As agents of change, we’ve always relished and wrestled with the question of what’s next. That question, that frontier, is the most fertile, fluid and thrilling space to practice our craft.
The challenge of relevancy in today’s hyperactive global economy has offered up enormous opportunity to pioneers of the creative class. Former titans of the Fortune 500 are being displaced, disrupted and disintermediated daily; and the mid-market squeeze has driven a tidal shift of investment from traditional volume communications to value creation. The irrevocable rise of “brand experience” as a strategic business advantage is now, undeniably, centre stage. And consumers the world over expect no less.
For dreamers, storytellers and brand experts, nothing is off the table. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to burn brightly at a moment of need, or subvert the rules entirely. From online channels to off, micro-interactions to lifetime value, the field of play is vast. But an orchestra will not produce a symphony without its conductor. Innovative strides need to have a cumulative effect to win favour over time, as it’s not enough to sprinkle excellence on an ailing business — it needs to be interwoven in the fabric of the brand. To be memorable and to make an impact, ideas must break the mould. And so must we, adapting to the landscape, practices and challenge at hand. So yes, in part we need to eat our own dog food.
Teams need to be tighter and closer to the business than ever before. We need to take risks if we want to overthrow the ordinary, but curiosity and courage must be informed and focused to be radically effective. Brilliance must be in service of an authentic human need, and the big problems — the opportunities to terraform new terrain — require more than just the exacting judgment of a few.
Of course, framing the problem is half the battle. Narrow the aperture too much or fail to look at that “third horizon,” and you'll miss both the threat and the reward. Now more than ever, teams need to swim way upstream to get the full picture, with strategy, data-folk, user experience and deeply engaged business stakeholders to light a path and set the wheels in motion. Honestly, it takes a beat to recalibrate, but as our industry toils to strike the next equilibrium—as we merge, automate, internalise and offshore — the most successful partnerships will simply offer the proximity to be focused and the freedom to be fierce.
But it’s the bold, abstract leaps that answer our big question, “What’s next?” If iteration is the lethargic antagonist of innovation, it’s true guerrilla thinking that opens new doors. It’s provocative, often uncomfortable, and (with rigorous interrogation) absolutely the right thing to do. Of course, change requires commitment at all levels, emotional and financial, to properly test and implement, but we’re not in the business of easy, now are we?
The business of creativity is thriving because it’s a great provocateur and catalyst for progress. Exploring what’s next just happens to be both an innate competitive edge and an immensely rewarding way to do our thing. Win-win.