It’s Not the Size of Your Sphere of Influence …

Kupfersitchkabinettdresd2 It has been fascinating watching how the discussion on Spheres of Influence has evolved … and even more fun jumping from comment to comment and blog to blog to see how the spheres of influence actually work.

There were links to WebMetricsGuru (actually two trackbacks … perhaps this is something to do with web metrics), comments by Eric Kintz, BobG, Karl Long, Craig Lefebvre, Mack Collier, Nick Rice, MindBlob (whoever he may be), Ed Lee, Toby as well as my good self … not to mention the earlier suggestions and contributions from Ariel, Bryan Person, Matthew Peschong, Lewis Green, Stephen Downes and Seth Finkelstein, and there were clearly some email conversations also occurring. Now, some of these blogs I know and read myself … while others are new to me — and it is clear that there are some fairly high profile bloggers and some relative newcomers all contributing their ideas and energy to this topic. What is PARTICULARLY interesting is the way that the topic has encouraged this diverse range of people to contribute.

It is one thing to read a blog, but quite another to comment … and this goes way beyond influence, as does the result. Clearly the discussion has generated a piece of great new knowledge … but the EXPERIENCE of the process was what made this interesting (see also this from David). As Glen Drury, VP at Yahoo! says, "Wisdom is not online. For one thing, not every book is online. And secondly, some knowledge is only experiential" …

It is the experience of knowledge creation that is part of the excitement of blogging … not the size of your sphere of influence, but how well it taps into the zeitgeist of new knowledge.

Coffee Rush?

I love this video from YouTube. John Moore over at Brand Autopsy posts this video and says:

… just as professional marketers can create “off-brand” messaging, amateur marketers will do the same. Should we expect anything different? Seriously, should we?

I must say I am a little surprised by the question. Not only should we NOT expect anything different (ie off-brand messaging), we should ENCOURAGE it. What we get in this video is a sense of the human face of what has become a massive, global brand. It is fun, playful, has an undercurrent of seriousness … and makes us think. Hey, it may even make some of us ACT.

And if the Starbucks marketing and legal teams have any sense, they will find an on-strategy way of picking up, harnessing and promoting this type of creative work.

Ford Bold Moves

Fordboldmoves How hard is it to turn a company around? How difficult is it to re-set your strategy, make the hard decisions and then rally your team? How difficult is it to take advice from your customers about your products, services … and even your staff? The folks over at Three Minds point towards Ford’s Bold Moves website which aims to document just such a turnaround.

The company (or their agency) has done a pretty good job of setting up a lot of interactive elements … but there is still the feint stench of control lurking in the background. I would have liked to have seen more "open" blog elements such as trackbacks and anonymous commenting. C’mon Ford, you can always use an approval cycle if you are worried about the comments. Also, it would be nice to be able to link through to those avid Ford fans … just to see if they’re real.

You see, telling an authentic story isn’t just about YOU … it is about your customers too.

Skimming the Ripples

Skimming Stones
Originally uploaded by stuandgravy.

There has been a lot of action over at David Armano’s Logic + Emotion blog over the last couple of days. It started, for me at least, with this post on the need to put your brand’s audience at the centre of the creative experience … to focus on what will work for people, not what works for the creative and strategic teams that do the work.

Then, in a post on the Sphere of Influence, this discussion shifted to the influence that bloggers have over the audiences (especially those who are also bloggers). But rather than this being a strict hierarchy, with Level 1 Bloggers at the top of the pyramid, I could see that other connections could be made, turning the diagram into something more "like rain drops hitting the surface of a lake". David came back with yet more insight with this post — and a bunch of comments and plenty of additional discussion.

Ripples_1 But I think there is still some way to go … perhaps from a different angle. It strikes me that topics simultaneously appear across the blogosphere … in a zeitgeist kind of way — resulting in the emergence of conversational topics that begin, leap and skip from one blog to another. The topic is built upon, added to, criticised and so on …

I see the story or the topic as being like a stone that skims across the water, leaving in its wake, a thousand ripples of varying sizes. Sometimes the stone strikes hard and deep with a well-known blogger, and in other cases it can be a simple trackback direct from, say, the Servant of Chaos blog (ie a small ripple). BUT, the interesting part comes when the ripples meet and multiply, building energy and strength around the story.

That is where it gets interesting … I am looking forward to where this conversation goes next!

PS — To all the FeedBlitz subscribers, sorry for the false start on this post.


Kick Starting the Brain(storm)

Originally uploaded by Saad..

It is easy to forget that creativity or innovation doesn’t "just happen". Even if you work in a "creative" team … there is no guarantee that creativity will occur — you need to find ways to boost the chances of your work being viewed as innovative.

Sometimes it takes coffee (in my case, plenty of it), at other times sugar. But in almost all instances, creativity and innovation take TIME and (horror of all horrors) planning.

Brainstorming is often seen as an end in itself, rather than a small step in a creative process. And while brainstorming can help bring out or enhance ideas, the breakthroughs that we look for often occur in isolation, appear unexpectedly and sometimes take extra time and effort to connect with your own thoughts and those of your team. Hmmm … starting to sound strange — what am I talking about?

Before brainstorming

The secret to creativity is preparation. And creative preparation is focused as well as undisciplined (or chaotic). You need to immerse yourself in the world, its ideas, images and trends, but you also need to stand apart. You need to LISTEN to the breathing of the world, get inside the skin of others and look with the eyes of a stranger at the life you live everyday. In short, the best preparation for creativity is LIFE (but from the outside-in). [Actually I don’t know if I really agree with this, but I am going with it.]

You also need inspiration. Not an idea … but breath. Your ideas need to live, they need to take a breath and come to life. So, when you get a brief or a request, take a pad and write down the first thing that comes to mind. Draw a picture if that is what works. Just make sure you do it straight away. Once you have your small piece of inspiration, secret it away somewhere (you will come back to it later).

Now you need to research and think … and you also need to continue to work on your OTHER projects. One of the important parts of brainstorming is deep, unconscious processing — you need to let your brain work through the tricks, memories, techniques, stories, images and anecdotes that you have been storing away throughout your life. This is hard work and really cannot be done consciously. If you try to force it, the result won’t ring true.

Then immediately before your brainstorming, pull together some thoughts, write them up in a form that makes sense to you, grab a coffee and head into the meeting.

In the storm

There are lots of tips and tricks to brainstorming, all written by people with more authority and expertise than I. The one thing that is always important to remember is that NO IDEA IS IRRELEVANT. It is easy to forget about the STORM part and focus on the BRAIN — the last thing that you want in a brainstorming meeting is censure. You don’t want self-censure and you don’t want peer or group censure.

Remember to speak up, and speak up early. The earlier you speak up and contribute to a session, the easier it becomes. Put your ideas up on the board. Let others listen to them and add or change them. DON’T BE PRECIOUS.

Categorise and review the information that comes out in your brainstorm. Find the common threads and bring the ideas together … prioritise them in some way and find ways of linking categories — whether as a pictogram or as a word theme/meme.

Now, remember to write it all down. Make a summary of your notes, thoughts and feelings. Share them with the other participants … and determine the NEXT STEPS … and responsibilities. Don’t let the good ideas go to waste — ensure that you are all clear about what happens next, who is going to do it, and when it is due.

Finally, take the ideas that don’t fit, or are not prioritised, and write them onto a SPARE IDEA card. Place these in categorised boxes. Then, next time, when you are sitting through a idea drought, reach into the box of spare ideas and find new inspiration!

Big Ideas Can Be Small Ideas Too

We all love the romance of a big idea. They set our brains and imaginations on fire, overtake our senses (and sometimes our common sense), make our eyes pop, stomachs turn and arms flail about like streamers. They hit us like rocks or buses. They shake us out of ourselves.

And while big ideas are thrilling, they can also be dangerous. When reading Simple and Loveable’s Tim Norton’s post on teamwork, I was struck by this great quote:

There’s probably plenty of people like me, I’m not an easy person to deal with at times, I say things I dont mean when I get heated (I still create too much heat), I over-focus on certain areas and let others of massive importance slip, I come up with ‘big ideas’ but struggle to bring them back down to earth and make them simple, I get things started and moving, but battle to finish…

I particularly like "I come up with ‘big ideas’ but struggle to bring them back down to earth and make them simple".

It is a common problem … not just in the creative field. I am sure there are many of us who have had a great idea and become caught up in its pull. But as is often stated, it is not about the idea, but about its execution. The challenge of the BIG idea is to make it SMALL, or as Tim says, to bring it "back down to earth". As David Armano says, "It’s not about me.  It’s about attracting consumers, engaging customers and meeting user’s needs" … the idea is important, but it doesn’t work, if it doesn’t win. And it doesn’t win if it doesn’t communicate to your audience and address their wants, needs and expectations.

To deliver on the promise of the big idea, you need to make the big idea small. You need to do this to execute it and to control it. You need to do this to make it understandable to someone outside of your own space — whether they are a client, a consumer, your business partner or your boss. And by making the big idea small, you can make sure that you manage it, and are not overcome by the connections, challenges and linkages.

I am beginning to think that a Compliant Idea is a BIG idea made small. Hmmm … yet more to think upon.


Cars and Bikes

100_1199I love the way that cars and bikes capture our attention. There is something about the melding of mind, body and machine that has a deeply attractive significance for many of us … and yet, it is something that car makers are very rarely able to articulate.

I was reading Russell Davies’ post on cars and how he was becoming interested in them again … and it reminded me of David Armano’s photo of a motorbike (hey David, is it yours?) and a story about heading off on holidays. And there seemed to be a connection emerging … something that linked passion, curiosity and a sense of escape.

Now, I have always been interested in cars and bikes, and have had many over the years. My most recent bike was this fantastic Ducati 900 Monster — and I loved it. It was big, noisy and made your heart race. And everyday it would remind me of a discussion of Plato’s theory of forms. Really? Oh yeah!

I distinctly remember a discussion about beauty and the way that it was considered one of Plato’s forms but without corporeality. Beauty radiates through other corporeal items. In trying to come to grips with this, our discussion ranged far and wide, and I spoke about riding a motorbike, changing gears, braking, accelerating, moving with the machine and so on … and how there was a sense of beauty in the fluidity.

Hmm … lovely. If only advertisers could articulate that sense of deep engagement! If only I could make it sound more poetic. But I am sure, at least some of you know what I mean.


Blogosphere of the Ancient World

DarSometimes you can just find the coolest information online!

I am currently reading a book by Australian writer Anthony O’Neill, called The Empire of Eternity. It has a great undercurrent of historical conspiracy that draws Queen Victoria and Napoleon into the story. One of the main characters in the story is Vivant Denon, the author of a book on Egypt, credited with bringing Egypt and its wonders to the West.

Not content to let this live as fiction, I was doing a little bit of digging and found this cool site that provides access to some of the greatest texts of antiquity. The Digital Assets Repository of Bibliotheca Aleaxandrina has Denon’s book available as PDF … and many other priceless texts that would otherwise be restricted to the gloved hands of scholars. What more could you want … an online library of ancient stories … it will be like looking into the blogosphere of the ancient world.

Now, if only I can get my user ID and password to work!


What is 3 in Blog Years?

It is a milestone in anyone’s life … but moving from age two to age three is a significant step — and especially if you are a blog. They say that every one year is the equivalent of five in the life of a dog, but if this is the case, how old is Russell Davies’ blog?

If you add up all the wisdom, generosity and good fun, then many hundreds of years I would presume. The best thing of all, is that it always remains fresh … and Russell celebrates by spoiling us all again by giving a wrap up of the last three years. Don’t miss it.

Congratulations Russell!