The best thing I did for my career last year was becoming a mentor for 500 Startups. Mentoring is a great chance to give back and to contribute to your local community. I found that being a mentor also had some great side-effects such as exposing me to fresh perspectives, clarifying my thinking on industry issues, and building my professional network.
When I moved to New York, I decided that it was time to start giving more back to the startup community, so I contacted the 500 Startups team about becoming a mentor. 500 Startups is one of the leading accelerators and seed stage investors in the world. Their new marketing-focused investment fund is called 500 Distro (short for distribution) and they had a couple of new portfolio companies in New York that seemed like a potential fit, so I started mentoring one of them in February.
Management consulting firms want to move into the creative process, and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream towards the boardroom and consult on innovation, customer experience and design thinking. The widely held theory is that there are good margins in this type of work (and let’s be honest, it is sexy as hell). But what no one really talks about is that the high-end strategy work is actually important because it leads onto the multi-million dollar implementation projects that secretly feed the biggest global agencies
Over the years, I’ve worked in several of the grey areas between management consulting, advertising, and design thinking so I’ve seen some of these macro industry changes first hand. The toughest part of my career has always been finding the chink in a client’s armour that lets us get close enough to the boardroom to ask the really tough questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the starting point is for a project when your real goal is to get to the deeper issues inside a business. With all these shifting agency services, it’s hard for clients to know who to turn to these days for advice on big problems.
Creating a new brand identity can be a chaotic experience. Having a robust design process makes it easier to keep moving when the going gets tough.
Some clients are easy to create a brand for because they already know who they want to target and what they want to say. But most clients have a surprisingly high degree of uncertainty about their strategy, messaging and design. We use lean branding to iterate and improve the brand as we go, but we still need a critical path design process to help us stay focused.
Creativity in business matters more than ever before. Luckily, there is a new technique called gamestorming that uses games to encourage creativity in business. The old approaches like workshops, brainstorms, off-sites or hiring a consultant to think for you are no longer enough to create the new ideas that you need. Execution is still vital to bring products to market, but if you don’t have a good idea to start with, then you’re stuffed.
I recently gave a presentation on Gamestorming to a group that are advocating for mobile working, digital nomads and creativity called Anywhere Working. The group are facilitated by the team at 33 Digital and David Clare was kind enough to invite me to get involved. I was presenting on behalf of one of the collectives that I’m involved in called Converge+UK. Converge+UK is all about creativity at the intersection of design, business and technology so it was great to share some ideas with the Anywhere Working crew. Rueben Milne had a great take on the ways that creativity can happen in unexpected places and at unexpected times.
Everyone had a dream as a child. A fireman, a police officer, a pilot or a doctor. Every so often you meet someone who says their dream was to be a stockbroker or company executive. It throws you off balance because it’s so seemingly mundane, but it’s usually true. Some people just knew what they wanted to do from a young age and make it happen.
My dream was always to be a management consultant. Mainly because I always noticed bad customer experiences and believed we can do better. My first adult book (at age 11) was Iacocca. It was a ridiculously nerdy book for a kid to read but I was inspired by the journey of turning around a distressed business. Reading it subtly changed the course of my life.