A Literacy of the Imagination

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

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies

We’ve all been exposed, in one way or another, to the realities of the Big Data Matrix.

Data drives our lives. Data visualization has changed the way we think and feel about the environments in which we interact. Data science is the most sought after skill-set in business right now. And there’s a big reason for this: big systems are pushing us to rethink our roles as agents bridging the gaps between information and imagination. It is actually a call-to-action, whereby leveraging data between people is the cornerstone of our future.

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies

The recent O’Reilly Strata Conference illuminated some of the great challenges we face in making data meaningful, and introduced some fantastic non-linear approaches for merging structured and unstructured data (structured = paid or owned media data; unstructured = earned or social media data). Opportunities abound within the realm of all that we do not know; in fact, these opportunities currently comprise a $100B business.

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies

The bigger takeaway is this: As progenitors of Big Data – whether we are analysts, statisticians, technologists, artists, writers, designers, journalists, economists or civil engineers – we have a responsibility to build value and tell stories around data that is unprecedented. This role is world-changing. It is also a huge ethical and social imperative.

This past week, I led a discussion with our agency strategy, analytics and creative teams on “Good Data”, which is essentially the notion of cultivating value out of the endless reams of data we encounter and produce on a daily basis.

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies

The genesis of the conversation was to get our teams to think about their role in a new paradigm shift whereby agencies in particular are no longer just tasked with creating assets within or around media, but are relied upon to build data-driven utilities that provide real social value. These are solutions to complex problems concerning deep economic, governmental, cultural and/or psychological needs.

Rather than focusing on utility outputs themselves (tools, platforms, applications, what have you), we centered the conversation around developing creative experiences for cultivating data within a larger business context, and specifically new market creation.

The evolution of Big Data brings to light some of gaps we have encountered in business, starting with the post-industrial push of the 50s and 60s and leading into the collaborative dynamics of the new Millennium. In sum, we’ve shifted quite dramatically from a “first-to-market” mentality to one that embraces co-created markets, and those in which competitors can build unique marketshare (there are actually great examples starting 30 years ago from the automotive and airline industries).

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies
There is an even greater picture to paint within this if we think about the value of brands, and the notion of “branded utility”. This is where creativity is so critical. Most brands these days make decent enough products; where they seem to struggle is with their own equities – the ways they actually provide social value to their customers. If we go a step further and realize that these companies are the catalysts for economic growth , we can also make the association between the types of utilities they can offer and economic solutions at play (just look at the market capitalization of the Fortune 100 – in aggregate, a small percentage of that is bigger than the GDP of most industrialized nations):

Data-as-a-Service
   Government-as-a-Service
        Finance-as-a-Service
            Journalism-as-a-Service
                Education-as-a-Service
                    Brand-as-a-Service

The core creative questions we must then ask ourselves are these:

What does utility look like or feel like?
What must media, technology and culture do, in tandem, to facilitate or leverage it?
How is utility creation sustainable for business and for society?

And so the role of the agent reveals itself in full color: to build sustainable brand equities for social and economic change. What we do with the insight we generate is a choice, one that creates endless possibility, and one that builds new foundations for human meta value.

And that is something technology cannot do for us, rather something that we must do for ourselves.

The Role of Today's "Agent": Making Good on Data #BigData #creativity #agencies