Thursday, July 3, 2014

The power of perspective.

Shantanu Starick, international photographer and founder of The Pixel Trade project, is changing the perspective of commerce by using his trade in exchange for life's basic necessities—bringing the bartering system into day-to-day life. After his talk, he took a reverse-perspective photograph of the audience by asking everyone to turn around except for one gentlemen in the middle.

Early May I ventured to New York for the first time. After years of hearing about the 99u Conference, I was lucky enough to experience it for myself. It’s led by one of my favorite creative entrepreneurs, Scott Belsky—author of  Making Ideas Happen, co-creator of Behance, and now VP of Adobe’s creative community. Much like his book, the goal of the conference is to shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution.

“Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.” – Thomas Edison

Two things struck me about all of the speakers and sessions. In each case, there was a high-level realization and a corresponding action. Road-tested insights that made me think… we are often our own roadblocks. And as Mimi brilliantly says, maybe we all need to get out of our own heads. Our minds want to make everything about us and cling to what’s been safely done. Instead, let’s meet people and challenges where they are, in the moments—emotionally, adaptively and intuitively.

This conference hit creative values, how we work, leadership, sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation. I’ve got a ton of insights, but wanted to touch on what really resonated with where VJ is and where we are going with our new approaches.

What if there’s a group perspective, but it’s collectively adaptive?

My first studio session was at Undercurrent, a strategic powerhouse. They steered us through an exercise showing how responsive organizations can work in this rapid, project-based world beyond agency-of-record relationships. Agencies need to start working like complex adaptive systems. Self-organized empowerment based on the task at hand, like ants or the immune system—all maintaining a simple rule set, processing data and adapting often.

How do we pivot our perspective?

In further support for responsiveness Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote, gave a very grounded perspective on motivation. We have to avoid the over-pursuit of goals that are unattainable, or that need to shift. This leads to inhibited performance, unintended consequences and even cheating. There’s something called summit fever. It’s where a climber will relentlessly keep going to the top of the mountain through bad weather, personal injury or even lack of oxygen. They want to reach that goal more than anything and it consumes them. On a good day, they’ll make it. And on a bad day, they may die. Though our day-to-day is much less dangerous, we always need to reassess why we are doing things as variables and environments inevitably shift.

What if we really listen to other’s perspectives?

Graphic journalist Wendy MacNaughton, author of Meanwhile in San Francisco, encouraged us to not just talk to strangers, but to listen to them. She captured strangers in their “meanwhiles” – the times when they are going somewhere and between things. There’s an intrinsic vulnerability during those moments. She illustrated their character, got to know them and captured glimpses of their unique perspectives. The collective result is both beautiful and profound.

Let's embrace and challenge perspective.

We’re working for unique audiences every day through the brands of our clients. With both content and context in mind, how can we make those engagements more meaningful to them? That’s how great work becomes great work—through personally listening, critically processing and responsively adapting. Let’s harness that power of perspective, and make groundbreaking ideas happen.

That same 99u crowd photo taken from another perspective. See if you can spot me.

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