Why Won’t Armano Grow Up?

Read this. Creativity is a funny thing. Similarly with innovation. It is that intangible quality or movement that we recognise when we see it or feel it … but find it difficult to systematise. And while there are whole industries dedicated to creativity and innovation and the book shelves are packed with how-tos, step-by-steps and self directed courses — the essential key to creativity continues to elude us.

The business world loves innovation and creativity. The lexicon of innovation fills our annual reports and press releases, it slots into the collateral and brochureware of our marketing departments, squeezing any substantive meaning out of the words. It is a dead-end game.

But while the business world loves innovation and creativity, it is designed not to unleash innovation but to stifle it. Those charged with driving innovation and creativity within an organisation are often sidelined for promotion and described as "square pegs" or of needing to "grow up". Furthermore, innovation champions tend to achieve in spite of an organisation, not through its support … the accolades landing only after a tenacious leader has succeeded in overcoming the barriers, solved the political, cultural and work-related problems and emerged on the other side, weary yet exhilarated.
And despite the realities of creativity and innovation, despite the commercialisation and amateurisation of creativity, there are still thousands of new graduates lining up for work in what can loosely be called the "creative" industries. Why would this be? Why would common sense dictate that any smart, inventive and driven professional keep well away?

The truth is, that in any enterprise (commercial, artistic or otherwise), there is a need for a wide range of skills, expertise and personality types. And while organisations employ techniques and tests to help quantify and qualify "staff" or "resources" or even "personalities", like many things, our skills and interests are malleable and resistant to categorisation. The "square peg" of Monday can also be the "round hole" on Tuesday — slipping into the different roles dependent upon occasion. This type of Creative Chameleon is not only a business asset, but also a strategic differentiator. Have you seen one of these in your business? They are stranger and more imaginative than you might guess.

Behind the Glasses

Behind Glass Walls
Originally uploaded by Annadriel

Last week I was interviewed by Clint Carroll from Behind the Glasses. Clint has a particular interest in technology and conversation, working for Novell, but also has a passion for cycling and even hybrid cars.
A podcast of the interview is available here. We covered quite a lot of ground, from my interests in blogging, a little bit on my background and, of course, how The Age of Conversation came about. Enjoy!

More is More

dig tree
Originally uploaded by zorg_the_indivisible

One of the things that I have come to appreciate through social media is that more is more. I mean this in direct opposition to the notion that "less is more" — where there is a suggestion that quality is a rare feature and that ideas or even commodities gain power through their exclusiveness.

Online conversation is a great example of this. For example, when someone new visits your blog and leaves a messages, what do you do? Do you respond personally via email? Do you comment back through the comments section on your blog? Do you visit THEIR blog (if they have one)? OR … is it too much? Do you not have the time to respond? Or are you at saturation point with your online networking and feel that it is beginning to impinge on your FIRST LIFE?

Many of these questions also apply to the raft of new software and application releases. Do you try Pownce, watch Joost, chat on Twitter and digg your favourite posts? Of course, entry for these rides is FREE — the only thing you need is a jot of time and perhaps an invitation — but this "free" price is becoming par for the course … and we may not be interested in being paid for trialling. The only way out of this conundrum will be to head back the other way … exclusive subscription use. And as I have not done a prediction in ages, here is one now — exclusive subscriptions due to come from Apple for the next must-have social networking site.

Oh, and as more is always more, take a look at the Australian focused news/bookmarking/sharing site called Confer. It is free.

Is Social Media in the Frame?

Air rifle target
Originally uploaded by guvava

There seems to be a rash of posts and articles today that draw a circle around some of the big social media questions.

Yesterday I was following a little of the Andrew Keen discussion at the Sydney Morning Herald website and today I find the full text of the Web 2.0 discussion between Keen and David Weinberger. Obviously, my view falls on the side of David Weinberger and on the side of optimism (though my reason are less to do with optimism and more to do with ability to achieve optimistic outcomes).

I particularly like the the gentle, but persistent way, that David Weinberger pushes the conversation from technology to people, from rhetoric to potential and from professionalism to amateurism … it is well worth a read.

On a similar path, there is also Dina Mehta’s excellent explanation of blogging and how the technologies or social media terminologies sometimes get in the way of positioning the strategic nature of what is ACTUALLY happening. I wish I had written this explanation:

I think there is a mismatch here in what your team understands about what blogging is – and what it actually is. Most non-bloggers seem to refer to blogging as merely writing a diary. But that’s not complete, nor does it do blogging any justice. Blogging is the act of publishing content online in a space that is yours …

Bruce Nussbaum and David Armano have been bouncing ideas around that go to the very heart of the value of social media within a brand, innovation and creative context. And while much of the discussion centres on the disconnect between agencies and their use/understanding of new media, this is not a conversation that can be had in isolation — media networks, newspapers, TV and radio are all partly contributing to innovation inertia.

What all of these articles do is place social media firmly in the frame. Is it relevant to your company, brand, media empire? Of course it is … it is where the influencers, innovators and aggregators of consumer behaviour now play. It’s not about the technology … as usual, it is about the people. Who do you think it is firing the bullets?

Is This Your Generation?

Words and stories are open to interpretation … it is what we call "context". It applies to stories and to storytellers and importantly also to readers. It is always a matter of questions … who reads and who is read.

I saw this video on TV the other night and loved it. In a world where the medium and message converge, where the performance and performer are indistinguishable, we are presented with not just a sense of entertainment but also ethical decisionmaking. When you watch this clip, what do you feel? Do you relate? Can you envision a future where the role you play now (as voyeur) is exchanged with one of the performers in this clip?

If so, how are you transforming your thinking on this into actions in the immediate, short and longer term?

Expert Spotting

expert spotting
Originally uploaded by pbo31

I am constantly amazed by the number of experts who are available to discuss blogging, new media, social networking and that strange and untamable beast, the Internet. They are wheeled out across the mainstream media channels to provide some insight or a "POV" on where all this technology is leading "us". Yet it is unclear exactly who "us" and where the insight comes from. So from now on, I am on the lookout for social media/blogging experts — if you find one, please comment or email me and let me know so I can add them to my list.

The inaugural expert I would like to introduce you to is Australian and has written this piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, talking about the "Lost Art of Blogging". In the article, Graeme Philipson laments that out of the Top 25,000 blogs (9,000 of which are in English), only 75 blogs originate in Australia. Various reasons are provided for the poor showing including the following insight by Ross Dawson:

… one key reason is lack of bandwidth in Australia, and of its high cost

Now I know that Ross Dawson has a blog so that is at least a start — and from the look of his archive, he has been at it far longer than I. But to link low uptake of blogging to bandwidth seems ludicrous. Bloggers would or perhaps should know that blogging is a low bandwidth activity — unless you start to embed YouTube videos and so on. It certainly has not been an impediment to the very successful Mack Collier.

But the last word on blogging expertise rests with Graeme, who says:

I don’t blog. Can’t see the point, when I write this column and others. I also rarely read them – the letters page of this newspaper and the many emails I receive is for me more than enough exposure to the unfiltered opinion of the common man.

Enough said.

Update: David Koopmans follows up with this post … AND Chris Newlan explains that bloggers may be bad for the newspaper business!

Where Do You Belong?

Chubby Cheeks 2
Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

Mack has a great post on what makes a "successful" community. He focuses on the efforts of Pat Coyle who is asking the difficult marketing and business questions around social networking — what does success look like? And perhaps, if it were to walk up and bite us, would we recognise it for what it is?

As I was reading Mack’s post, it started to remind me of my early childhood and the sense of community that was in place around my Nanna’s house. She as an old-fashioned Nanna … she knew all the neighbours (and probably knew their business), she knew the streets and who lived where and how the families fitted together. She knew whose children my father played with, their mothers, fathers and grandparents. It was where she belonged.

When I would visit, everyone in the street would wave and look out for me. They knew who I was by who I was connected to.

Years later I visited my old school on the weekend to play basketball with my sister. In the distance I could hear my name being called. I thought I was hearing things … I looked around but could see no one. We kept playing.

But the voice was persistent. G-a-a-a-v-i-i-n …

Across the playground and way down the street there was a man yelling to me. He was older, much older, than I … and I did not recognise him. Slowly I walked towards him wondering who he was and how he knew me. He could tell I was confused. Up close his face was still a blank canvas to me. "Sid Shannon", he said. "Ahh" … he was a friend’s father — his daughter was born the day after me in the same ward.

"How did you know it was me?", I asked. "Oh, I would know you anywhere", he replied.

I looked like my family. And time and distance was not going to change that.

Do you know where you belong? How do you know? What are the pointers to this? And how do you own it?

Perhaps "old" is the new, new … and social media is igniting not the desire for connection but ENABLING the reconnections between people.

The Blog Stock

Stock Signboard
Originally uploaded by mrhayata

In his inimitable style, Mack Collier has created some great debate around the concept of monetizing one’s blog, bouncing off Joseph Jaffe’s iPod experiment. But while the debate raged across the blogosphere there was something quietly occurring over at Todd Andrlik’s Power 150.

The Power 150 is now joining forces with Advertising Age who will use the Power 150 "as the main editorial benchmark when referencing bloggers in print and online".
More details will emerge when AdAge make their own announcement — but in true blogging style, Todd chose to send out an email to his community of readers to let them know, in advance, what was coming down the track.

This is an exciting crossover/connection between the advertising/marketing industry and the blogging community and represents a vote of confidence in the power of social media in the overall marketing/branding mix.

Where will it go? Obviously AdAge have identified some serious value in the blogosphere — perhaps others will also begin to take stock of the value of blogs. Watch out, Mack, the Top 25 could be the next on the shopping list!