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In the age of collaboration- planners need to build toolboxes

August 9, 2007

I decided not to post details on the second and third day’s sessions at the AAAAs Planning Conference (I wasn’t there for Bruce Mau and Day 3!) and instead reflect on my overall experiences of the event.

As usual, it was a great with lots of interesting stimuli and conversation, congrats to the organizers, especially the co-chairs Catrina McAuliffe and Suzanne Powers.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge a couple of observations and glaring omissions from the presentation on blogging that Aki and I made on Tuesday.

1.    We shouldn’t have had blogging in our title- it was a turn off- I heard that some people decided not attend because they thought it would be too technical.

2.    We failed to acknowledge one huge problem that our research didn’t uncover and only dawned on me during the conversations that happened after the presentation. For many planners, it’s not that they aren’t motivated and ready to blog; it’s their agency systems that conspire against it. Bureaucracy appears to be holding back many voices. One big system agency has taken 9 months to write a brief for its blogging initiative.

3.    Toolset- We gave a good roadmap for people for those who already have a blog and want to make it better, but we didn’t do it for people who want to get started. They are similar, but have subtle differences. I want to work on that, so stay tuned.

My big take away from the conference was the critical importance of toolsets and/or having strong philosophy about the world and our world because you can shape your agency around it.

It was in Stephen Walker of Headmint’s presentation, it was all over Eat Big Fish’s and expressed as suggested by Zeus Jones, who shared a philosophy, this is something that most agencies don’t have, it describes, not just how they see the world, but also what they plan to do about it.

All the great thinking in the world counts for nothing unless you have platform that can help generate and use it.

The “toolset” is the pathway that helps generate thinking and turns thinking into something.  Adam Morgan’s all seeing Third Eye would be meaningless without a pathway that can help you mine, extract and use observation and ideas.

This is critical because today the chances of the “Lone Wolf Guru” identifying and implementing a brilliant idea on his or her own inside an organization are less than zero.

It was clear from the conference that we’ve entered the age of collaboration, both inside clients and agencies, something that can only succeed with new sharing and learning tools.

It’s clearly incumbent on all planners to develop toolsets beyond the creative brief that help them work with others to generate powerful insight to create new ideas to transform a client’s business.

The more structured the process, the better the results will be.

Finally, back to the subject of the conference, here are 5 pieces of advice for next year’s conference committee, if they choose to listen.

1.    Get more people up onto stages- shorter sessions and more of them- think Barcamp and snack-sized 10 minute shows

2.    More diversity- Fewer white male ad planners with British accents and more planner practioners from new worlds like usability, connections planning and design

3.    Keep bringing in the inspiring showmen-as long as they have a great and relevant story to tell- more Sir Kens and more Eric Ryans

4.    Bring some diverse thinkers into the breakouts –writers, photographers, designers, architects, artists and people from the non profit world- this new planning generation wants to do good

5. Add workshops where planners get to do something as giant teams- attack a problem- like how to make the conference better!

Posted by Ed Cotton

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