A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

The Merger of People, Technology & Ideas #analytics #storytelling #strategy #creativity #innovation

Early in my career as a creator of film and television content, I quickly found myself confined by what media allowed me, or didn’t allow me, to do. My transition into the interactive space alleviated some of these hurdles, but I soon realized that there was a much bigger issue at play, one that called to the reality that media ecosystems were becoming exponentially more complex, and that no one medium could replace or define our roles as marketers.  

I tell this story often because it is important that we understand the meaning and value of what creativity is, as well as what it can do for us when we look at it from a more holistic perspective.

To me, creativity is the process by which intent and action passionately align. It is a part of everything that we do well, and represents both the successes and failures of innovation. We are all creative beings, who, whether cognizant of this dynamic or not, constantly pine for the opportunity to connect, particularly through storytelling.

I started building social technologies because I wanted to acutely understand the ways in which we could help generate insights and empower the storytelling process. I suppose that I will always be a writer and an artist of sorts, but the more challenging proposition is how I can become a better sponge. The beautiful part about technology development is that it provides illustrative, colorful journeys into the unknown. The discoveries we make along the way are what give us a sense of accomplishment, especially when we can share our insights as “gifts” to others.

One platform I’m proud to be a part of that represents the power of community is eCairn. Its founders, Laurent Pfertzel and Dominique Lahaix, spent over 20 years at HP using various proprietary technologies to advance research methodologies for extracting and cultivating business intelligence, and were among the first to do what is now considered to be “social media data mining”.

While Laurent and Dominique are pioneers in the business intelligence space, the platform itself is not exactly “best-in-class”, nor does it have the sexiest or most intuitive interface. But that is not the point. The strength lies in our approach to data, and the insights we want to come out of it. We can always sync our technology with those that have complementary features and functions, and that is part of the plan to scale as a business. This also applies to how we think as strategic entities.

As strategists, it is imperative that we act swiftly and humbly in organizing intelligence frameworks that can move the needle of our business and our clients’ businesses. When you consider that most problems we are tasked to solve are of a wicked nature and are regenerative (meaning that the solutions we provide ultimately lead to new, more complex problems, and this cycle is ongoing), we must be interdependent in our thinking, the ways we create and how we utilize resources.

One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to learn from people. I have unique windows with which to observe their behaviors, and in various ways, I have opportunities to collaborate with them on a daily basis. These elements are also a constant reminder that anything we build must be adaptive; in other words, strategic methodologies must creatively inform technology functions and vice versa.

It is also critical that we think on the part of others – brands, agencies, audiences (consumer groups) and technology vendors must all be a part of the same conversation. This is a common issue I see with the start-ups and middle stage companies that I advise; all too often we build according to perceived “market value”, as opposed to understanding the needs and desires of people.

We’ve tried in earnest to apply this approach to Heardable, an online brand health platform I started co-developing about 18 months ago. Co-Founder & CEO, Jon Samsel, is a former marketing executive who has logged serious time building innovative solutions at Bank of America, Countrywide and Ford. Another co-Founder, John Sharp, is a seasoned entrepreneur and investor who also just happens to be a programming ace. The things I get to see and learn as an agency strategist by sitting in a room with these guys is invaluable. Here is our latest iteration of the offering:

Naturally, Heardable is still in its infancy and will continue to evolve. We plan to build more functional utilities around it and make the intelligence collective.

In a larger sense, technologies serve as organisms that help define, complement, refine and create human solutions. If you look at “platforms” as solutions that can leverage the amalgam of people + technology + media, then as marketers, we have social objects and ecosystems that are very special.

The “wicked world” forces us, even as competitors in the same space, to come together. Fact is, as marketers, we cannot afford to operate in our own, proprietary vacuums. Just look at the struggles of the automotive industry as one glaring example of this.

The bottom line is that there is room for anyone and everyone who is eager, humble and willing to expand their own piece of the pie and create new markets. Human needs are ever-present and ever-evolving. Needs are the new markets. Utilities are the solutions we can provide.

And there is also plenty of money to be made through altruism. But I suppose that is the subject for an entirely different conversation.

In the meantime, go forth, my friends, and innovate ;)