After 17 years in the advertising agency business I’ve realized a vital key aspect of success. I have to give up my own ideas for the opportunity of a better one. Beyond my own self delusional compulsion to “do it right” lies a possible idea at the edge of darkness ready to be birthed. There’s only one thing stopping it. Me.

Yes, I still believe that I’m good at what I do. Yes I am a perfectionist. And no I don’t think that an idea should set sail just to give some irrelevant ignorant conception a chance. However, the opportunity should exist within a creative process that allows for new thoughts and challenges to exist. True collaboration starts with no one owning anything.

To the extent of how this process can be done effectively is the slight difference between obligation and responsibility. Obligation is the commonality shared by those who are devoted to the PROCESS to solve the creative challenge. Responsibility is the ego centric bologna that has ruined the conservative agency model and any other creative educational methodology since. Surrendering the ownership of both obligation and responsibility is how you win.

In fact, this is exactly how crowdsourcing done correctly can be successful. I’ve completed many of these events as a Creative Director and to this day am involved with non profit crowdsourcing projects with 30 plus talented people each time. All within a 30 hour timespan from start to finish. It’s one of the most rewarding things I do.

Today I’m an educator. I’m obligated to the process of putting the right teachers in classrooms and to the curriculums that are relevant to the creative industries we send our students out to conquer. Does this make me, our teachers and our students immune to the conundrum of the fore mentioned plague? Of course not. Why because there still exists the ego. Do I still suffer from it? Yes. The truth is in the fact that I want the reward of claiming the responsibility of the idea so I can claim the acceptance of others in a world littered with finger pointing.

Here’s the real truth. In order to be accepted by others, to claim respect, integrity and honor, I have to give up being responsible for it all. I have to surrender the burden of taking it all on myself. When I share the obligation AND the responsibility with others then we all win. We’re all moving together in the same direction. And that also means we all share in the reward together.

This effort takes real commitment by everyone. Those involved can’t just “do their part” and expect the results to be successful. It takes dedication, trust and…passion. Yes passion. Because without giving a shit, there’s no real effort. In the end the weakest links pull apart the strongest chain. However, those that are crazy enough to say it can be done, are usually the ones that get it done.

You might say, that sounds like utopia. And you might be right. But utopia might just be the idea on the edge of darkness, just waiting to be birthed.

Bruce Stanley is a Creative Director and the Graphic Design Coordinator at Nossi College of Art. His belief in the ability to control your creative destiny is why he enjoys sharing his expertise and experiences with others. You can reach him though his blog,, twitter, @bsimage or at


to those who need it desperately.

Networking with creative people is the best. How else would I have been able to connect with folks like those I met during the Southern Fried Designathon, self titled by the famous @JessicaRMurray? Three organizations: The Collaboratory; Geek for Good; and The Social Media Club joined forces and asked their members to spend 24 hours utilizing their talents for a worthy nonprofit, Youthturns, an organization that serves the families of prisoners to help mentor and educate youth so that they don’t take the same path to prison as their parents.

Having some success with these kinds of events (CreateAthon), I was asked to be the Creative Director for the shindig and I gladly accepted – staying up all night with a bunch of creative people doing branding…hell yeah!

After some pre-planning meetings the CoLab of Nashville graciously donated their space and off we went.

At 11am on a Saturday, we began with a compelling story by Andy Dixon, the founder of Youthturns. His journey and dedication to helping America’s youth break the cycle of generational incarceration is really why we organized this whole event. This allowed everyone who just showed up with their sleeping bags to get caught up with whom they were about to feverishly work so hard and understand their mission.

With teams of writers, marketers, videographers, photographers, designers, web developers and PR folks – over 30 people in all, we were a force to be reckoned with. Led by three coordinators: leaders of the Collaboratory; Geek for Good; The Social Media Club and myself, we marched through the night with a plan. Helped by team leads and plenty of donated caffeine, we accomplished executing a tremendous branding campaign that was delivered to the founders of Youthturns by 11am the following morning. Including a new logo, brochure, letterhead and business cards, marketing strategy, 5-minute Ignite presentation, video package, a handbook for prison families, social media connections and a new Website.

We even had a visit from the Nashville Fire Dept. and Police after a fire Alarm went off at 5am! It definitely woke us up and got us fired up to complete the event. –Pun intended.

Taking advantage of social media, we made sure we used all our existing twitter accounts and streamed the entire event live via ustream so that others could follow us. Not to mention that our promo video received over 72,000 views within the first 20 minutes on our website – all because of our dedication to using social connections online. You can visit our facebook page or our twitter account and or hash-tag – #designathon to catch all the antics that transpired through the night.

We were able to pull some media exposure from 3 different local news networks, These links will show the news video captured at the event. WTVF, WKRN, WSMV.

The cool thing is that we could do it again. With lessons learned, evolving leadership and creative recruiting, the power behind planned, focused crowdsourcing done within a short time frame can be very effective. After doing this kind of event three times now, choosing one non-profit is definitely the way to go. I’ve worked on 16 brands in one night before – you can’t give brands everything they need in that situation.

This experience was amazing. Helping people who can’t afford marketing and desperately need it to get funding to start their worthy cause makes you realize that maybe your talents are meant for something other than accolades. Creativity is meant to be shared – sometimes in a big way.

Feelin’ Campy

March 6, 2010

PodCamp Nashville – Cadillac Ranch, Music City

Today I presented at PodCamp Nashville, a local event inspired by the user generated national conference, BarCamp and is put on by the local community itself. It’s also free – in an “un-conference” style format. As always, I enjoyed running into friends in the biz and networking with others. The best parts of the event were the people and the content they presented. Here’s why:

PodCamp invites people within the community to present at the event, with content that is relevant to the needs of that market.

There is a certain trust between the presenter and the attendee as every member of the event is from that city and in general, from the same industry.

The event planners and volunteers who execute the event are also from that same community.

Myself and Brian VanderMey, founder of  The Collaboratory, a relatively new organization I am currently involved with, presented a session based on the challenges of collaboration and how to leverage social media.

The Collaboratory is a group of independent marketers, creatives and ad folk working together benefiting non-profits. Each of the members are involved in other activities – looking for their next creative opportunity or employment. The benefit and purpose to the member of this organization is to stay sharp and achieve personal and professional growth. After the group’s population grew to over 35 people, a new challenge arose – how to collaborate with each other remotely.

None of The Collaboratory’s members arrive at the same office each day to develop the projects they work on for these non-profits. Instead, they operate remotely only meeting physically when necessary or when client meetings dictate. Very quickly we realized that sharing information and attempts at collaborating became an issue: e-mail threads were long and confusing; conversations in groups were cumbersome and didn’t foster the real-time interaction needed for true collaboration; organization of projects, assigned talent and client content wasn’t efficient and cracks in the process were starting to show up.

A solution to this challenge was an innovative way to collaborate online – not by expensive organizational applications as these don’t allow for real-time conversation that fosters collaboration – instead by utilizing social apps currently available for free, a perk for this organization working with non-profits.

The following is a model we developed that aggregates a combination of popular social tools.  These harness the ability to communicate at a high level and promote the true fundamentals of collaboration to ensure great results.

This “map” of our collaborative process showcases each social app with a specific task. If you’ve used these tools before, it’s pretty self explanitory – with the exception of Twitter and its function.

Twitter is great for cultivating content and tapping into information for research. It is also a great tool for capturing content such as photos, drafts and videos that can be uploaded to social apps that store information that allow for sharing. Evernote is a good example of a content storing and sharing application. Finally, twitter can be easily used by mobile devices and it’s excellent for remote members who are mostly mobile.

Our exploration of a social app that helps in collaborative communication is Google Wave, a new product by Google that is still in beta testing. Wave allows for real-time conversations with multiple people and simultaneous interaction.

The beauty of this tool is its flexibility. Here’s a catchy video using Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp fiction as a theme and demonstrates the program’s agility.

It was fun to present our journey to solving online collaboration at PodCamp. It was a great event and I can’t wait until PCN11 next year. Check out some of the tweets from attendees that signed up for our session.

Think about what happens when you work in a linear fashion – you wait right? Most process models are designed so that “B” can’t start until “A” is finished. This makes getting from A to Z time consuming, not to mention – it leaves no room for exploration, experimentation and failure. Wait, failure? Yes. Failures in a process are necessary for evolving an idea and even starting over if needed. “Parallel action” allows for these steps to occur and is the difference between work that is good or work that is great.

This type of thinking isn’t relatively new. Edward DeBono (one of the world’s leading thinkers about thinking, and founder of “The six thinking hats”) says this about “parallel thinking“:

“Parallel Thinking is not about philosophy but about the practical thinking required to get things done.

For two and a half thousand years we have followed the thinking system designed by the Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, based on analysis, judgment and argument. Is this traditional thinking sufficient today? The old boxes are no longer adequate to cope with today’s rapidly changing world. So judgment and argument can no longer solve problems or move us forward. We need to switch from judgment to design. How can we design forward from ‘parallel possibilities’?

– Accept possibilities without judging and lay them down in parallel

– Accept both sides of a contradiction and lay them down in parallel

– Then design forward from parallel possibilities”

– Edward DeBono

So what’s the difference between “parallel thinking” and “parallel action”? It’s the “action” part? Seriously, there are times you can improve a project just by moving it forward –  working at the same pace as others within a process. It’s far better to share what has been developed, allowing for movement instead of waiting until others are finished with their role in that process.  This requires more communication and constant feedback, thus everyone moves in parallel.

Here’s the trick. There is a reason for order within a process. It maintains integrity of key components like research, insights and ensures deadlines are met. So there still needs to be certain “linear actions” taking place. It’s like parallel action taking place while linear movement still exists. If this sounds like chaos it could be, but only if you’re in the wrong mindset.

Creativity is difficult if your intentions are to create something great – something unique. It’s why some people refer to the creative process as a “science”. It’s definitely, if done correctly, not subjective. It takes effort and commitment in it’s communication and sharing of information. This process also demands respect and real collaboration with those involved. Being able to say, “Your idea is better than mine” means dropping egos and playing with a humble attitude. Hilman Curtis, an artist well known for creative process states:

“Cooperation is the foundation of any team effort. It’s a basic idea, one that goes way back to kindergarden when your teacher pleaded with you to play well with others. But as basic as it is, we all forget its importance.” – Hilman Curtis

Parallel action allows for producing great work that yields amazing results. Just like anything in life it insists on honesty, commitment, constant communication and a desire to be unique. Employing this type of action within a process can be difficult to manage.  However, once achieved, it’s like butta.