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To Make a Difference, You Need to Make Something Different

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” – John Cage

I agree. But why am I so obsessed with the new? The past is filled with mankind’s greatest achievements – so far. But I can no longer impact the past. I can only be fully in the present, in the now.

Our industry is obsessed with the new. So it makes sense that innovation should be everyone’s job, right? Everyone should keep up with everything. In fact, I just read an article on digitalsnakeoil.buzz that says AI can do this for me while I sleep, if you buy this NFT in the next 20 minutes, I’ll send you the link! It’s exhausting, just like that sentence. Sure, to maintain relevancy, everyone is tasked to keep up – but should we be surprised when, at best, most marketers can only scratch the surface of any given change in the industry?

Luckily, I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with some of the best people in the business. They have helped me keep up, and taught me how to smell BS and make the work better. Over time, they have helped develop a proven methodology that reveals new insights and ideas that impact our clients’ bottom lines. Here are a few examples of how we harnessed the power of new ideas – not just flash-in-the-pan stunts to be littered across press releases, but work that gets billions of impressions and record-breaking returns for our clients:

So, how can I help my team and my clients unlock the power of the new – not one day in the future, but now?

Change

Scan the headlines, and all you’ll see is ch-ch-changes. Headline-grabbing changes. And yes, sometimes we need to make massive changes in order to keep up with what is new. But we can use our curiosity and make small, incremental changes that may go unnoticed. We can remake and remodel what we were doing before – and when these changes become habits and rituals, we can take big steps forward. Since I can’t always predict which small step today will have the biggest impact, I spend a portion of every day experimenting:

  • Asking a different question than yesterday
  • Seeking out opinions that are different than my own
  • Challenging my unconscious bias
  • Trying a new method to see if it’s better or worse than the last time I did something similar
  • Working on small kernels of an idea to see if they are worth prototyping

The experimentation isn’t so much about the end result for me – it’s about the learning journey. It’s about exploring, staying curious, and developing new muscle memories and neural connections for how to think differently than yesterday. These are my scales and études that I use to sharpen my strengths and, more importantly, my weaknesses.

Does it always work?

Fail

Nope, it sure doesn’t.

“Everything I did wrongly is an experience…to be honest and truthful in all endeavors is an experience, not a regret.”

Although the idea of failing forward is now ubiquitous Silicon Valley TED-talk material, these words are actually those of Fela Kuti – the legendary Nigerian musician who recognized the importance of unlocking the potential of the new through experimentation, taking a leap into the unknown, and being okay with no guaranteed outcome. If you aren’t failing, then you aren’t taking big enough risks – so don’t be surprised if you never win the big prize.

Improvise

Lastly, the new can be messy and uncomfortable. How can we do something that has never been done before? Well, for starters, just like a good improviser, you use the raw materials that you have on hand. You don’t make excuses for what you don’t have or what you want – you make.

If you want to go where the future goes to rehearse, let’s make something different together.

A playlist for those who want to dig deeper: