Posts in Category: innovation

What I hope to achieve with TED Ads Worth Spreading

As I sit to write this post, I am reminded of all the things in-between that I have missed sharing and writing about. It’s out in the news that I’ve been (humbled, honored, excited, insert more adjectives here!) invited to be one of the twelve nominators for TED Ads Worth Spreading Initiative. The category I’ve been assigned is “Creative Wonder.” And who better to be partnered with than Raghava K.K, former TED Speaker and artist-extraordinaire!

Let me back up a bit though. This is a big deal for me. I also understand that things like this usually beget the question, how did this happen. I’ve been asked this numerous times. The answer is surprisingly short.

I attended WPP Stream in Athens, Greece earlier this September where I hosted a discussion on “The Future of Publishing”. Toward the end of this discussion, Ronda Carnegie of TED and I ended up having an incredibly thought provoking conversation about the role of curation and point-of-view. And this is where our collaboration really began. I will confess that until she mentioned it to me, I hadn’t known of or seen the TED Ads Worth Spreading initiative. So you can imagine how humbled (but excited) I was when she invited me to participate in this initiative.

The thing is, I don’t have a traditional advertising background. I’m still figuring out how I can be useful in an ad agency. I started my career as a journalist at InStyle magazine and found my way into marketing through trend-spotting work that I was doing for PSFK and a bunch of other sites. Point is, JWT is my first “proper” advertising job and I’m not yet jaded or bored with it. In fact, I’ve only just begun.

TED is a powerful platform. I’ve had several people tell me that they don’t understand this initiative from TED. Why ads, they ask me. The way I look at it, advertising is one of the most easily accessible (and mainstream) forms of creativity and art. You have to understand – I grew up in India and we have a rich tradition and a healthy appetite and love for advertising. (I’m known to joke even today that American advertising is boring and lacks imagination when compared to Indian advertising.) Dinner-time conversations with family and friends often involved remarking on the brilliance of a particular advertisement. Even as an expat in New York, my friends and I tend to spend hours youtubing old ads, fabricating our own nostalgia.

Subliminally and overtly, advertising has been my first introductions to story-telling, to creativity and to capitalism. And I believe there is enough room in the industry for someone such as TED to come in with its own point of view on advertising and shape the dialogue further.

For TED, our one true mandate is to discover ads worth spreading that fall under the “Creative Wonder” category – which means we are looking for global work that elevates the craft of creativity in advertising through ingenious use of technology, music, cinematic treatment or even information.

From the moment we were briefed, Raghava and I felt strongly that it was essential for us to open up our process and not remain limited to our own networks or point-of-views in discovering creative work that is meant to speak for and represent our category globally. We believe that creativity doesn’t happen behind closed doors or without collaboration. Even advertisements need an army to make them! Hence, we have decided to democratize our search.

http://www.tedawscreativewonder.com is our humble effort at ensuring that not only is the process of discovering these advertisements transparent and democratic but also a story onto itself.

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We’ve invited a diverse group of artists, creative’s and thinkers to the project. Each of them brings a unique POV and their backgrounds, interests and experiences apply a different lens to this, which is crucial for this project. (We’ve already come across incredible ads that I wouldn’t have found on my own!) You can see our growing collection of nominations on our Pinterest board.

Our goal is to emerge not only with unique, global pieces of creative but also an amazing story of the works, how we found them and why we recommended them. Through the conversation and dialogue generated, we hope to elevate our and our community’s outlook on advertising and creativity.

I realize this was a rather long post – but would LOVE your insights and opinions. This is an experiment at crafting a point of view on creativity in advertising and the more people involved, the more enlightened our point of view will be. So drop me a note, yeah?

Using popular culture narratives in Education

Have you read, “Persepolis,”? You could call it a book, a cartoon-strip or a story about Iran’s history. When I first read the book a few years ago, I felt that I had learned more about the Iranian Revolution than I did in my World History Class. Readers like me were able to strongly relate to the story because suddenly the Revolution wasn’t faceless anymore. It had a name, a shape, and a color. Stories, inherently, are powerful in simplifying the complex,  influencing perception and even behavior. Everyone has a different learning style – some are more visual, some more linear, but stories is a universal language. I think, it’s hard to disagree with that.

Which is why, this specific project is so brilliant. A group of professors at Eastern Illinois University & Baker University have created the most ingenious tool to help their students understand and grasp Econ 101. Answer: Seinfeld. Picture 4These professors have not only created an online sites but they also regularly use clips from Seinfeld to teach their Basic Economics class. According to the website,

Seinfeld ran for nine seasons on NBC and became famous as a “show about nothing.” Basically, the show allows viewers to follow the antics of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer as they move through their daily lives, often encountering interesting people or dealing with special circumstances. It is the simplicity of Seinfeld that makes it so appropriate for use in economics courses. Using these clips (as well as clips from other television shows or movies) makes economic concepts come alive, making them more real for students. Ultimately, students will start seeing economics everywhere – in other TV shows, in popular music, and most importantly, in their own lives.

I can’t tell you how much I love this. It’s repackaging existing media and stories into a different context that elevates its purpose from entertainment to education. This is magic. We need more of this.

The other thing I came across was Shambling Hoards – a new game from Yahoo Sandbox that uses zombies and gaming to teach economic theory. Edu-gaming is not a new concept, but I’m glad its getting more attention and resources now. Have you come across any interesting uses of story-telling / narratives in the education space?

Eager to hear your thoughts!

Innovation in Healthcare

I stumbled upon the Mayo Clinic Innovation blog and was astounded with the amount of research, thinking and ideas that are alive on this blog. My thoughts are random and all over the place so bear with me while I try to make sense of my thesis.

Mayo Clinic was founded on the principle of consistently developing better ways of treating patients and running operations. It would be fair to say that this is the core mission of Mayo Clinic and has been since 1889. Over a century, not only has Mayo Clinic stayed true to its values but become a case-study for other leaders in and outside the healthcare industry to follow suit. This fascinates me because its not very often that you hear about innovations in the Healthcare sector. A revolutionary, disruptive technology might sit in the news for a few weeks before dealing with adoption and scalability issues, but incremental innovations and improvements (esp. in the Healthcare) are overlooked and underestimated. A few months ago, I read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto and was astounded by the idea that a tool as simple as a Check-list in ER rooms showed measurable results in improving the quality of health-care and saving lives.

I think there are two things that stand out to me most about Mayo Clinic’s efforts:

Transparency: Leaving aside the social media jargon for a second, Mayo Clinic’s efforts with the The Center for Innovation and their approach to communicating it has not only contributed towards elevating its position as a thought leader in healthcare innovation, but also simplifies the complex world of patient care. Here is an example of a post on the design of a stool-collection kit. A very unsexy topic but the learnings shared from Mayo Clinic’s focus groups are insightful.

Accessibility: Mayoclinic.com is a better, more trust-worthy webmd.com. I was very pleasantly surprised at Mayo Clinic’s adoption of the web in helping users learn more about diseases. I prefer that MayoClinic keeps it to the point unlike webmd.com that has now morphed into an ivillage.com lookalike. I think MC is still working out its kinks (there are several different versions of the sites that exist with a different look and feel on each) but I already like where they are headed.

On philosophy, morality and children

This is a rambling of ideas and thoughts that have been floating in my head for the last few days. This morning, I read a very interesting piece in the NYT about an experimental study in a second-grade classroom at a charter school in Massachusetts where undergraduate students from Mount Holyoke College teach these children philosophy. Not about philosophers but about the higher value, morals and questions with no right or wrong answers. The idea that Prof. Thomas E. Wartenberg purports is that philosophy is not an elitist discipline and that children have the capacity of abstract thinking and thus developing deep reasoning skills via participating in dialog of philosophical issues around stories and fables.

I find new ideas and new methods to improving education very compelling. Critics will argue for and against Prof. Wartenberg’s approach, but I think it’s important to consider how similar it is to what parents do with their children after reading a story book to them: they talk at their children about the morals associated in the story. If I collected a penny for every-time my cousin has compared her daughter’s actions to a fictional but highly respected character, I’d be richer. But I think doing it in a classroom and allowing the children to express their thoughts and feelings is different than a parent relating the moral of the story to them. Also, exposing them to each other’s thoughts and feelings probably makes the experience far richer for them.

I think the point here isn’t that Prof. Wartenberg chooses to take a philosophical approach to inculcate reasoning skills in second graders – the point is how he does it. Quite simple actually – they read a book together and then they talk about it.

By now they knew the drill: deciding whether or not they agreed with each question; thinking about why or why not; explaining why or why not; and respecting what their classmates said.

There was no real point to this blog post apart from expressing wonder at a professors attempt to inspire a tiny portion of how we educate our children and prepare them for the future.

Training to be an entrepreneur

Because of the instant-nature of my job, I often don’t find time to sit down, reflect and compute the bytes of information that I feed into my head daily via Twitter, Facebook and a number of other networks. I try not to lose focus of my personal goals as I gain more work experience and become more confident and self-assured daily.

I consider my current phase of life as a “training” period for my next phase of life, which is running my own business. I think a lot about how I want my life to make a difference, the impact I want to make. I will be honest – my primary goal is to build a highly profitable and financially successful business and I don’t harbor false notions about my capitalistic desires. However, I also want to be a strong leader and I want to create a business that will impact more than a handful of lives. An honorable business that will create jobs and hopefully, contribute to the general well-being of society. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but for now I am also sub-consciously training myself to be a leader, to understand how to run a business and to learn from both the good habits and the bad habits of entrepreneurs. I’ve picked up a few ideas and values that I want to build my business around. I just wanted to put them down on paper, so here:

1) Execute quickly and efficiently: This is the most important thing I have learned and it is the single most common factor all entrepreneurial minded have in common. I must have heard, ‘better to ask for forgiveness than permission’ about 10 times from all different people. It is branded in my head now. It is important to think things through and be doggedly focused on the end goal. It is equally important to not gloss over the details in the beginning, because it is not a pleasant situation to deal with midway down the road. But the point is – do your homework fast and just execute. Start making, building, selling – whatever it is your idea is. But just start it.

2) Cut a good deal, but provide equal value: I don’t like asking for or doing free work unless it is a fair barter. When doing a free project for an author, he asked me “How can I make this worth your while?” I had never been asked that question before. It showed me integrity. It showed me that I was dealing with a fair businessman who was also looking out for my best interests. Not everyone in the business world is going to look out for my best interests, but those who do – I know I want to hang on to them.
This is a principle I want to live by and do business by. So when the time comes for me to start pulling in favors, I want to know that I have earned those favors or that I will pay for them. Yes – there are no free lunches.

3) Brilliance shines effortlessly: Some entrepreneurs or wanna-be entrepreneurs feel a strong need to constantly talk about how smart they are, how connected they are and how cool they are. And it gets frankly annoying after a while. The leaders I admire are the ones who know when to talk, when to namedrop and when to shut up. And that is the kind of leader I aspire to be everyday.

4) Inspire loyalty: The founder/ public face of a huge non-profit never thanked his volunteers or even bothered to find out their names when he flew into Philly for a conference organized and managed by the volunteers. Three months later, every single volunteer had quit or moved on. A small gesture of appreciation would have avoided this situation and kept the volunteer roster loyal and motivated. Instead, the non-profit had to struggle for another few months before they could build a sound volunteer board again. Lesson: No employee is too lowly. Don’t gush, but certainly don’t ignore anyone’s contribution. I admire companies and entrepreneurs who are able to retain employees long-term. To me, it says a lot about the company.

5) Give control: I read these stories about how once you are an entrepreneur you cease having a life. No vacations, no time-off. But I have met an equal number of amazing entrepreneurs who build their business around the idea that it will survive and run smoothly without their continued presence. And that happens upon relinquishing control and trusting the right person to take care of the business in your absence.

So that’s what has been on my mind so far. Would love to hear your thoughts and your ideas on what you think makes a good entrepreneur/ leader.

Digital Story-telling

Little rat reading the book

Another terrific discussion on BBH Labs blog about the digital narrative:
And here’s my comment.

I don’t think that digital storytelling and the brand storytelling are necessarily divorced from one another. Infact, I’m not sure if a narrative-based digital campaign will be successful on its own. Narrative and a story builds over time. To think that digital can manage that with one campaign, one microsite, one widget is to basically apply the same, tired old advertising-thinking to new behavioral models.

I should share the story of Amul Butter. Amul is one of India’s leading dairy companies. Since the 70’s (probably even before) Amul Butter advertisements (print, billboards etc) have been satirical observations of culture, politics, cricket and bollywood. Yet – tied effortlessly to the brand. This three-decade old archive of advertisements might as well be the best interpretation and elucidation of the country’s pop culture. The consistency, the witty-writing/ creative and the dogged dedication to the narrative have made these advertisements and Amul Butter one of India’s most loved brands. The brand inspires passion, loyalty and patriotism as the new entrants try to bite off Amul’s share of the market.

Amul is not a ‘digital brand’ yet – but it operates in very different markets where billboards are more relevant and pervasive than the internet. But the larger lesson I hoped to highlight by sharing this story is that: the point of storytelling is to evoke passion. And that happens over long-term.

Sharing examples of Charlie-bit-me videos is fine – but thats a one-time hit. When was the time we spoke about the Numa song or the Chinese backstreet boys ? One-time hits fizzle out eventually – everything on the web fizzles out eventually as newwer, shiner, funnier stories emerge. I don’t argue the value of a one-time growth spurt for a brand, but if we are talking about storytelling, lets not look at the web as a as a very in-the-moment/ instant-gratification medium. Investment in new media and its planning should be a strategic long term plan, not a short-term hit. Only then, will we be adding any tangible value. AND creating stories that will be conversed about for years to come.

(Img via Flickr)

A fresh new perspective on marketing

Agencies in the market for work

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This is where the recession has its upside. Its pushing everyone out of their comfort zones.
DDB West created a snazzy, clever website for a new project “The Rebound Project” positioning themselves as an agency ready for a gaming project. In another instance, this months’ Fast Company issue carries a full-page advertisement (yes print!) by innovation consultancy Fahrenheit 212 making an open bid for interesting projects to work on for free*.

I don’t know if its working for either of them, but I have to applaud their efforts :)

Re-inventing Healthcare

The PSFK Conference yesterday was kicked off by a very interesting panel on re-inventing healthcare and innovations in the industry. I have many thoughts on what I learned at the conference and so I’m breaking it up in several posts so that I can focus and collate my thoughts on each of the big ideas and not just regurgitate it.

Richard Fine of Help Remedies has a very interesting idea. Help Remedies products are stripping apart the frills of medicine packaging and bringing it down to its purest levels. Fine made some good points about the packaging, the upselling and the choices that pharmaceutical companies package up to gain a larger market share on simple products like acetaminophen and band-aids. Now, you cannot not love the packaging and presentation of the Help Remedies products – it stands apart and it makes a point.

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But what disappointed me was the total lack of dialog or questions around the bottom-line and the business model. Innovation in design is not the answer to curing the health industry of its woes. It is a part of the answer. Help Remedies sells its 12 tablets of simple acetaminophen for $6. And they sell 8 surgical band-aids for $6. As compared to a Rite-Aid tablet pack that sells 100 tablets for $5.95 or 80 band-aids for $3.99.

Now the obvious question is, do I simply want to look cool by buying a better packaged drug or do I want value for my money? And I think the answer to this is also very obvious. Screw the packaging, give me more value for my money.

At the presentation, Fine mentioned that their products are currently being sold at top hotels (Mondrian) museums and elite boutiques. See the full list of venues here.

My contention with this idea is not that their products are sold and currently cater to an obviously design-conscious, upper strata of the society. It is OK that this is their business model. But my problem is with the idea that when presenting to a creative crowd, do not just highlight the creative/ differentiation and the positioning. The panel was about altering the way we think about medicine -and the way we think about heatlhcare or medicine or anything for that matter cannot be divorced from the business of it.

Perhaps the responsibility of illuminating both sides of the coin lies more with the moderator of the panel than the actual speakers.

Now I don’t own a business or have never run one. So I am sure that there is a reason why a simple product like theirs is not competitively priced. Manufacturing, Distribution, Formulations – perhaps Help Remedies CANNOT afford to sell their products for a more competitive price, but the point is – talk about it! Don’t underestimate the intelligence of a creative community by not addressing the business implications and challenges of actually trying to change how we view an industry.

Just my opinion.

What makes people creative?

As someone who works in the ‘creative’ industries, I find the word “creative” far too limiting in its scope. I am uncomfortable being termed a creative. In New York speak and in agency speak, a creative is someone who designs or someone who makes things. Graphic designers, fashion designers, product designers, sculptors, artists is the general nomenclature that I and most other people associate immediately with the word, ‘creative.’

Funnily enough, I don’t immediately think of dancers or actors as creative in the first minute. Is it because I think of their talent/ skill as a craft? Do you think of them as creative immediately when you hear the word?

Why?  I’ve often asked myself this.

Most intelligent people on giving this question more thought will say, but creative is not limited to the artitic – being creative is being a good problem-solver. Then whether you are an enginner, a coder, or even an event planner. But I find that the word “creative” alienates people instead of making them feel comfortable. The word in a sense is more isolating than embracing.

Just something that bothers me a little when I let it :)

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Advise me on your organization/ project management skills

My job mostly involves thinking/ consulting and being held accountable for it. Knowing my client’s problems, understanding the landscape and offering possible solutions that will meet the clients objectives. Of late, I’ve been tasked with work that involves a teensy bit of project management/ execution: problem solving on the go. And not million dollar client-related problems, but more simpler, where do I order bevrages and snacks from (food services or wholesale!)? Should we purchase the product first or the storage/ containers first? Should I invoice first or order first?  Little things like those that left me flustered!

In the workforce, I’m used to feeling on top of my game or at the very least in control of situations assigned to me. In my personal life however, my sister and my fiance will attest to me being quite a disaster in the kitchen and the wardrobe. I organize and then re-organize stuff in my wardrobe a million times trying to out-do myself and get better – only to get flustered and end up with a result that does not please me. Sometimes, even giving up half-way. Not a particularly proud moment, but I’ve been trying very hard to address this.

And this really really confuses me. I’m not boasting, but I think I’m good at my job with a ridiculous desire to continue to get better at it. Why is it that then I’m not so good or so confident about the little tasks? I get flummoxed and boom! My self-esteem plummets.

I am certain this is a weakness and I’ve decided to mend it. I tried a little technique today and it seems to be working for me. Upon being assigned a task that is outside my comfort zone, I first write it down. And then I think and list out the steps that need to be done to achieve the given task. Once that is done, I then think through each step and try to imagine the most efficient and productive method to get it done. Wrting helps me. Listing helps me. Once I see the entire task broken down like that, I feel much more confident and in control. Now, I know people who do all this in their head and get on with the job without a worry. But this process is helping me overcome my weakness right now and try to stay more oganized.

The major drawback is that I end up wasting a lot of time. But maybe that’s a part of the process?

I wanted to ask you – any tips/ tools you would recommend to help a rightbrained slight scatter-brain like me overcome this weakness? How do you stay organized? And how would you advise me? What has/ has not worked for you?

Authonomy – Crowdsourcing for books.

Spotted on springwise.comAuthonomy is the output of the innovative minds at Harper Collins Publishing house. My mout is salvaiting with the idea of reading the books / excerpts already posted on this site! It is crowdsourcing for books. People/ Writers write about 10,000 words of their novel and upload it on this site. Readers will then read what they find interesting and vote on it. The top 5 books that receive the most votes will be read by the editors at Harper Collins! And well..from there on. .who knows what can happen?

For a writer, the writing part of the book is almost the easiest part. It’s the publishing that kills the spirit. This site, if anything, provides motivation for writers to get published. I’m very interested in seeing how this turns out – many such publishing models have come and gone and failed, but this model with the backing and commitment of a major publishing house behind it might just work.

Working Class Studio – make money and art.

I find it very hard to resist beautiful stationary – especially writing books. Yesterday while I was at Barns & Noble to pick up the last of the Twilight Series, I chanced upon this beautifully designed journals (see picture below) by a new company, “Working Class Studio.” Turns out, the studio is an innovative output of Savannah College of Art & Design. From the website, “Working Class studio is a product development venture of the SCAD that cultivates and promotes the work of talented SCAD students, alumni and faculty artists.” What an amazing concept. It reminded me of the Design Manifesto I had stumbled upon of Central Saint Martin’s College.

By launching this division, SCAD, a strictly creative and fine arts educational institution, is displaying more business sense than even the best B-Schools. Instead of teaching/ preaching creativity for creativity’s sake, SCAD is taking it a step further and teaching creativity for productivity’s sake. I’d like to wager a guess that participating students emerge as smarter business-men and women, and not just better creatives. Great call, SCAD!

Invitation to a feast

Well, one of its kind really.

A few months back, my paths crossed with All Day Buffet and I joined them in their efforts to make social innovation mainstream. You probably know of All Day Buffet from its ridiculously successful Cause for Drinks event. If you haven’t been to one yet – you should.

Mike, Jerri and I have been fervently at work in creating a one-of-a-kind conference on social innovation aptly titled “The Feast.” It is on October 16th at the Scandinavia House here in NYC. What is the point of another conference you may ask. And I agree. Like you, we are pretty much tired of the same kind of conferences, that bring together the same speakers and the attendees and do not achieve much.

That is precisely why The Feast is so different. Our speakers are evocative and have each harnessed the power of creativity to propel social change in their respective industries. Dr. Despommier of the Vertical Farming fame, Dale Jones of PlayPumps and Tom Szaky of TerraCycle are just a sampling of the great minds we have bought together for the day.

The conference is less about ideas and more about actions. In gathering the world’s leading creative mavericks, entrepreneurs, revolutionaries, radicals, and innovators together we intend to inspire action to change the world. Our hope is to leave you high on possibilities with a new menu of connections to get it all done.

I hope you will support our vision and buy a ticket or two and come to the conference. I promise you that it will be money and time well spent. And totally worth it.

Please email me/ leave a comment if you are a member of the press and want a press pass. I look forward to seeing you there.

Career advice I wish someone had given me.

I think my non-traditional career path is testimony to the increasing dissonance ambitious young self-starters like me have felt with the traditionally available career options. I do receive occasional emails from young graduates who are seeking career advice. Since I don’t have the bandwidth to share my learnings via email exchanges, this is a good home for it.

It is what I have learned from managing and pursuing my career. It may not apply to you or you may not agree with this, but I am not looking for approval or arguments. I wrote this down because I always wished someone had told me this. This is for those who remind me of me :)

1) Pay close attention to your industry and adapt to its changes.
For professionals in the industry of communications (creative or business side) it is most important to pay close attention to the quicksilver nature of our industry and be flexible enough to adapt and grow with it. In my case, when I entered the workforce, the magazine industry was struggling (still is) and the new media wave hadn’t hit the industry in full force just yet. I changed gears and it has served me well. I also realized that I didn’t need to work at a magazine to be able to write. And incidentally, after I quit the industry, I’ve published work in InStyle, Allure and Zink magazines. Besides, I satiate my ‘writing’ urges here on my blog.

2) Explore the dualities of your skill-set.
By this I mean – don’t allow yourself to be pegged into a singular role. I think most smart people have the inherent capacity and the appetite to understand and function well within both the creative and the business side of work. Personally, I didn’t want to be pegged down as a ‘creative type,’ but I didn’t want to be pegged down as a ‘finance/ business’ type either. The solution for me was to find roles that allowed me to balance and grow in both areas. The solution for you may be different – but I’d say if you are on the client side, explore the agency side at some point and vice-versa. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

3) Jobs are not always for learning what to do.
Some jobs are fantastic case-studies for learning “what not to do” or “bad business practices.” And I’ve had my share of those kind of jobs. It is easy to think when you are stuck in a miserable job that you are not learning anything. But you will only understand the true extent of what the job has contributed to your professional growth, when you are at a distance from it and looking at it from a different lens. So do not fret if you are stuck in a job you don’t like and feel like it is a waste of your time and talent — trust me, if you are not learning about how to be better at what you do, you are most certainly learning, how to not get worse and what not to do. And those types of jobs and learnings, are equally important for your growth. The bottom-line is – you will still emerge a better thinker and will be able to effectively articulate and assert yourself.

4) You are in control of your career.
I don’t know if I can sum this up as lucidly as the others…. Maybe because I am still learning… Upon graduating from college, I had a very narrowly defined understanding of the types of jobs that exist. I struggled to find the perfect fit for me and I kept exploring until I found my niche. I fear that many young people, perhaps do not realize how wonderful this opportunity is. Do not let peer pressure and college dynamics let you believe that your career path is pre-defined. It is what you make of it. Take control of your career. Be ruthless in your pursuit and humble in your deliverance. I guarantee, you will weather any career-storm.

5) Don’t be afraid to email the CEO
I have no shame or fear in expressing my opinions, asking for a job or writing an email of appreciation to the CEO of any company. Sometimes it gets ignored, but three out of five times, it landed me a job. If you don’t think this way – I’m sorry but you might as well accept defeat and move out of the industry because I can promise you, that for every one person who is not thinking this way, there are 5 others who are, and they are the ones who will land your dream job. When you want a job – pull all stops to get it. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to win.

6) About burning bridges and such.
I steadfastly believe: to never burn a bridge. But some bridges are not worth managing. You will come across certain people who you are better off without in your life. I say that because I’ve been there twice and it has made me wonder and ask myself – What’s the one good reason why I would want to keep this bridge afloat?
I ask myself,
Would I ever work with this person again? No.
Would I ever hire or recommend this person? No.
Would I ever help this person? Probably not.
What if in the future, this person is asked to provide a testimonial to their experience with me? This was a tricky one. But I’ll take my chances and say, even then its not worth it.

And quite honestly, I’ve felt much better about myself since. If you are true to yourself, it is perfectly okay to allow a bridge or two to crumble and break down. Or in some cases, take an axe and break it yourself. You cannot always be political and diplomatic – in life nor in work.

EDIT: Dion Hughes left a very insightful comment below. That people change – and it is worthwhile to keep all your professional relationships, at the very least, open. I have to concede to this – it is good advice. I have been in the workforce only four years and I have much to learn. One of these things is: leaving room to allow people for a second chance.

7) On quitting..
I will pass on to you a gem of an advice my friend gave me, “Don’t accept a new job because you can’t wait to quit your old one – run to the new job because you can’t wait to begin that one.” Thats it.

EDIT – (Props to Manoj Damodaran)  I should also add that think twice before quitting a job. Climbing the ladder by jumping titles – while great for your wallet, not so good for your professional growth. Regardless of your job title, to thrive in this industry (creative, communications, media) you’ve gotta pay the dues. Take the garbage out, do the shit-work, make photo-copies, feel your intellectual muscles degenerate and wonder why you went to school — think of it as the initiation process to grander things. I’ve had $6/hour internships at top magazines in NYC, written for free for numerous publications, worked for pittance to build my experiencefolder. Now I don’t. I will not work for free, consult for free or even write for free – unless it is for a cause or a company I truly believe in. But I think I’ve earned my right to be there. You will too – with persistence and perseverance.

However, the balance is important. Learning when to say no and learning when to ask for more money for your work is incredibly important. And that will come as you learn, grow and feel that you can offer much more. That moment will most likely come when you are done paying your dues.

8) Lastly, do not take yourself too seriously.
Have fun. It is more important to have lived then have survived. A job at the end of the day is a job. Be nice, help out when you can and do your fucking best. But for gods sake, have a life outside of work. Your life is what makes you interesting, not your job.

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I hope this was of some use to you.
I will update this occasionally. If you have a learning you would like to share on this page, please leave a comment or email me and I’d be happy to include it here.

Productive creativity

I came across Fat Pig Chocolate Bars on some random blog and absolutely fell in love with the sheer irreverence and unexpected little surprise of this brand. A little more digging revealed that the creator of the brand is actually a creative agency called, “The Brooklyn Brothers.”

Their approach to doing work is lovely – while they do have a set of clients, they also create and launch and build their own businesses, like Fat Pig Chocolate!

They’ve also written a childrens story book and created (with the help of a partner) a pill that helps reduce menstrual pain. Talk about creating products on two ends of the spectrum.

This industry shift from ‘creating for clients’ to ‘creating for us’ is not particularly unique or new. Creatives want to create – and almost every creative I’ve met in this industry is constantly working on atleast two personal projects at any given time along with their full-time job. A few agencies are partaking in the intellectual property rights to the new products and services they create for their clients so everyone can share the benefits. I think that model has some flaws, but the nature of innovation is such – to constantly push the envelope and experiment. Sometimes, the success is fame and money, sometimes the success if a good lesson learned.
In the meantime, shall we enjoy Fat Pig? :P

Thinking Art and Commerce

For a project at work, I’ve been thinking and re-thinking the notion of art, culture and commerce and what it means for corporations. I could swear I’ve fried my brain cells in thinking about this, but I may be finally getting somewhere… hear me out.

I was pretty ecstatic when I learned that Paris’s famous Colette is coming to New York. Alas, I was mis-informed. Colette is not coming to New York. Instead, Colette has partnered with GAP, ColettexGAP, to bring a selection of curated items to NYC. GAP is desperate for any ingredient brand to help pull itself out of the trenches, but Colette was coveted and special. Of all possible partnerships of creative brand ideas Colette could have executed in New York, a brand alignment with GAP is unimaginative and quite distasteful. And frankly, these sort of relationships and limited edition products/ pop-up stores concepts are now overused and rusty.

Colette, a purely commercial enterprise and the brain-child of Sarah Lerfel has exuded and has been perceived to be more of a cultural curator, a salon, a library of diversity and cultural relics, rather than a retail experience. Colette blurred the boundaries between commercial, artistic and cultural interests and although I have never been there in person, I couldn’t be more off the target when I say that Colette has successfully managed to give each of the three dimensions equal priority.

Anyways, it got me thinking about this whole merging art, culture and commerce, but I’ve come to realize that to succeed and have longevity now (by now I mean, in a world rocked by changing media and economic landscapes), an enterprise simply cannot afford to think of art and culture as disparate elements, as something you pick and choose in measures when the enterprise needs a boost or some fresh PR. I have come to believe that a cultural and artistic sensibility has to be in the DNA of a commercial entity. Just the way the commercial DNA was/is in-built in the works of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Takashi Murakami.

We have moved beyond philanthropic sponsorships of art and cultural events to a more inherent embrace of arts and culture. The one strongest benefit of this rocky economy and associated budget cuts organization-wise is that business managers are being forced to consider carefully how to make the most intelligent and creative use of their budgets, while still meeting the bottom line.

I might have been too quick in doling out my judgment for the GAP+Colette partnership without having experiencing it in person. To watch a brand I have no respect for (GAP), enter into a synergistic relationship with a brand I absolutely adore (Colette) bought out a visceral reaction. I may change my opinion if this experience transforms my opinion of GAP. Let us wait and watch.

Irrespective, maybe its time GAP began to rely on itself and stopped creating these short-term ingredient brand relationships to raise their bar.

Again, I apologize – my thoughts are pretty scattered. Its like my brain has been short-circuited! LOL. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, if any on this matter.

Design Manifesto

“We believe in Cultural Design.
That Design, approached holistically and thoughtfully has the potential to impact the greater good. The designer is the connective tissue between the humanities and sciences: the alchemists of the Future who will play a vital role in transforming our world.

This harkens back to the era as artist as inventor, philosopher, politicians, humanitarian, engineer and sociologist. We don’t believe that specialization’s are the key to the future, but rather the connections among them.”

- Design Studies Manifesto, Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design