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What Can Creative Leaders Learn from Rockstars? (Annotated)

What Can Creative Leaders Learn from Rockstars? (Annotated)

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This is the annotated version of the original presentation, found here: http://www.slideshare.net/nanotim/re-design-2013learnfromrockstars

Originally presented at the RE:Design UXD Conference in Silicon Valley, 2013. Digital connections have changed the way that thoughts, feelings, and ideas move around the world, between people. Technology has also changed the very concept of a product, a service, and what marketing is. Creatives are leading more and more teams, and our various backgrounds may not have prepared us to lead.

This is the annotated version of the original presentation, found here: http://www.slideshare.net/nanotim/re-design-2013learnfromrockstars

Originally presented at the RE:Design UXD Conference in Silicon Valley, 2013. Digital connections have changed the way that thoughts, feelings, and ideas move around the world, between people. Technology has also changed the very concept of a product, a service, and what marketing is. Creatives are leading more and more teams, and our various backgrounds may not have prepared us to lead.

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What Can Creative Leaders Learn from Rockstars? (Annotated)

  1. 1. ROCK Stars? What Can Creative Leaders Learnfrom Originally presented at RE:Design UXD Conference 2013
  2. 2. Hi. I’m @nanotim. ...and I’m very grateful to be here with you, today. TIMRICHARDSEVP,STRATEGYAT
  3. 3. I do this. I work at a digital agency focused on making marketing more useful, and making products and services more relevant. A fair amount of my time is spent working to align groups of clients and teams on strategy and vision. The whiteboard serves this purpose well. It starts blank, then, together, we fill it. It tells a story of the conversation.
  4. 4. And, sometimes, I do this. I also experiment with music in Los Angeles. I make music. I perform music. It has always been a part of my life, and I love it. I’ve learned much of what I bring to work from my play. This conversation hopes to lend some important lessons from music to the violently expanding fields where creatives are leading products, companies, and teams.
  5. 5. The role of a Creative Leader is quickly evolving. Digital connections have changed the way that thoughts, feelings, and ideas move around the world, between people.
  6. 6. As the world evolves, so must we. We will need new skills. Technology has also changed the very concept of a product, a service, and what marketing is. Creatives are leading more and more teams, and our various backgrounds may not have prepared us to lead.
  7. 7. Modern companies need us to lead in service design, UX, brand, and product.
  8. 8. Sometimes, all at the same time :) Marketing is readily mixing with product. Products increasingly are accompanied by digital services. These shifts are impacting the role of the creative leader.
  9. 9. Today, We Will Learn 3 Things... ...like 3 chords. It just works.
  10. 10. Chapter 1 (Kick Out) The Jams
  11. 11. We’re not in an assembly line anymore. When brands, products and services were created linearly, roles were duly specialized, and handoffs were critical.
  12. 12. Work is much more like a band today. You can’t often rely on stage sound. We need to share a language. Today, brands, products, and services need to be created in teams - for various reasons - including the always- on nature of the world, the nature of digital convergence of technology and communications.
  13. 13. Since these new, modern, teams don’t actually, physically, work together constantly - and since each team member can often represent such a drastically unique perspective and divergent motivation - we must create a shared language between team members. Like music. Music is an effective shared language between bandmates.
  14. 14. This shared language is particularly important during improvisation. The band establishes a known pace and theme, then each member can diverge and improvise on that theme. Key phrases are used, signaling when the soloist intends on re-joining the theme. Members respond with their own emphasis, answering the soloist. Dizzy dives into a particularly free solo, but lets everyone know he’s re-approaching the theme. Bobby Timmons, the pianist, responds with a new emphasis in his comping, and it becomes clearer to see how everyone “hears” that the everyone’s about to re-join, and the solo will go to the next player.
  15. 15. Each player takes a turn. Each time, the group returns. Modern teams need similar ability to iteratively diverge and converge. Teams can use patterns and shared processes to allow each to diverge, and return. This way, great work is done within the confines of a shared pattern - without the limitations of strictly linear handoffs. Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers - A Night In Tunisia (live '58) http://youtu.be/I9z9sU5dXnw
  16. 16. It might be tempting to do it all yourself :) Creative leaders today are powerfully multifaceted. We might be tempted to “work out the vision completely” before bringing it back to the group - and that’s often what a team might thrive on - but, that vision must remain malleable, allowing the team to internalize its meaning and impact to each of their perspectives and positions.
  17. 17. A great example of doing it all yourself, Edgar Winter. Clearly, a virtuoso - in nearly every instrument! Hard to tell what the objective of this performance is...to revel in the idea that he’s playing so many instruments? Or, to rock the audience?
  18. 18. Of course, this performance was not played for a live audience. Nonetheless, Edgar goes from soloing on the largest synthesizer that any of us has every likely seen, to making the rounds onto the saxophone, and back to the synth again, this time to repeatedly and dramatically “pounce” onto the sure-to-weigh-50lb keyboard. Spectacle!
  19. 19. “Why, yes. I did, in fact, played every instrument on this song!”
  20. 20. “Nice onesie, guitar player. Where’s your cape?”
  21. 21. “And, yes - I am better at every instrument that each of the players on stage right now. I will challenge each of you to a contest throughout this song. Prepare your effing selves.”
  22. 22. The Edgar Winter Group “Frankenstein” (The Old Grey Whistle Test 1973) http://youtu.be/Qrv7I1gqaoE At least they get the big rock ending right. Its a shame that Edgar could only play timbale for the finale, and not, somehow, all of the instruments at once.
  23. 23. Prototyping, journey design tools, and collaborative processes are great for iterative design, for instance.
  24. 24. Chapter 2 This is Happening Right Now
  25. 25. So, what part to I play in this band? ? Now, many teams already have leaders. Or managers. But, the new creative leadership requires each player to do a bit of leading along the way - taking the baton, and handing it back off - in the context to this “jamming” process. Creative leaders can rise above this jamming - not unlike a drummer - and help keep rhythm, and incite new improvisation.
  26. 26. Or, sometimes like a conductor, the creative leader can provide nuanced encouragement to team members to continue exploring. New creative solutions can come from any direction - and we might be surprised at how critical elements emerge from unsuspected sources - like Michael Anthony’s signature harmony vocal work for Van Halen - the understated glue holding the rock giants’ sound together. Van Halen: Dance the Night Away (live, 1979) http://youtu.be/ouymzr6azKo
  27. 27. Some roles have leadership implied in the charter. The new creative leadership in brand, service, product, and communication imply a new kind of creative and forward momentum to all of our efforts - providing a kind of “spiritual” center to our work - providing the a clear vision of the “soul” of the work - tying directly to an intimate understanding of people - and the culture that surrounds us.
  28. 28. Creative leadership needs to bring the show. So, as creative leaders, we must shift into a new mode of leadership - making each of us a curator of the iterative creative experience and process. Increasingly, creative leaders must be confident in leading a process that will draw insight from business case, consumer insight, cultural relevance, and brand foundations.
  29. 29. Do it like Rock Stars do. Iteratively. Hours of practice. Play it 1000 times. The only way I know how to do this, is to iteratively build and refine the story of the work. Develop the rationale, the solution description, the approach - through numerous “mini-presentations,” informal conversations, quick “lightning round” run- thoughs with various members and versions of the team. Compose your main ideas on notecards, basic slides, or on a whiteboard. Just include the main “beats” of the story that investigates the challenge at hand, and presents the strategy. This is important: Say the actual words that tell the story. In order. Write down those words as “beats.” Evaluate the beats. Then, evolve them.
  30. 30. Prince, for example, is famous for his rigorous, incredibly detailed practice sessions, working out very particular nuances of seemingly improvised elements of impending performances. This Purple Rain era video was promptly removed after I found it. Prince isn’t so big on sharing.
  31. 31. Your constant practice pays off when you can focus on communicating with your team...not delivering information. This kind of rigorous practice and re-shaping ensures that the creative leader is focused on communicating with the team and shaping the conversation. In this way, the team benefits from the creative leader’s mastery of the subject and solution space - and all players can participate at a higher level.
  32. 32. The creative leader who’s focused on communicating, evoking, and listening to the team must know the material cold. It may seem very pedestrian to say it, but we don’t know what we will say in a creative presentation until we say it - and chances are, we won’t say it right the first time. Or the third time :) Dana Carvey - “Guitar Humor” http://youtu.be/WHk7c5aUXVs
  33. 33. The product must evolve early. We can save ourselves from our selves :) In addition, constant iteration and collaborative exploration can ensure we don’t fall victim to our first idea...which is seldom the best idea, or the idea in the best execution. Differentiating between the insight, the strategy, the idea, and the various possible executions of that idea, is increasingly important as we work across so many fronts.
  34. 34. Songwriters and bands, no matter their working style, end up evolving the execution of their work, together, over time. Mick had the idea and general melody for “Sympathy for the Devil” upon walking into Olympic Studios - but, it took many many iterations before reaching the version we know and love today.
  35. 35. The general rhythm changed many times. The phrasing of the vocals, too. Each iteration provided progress toward a more powerful execution - a more perfect groove. The idea and concept remained, but the execution evolved. Each member and collaborator helping to interpret it, and shape it.
  36. 36. Various versions featured different instrumentations and moods. One scene features Bill Wyman offering a seemingly new take, directing the rhythm to fall behind the music a bit, although Keith is credited with the suggestions for the new beat and additional percussion. Every little contribution seemed to shape this now- classic song.
  37. 37. Rolling Stones - Naissance de "Sympathy for the Devil " (One+One) 1968 http://dai.ly/10typUf Even with most of the tracks recorded, Mick’s vocal approach really seemed to slide into place near the end. Still, the song seems to be missing a critical element - until the crowd of contributors record the signature “whoo whoo” vocal accompaniment. Who knows what shaping led to this key element? Only heavy collaboration and iteration could have produced it.
  38. 38. Creating alignment iteratively keeps the hard work happening in the room - creating momentum. Creative leaders must work to keep the “mojo” in the room when collaborating and presenting to stakeholders - again, emphasizing the need to simplify and completely know the story of the work - and focusing efforts and time on iteration and communication - as time together in a company can be so rare and often mis-spent.
  39. 39. Like experiences we design, your teams’ experiences with you are your real product. Thus, the real, or first apparent product of the modern creative leader is the creative experience brought to the team of contributors and stakeholders.
  40. 40. This Will Test Your Working Knowledge of Communication So often, we think of our “pitches” as needing to be pure, unadulterated, stream of consciousness feeds from our creative minds. Rather, we need to take into account the receiver of our message, and the various sources of noise that might disrupt or warp the decoded meaning of our message. Ray and Charles Eames "A Rough Sketch for a Sample Lesson for a Hypothetical Course" (1953) http://vimeo.com/19906179
  41. 41. You May Need to Learn How to Method Act This approach to conducting creative development isn’t unlike the concept of Method Acting - where the active so completely internalizes the context of their work, that they are able to feel the feelings of the characters they portray, and completely understand the purposes of their actions.
  42. 42. This wasn’t a Beatles record. This was a Sgt. Pepper’s record. Real innovation and highly functional aesthetic can come from this kind of creative leadership. For example, The Beatles approached the development of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album from the perspective of a different band, time, and context. The Making Of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1982) http://youtu.be/0irqVH031UI
  43. 43. Some of our favorite products evolved drastically - and continue to.
  44. 44. Chapter 3 Simple Works
  45. 45. The practicality of communication will force us to be masters of simplicity. New constraints will present themselves as we lead our teams to innovate together. We must work to simplify not only our work - but, also the language we use to evoke participation and collaboration.
  46. 46. Great rock stars seem to understand the hopes and dreams of the audience, and how they are fulfilled in a live performance, or other musical experience. They understand how broadly available their concepts need to be. So, they simplify - even if an idea is complex or powerful - to ensure “inception” of that idea. Dave Grohl “Interview with Kyle Gass and Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters” GM Next Plug-in http://youtu.be/oojzmjJ3ugE
  47. 47. We don’t design materials. Or aesthetic. Or communication. We are designing behavior. And action. It is precisely because our media have greatly evolved into behavior, or experience design, that we must simplify our language.
  48. 48. Make it easy to understand. “Consumers don’t go to the meetings.” ? If we simplify our language early on - even as we’re evolving the product or design or solution - and understand what it will take to create empathy with our idea from a consumers point of view, we won’t be stuck with the task of explaining it to consumers later in the process; we will already know this. If it takes a long time to explain in a design meeting, chances are, it will still be confusing by the time it gets to a “real person.”
  49. 49. 3 Simplicity in Communication. Def Leppard + the Riff.Arenas Changed Everything How Did Rock Adapt? The popularity of big, rock music drastically changed what it meant to see a rock band perform live. With larger and larger audiences joining the rock throng, stadiums and arenas started to fill up. With such a large space to fill, and limitations in getting the right sound to the audience, rock music changed. It’s not the only reason for the change in rock, but it was clearly a contributing factor for how many bands made their post-arena records.
  50. 50. Another exercise in simplicity. Def Leppard believed that rock could appeal to a broader audience. This band understood how to reach an audience with simple, powerful songs. They wrote slower, less chaotic rock songs, compared to their contemporaries. They set out to be the biggest band in the world - looking to “selling rock records to Michael Jackson fans.” The music was built for stadiums. The songs were almost co-owned by the audience, with the easily understood and chanted choruses - built for the big, communal rock experience. The complete separation between the elements and careful orchestration made for something that translated well to these new, larger audiences. Classic Albums: Hysteria http://youtu.be/Vkh8WL2-4xA
  51. 51. Designing behavior means our insights might be more important than our designs. Today’s creative leader is judged on our ability to move people - not just win awards. Consumers increasingly fatigue of attention- grabbing, but useless interactions with brands. Just like the insights behind the design of Def Leppard’s music, insights become the critical element for development and management in creating an amazing experience, an enjoyable product, or a useful service.
  52. 52. Insights help us understand the challenge space. As a creative leader, everything we produce must have a purpose. Aesthetic must evoke emotion. Communications must be in alignment with peoples’ motivations. Brands must, today, be useful - fulfilling their greater purpose - moving beyond those of the brand category. Ecosystems must be built around the natural influence systems in any given cultural space. A clear understanding of the challenge at hand is critical to the modern creative leader. Separation of strategy and idea from execution will ensure proper evolution and co-ownership between the various creative and business partners.
  53. 53. There are many frameworks available to us to understand needs and motivations of our customers. Remember, we may not be the right folks to be commissioning and executing primary research to find these insights - but, creative leaders today must ask the tough questions around why people would want to interact with our product, and what will keep them coming back.
  54. 54. Beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy - the world is constantly looking to understand and overcome modern humanity’s problems through conceptual models. Models that lead to joy, positivity, or resolution might include Tony Robbins’ “6 Human Needs,” “Spiral Dynamics” and “Integral Theory,” or Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow.” Modern creative leaders are increasingly responsible for actually making life better for people -a tall order. Joe Pine often discusses this theme in terms of leading to economic growth, achieving and maintaining authenticity, or understanding and fulfilling your brand’s purpose.
  55. 55. Identify a powerful and accessible truth. Tell a story. Demonstrate an archetype. Show how it works. Provide an invitation. Offer a return on attention and effort. Clear benefits of Co-creation. Example: Design A Co-Creation Virus + + =
  56. 56. The Harlem Shake videos are a great example of an insight at the center of a successfully mobile content concept. The truth at the center? “When the bass drops, you are allowed to go crazy. In fact, you’re encouraged to do so.” We’re all waiting, as it were, for the bass to drop, it would seem, right? Simple formula. Clear rules of engagement. Low bar to participation. Fun. Spectacle. And, when you’ve created it, you’re part of something bigger. You belong - but, you did it your way. Harlem Shake (Matt and Kim Edition) http://youtu.be/DABphlXEyW8 Know Your Meme - Harlem Shake http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/harlem-shake
  57. 57. What is your brand purpose - beyond your category. What physical and emotional needs drive us into this category? Offer communication and service worth paying for. Find white space in market. Example: Useful Marketing
  58. 58. The next generation of products and marketing are services.
  59. 59. That’s it :) Rockstars have taught us to be better creative leaders.
  60. 60. Take Away 1: Learn How to Jam Use tools and processes as a shared language for improvisation in collaboration.
  61. 61. Take Away 2: Work It Out Together Save yourself from the first versions of the idea. Separate insight from execution, and iterate on the product intensely.
  62. 62. Take Away 3: Practice. Practice. Learn the core elements of your work cold by constantly telling the story, evolving it, and focusing on emoting the vision and listening.
  63. 63. Take Away 4: Simplify Consumers don’t go to the meetings. We can’t expect people to work to understand our product or message.
  64. 64. Take Away 5: Develop Tasty Licks Work your experiences, strategy and rationale down to bumper sticker-style handles - so people can sing along :).
  65. 65. Now, you must go rock.
  66. 66. DragonForce - Through the Fire and Flames (HD Official Video) http://youtu.be/dG7Rl3qxUqY The perfect ending. Part rock music video, part live performance, part instructional video - complete with picture- in-picture how-to footage :)
  67. 67. TIMRICHARDSEVP,STRATEGY Would love to know your thoughts. Don’t hesitate to reach out :) @nanotim http://www.linkedin.com/in/nanotim

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