers never mind competitors. Hyper-competition breeds distrust at all levels: at the personal level, at the contract level and at the IP level. The typical innovation lab is run by white men in white coats behind white doors and protected by armies of worried lawyers. I know a famous tech company where you are not allowed to go to the toilet without being accompanied by one of the company’s employees. Hardly inviting of collaboration. Finally, the biggest barrier perhaps is the fear of failure.
Various studies show high mortality rates for startups, new ventures and new technologies. For every instagram, tumblr and a Dyson vacuum cleaner there are millions of failures. In fact the mortality rate of startups is around 75% according to Erik Ries, author of The Lean Startup. Innovation is a high-risk high reward game. Few are equipped with the necessary courage and vision to develop an approach to managing their fear and more importantly inspiring courage and appealing to the innate sense of curiosity in their collaborators. The Swedish explorer Johan Ernst Nilson said this in his TEDx talk,
“The higher the mountain the more difficult to climb the more beautiful the panorama”.
But these mountains are big and scary ..,
… only, if you are climbing them alone.
So what do we do about all that?
HACK AND HUSTLE. TOGETHER. I always believed that a mixed up world is a more interesting place. As our world becomes more x-disciplinary, x-sciences, x-cultural, x-technological and x-border I designed a collaborative innovation process that is essentially a week-long hack week. The first one I did at my current workplace involved
2 in pilot
(My TEDx talk has a Hackumentary of the above experience).
The comment I would make about this is: that despite the hard work and the severe pressure everybody was under; no one would have wanted to be anywhere else or with anyone else. Everybody was there because they wanted to and because they wanted to work together. So here are my basic seven principals for getting diverse talents around a problem to collaboratively innovate.
7 PRINCIPLES FOR COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION. I found these principles incredibly useful in creating the sorts of teams where the thrill of doing something amazing is bigger than the fear of failure.
1. MINDLESS OPTIMISM. No invention is possible without it. I firmly believe that you have to be insanely optimistic in order to innovate. Or if you prefer, crazy enough to think you can change the world. Without a super human will to change the world nothing genuinely original and adventurous is going to happen. One of my favorite examples of this is an ad put out by Ernest Shackelton, the polar explorer, when he was recruiting a crew to journey into the un-known:
“Men Wanted for a hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.” Ernest Shackleton 4 Brulington st.
Now, you have got to be crazy to apply, … or curious, optimistic, inspired and excited by the un-known and probably terribly bored with the mundane. Think of the perfectly predictable false sense of security that comes with ‘smart’ analysis. For example, the last sales projection you’ve made on a spreadsheet with tons of assumptions that probably have more in common with astrology than astronomy.
Innovation is a long and hard road often with unclear outcomes, if innovators knew what they were doing it wouldn’t be called innovation. Yet, optimism is vital to that journey, it’s infectious, and it’s a virtuous circle that creates the right kind of positive energy that is needed to solve the kind of impossible problems to turn them to possibilities. There are a million reasons why things can’t be done and a million cynics posing as serious know-it-all pragmatists. In my view pragmatism is the enemy of optimism unless it’s fully employed in its service.
Meet my students at Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm. All 25 of them decided to collaborate on a crazy project. They wanted to see how far they could go with their ability to come up with ideas. They set themselves a ridiculous challenge. They invited ten clients to give them a brief each and then they locked themselves up for 25 days with a mission to create 25 thousand ideas. To see and learn and discover everything they can about ideas. Big ones, small ones, silly ones, important ones and impossible ones. It’s probably the best exercise I have seen to train young creative and innovators to learn how to come up with lots of ideas. And be able to handle the variety of possibility and understand the nature of ideas not unlike how a master carpenter knows how to craft beauty out of any type of wood. Each client got 2500 ideas and they have built and sold two of the clients and they are several talks about producing more. This for me is not an exercise in brainstorming this is an exercise in being totally optimistic about the power of creativity. These 25 students have learnt about the nature of ideas in 25 days on their own more than I could teach them in a whole year
Video case study: http://j.mp/19sKIei
The thing about mindless optimism is to ignore the doubters and more importantly the established well laid paths in the ground to discover your own personal and collective spirit of adventure. With that in heart, innovation becomes a lot easier. Just as mindless optimism is essential for innovation the other side of that coin is also vital: avoid the doubters like you would avoid the plague.
2. CIRCLE OF TRUST. There is a romantic comedy: Meet the Fockers, where Robert De Niro is concerned about admitting his new son in law to his family or as he puts it: enter his circle of trust. This is funny in the movie but I find the idea of the circle of trust deadly serious in a collaborative innovation project. In our hack week there were super senior people who run big chunks of business, a 19 year old games designer, a young creative team a not so young world famous creative director and an ex-marines officer, all working at the same level, same room, same table and towards the same goal. They were all part of the circle of trust. The way to overcome the identity barrier I mentioned before is to ensure people connect fundamentally on a human level not with the job titles of the other people in the room. I found two fundamental ways of creating a circle of trust in the team. The first is what I call it Spartan Casting, based on the Greek legend of selecting the best warriors to be part of the best military in ancient times. My way of doing that is ensuring that everybody who was in that team was best in class in what they do regardless of their age, gender or affiliation. In the film industry there’s a saying: 60% of directing is in the casting. If you got the casting right the directing will be a natural process. By getting the best people I can to be in each team, the better the chance they’ll connect with each other because they know they’ve been selected to be part of something special and because they are good at what they do. This generates instant respect, which precedes trust. The second rule for creating the circle of trust is creating social capital in advance of the work. Getting the team together to get to know each other on a level that is utterly informal and un-manufactured gives them the opportunity to connect with each other as human beings not with each other’s job titles. This might sound a bit hippy, but seriously, just try and remember the last corporate away day when you’ve genuinely connected with somebody and felt like you could climb a mountain with them.
3. GIVE THE FREEDOM TO FAIL BUT PLENTY OF ROOM TO SUCCEED. The first thing about understanding what holds people back in collaborative environments is the uncertainty of the outcomes and the ownership of the outcomes. Therefore, before anyone enters the room everybody should be on the same starting point of shared risk, shared reward but ultimately shared expertise. The trust barrier plays a major part here, to overcome any trust issues the ground has to be prepared to protect the contributions of everybody in the room. Years ago I was in a food related startup that was failing miserably and we decided to dissolve it. We got acquainted with an Italian guy who specializes in buying failing companies. He buys them, splits them apart and sells the pieces. When we were in discussions with him I learnt an important lesson from him. Having the wrong contracts can be deadly. He was giving us very little value for our stuff and I argued intensely over it he very calmly said to me in Latin: Verba Volant, Scripta Manant. Which means, words fly, what’s written stays. If it is not in the contract we don’t get it. Since then, I hated contracts because they are usually designed to divide and punish in case of failure. Years later, I decided to write my own contracts in order to do the opposite. To ensure that people’s contributions are protected and more importantly they are motivated to contribute their best ideas because they know they’ll get a fair share of collective success instead of holding back their best stuff. With the right and fair basis for the engagement a different type of contract sets in. A psychological one where success depends on how well we collaborate instead on how well we fight over a share of the idea.
4. BURN YOUR SHIPS. There is a popular piece of mythology in entrepreneurial cultures called burn your ships. The story goes something like this: a navy leader lands on the enemy’s shores, whilst totally outnumbered by the enemy, instructs his sailors to burn their ships. They ask him; ‘why?’ and he says; “the only way is forward, outnumbered or not, we are not going back. If we lose, our enemy will burn our ships anyway so we might as well do it ourselves and win”. I find this interesting because the moral of the story for me is really about intense focus. Without it, distractions, doubt and easy excuses sap the energy and the passion that needs to go into the innovation process. So, in order to make sure that our innovation process works I clearly draw a clear beginning and a clear end for each of the days. Day 1 is totally about locking down the idea by the end of the day, because day two is all about scoping the idea. Day three develop and build etc. Because the teams know that there is no way there can be spillage from day one to day two they are totally focused on delivering on the mission for the day. This intense focus quickly weeds out any in-efficiencies and any redundant thinking or doing. It also sharpens the instincts on getting the right idea and then getting the idea right. One of the development companies I work with has a simple hangman game. Every time somebody distracts a developer from their work a stick is added to the hangman on the board. By the end of the week if any individual adds the final stick they have to buy the entire team dinner. It is a simple illustration of the need for developers and technologists to be given the room to focus totally. There is a reason most of them typically code through the night to avoid the silly distractions of daytime work. The environment itself has to be out of bounds. I ensure that nobody disturbs them during their work, no-unwanted guests. No doubters anywhere near them.
Intense focus is what allows them to get into a state of ‘flow’. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identified (http://j.mp/1aso6Zw) an optimal experience he calls ‘flow’ where the level of the challenge is high enough and is matched by a high level of skill. When someone is working at a high level of skill and challenge they achieve this almost transcended level of activity. Intense focus, delivers a feeling of ecstasy that allows them to attack the impossible in a way that is; despite its difficulty; highly pleasurable and gives the feeling of something larger than oneself.
Zach Klien; the co-founder of Vimeo has a brilliant way of describing this ‘flow’ / intense focused experience:
“The most interesting place to be is the place that allows you to be most focused. And when you are that way you, I think, are really at your peak. I think it’s when you are most comfortable with yourself. I think it’s when you are most attractive to other people that you are bound to be interested in and you sort of become magnetized, you find also other people who are driven to make the same things and it puts you in a really creative place where there’s no fear, where people are just really happy about the things they are making together. And it’s in this space that you achieve the greatest things creatively.”
Creating a protected environment where the mix of high skills, high challenges and intense focus can give birth to truly brilliant ideas and solutions in a fraction of the time it takes to do things in the fragmented, disjointed and typical processes of everyday work life.
5. SMALL PROTOTYPES FOR BIG IDEAS. Fast progress is essential to harnessing the emotive energy of new ideas. Prototyping quickly and badly is essential in order to bring to life abstract ideas into a real world. Only then we get closer to a version of the truth that we can build on. Prototyping is a vital step in the process. From the moment a problem is clearly defined and ideas emerge getting those ideas to have a physical life is vital for enabling the teams to understand two things: the constraints of the idea and its potential. Most people have been taught to think first before acting or ‘think before you leap’. I would argue the reverse. My position is when you are making something you are actually thinking with your hands. You cannot think your way into a new way of acting but you have to act your way into a new way of thinking. Prototyping is the means to do that. I was told about a problem that is ripe for an innovative solution recently. Large vehicles often have large blind spots that means they cannot see cyclists coming up from behind them. This is a major problem in London due to the traffic, lack of cycle lanes and the noise drivers can’t see, or hear cyclists coming up from behind. This is resulting in an un-acceptable and high level of fatalities. When I first heard about the problem I almost instantly came up with an idea based around restoring the communication breakdown between the drivers and the cyclists by means of using sensors and AV alerts to the drivers to stop or slow down if there was a cyclist in the blind spot and if the cyclist was in immediate danger they can press a smart bell that sends an extra alert to the driver to ensure they are fully aware of the hazard. This project is in research at the moment but the point about prototyping here is important. From the moment I heard about the idea and got the team to make the first prototype it took 8 hours. Four of these hours were spent at Hamley’s the toy store trying to find a fun car to hack for the prototype the other four hours were spent coding and soldering the sensors. The second prototype took 2 weeks; there was a lot more sophistication built into it in terms of developing the right technology given all the real life issues. The third prototype is taking 3 months as it goes through piloting and empirical testing.
After 8 hours …
After 2 weeks …
Prototypes are not the only for testing the concept. They are a means of proving the concept, the technology, the manufacturing process, the in real life application and most importantly the business model that goes with it. I personally see the whole prototyping process as a perpetual way of proving it wrong but making it right. Any innovation product changes shape the minute it is touched by a customer. The whole process is in the spirit of agile development.
For the un-familiar, the agile manifesto serves as a good introduction:
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
Agile really makes sense for innovation projects when the outcome isn’t entirely known, (as opposed to waterfall or typical gateway led innovation processes). It shifts the focus on the activities that add real value to the innovation itself as opposed to add value to the people who happen to be involved in the project. It purifies the process and puts a huge emphasis on the activities that generate the most value not the ones that takes away value from it. In short, all the virtues of rapid prototyping and agile give us a better and quicker shot at bigger ideas – not bigger projects.
6. ART OF THE POSSIBLE. There is an interesting story about evolution. The theory is of-course accredited to Charles Darwin. It took him 5 years worth of travel and discovery to come up with up with natural selection. But a little known fact is that he actually re-wrote the book on evolution 6 times in his lifetime. The bible of evolution had to evolve and its author had to revisit his grand theory in totality six times.
Another of my favorite stories in that vein is about Sir James Dyson the inventor of the bag-less vacuum cleaner. From the moment he got the initial idea to making his first prototype it only took 1.5 hours. Yet, it took him ten years to launch and sell it in his home country, the UK. He actually had to sell it in Japan under a totally different business model (via catalogues) in order to establish the product and the idea. Only then he managed to get back to the UK and sell it under a more classical retail business model. There will be barriers. There will be people who won’t understand what you are talking about. There will be failures. There will be many twists and turns in the journey. As well as the high failure rate due to many factors, for example: 30% of startup founders leave the original teams. Paul Graham the founder of Y Combinator remarked:
“Startups fail when founders give up”.
But what about those that do not fail? What do they do differently? Do they stick together more? Don’t they get tempted to give up? I looked into this and apart from all the usual stuff around leadership, determination, beliefs etc they all seemed to do something a lot more practical;
Pivoting is giving up. Giving up the original business model or product idea. Finding an alternative way of succeeding that might not necessarily be what they thought they would be doing. Startups or innovations that last for the first ten years change their business model on average four times. They adapt their business model, they change their product, and they might start off doing a consumer product but end up being a data company. They pivot. The ability of a new venture to adapt and flex around what its success profile is an essential part of survival. Ironically, if you look into the histories of large and old and established companies you will find that they made some strategic pivots along the way. Perhaps not as fast or frequently as a tech startup might do (4 in 10) but pivot they did. For example, Nokia started by making paper, then electricity, then rubber, then phones then Internet and no doubt they will change again as the world changes. Innovation and new ventures are surely not for the faint hearted but for those that are blessed with the evolutionary ability to adapt and respond to change. The art of the possible is really about the art of the pivot. Here is a mini list from Mashable of pivots that you probably didn’t expect:
YouTube started as video dating site.
PayPal was originally a way to exchange money via Palm Pilots.
Flickr was had roots as an online-role playing game.
Groupon was originally a cause related enterprise.
Twitter was a side innovation originating from hackathons around podcasting.
Instagram was originally a blend between Foursquare and Mafia wars.
The founders of all these embody the art of the possible. They pivoted. They evolved. And that is; the art of the possible.
7. MASS LINE LEADERSHIP. Typically in most organisations in the world leadership is a one-man job. Often, with titles such as; president, CEO, Chief etc. We have grown up in the business world expecting a singular individual to bear the weight of responsibility for what seems to be, well … everything. But we live in a world of social production, a world where a 26 year old doesn’t have to wait 40 years to lead a multi-billion company, where youth trumps experience, where the collective makes better decisions than experts, where Google effectively outsources relevance to the millions of people using it and deciding in aggregate. Where eco-systems and spaghetti like companies need to be extra capable of having leadership mass distributed instead of bottle necked at the top. Where decisions could be made competently at every level. Where funding could be crowd funding, where software could be open sourced, where access to talent is un-filtered where knowledge is free and accessible and where innovation is truly open to anyone and everyone. One of my favourite examples at the time of writing this article is from Kickstarter, the crowd-funding platform. ARKYD is a people funded satellite. The idea is you can fund it and use it to take your own pictures from space or put images of yourself on the satellite and take pictures of yourself with the real earth as background. It is a really simple and charming idea yet impossible to achieve ten years ago. The good news is; leadership of innovation is no longer constrained to a few experts and locked behind closed doors. Open innovation and collaborative models of innovation are far more exciting than the dreary and closed R and D departments of various companies. Innovation is truly open to each and everyone and what comes with that is the ability not only to collaborate with strangers to concept and develop but ultimately to open up and share the responsibility from one individual to the entire organization and beyond to lead and share the next stage of evolution. I firmly believe; this stage in the innovation history is fundamentally about collaborative innovation. It is really good news if you think about it. Because progress is now up to all of us.
And the future is what ‘we’ can truly make of it.
The advertising business has a true problem on delivering creativity if you ask me. And, if its true, we should be out of business soon. Which we just might be. I have in my career been in meetings pitching ideas, using others peoples ideas , or even ads, to make my sale. And if not in the pitch meeting they turn up during the creative process. We are eating from our own ideas turning our own industry into a creative drain draft that might put us all out of business. This is my confession which I know I share with others. But it has to stop.
The reasons behind I believe is:
Clients seem to be more afraid of creative height in a time where more leverage is needed to break through and reach the market. Using other companies ads to make them feel safer creates a feeling of comfort.
Clients seems to have a hard time to know wether ideas are good or bad. Weak strategy makes it hard to judge quality and relevance.
And finally, when pitching ideas you want to show your inspiration. What lead up to it. And to many mad mens in our business other marketing ideas, ads and award winning work seems to be a main source of inspiration.
A year ago I attended Heidi Hackemer as she was invited by Swedish account planning group to make a talk at Berghs school of communication. She struck me as a brave, down to earth, talented planner with great integrity. At the time I didn’t know who she was. But I got to learn that, among other great work, she was in the team that did one of my tear jerker favorite ads of all time, Dear Sofie for Chrome by BBH agency.
Now, her talk was about how a planner should keep a distance to his or her own career in order to be a good planner.
You can see the Slideshare in full above. I won’t go through all of it here, but the part about Steve Jobs connecting the dots didn’t fully strike me until now, one year later. I mean, I have al ready lived my life in a impulsive gut instinct manner. Seeing how my choices sometimes only makes sense as times passes by. Thats the obvious part I fully understand. But how it relates to creativity is a different matter.
Here is a large chunk of quoting from the presentation that I want to stress.
”I had been living the linear, advertising life and was anxious because I wasn’t still on it but reading about dots made me question the linear”
”I became obsessed with this idea of “living the dots” + and its relationship to creativity. what I learned… creativity values space, exploration.”
“Being able to step back and view things as an outsider, or from a slightly different angle, seems to promote creativity. This is why travel frequently seems to free the imagination, and why the young (who haven’t learned all sorts of rules) are often more innovative than their elders.”
Johannes Gutenberg transformed his knowledge of wine presses into an idea for a printing machine capable of mass- producing words.
The Wright brothers used their knowledge of bicycle manufacturing to invent the airplane. (Their first flying craft was, in many respects, just a bicycle with wings.)
George de Mestral came up with Velcro after noticing burrs clinging to the fur of his dog.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed the search algorithm behind Google by applying the ranking method used for academic articles to the sprawl of the World Wide Web; a hyperlink was like a citation.
I don’t believe you can plan for breakthrough creative work if you don’t ruthlessly value creativity in yourself
this is scary
it’s scary to walk out of an ad agency at 6:00 (I do believe we call this the “half-day”)
it’s scary to stare at the ceiling or go for a walk
it’s scary to not take the next big, logical job
it’s scary to trust the work will come as a freelancer it’s scary to take off for a few months
it’s scary to not be one of us
I’m not advocating for everyone to quit their jobs, become a freelancer, buy a truck and travel around
I am advocating for more personal thoughtfulness:
what do you believe in?
why do you do this job?
are you creating the best conditions to make that happen?
your answer may involve being in an agency; that’s okay.
I hope it makes sense to you as it has to me. If the part about how creativity works is true, that the main part of it comes from crossing one field with another. And if it is true that our main source of inspiration is others marketing ideas. Then not only will there be no creativity. It actually makes for the Mad Cow disease of the creative business which means ideas are not just bad, but also insanely weak. Ill.
Somehing to think about if you consider yourself a nerd of advertising. And also something to think about if you’re an agency leader trying to prevent your employees from doing things that that can’t be charged for in the short term. And Googles 20% time off for own projects strategy makes even more sense to me now as well.
Now the big question is, to go along with Heidis finish in her presentation, what do you do that is different and you believe in? When do you have time to do it and how do plan to create more time for it and find new interests in the future?
I think the phrase Mad Cow disease is a great expression for this phenomena. It was introduced to me by my new colleague Adam Springfeldt at Acne advertising. Thank you Adam.
I still get this question a lot and I guess its hard to grasp however you explain it. Not that we are rocket scientist, it just tends to be abstract.
Anyway, here follows a short attempt to describe my planning contribution into a typical process I participate in.
- I challenge and revise business problems, briefs or coming challenges by putting them into a more meaningful context seen from a market or target group perspective. This includes setting a clear objective.
- I describe the new revised problem as simple as I possibly can. But also, equally important, I start building the inspiration set up. If I fail this is usually where, because it is very difficult. Planners must be storytellers in order to give everyone else in the group that is set out to solve the problem as much inspiration and motivation as possible.
- I then follow up new questions that pop up from myself or other group members. I work parallel to the others, also trying to contribute with my ideas to solve the problem. This includes revising the problem definition or strategy.
- When different solutions turn up I revise them and compare them to the problem definition. Trying to add to ideas or argue for why they won’t work. This, in my case is very much a group discussion. I know other planners who handle this in different ways.
- When we have an idea that we believe in I help sell it to the founder of the project, most often the client.
- I would then like to play a bigger role in execution of the idea but I don’t. I think planners have knowledge of some parts of the execution that could make the difference but it is in my experience still seen as the handicraft of the creators.
- When execution is launched I make sure the objective set up in step 1 is being measured in some way so that I can follow up what we do.
Mycket har hänt sedan Stephen King på J Walter Thompson och Stanley Pollitt på BMP på var sitt håll etablerade principerna bakom account planning i London på sent 60-tal, eller bara planning som det idag oftast kallas för. Men principen att utgå från djupare insikter om konsumenternas attityder och beteenden till din produkt/kategori gäller fortfarande som grundprincip för planning – att utgå från målgruppen snarare än avsändaren när man planerar kommunikationen.
Däremot finns det en underliggande ironi i själva begreppet planning, inte minst när det används här i Sverige. Om utgångspunkten är insikt om målgruppen så gör de flesta som arbetar med planning ett självmål när man använder just det begreppet. För handen på hjärtat, hur många utanför den innersta byråkretsen vet vad begreppet representerar? Alltför många gånger har jag varit med om diskussioner där motparten tror att planning handlar om exempelvis medieplanering (d.v.s. att skapa en operativ medieplan) eller att göra en noggrant utarbetad aktivitetsplan à la gant-schema. Med andra ord, för att etablera principen bakom planning på den svenska marknaden är det kanske dags att överväga att kalla det för något annat och mera lättförståeligt/beskrivande än just planning.
På 60-talet var den gängse byråmodellen en fullservicebyrå där man hade såväl ”traditionell” reklamproduktion som medieplanering, och även normalt en egen researchavdelning i huset. Det gjorde att man kunde ge kunden förslag som inte nödvändigtvis handlade om att göra annonser, utan det kunde likaväl vara fråga om att t.ex. utveckla nya produktegenskaper, andra förpackningar eller alternativa butikslösningar. I takt med att byråvärlden fragmenterades i olika former av specialistkompetenser försvann också mycket av helhetssynen på kundens behov, vilket även har gjort att planningarbetet allt mer har fragmenterats i olika underdiscipliner som brand planning, communications planning, engagement planning, contact planning, digital planning o.s.v. Detta gör naturligtvis inte frågan enklare att hantera på svenska.
Så om vi ska skapa ett svenskt begrepp för planning, varför inte börja med kärnfrågan vad planning egentligen innebär? Grundprincipen är naturligtvis att utgångspunkten är insikt om målgruppens behov, drivkrafter och attityder. Men däremot bör planningarbetet vara bredare än att bara syfta till att utveckla olika kommunikationslösningar, eftersom bra kommunikation för ett dåligt erbjudande (produkt/tjänst) fortfarande inte löser problemet, utan då bli det snarare att man ”sätter läppstift på grisen”. Kärnan ligger i stället att tänka kreativt på hela erbjudandekedjan, från produkten/tjänsten i sig till hur den förpackas, distribueras och kommuniceras, eftersom alla dessa påverkar kundens upplevelse. Med andra ord skulle man kunna säga att planning handlar om ”att utveckla attraktivare erbjudanden baserat på insikter om målgruppen” eller, för att säga det mer kortfattat, helt enkelt ”insiktsbaserad erbjudandeutveckling”.
Att skapa insikter är en verksamhet som bygger på kreativ analys och förmågan att se sammanhang och dolda samband. Det handlar om att kunna tänka lateralt och att kunna vända och vrida på såväl data som själva problemformuleringen för att hitta nya vinklar och infall – och inte minst om att kunna sätta sig in i kundens attityder och associationer på ett djupare sätt än det som normalt framkommer i traditionella marknadsundersökningar och enkäter.
För att lyckas med detta krävs nyfikenhet, talang, träning och erfarenhet. Visst kan det vara bra att vara ung och ”oförstörd” ibland för att utan att skämmas kunna ställa de naiva frågorna som kan ändra perspektivet, men oftare finns det fler fördelar med att kunna dra nytta av erfarenheterna från andra uppdrag, branscher och kategorier för att hitta referenser och djupare förståelse för kärnan i problemet, och därmed också möjliga lösningar.
Men det är inte bara en fråga om talang och nyfikenhet, eller ens träning och erfarenhet. Som i de flesta sammanhang kan man hjälpa kreativiteten på traven genom att använda sig av diverse modeller och processer för att strukturera utvecklingen. När det gäller erbjudandeutveckling handlar det därför om att vända och vrida på frågeställningen utifrån olika referensramar som tar hänsyn till alla delar av relationen mellan konsument/användare och producent. Detta kan sammanställas i en enkel checklista med 10 punkter, erbjudandeutvecklingens 10K, där jag även tagit med några exempel på frågeställningar och möjliga infallsvinklar för varje punkt:
- Kund. Vem är det som köper produkten idag? Vad har dessa för gemensamma egenskaper? Finns det olika segment? Använder man den själv, eller köper man den för andra (t.ex. inom B2B)? Finns det nya potentiella kundgrupper? Varför är de i så fall inte kunder idag?
- Konsumtion. Varför köper man produkten? På vilket sätt använder man produkter? Hur ofta? Var? När? Finns det nya/andra sätt att använda den?
- Kontext. I vilka sammanhang köps/används produkten? Sker köpen på samma sätt i olika situationer, eller finns det skillnader? Finns det andra sammanhang som skulle kunna vara relevanta?
- Känslor. Vilka värderingar/associationer finns det runt kategorin? Runt vår produkt? Vad representerar vi för konsumenten, och vilka signaler sänder den som använder vår produkt?
- Kultur. Vilka trender och omvärldsfaktorer behöver vi ta hänsyn till? Hur kan vi utnyttja dem? Är det fråga om kortsiktiga modenycker eller mer långsiktiga tendenser? För vilka av våra kunder/målgrupper är de särskilt viktiga?
- Kännetecken. Finns det attribut eller symboler som är viktiga för vår produkt? För kategorin? För konsumtionen? Kan vi skapa mervärde genom starkare symbolik?
- Konkurrens. Vilken kategori tycker våra kunder att vi finns i? Vem jämförs vi med? Finns det substitut? Tydlig marknadsledare? Fragmenterad marknad eller få aktörer? Vad är referensramarna som vi behöver förhålla oss till, oavsett vilket erbjudande vi vill utveckla? Kan/vill vi flytta associationerna/referensramarna?
- Köpprocess. Vem beslutar? Vem påverkar? Hur ser beteendet ut före, under och efter köp? Vad gör att vår produkt blir aktuell/hur skapas intresset? Finns det någon som har (uttalad eller outtalad) ”vetorätt”?
- Kontakt. Var säljs/köps vår produkt? Var räknar kunden med att hitta vår produkt/kategori? Finns det nya/andra distributionsformer som kan utvecklas?
- Kommunikation. Vilka budskap används? I vilka kanaler? Hur ser mottagaren på detta? Hur kan detta utvecklas?
Lösningen, själva erbjudandeutvecklingen, blir sedan en iterativ process. Vilka punkter ovan har störst potential för att öka erbjudandets attraktionskraft och göra det mer intressant? Vilka kostnader/investeringar innebär dessa? Hur hänger de ihop sinsemellan och hur kan de kombineras: nya produktegenskaper kanske påverkar sammanhanget där produkten konsumeras, och därmed även skapar nya distributionsmöjligheter? Och naturligtvis finns fortfarande frågan ”hur ska vi kommunicera detta”? Men äkta erbjudandeutveckling – account planning på svenska – är större än bara den sista frågan.
Follow an interesting series from Redscout SPUR about planning future, identity crisis for planners and possibilites as well as provocations. PSFK publish the story from Redscout in a series of videos for the month to come. Keep an eye out for new videomaterial as we will keep posting them here too.
Intro – En diskussion kring planning
Avsnitt 1 – Är planning impotent?
Avsnitt 2 – Talang
Avsnitt 3 – Är planners första klassens undersökare?
Avsnitt 4 – Relationen mellan planners och annonsörer
Avsnitt 5 – Planners framtid
Redscout presented Spur – Viewers Respond
Under hösten 09 har vi träffat flera intressanta människor som tyckt och tänkt om planningens utveckling. Några av dessa vill vi förmedla i denna film som vi klippt ihop. Dels är det delar av en tidigare intervju vi gjorde med Pär Lager som är VD på Berghs School of Communication. Dels är nu också Helena Westin, tidigare VD på Rörlig bild och Paradiset och affärsutvecklare på Aftonbladet med. Hon har riktigt intressanta erfarenheter från både byråsidan och annonsörssidan. Clas Collin är med från Svensk ReklamUtveckling med lång erfarenhet av planning och Jonas Broden som idag arbetar på Posten men som tidigare frilansat som Planner.
Describe your experiences and reflections of a planner and the work a planner do?
Planning? Potentially the best job in the world, often the most frustrating. The only job I know that relies equally upon top class creativity and seering analytical ability… telescoping from one mindset to the other in a single afternoon can be exhilerating and exhausting, but ultimately fulfilling. The problem with planning is an inevitable one… our job is to see the light, the potential, the strategic roads not taken, and to represent this blue-sky-thinking to clients who invariably and understandably cannot follow all roads and take all risks. The only option is to love the dreaming for the dreaming’s sake, and to just count your lucky stars if even one of your brilliant ideas comes to fruition.
The danger for planning is that it becomes too focussed on the back end of the process… the measurement of effectiveness, accountability and such (whether effectiveness should come at the front or the back end of a process is another debate). But, the best planning and the best planners are inherently creative, intuitive and with eyes only for creating something magnificent, doing so with gusto and energy and without allowing the constraints of accountability or caution to restrain them too early in the process. Good planners are creatives with added responsibilities, more like entrepreneurs than accountants… show me a planner who can’t generate wonderful concepts and write excellent copy… and, I’ll show you someone who can’t really be happy as a planner.
Describe how the future will be out of your perspective in your work and in your life?
It’s very hard to see. I can only see my life in brand communications a year ahead at the most. I feel a great inclination to be entrepreneurial, to experiment, to put my neck on the line time and time again… in fact, I think greater risk-taking it’s essential if our industry is to survive. And so there’s no telling where it will lead us in five years… but perhaps consumers will be the clients, or clients the agencies, or agencies a curious footnote in history.
Mention the 3 most important and historically based inventions/events/episodes/experiences/etc to us, the human race/mankind?
1) The day an ape stood up and walked for the first time on two legs (the implications for hip-size and maturity of infants at birth had far reaching implications for humans, the way we bond and the way we emote).
2) Mass media / urbanisation– when humans left their communities of less than 200 people and suddenly found themselves toe-to-toe with thousands of strangers, it meant our brain was suddenly in an environment for which it was not designed and humans would have a tough time being happy for ever more. Where once you might have been the best musician in your village, you were now an also-ran. The development of mass media further increased the severity of the “contrast effect”, our inherent tendency to compare ourselves with other people and change our life strategies as a result.
3) Death. We know we will one day die. This explains a lot.
Mention the 3 forthcoming most important and historically based inventions/events/episodes/experiences/etc to the human race/mankind – i.e. they will come in the future?
1) Scientists turn off the need for sleep (invariably one economy will develop this technology before others and it will have drastic economic and political consequences… The Sleep Wars, perhaps?).
2) Male infertility reaches chronic levels.
3) People refusing to use the internet become as common as vegetarians and Christians.
Describe who you are, your background and what you do/work with?
I was born in Ireland in 1978. After a short period as a rock star I studied psychology and worked in academia for a bit researching amongst other things the effect of male pheromones on female attention. In 2003, I flipped a coin at Kings Cross Station and decided to enter the world of advertising. I ended up working five years as a planner in London, at McCann Erickson and DDB… two superb agencies. Since summer 2008, I have been living and freelancing in Berlin, most recently as Planning Director at a punchy, ambitious little agency called Plantage.
I am a naturally creative planning director / senior planner who occasionally finds himself as a copywriter and likes to provoke wherever possible with scary ideas and fresh thought-pieces. My remaining ambitions are to live and work in Stockholm and to open a creative strategy agency that doubles as a piano bar at night.
Skriven för Marknadsledarens majnummer, en medlemstidning för medlemmar i Marknadsföreningen i Stockholm.
”Planning handlar om liv och död” skriver Dan Landin på Åkestam Holst blogg som svar på frågan vad en planner gör. ”Tänk dig ett band, då är plannern basisten” säger Jonas Söderström på Planning Sthlm. Denna artikel beskriver ett yrke som ökar i betydelse men som få känner till.
Kommunikation som bygger varumärket och driver försäljningen är de huvudsakliga motiven till att investera i marknadsföring. Ändå ser man fortfarande mycket reklam och PR som utförs med ”fingret i luften” samtidigt som det idag görs fler mätningar än någonsin. Åtskilliga mätningar är till för att bekräfta förutbestämda uppfattningar istället för att söka insikt. Upp till 70-80% av alla mätningar är sådana beställningsjobb berättade en VD för ett av Sveriges större marknadsundersökningsföretag för mig nyligen.
Kan planning vara en del av lösningen på detta? I England dök plannerns (Account Planner på engelska) roll upp samtidigt som USA byggde månlandare och drömde om framtiden. Reklam skapades då mest med magkänsla och de undersökningar som gjordes kopplades inte till den kommunikation som producerades. Plannern utgjorde en funktion som formade strategier och kvalitetssäkrade marknadsföringen på reklambyråns stora konton med hjälp av undersökningar. Idag har rollen utvecklats men levererar i princip samma typ av insikter och verktygen består nu inte bara marknadsundersökningar. I Sverige har planners funnits sedan början av 90-talet, om än i liten skala.
Syftet är att åstadkomma effektivare, produktivare och kreativare kommunikation. Eftersom kraven på avkastning från marknadsföring ökar har planningens roll vuxit i betydelse. I en intervju jag nyligen gjorde med Pär Lager, VD för Berghs School of Communication, hävdar han att det har skett ett tydligt trendbrott från kundsidan de senaste två åren. Numera satsar företag större resurser på förarbete, undersökningar och strategiupplägg på bekostnad av annonsbudgeten. Anledningen är helt enkelt att man väljer att agera och träffa rätt istället för godtyckligt och brett. Planning är en del av förklaringen menar han, PR en annan.
Samtidigt ska sägas att planners inte är varumärkesstrateger även om dessa områden överlappar varandra på många sätt och att planners ibland gör varumärkesplattformar. Poängen är snarare att brygga spannet mellan varumärkesplattformen och den kreativa processen så att kommunikationen uppfyller sitt mål. Traditionellt sett utförs rollen på byrån nära den kreativa arbetsgruppen. Idag är det även vanligt att arbeta på frilansbasis både mot byråer och direkt med företag. Även affärsutveckling är en del av plannerns kompetens och kommer bli vanligare i framtiden.
För att ge ett exempel på lyckad planning skulle jag vilja nämna NIKE+, där djup konsumentinsikt banade väg för en produkt som skapar ökad nytta i löparens liv och även bygger en community där de kan jämföra resultat. Ett annat exempel är kampanjen bakom Barack Obamas valseger. Ända från kampanjstart hade den starka inslag av planning som tillsammans med Obamas egna kommunikativa utstrålning var det som avgjorde, hävdar en av kampanjgeneralerna Anita Dunn.
Det finns gott om kampanjer där plannern haft en betydande roll men ändå förblir anonym. Plannern är inte den som producerar kommunikationen, det gör den kreativa arbetsgruppen på byrån eller inhouse. Därav Jonas liknelse med bandet? Hur många basister kan du namnet på?