|Let Your Ideas...Copulate?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
In civics or philosophy class, one learns about the glorious "marketplace of ideas" where people from all backgrounds, economic classes, and schools of thought can gather at a single common place and exchange thoughts and ideas about how our society works, and ways in which it can be improved. In most cases in this reality, such a marketplace does not exist. However, there are pockets in our enterprisal fabric where such marketplaces can appear. One such place is AdLand.
Let's back up a minute. What does ideas going at it and a marketplace of ideas and AdLand all have in common? The first two thoughts are from an article by John Stossel (yes, the guy from Fox — keeping reading, though) on Reason.com and the last one is our application of his remarks to the advertising industry. Stossel took the concept of ideas mating to form more ideas from British journalist Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist. Ridley argues that our lives have improved not by the single idea of a single person, but by the collection of ideas from multiple people, and having those ideas mate in order to create new and more innovative ideas. Ridley also asserts that the offspring of ideas from a group of stupid people could actually fare better than the single ideas of a brilliant central planner.
The later assertion sounds too much like crowdsourcing to us, and if you are a loyal follower of Beyond Madison Avenue, you already know our thoughts on crowdsourcing.
But Ridley does have a point about mixing up ideas in order to get new ones. In order for ideas and innovations to work, they must be exposed to others. And when ideas mix with other ideas, the resulting product could be pretty cool. This brings us to the marketplace of ideas. We, as a society, need to nurture the environment where exchanging ideas freely and openly is encouraged. Being guarded about your idea, or your latest "killer app," will do you more harm than good. An angel investor we heard speak at a luncheon once said, "I don't want to hear about how your idea is a new one. It probably isn't. Show me how you made it work." Making the idea work could be making it profitable, and mixing it with another idea could make it novel.
AdLand can apply this kind of thinking to its infrastructure. For example, we see how big agencies work and how freelancers operate; combining those ideas brought up the Collaborative Agency Model, which independent shops and creative cities like Amsterdam are trying to make permanent. Sharing ideas within the industry is okay, and needed. We cannot be the only ones tired of the same "rise of mobile," "lack of creativity" talk. We are not avoiding the blame, but we realize that our industry colleagues too are afraid to engage in new conversations.
Mixing ideas up in the creative process in agency life is also beneficial. Marketers complain about seeing the same thing time and again, and multiplying ideas and taking the creation of the combination could be something new and effective. On the flip side, as marketers complain about seeing the same, they have to be open to the agency exploring a new direction. As always, each side has some sort of ownership.
In any case, let's take this as a call to be more open to new ideas, by freely exchanging our thoughts and being open to co-mingling them in order to bring something new to the table.
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