17 Oct, 2012 – leave a comment
I did a short interview for Digiday on Inventioni.st that just went live.
The amount of attention and support that friends and peers have lent us for this launch has been truly amazing.
This was our coming out party. It’s been a way for us to plant a flag in the ground for experimentation and to unveil a brand new service model for the industry.
This was just our first step.
Keep us honest. Be skeptical. Ad agencies are great at grabbing headlines, but the real proof will be in our invention pudding. We have to get to great work. That part of this is nothing new.
16 Oct, 2012 – leave a comment
Papa Bear Binch answers some sharp questions on our new service. Go read it.
15 Oct, 2012 – leave a comment
Read it while the pixels are still drying.
15 Oct, 2012 – 8 comments
why this, why now?
Let’s look at some stark facts that birthed this new service model:
- Fortune 500 companies are an endangered species. The average lifespan of a Fortune 500 firm was 75 years in 1937. Today, that lifespan is hovering dangerously close to just 5 years.
- Powerpoint won’t save them. In most institutions, 90% of strategic plans are never realized and 70% of change plans fail.
- Organizations need innovation more than ever, but innovation needs breathing room. Studies have shown that figurative and literal distance from a firm’s executives can actually give innovation a better shot at success.
- CMOs need quicker wins. The average tenure of today’s CMO is measured in months, not years. And even the most charismatic leaders face organizational structures designed to slow change and kill new ideas. If a CMO wants to make their mark and plant a flag for others to follow before their time is up, they need outside help.
- Startups face unprecedented competition. At this year’s SXSW, every new startup, even those with the most exotic offerings, found themselves instantly competing with a slew of copycats. The result? For the first time in years, no clear winner emerged.
so what is it?
We are THE small, fast, and affordable product development team for the digital age. We sell 3 simple services:
- ORIGINATION – for organizations that need new ideas
- ACCELERATION – for startups that need rapid attention and user acquisition
- EVOLUTION – for mature products/services that need new forms of value to reach new consumers
What we produce:
- Digital products (apps, platforms, services)
- Products made from digital (physical objects infused with digital technologies)
- On-going advisement (education, counseling)
How we work:
- Lean – our teams are small and packed with interdisciplinary punch
- Fast – we work in 5-day idea sprints, 45-day prototyping cycles, and 6-month product launches
- Affordable – An engagement with one of our teams starts at $10,000 and we offer discounts for equity sharing and performance-based compensation
surgeon general’s warning
Inventioni.st is not for every client. So far, we’ve found that we’re most successful with partners that can impact aspects of both marketing AND product. We’re not a replacement for your advertising, we’re a booster engine for your business.
what else you got?
On our new site, you can also find:
- A list of inventions that inspire us
- A new startup interviewed every week
- Ongoing tinkerings of our own
how do I work with you?
Great question. We’re looking for fearless clients to add to our growing roster and leading edge talent to round out our motorcycle gang. The fastest way to get started is to drop us a note here.
14 Oct, 2012 – 2 comments
Just a couple weeks back, I got to meet Kevin Doohan, former Head of Digital Marketing at Red Bull. He actually reminded me about Stratos and told me to keep my eye on it. Hence, I woke up early (on the west coast) this morning and watched, tensely, the livestream of Felix’s triple-record-breaking-leap to Earth.
I asked him about what Red Bull does for their athletes. I referenced Shaun White’s now famous, but once secret, super pipe. Kevin said, “Quite honestly, those ideas just start because we’re trying to help our athletes win. Shaun was tired of kids filming his new tricks in practice and sharing it with his competitors, so we built him a pipe other people couldn’t get to.”
Of course, it was also brilliant marketing.
We’re all after that, too. Mass attention, jaw-dropping, real-time events like today.
But as usual, we’re chasing the effect, not the cause.
First, smart brands and smart marketers need to find small groups of special people, and then quite literally go to extremes to help them win. To propel them to their goals and to their mutual fame.
By the way, Kevin’s now EVP, Marketing at Machinima, another brand championing a special group of people.
27 Sep, 2012 – one comment
A bit of internal propaganda. Tip o’ the hat to Miss Mary Toves for the pixels.
It’s been a wild year and change. We’re hiring, if you’re interested.
10 Sep, 2012 – 2 comments
It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since I posted this.
In that time, the original post has received over 97,000 unique pageviews and still stands as the high water mark for this blog in terms of views and backlinks.
I’ve also sold over a hundred posters of the diagram itself.
I’ve received dozens of emails from people telling me it has given them some means of direction; in their professional lives and some in their personal lives as well. It’s incredibly humbling and reason all by itself to continue blogging.
I’m looking back on it today to remember to take my own advice.
If this has influenced you, I’d love to hear about it. And if you have suggestions or opinions on its helpfulness, please let me know.
05 Sep, 2012 – leave a comment
Some random thoughts …
- This was a nice thing to send to my mom.
- There are lots of “non-creatives” featured on this list, including myself. Planners, strategists, producers, etc. It’s good to see. The delineation of “creatives” vs “non-creatives” is a flawed and dangerous assumption in our industry.
- Deutsch LA made a big and weird bet by hiring me and giving me the freedom and resources to make something out of being a misfit. Other agencies, take note. Other misfits out there, if your agency isn’t enabling you to reach your potential, give me a call.
- Yay. I’m number one!
- Wait. Why?
- Also, like you, I can name twenty more creative people in their twenties than I without batting a lash.
- Don’t worry, in a couple months I’ll be disqualified for such lists.
- But my mom liked it.
29 Aug, 2012 – 2 comments
For the last week or so, I’ve been sharing some lessons I’ve learned in the year since I left Florida (after leaving Boulder, after leaving NY) and took a job at a big advertising agency in LA. Some lessons are professional. Some are personal. Be sure to read Part One and Part Two.
I’ve never wanted to manage people. Never. Partly because I refuse to be managed (in my family, we often say ‘Caddell’s can’t be managed’). Partly because I quite enjoy my work and management always seemed to be what people did to not work. But when I began building the Invention discipline at Deutsch LA, I knew I would have to succumb. This is what I’ve learned …
At first, I compared myself to every single boss I’ve ever had. As I am essentially unmanageable, I have had no difficulty finding fault in each and every one of them (quite unfairly). There was the cheap-skate boss, the inappropriate-touching-in-the-workplace boss, the bi-polar boss, the drunk-with-power boss, the in-over-her-head boss, the cult-leader boss, and well, many many others in my mental hall of horrors. I worried I would become them. Worse, I worried I would not know it. I played back arguments and bad decisions, committed to not repeating those mistakes myself.
Also, I wasn’t sure what I wanted from the whole arrangement. I don’t crave being liked. But then again, what if I wasn’t liked? I don’t demand respect, but then again, what if I wasn’t respected? I wasn’t pining for authority, but what if, ultimately, I had none to wield?
If I’m beginning to sound neurotic then I’ve described myself accurately.
What I’ve learned, or better yet, what I am still trying to learn is to focus on the people I’ve hired. To shift my focus from my own inevitable shortcomings and to instead do whatever I can to help my team find their footing in this industry, to give them opportunities to learn, and to stay focused on our ability to accomplish great things together. Am I successful at this? It’s probably too early to tell, and I’m definitely the wrong person to answer that. Is this far more rewarding than my usual self-obsession? Absolutely. It may sound trite, but watching someone grow into talents they never knew they had is (surprisingly to me) far more rewarding than the years I spent as the lone shepherd of my own projects.
The best advice I know to give is to hire slowly (and to fire quickly, though I haven’t had to do that yet). In a year, the entire digital side of the business has added 45 people. I’ve added four. I’ve ended up with incredibly talented people, though I give myself very little direct credit for their being here (we have an excellent recruiter and an amazing client roster). I was interested in their experience and their skills, but more than that, I wanted to know that they could fuel themselves. I looked for people that could answer, “What projects do you work on outside of the office?” with an almost endless list of examples and of ideas yet to be hatched.
Helping someone focus is a far simpler task than teaching someone to be curious.
We live in the shadow of Steve Jobs. Because of this, we are a culture and an industry obsessed with a flavor of leadership that over-values visionaries and overlooks tyrannical behavior. I certainly have it in me to by a tyrant, but I lack the endurance to make it a career. When I think back to the environments when I’ve done my best work and had the most impact, I boil the elements of leadership down (for now) as such:
- Set Clear & Simple Expectations (in terms of behavior, roles, goals, and measurement)
- Empower Control & Autonomy (foster masters of their own destiny)
- Provide Coverage (leaders work for their teams)
There is a strongly held belief in advertising that any sort of process is “uncreative” – which in our industry is the biblical equivalent of stoning someone to death. In my short career, I have formed an opinion that process is what we institute when we want to reduce errors.
Be conscious of what errors you hope to reduce and have a hypothesis on why these errors are occurring. More importantly, never forget that successful process relies not only on the structure of that process, but on the adoption of that process.
Heed these words: change, of any sort, within an organization is political.
22 Aug, 2012 – 2 comments
For the next week or so, I’m going to share some lessons I’ve learned in the year since I left Florida (after leaving Boulder, after leaving NY) and took a job at a big advertising agency in LA. Some lessons are professional. Some are personal. Be sure to read Part One.
Over the last year, I’ve built a small (and growing) team within a much larger agency. A team filled with a new breed of agency creative, charged with a novel purpose. We’re the island of misfit of toys and we’re quite proud of it. We call ourselves Inventionists – each of us part strategist, part creative, and entirely obsessive technologist.
As I assembled the team, it was important that I define what was expected in terms of our behavior. The agency was already established, but our group and our mission was just being born. I’ve always pined for the way Netflix describes their corporate culture yet at the same time I am incredibly bored with agencies talking about how great their culture is. If you have to talk about how great your culture is, I question how great your culture is. My goal wasn’t to create motivational posters we could hang from the rafters, instead I wanted to make clear what I expected from our group.
It was not an easy process. I originally shared a list of values numbering in the teens. All of it was carefully considered, but much of it was common sense given a thin candy shell. In retrospect, I took painstaking effort to hire only the most qualified and smart individuals, yet I undervalued their intelligence and professionalism in my early efforts. In other words, I Lenny’d my first attempt.
Over time, I have refined these values based on our actual behavior and I share those values with you today.
I call these The Values of Invention:
make the work speak
We all desire recognition for our efforts. Furthermore, we can be frustrated by the gulf between what we can imagine and what we can realize. Often this leads us to talk about how work should be done, rather than persisting in our efforts to make the work in front of us better. We must endeavor to create the sort of work that will stand as beacons of change in this industry. Talk is cheap and ultimately unsatisfying; as are ideas untested.
question the status quo
We perceive the world as being malleable, not fixed. We believe that the ways of doing things yesterday are only records to be shattered today.
Work is allowed to be mediocre when no single person is held accountable. We should be ideating, selling, producing, and launching work we’ll be insanely proud of, and we should be climbing over one another to take direct responsibility for this kind of work when it is still in its infancy.
You can do anything – but not everything. We are idea productive. We get easily excited by new combinations of thoughts, technology, and human behavior. We crave creative interaction. Yet, if we allow ourselves to be spread thin our work will suffer, we will spend too much time in the office, and we will become boring human beings. Our teams work in a pod structure and each team member can only own one project at a time and support one project at a time. Whether it’s product development or marketing creative, every execution demands our rabid attention.
admit your ignorance until you remedy it
This one’s pretty simple. Never bluff. Never bullshit. Our clients can be hills rich with intellectual gold. Ask to learn from them.
no learning should go unshared
Last but certainly not least. I’ve been fortunate to hire incredibly curious individuals. If we can only learn to harness that collective curiosity and need for learning, we’ll all be better off. We’ve also formalized the process of learning by holding weekly meetings to discuss everything we’ve attempted and learned in the process.
what we value in new hires
Interested in our little island? We’re looking for square pegs, misfits, and humble heretics. Details here.