“The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
Of course innovation takes innovators. But who are these innovators, and how do you become one? Innovators are people who think of new ideas that no one has ever thought of before; they are people who have an imagination.
BUT, it takes more than just having an imagination. Innovators have an imagination in the face of adversity. If you have a new idea no one has ever heard of before, an idea that seems impossible or impractical, people will call you crazy. And we know this to be true. People called Isaac Newton crazy. His ideas of gravity were completely unheard of and novel, people did not understand how he could have an apple fall on his head and suddenly come up with a groundbreaking theory. Rather, they probably thought that apple hit his head and triggered some strange psychological effect.
People have their doubts about every innovator’s ideas: Newton’s, Einstein’s and Jobs’. But if each of these innovators was to give in to people’s doubts, letting their big ideas crumble, innovation would not exist. So the conclusion would follow that in order for innovation to be possible, we need to think big and foster an environment that allows for big thinking.
Now when I say, “think big” I mean allowing your imagination run wild, without wanting to or having to make concessions. An example of this “thinking big” can be demonstrated in a conversation Steve Jobs and Robert Iger, chief executive of Disney, had.
Iger describes: “Steve loved Hawaii. He and I went on several long walks on the beaches there. On one of them I was musing about Disney building a hotel there and where might be the right place to do it. He said: ‘Why don’t you buy Lanai? You should just buy the whole island. Think big. Don’t just build a resort.’ I said I haven’t noticed a for sale sign lately. Not all of Steve’s ideas were good or practical. The point was that he pushed you.” He made no concessions and he let his imagination run wild.
Now how does this relate to advertising you may ask?
Big ideas make for the most successful advertising campaigns. Bing’s Jay Z “Decoded” Campaign placed every page of Jay Z’s new book into real world applications all over the world – on New Orleans rooftops and Miami Swimming pools – putting Jay Z’s entire biography in context. Pages were located in 13 major cities in the U.S. and abroad on billboards and unique collectible items, and if the media didn’t exist, Bing created it. Bing then created an “online contest built into the Bing Maps platform in order to provide an immersive game experience which would hook the user into a scavenger hunt for over 200 pages.”
The campaign was extremely successful. In only one month, Bing saw an 11.7% increase in visits, the site entered the global top 10 most visited sites for the first time, and the campaign earned 1 billion global media impressions. This campaign shows the same “big thinking” that innovators demonstrate. Bing had an imagination beyond reason, without media to even support the idea. They took a risk, and “thought big” and it paid off. But this isn’t simply luck. In a study on the psychological success cycle and goal setting, it was found that: “A sufficiently challenging and personally relevant goal will increase the individual’s level of effort expenditure and thus relative performance.” In other words, if you set big, challenging goals for yourself you’re more inclined to work harder and therefore accomplish those goals.
While this supports my claim that in order for innovation to be possible, we need to think big. I have not yet mentioned the second part of my claim, which is that we have to foster an environment that allows for big thinking.
In college, I had an advertising class where we were each assigned a brand. We were instructed to create an integrated campaign with the elements being TV, Print, Radio and Outdoor. We were given no limits or restraints, no budget to work with. Anything was possible, and in the end, we thought of some pretty cool ideas.
At the time, I never even thought about the fact that we hadn’t been assigned a budget. Now looking back on it, they probably did it purposely so as to create an environment where imagination was encouraged. Budget was never mentioned in any of my advertising classes, it wasn’t until I started working that I realized it was even a factor.
Now in the real world of advertising, a budget is one of the first things a client gives us when they ask us to do a campaign for them. And I am sure many agencies let the budget dictate the ideas. Here at LSB, I have learned there is a way to think big, even under this constraint.
The first thing we do here is bring together a big group of people to brainstorm ideas. We don’t put any limits on the ideas, we don’t mention a budget and we allow people to use their imagination. We say, if we want to do this RIGHT, what is the BEST way? The BEST idea? And then we allow the rest to fall into place. If we are lucky, the client likes the big ideas and decides to take the risk and give us more money to execute against them. But even if they don’t, we recognize the value in the big idea brainstorm and we allow the big ideas to be a jumping off point that we scale back from in order to execute within budget. The idea here is that, we believe we aren’t doing our job the best we can if we stifle creativity and don’t allow ourselves to use our imagination from the beginning. Thinking big is made to be something we regularly practice.
While a regular practice of ours, creating an environment to encourage big idea thinking is not as common as we might think. While in today’s world there is so much opportunity for discussion and information exchange with our access and universal use of social media outlets, the very nature of the medium hinders our ability to think big. An article in the NY times indicates, “Instead of theories, hypotheses and grand arguments, we get an instant 140-character tweets about eating a sandwich or watching a TV show…It may seem counter intuitive that at a time when we know more than we have ever known, we think about it less…In effect, we are living in an increasingly post-idea world — a world in which big, thought-provoking ideas that can’t instantly be monetized are of so little intrinsic value that fewer people are generating them and fewer outlets are disseminating them. Bold ideas are almost passé.”
So I am at the beginning of my career, I have big dreams, I am even trying to start my own company. I want to make a difference in this world. Why should me saying those words sound so naïve? But it does doesn’t it? It’s because as an innovator, we say things that don’t necessarily have data to back them, but we say things based on intuition and imagination. So I will say it again, even in the face of adversity, I want to make a difference in this world.
Every entrepreneur and advertiser stands at THIS same fork in the road: you either sully your idea and bow to the realities that other “more experienced” individuals claim to be true, allowing your big idea to fall wayside, or you willfully ignore the myriad obstacles in your path in order to accomplish a feat that will allow your name and legacy to go down in history, to become synonymous with legendary figures like Job’s and Einstein.
I choose the latter. It has to be someone who thinks of the next big idea, why not me? I guess I picked the right place to work, as it seems as we all here have chosen to go the right way at that fork.