Monthly Archives: April 2008

… on 10 Tools For Managing a Creative Environment

The Web 2.0 Expo keynote presented by Bryan Mason, COO and Sarah Nelson, Design Analyst from Adaptive Path, connected their experiences as professionals in the arts with their other role as experience designers for clients in an agency setting. Mason began his career in the stage arts and Nelson is a classically trained, lifelong violin player.

They gained insights from the processes and organizational structures of various creative entities such as the highly structured restaurant kitchen, and the theater experience, “Too Much Light makes the Baby go Blind” written and performed by Chicago’s Neo Futurists .

As a creative professional in a dynamic agency setting, it is thrilling to see a project go from initial seeds of an idea, to a fully formed product. However getting through the process can be intense, complex, and challenging. Ultimate success relies on a certain set of constantly changing rules, circumstances, and resources.

By dissecting other successful creation models, and applying the analysis to their current business model, Adaptive Path is saying: We don’t know it all. We can be better. We can be different. We’re always learning.

Adaptive Path’s work environment seems like one that supports and fosters creativity — and it’s not just about putting your people in a room and asking them to emerge at the end of the day with THE BIG IDEA. It’s about finding activities and processes that will allow that stuff to naturally and smartly emerge.

I want to work in an environment that subscribes to the following points Adaptive Path presented:

  • Cross train the team. Foster empathy – let people see what it’s like for others. Its about cross-pollination, more like a web, not nodes.
  • Rotate creative leadership. Don’t let people get burned out. Let leaders play a support role sometimes.
  • Actively turn the corner. Know when its time to stop brainstorming (where collaboration rules and roles are less important) and start making/producing (roles become more important people need to know what’s expected).
  • Know your roles. Hierarchy streamlines production. Clear sets of responsibility enables communication.
  • Practice as a team. When in execution mode, it’s not time to practice individual skills. The group needs to work things out and trust each other.
  • Make your mission explicit. What’s the creative project you are trying to solve? Develop strong process for making decision. Clarify communications. Increase constraints is counter-intuitive but helps decision making.
  • Kill your darlings softly. Don’t be afraid to let go of good ideas. Put it in Phase 2!
  • Leadership is a service. I love this one!! Its your job to enable others to do their job well.
  • Generate projects around creative interests. This will keep people engaged and give them a sense of ownership.
  • Remember your audience. How many times are decisions made to benefit business needs at the expense of user’s needs are forgotten.
  • Celebrate failure. It’s ok – only by taking risks, can we get to something great.

Adaptive Path – Sign me up!

YOU are the Mobile Device

This week San Francisco hosted the Web 2.0 Expo and I was there for a few days of networking and industry buzz. Here are my highlights:

Best Keynote: 10 Tools For Managing a Creative Environment by Bryan Mason, COO and Sarah Nelson, Design Analyst from Adaptive Path. (See next post for more about this keynote)

Best Keynote Energy: Tim O’Reilly – keynote extraordinaire. His passionate talk even ended with a poem that he read to his father on his deathbed. I didn’t envy the folks that had to follow that! Here’s a video snippet about audacious goals.

Other keynotes I attended:
A Flickr Approach to making Sense of the World by Dan Catts. A technical yet entertaining look at how geomapping works on flickr. Brings up some interesting issues regarding where one neighborhood begins, and another ends. What really are the boundries of Noe Valley, and who sez?

The Next Generation of Tagging: Searching and Discovering a Better User Experience by Kakul Srivastava, Director of Product Management at flickr. Excitement around a community that thrives on tags. All good and well, but as a flickr user, I find it very time consuming to retouch, upload, title, describe and tag hundreds of pictures. When will they make that easier? I’m fantasizing about voice tagging… wouldn’t that be cool?

Best Schwag: Disney Internet Group

Best Booth: Honestly, nothing really stood out, however the booths that served beer and snacks yesterday, definitely deserve high marks!

Best Party: Digg Meetup at Mighty. Not an official event of the Expo, however, free drinks, no cover, Rock Band for all my friends and a live dancing unicorn. How can you top that?

Something that has Nothing to do with Anything

You might enjoy this page I scanned this from a book called O.J. by Bill Gutman (1974). There’s something so ironic about the image plus the original caption, “Relax O.J., you’ve earned it!”. What happened to this powerful, talented man? He had it all – what a disappointment!

Relax OJ,  You\'ve earned it!

And, can you believe it? More football ephemera! I’ve had these little lovelies for years – picked them up in a thriftshop for 5 bucks each a few years ago. I could have purchased more of the, but I was broke at the time so only got the two. I love the simple/hot graphics:

John Carson football card

Joe Perry football card

Writing Rant

Right now, I’m looking for a job. Not just any job – I’m looking for a creative senior leadership/management position in an interactive agency. So, the job postings and descriptions I’m reading tend to be VERY SERIOUS. I guess it’s because, ultimately, the job I’m looking for is VERY SERIOUS and comes with a lot of responsibility. To get a response, my resume, portfolio, and email correspondence must be very well written and expertly presented.

After viewing probably hundreds of job postings, and agency web sites, I’m experiencing a massive ‘corporate-speak’ overload. Some of these job postings are so outrageously full of industry jargon, that my eyes literally blur over and my head starts to spin! Another thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes the writing is embarrassingly bad — and these are MAJOR interactive and advertising agencies!! Below area few of my favorites: (names changed to protect the guilty)

An interesting use of abbreviations from a recent posting:

[Company] is now defining a new Customer Insight Management (CIM) market, similarly to the way SFA led to the emergence of CRM.

Below is a job posting I found on Craigslist for a major advertising agency. I mean seriously – how many times can you use the word sustainable or some form of it? And what exactly does it mean in this context?

ART DIRECTOR at [Company], the leading sustainability agency: At[Company], we create sustainable visions for companies around the world and help them grow by embracing a grassroots approach to sustainability. Our Art Directors…develop creative concepts and designs for sustainability-focused campaigns across multiple mediums.

When you apply online, or email your inquiry to a generic address, you almost always get a canned reply. I love this response I got recently from a pretty large advertising agency. First of all, definitely is used THREE TIMES. And what’s with using the @ symbol in the middle of a sentence?

If you’re applying for a creative position we’ll definitely be looking @ your online portfolio if you supplied it. We’ll definitely contact you if there’s interest, and we’ll keep your resume on file. If you have any questions, definitely feel free to write back to the email address.

Rescued Book

When I was in grad school, I think I visited every single library in a 50 mile radius of the campus. Many times, there would be a cart in the lobby with old books for a buck or two. I got a handful of these books so sadly marked “Discard.” I absolutely love the patina on this children’s book about ATV’s (All Terrain Vehicles) called On the Sand by E. and R.S. Radlauer (1972). The authors also shot the photos. Here are some of my favorite images – immortalized.

Campaign Money

It’s not totally illegal – but why would anyone vote for guy who defaces U.S. currency?

Defying Gravity


Here’s my niece Olivia jumping on the trampoline in her backyard like a superhero.

And here’s her brother Jack. He’s a good jumper too.

There are more trampoline pics on my flickr.

Free Fall:

By French photographer Denis Darzacq, from a series called La Chute. Makes me say ‘wow’ not ‘ow’. He has a new series called Hyper.

Your Tax Dollars at Work:

From the NASA Image of the Day. They even have a spanking new web site too.