Elephants, like humans, have wonderful memories. This is both a strength and a weakness. A superpower and kryptonite.
Look at this picture of an adult elephant tied to a small bar, with a lightweight rope. A grown elephant can easily bend that bar or break that rope.
But, sadly, they don’t.
The trainers start tying them when they are little. They learn that they can’t break the rope and as they grow they never again test that theory. To them, it’s not a theory at all – it’s just the truth.
“We tried that before and it didn’t work.”
But it’s worse than that. Bring the human equivalent of adult elephants together to envision possibilities and not one of them will even suggest tugging at that rope. It just won’t come up. They will focus on solving the problem of how to achieve their goals within the range that the rope allows them. The rope length will define their limits. I’ve watched it happen hundreds of times. I’ve been part of it hundreds of times.
There is a difference between an epiphany and a habit. Talking about possibility and feasibility together is a habit. In most places, it’s just the way things are done. There is a strong taboo against separating the two. Someone may suggest something foolish! Unprofessional! Incorrect! Impossible! Embarrassing!
But, breakthroughs don’t come from doing the right things. Breakthroughs come from doing brave, incorrect, inspiring things.
Twenty-five years ago, I developed a process that has driven my career and life ever since. It’s a process I built off of all I had learned in my career to that point, comparing successful projects to less successful projects, and a system for realizing possibilities that I learned from the pioneering executive coach, Trisha Scudder.
I had seen her breakthrough process shift the culture and results of a team from ordinary to extraordinary in just a few days. And, while Trisha taught many powerful concepts and processes, one stood out to me as the most powerful of all.
The brilliant sales and marketing consultant and author, Mark S. A. Smith says that, “We are in the epiphany business.”
Trisha’s most powerful idea struck me as an epiphany, and that epiphany has fueled my career ever since.
Here it is:
Discuss Possibility and Feasibility separately. Start with possibility.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem like very much to you. It didn’t strike me as Earth-shattering either when I first heard it. Trisha made it fun, so I was engaged. The results of the process she led us through, starting with Possibility, then moving on to Feasibility, led to some surprising breakthroughs. This stimulated my curiosity, always curled up like a cat ready to pounce. I committed to playing with this process and to keeping my eyes wide open.
Here’s what I noticed. People come into conversations about the future weighed down by the past and the present.
We’ve all heard the classic, “We tried that before and it doesn’t work.”
We’ve all seen that little chestnut over-applied.
“Are you sure it was THIS that you tried?”
“Are you sure we are proposing testing exactly the same thing in the same way?”
We’ve all witnessed this idea-killing malpractice. But, what I noticed is that most possibility killing is much more subtle. It’s the ideas that people don’t even bring up in the first place. It’s the invisible limits that people bring to these conversations.
By insisting that the first phase of the conversation be entirely focused on Possibility, while reassuring everyone that the next phase will focus on Feasibility, you will find you develop breakthrough results.
While possibility is all about what might be, feasibility is about, “What can we really get done.” Feasibility is important. Hell, it’s essential. But don’t let it get all mixed up in your discussion of the possible. Don’t let it cloud your vision.
Looking back, I see that this principle is so powerful when practiced that it has played a part in every breakthrough I’ve seen in my career. And, though I built my agency’s process around this epiphany, it is like a brain of which I’ve only used about 10%.
There is a difference between an epiphany and a habit, between having a process and using it. I see the possibility of using this process ALL of the time. I see that I can do so much more good if you use it too.
Let me know how it goes! I’m happy to help. You know where to reach me.
Some smart locals have brought the signs back, are selling them to locals, and have raised well over $100,000 to help people affected by the pandemic. You drive through Rye and see hundreds of them, all along the treelined streets.
If you want to inspire a community to action, nothing works harder than pride.
The Black Pride movement is still going strong around the world after fifty years or more. The Black is Beautiful Movement instilled pride and changed identities in the 20th century and beyond. In fact, the phrase, “Black is Beautiful” goes all the way back to a speech by John S. Rock, an African American abolitionist, all the way back in 1858. Once the seed of pride is planted, it grows for a long, long time!
“Keep America Beautiful” used pride to take a nation of Anchorman-like litterers and show that it could clean up nicely. And while this iconic commercial unfortunately features an Italian-American man playing a Native American, it had a huge effect by instilling pride and shame. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7OHG7tHrNM
As a master change agent, pride is one of the most powerful tools in your kitchen. In fact, if identity is the most powerful concept in brand-building, marketing and change, then pride is the most powerful emotion.
Change agent, be proud of your tribe. Though all times and all kinds of crises, we have found ways to change things. Let’s keep using our change agent powers for good!
On this week’s episode of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann is joined by Nick Law, previous Chief Creative Officer at Publicis, who made the recent leap to become a Marketing Executive at Apple. Yes, that Apple company.
Nick’s unique integration of design, storytelling, and technology give him a unique perspective in the advertising industry. He observes behavior to create brands and believes big ideas can come after the product’s medium.
Before Publicis, Nick worked at R/GA for 17 years, where he helped expand the company up from 100 to 2,000 employees.
Nick has twice been named in the Creativity 50 list and is a force to learn from. We were very lucky to have him on The A-List Podcast. Make sure you tune in below!
[0:00 – 2:10] Intro
[2:11 – 2:20] Growing up in Sydney, the benefits of a “feral” upbringing, avoiding school & enjoying art
[4:46 – 8:18] Drawing, discovering graphic design, getting into art school
[8:19 – 11:06] First jobs and how to become a master
[11:07 – 12:54] Are big ideas that important?
[12:55 – 15:16] The importance of not taking the first job you land, the difficulty of unlearning bad habits
[15:17 – 21:58] Taking a gap year, starting at Pentagram and moving in advertising in 1988, moving to New York in 1994, entering the dot com boom and the internet
[21:58 – 27:40] The “strange delicious isolation” before the internet and the unavoidable future of it
[27:41 – 42:40] How creatives can use the newest tools and executing ideas at the speed of thought
[42:40 – 1:05] Observe behavior before building a brand, the power of storytelling, technology connectivity
On this week’s episode of The A-List Podcast, host and DiMassimo Goldstein CCO Tom Christmann is joined by Prentice Howe, Owner and Chief Creative Officer of Door No. 3, an Austin based full service marketing agency that focuses on turning challengers into empowered challengers through brand activation.
Working with some of America’s most iconic brands such as Minute Maid, Anheuser-Busch, and the Dallas Cowboys, Prentice has developed a unique talent and passion for helping challenger brands stand out against their industry giants in a crowded consumer marketplace.
Author of the Amazon Best Seller Empowered Challenger Brand, Prentice’s work has been recognized national and internationally in shows such as Cannes Lions, London International Advertising Awards, the Webby Awards and Communication Arts. Oh, did we mention he spent 5 years out in LA trying his hand at screenwriting?Hear more below!
[0:00 – 1:18] Intro
[1:18 – 2:20] Honolulu born, and Boston raised, Prentice ends up finding his roots in Texas once he starts attending SMU.
[2:20 – 3:57] Taking an Intro to Advertising class at SMU that quickly changed his anticipation of being a business major, finding a passion for the advertising industry and starting to build a creative portfolio
[3:58 – 5:58] The jump starts to his career— working on accounts such as Anheuser-Busch while traveling and building his portfolio along the way
[5:58 – 10:28] Mentions of some of his first work produced in the industry and learning that eliciting emotion doesn’t always evolve by just “being funny”
[10:28 – 14:40] Leaving Texas to try out life in LA writing screenplays, “failing forward”, and an interaction with a neighbor that helped him realize his passion for advertising as a career.
[14:40 – 20:40] Starting work at Door Number 3 as an ECD, strategies for dealing with imposters syndrome, nurturing your network and finding the right people to surround yourself with
[20:40 – 23:25] Taking a leap of faith moving to Detroit to become a Creative Director at Donor to soon hearing Door Number 3 knocking on the door again, deciding to buy the agency and officially making Austin home.
[23:25 – 27:40] Door Number 3’s homecoming, refreshing the agency’s brand identity, creating their positioning strategy and writing a book called the Empowered Challenger Playbook
[27:40 – 34:55] Discussing some rising challenger brands, the process of writing the Empowered Challenger Playbook and a look into Prentice’s daily routine
[34:55 – 38:47] What the city of Austin and its advertising landscape looks like
[38:47 – 46:45] Discussing evolving industry trends, his take as a business owner and his advice for young people in the industry
We’re thrilled to announce that our FyreStock video for Shutterstock has been awarded a prestigious D&AD Wood Pencil in the “Use of Trends and Tactical Marketing” category. It’s such an honor for all of us at DiMassimo Goldstein to receive this award along with our amazing clients at Shutterstock. You just can’t put out the Fyre on this dynamic duo!
Sometimes, you must first fail before you can succeed.
Few can speak to this as much as Stewart Butterfield, the co-founder of team collaboration tool Slack.
In many ways, his “failures” are also his “successes”.
It started with Game Neverending, his first project, and his first public failure. Developed by his then company, Ludicorp, Game Neverending was intended to be an online multiplayer game for the masses, but it never saw the light of day. When it became apparent that the game would not survive, Butterfield shifted his focus to the game’s photo-sharing tool, turning it into its own stand-alone product, Flickr.
Determined to make his game-developing dreams come true, he would try his hand again. With much of the same team from Ludicorp, Butterfield cofounded Tiny Speck, and began building a new online-game in Glitch.
It was during this development process where Butterfield would inspire a worldwide behavior change revolution – though he didn’t know it at the time.
Frustrated by existing communication tools, Tiny Speck developed its own tool to help better manage the creation of the game. During the three years leading up to the game’s launch, the Tiny Speck team, consisting of 45 people, had only sent 50 emails.
Then, at the end of 2012, the eureka moment came. Butterfield closed the book on Glitch, and Slack, the communications tool his team had developed, sprang forward.
But the Slack squad only knew how their team interacted on the platform, and if the product was to work across industries with varying company sizes and workflows, they needed a bigger sample size.
For the next seven months, Butterfield and his colleagues begged friends at other companies to trial Slack. This gave them the opportunity to see the tool from an outsider’s perspective, and each new company armed the team with unique observations and feedback that they would later use to optimize and tweak the product.
Finally, in August of 2013, Butterfield felt the product was polished enough to be shared more widely and announced a preview release. The launch amassed a large amount of media attention, and within 24 hours, 8,000 companies had signed up for the service. Two weeks later, that number doubled to 15,000. Slack was an instant hit.
That type of staggering growth, although unprecedented, was an accurate indicator of what was to come. Slack quickly became the fastest growing business-app ever, and was considered a unicorn shortly after its first year. Last September, just four years and a month after the company’s launch, it was valued at over $5B.
How did it all happen? What was different about Slack?
Team Communication For the 21st Century
First and foremost, it was created at the perfect time. Built for the era of mobile phones and short text messages, Slack’s growth coincided with the rising trend of companies operating remotely, and offered a less formal, more user-friendly way of keeping in touch with co-workers.
Around the same time, Microsoft Office, Windows, and seemingly every other tech company that could were churning out new tools left and right. Each trying to better each other. In most cases, the competition was healthy, and the tools themselves evolved greatly. But what was left was a scattered ecosystem of tools and services. The fragmentation led to friction and inefficiency. While the tools themselves had improved, the user-experience was left behind. There was no glue to hold it all together.
Enter Slack, integrating all the tools and housing them all in one place. Twitter. Salesforce. Dropbox. Google docs. You name it, it’s all on Slack.
And when you combine that seamless third-party integration with a thoughtfully-designed interface, full of vibrant and playful colors, and an endless amount of customizable applications like to-do lists, reminders, project management tools, scheduling assistants, and hundreds more, what you get is a communications tool that boosts your productivity tenfold.
Perhaps the biggest reason for Slack’s growth is its customizability. Created for any workplace, the product can be catered to your team or individual needs. Channels can be made for departments, projects, office locations, or whatever you deem fit. If a channel becomes too loud, you can “mute” it. If you need to conduct deep, uninterrupted research, you can activate “Do Not Disturb” mode. You can customize “highlight words” that are important to you so that you are notified every time that word is mentioned – be it your name or an urgent project you’re working on. If you’re going to be busy for the day at work conference, or are going to in a long offline brainstorm, you can set your status to reflect that. Files, images, PDFs, spreadsheets and other documents can be shared in real-time with a simple drag and drop.
In group chats, or “channels”, Slack allows you to overhear conversations, giving you an ambient awareness of work developments that you do not get from email. If you want to share something confidential, you can do so through a private channel or direct message.
Files, images, PDFs, spreadsheets and other documents can be shared in real-time with a simple drag and drop. And everything on Slack, from notifications to links to images, are all searchable so that you can find what you need and find it fast.
Consistently evolving and introducing new features to meet user demands, Slack is delivering on its mission to make people’s working lives simpler, more pleasant, and more productive.
A Behavior Change Revolution
While it may not be obvious on the surface, Slack is one of the leading behavior change companies of our time.
In a medium post, written on his page, Butterfield states the following:
“The best – maybe the only? – real, direct measure of “innovation” is change in human behavior. In fact, it is useful to take this way of thinking as definitional: innovation is the sum of change across the whole system, not a thing which causes a change in how people behave. No small innovation ever caused a large shift in how people spend their time and no large one has ever failed to do so.”
“By that measure,” he goes on to say, “Slack is a real and large innovation”.
And he’s right.
Butterfield knew he couldn’t sell a “group chat system”. People simply wouldn’t buy that. Instead, what Slack sells is “organizational transformation.”
“We’re selling a reduction in information overload, relief from stress, and a new ability to extract the enormous value of hitherto useless corporate archives. We’re selling better organizations, better teams. That’s a good thing for people to buy and it is a much better thing for us to sell in the long run. We will be successful to the extent that we create better teams.”
This is not a one-to-one behavior change. Slack must be sold to companies, both massive and tiny, and everything in between. Companies that adopt Slack are betting on a massive, positive behavior change. They want effortless communication. They want to work more efficiently. They want a business tool that works for them rather than against them, helping them make more inspiring decisions and form more empowering habits.
“We’re asking a lot from our customers. We are asking them to spend hours a day in a new and unfamiliar application, to give up on years or even decades of experience using email for work communication (and abandon all kinds of ad hoc workflows that have developed around their use of email). We are asking them to switch a model of communication which defaults to the public; it is an almost impossibly large ask. Almost.”
The change is both dramatic and far-reaching. We know this to be true because we at DiMassimo Goldstein are a proud member of the Slack revolution.
We weren’t looking to abandon email entirely, but to reduce it, and Slack has done that. We found ourselves having too many meetings, which Slack has helped cut down. The transparent communication makes it the perfect place to review projects as a team, on the go, and from anywhere.
Put simply, it has made our work lives easier and most importantly, it has pushed the work we create to help inspire others forward.
That’s why Slack is our Inspiring Action Brand of the Month!
People pay us to get people to do things.
And we’re really good at it.
It’s an awesome responsibility.
Changing people’s behavior.
Their decisions and habits.
That’s why we’re not a “performance marketing” agency. Or a “digital” agency. Or a “direct” agency.
That’s why we’re an Inspiring Action agency.
That’s why we only incite more inspiring actions.
And more empowering habits.
And why we use our powers to ignite growth only in organizations that promote those kinds of behaviors.
But responsibility isn’t the only reason.
People bet their careers on our results every day.
We have learned by long experience that inspiring action simply works better.
We learned by being in big, siloed agencies that undermined our results by separating us.
We learned by proving it through results.
That the two most important factors for igniting growth are Inspiration and Action.
Inspiration – is there an idea or experience at the core of the brand that inspires unreasonable passion.
Action – is there urgency and ease and flow and momentum in the funnel of actions that create even deeper engagement and customer value.
Inspiring Action ignites growth by changing behaviors. Each one of us made an inspiring decision to come together.
To use what we’ve learned to inspire action for worthy organizations.