I read an article recently, I can’t remember where or by who, but the one thing that did manage to lodge itself like driftwood slamming into my temporal lobe (usually taken up by useless trivia and names of people I’ve not seen in 20 years) was the GIST of the story. Its basic premise was that we actually don’t really know anything about anything!! Maybe not a massive revelation for some, but for others this could come as a bit of a shock. Our saviour, apparently, in this veritable knowledge vacuum, is the ability to work things out on the fly.
Now, usually I find that some semblance of skill and knowledge about matters at hand are generally useful, but the more I think about the proposition the more I find myself agreeing with it. Of course (and I should have pointed this out earlier) the piece was referencing all things within the agency / digital media realm and not applying its stunning logic to doctors, lawyers and the like, lest we be back in medieval times when ten leeches was the cure for all that ails thee (taken externally of course) ,however I digress…
As I flashback over my career to date….starting at direct marketing working with new call centre technologies; through a substantial stint in the television industry as it embraced digital production technologies and later HD/digital; and then into the digital media space for the proliferation of the web, mobile and social media…..I realise that most of the time I really didn’t know much at all! I have had what could only be best described as ‘Minimal Operating Knowledge’, because everything is constantly evolving in front of you.
No matter what the job, it has always come down to the ability to take what you do know, work it into malleable solution(s) that fit the current environment and then quickly adapt as the feedback comes back. So as the dusty light globe flickers and flutters to life above my small but agile mind I realise, that non-memorable yet seemingly very clever, online article publishing son of a bitch was right after all!
I suppose the great difference now is we have names for the process we have developed in the past. Like what’s known as “Rapid Iterative Deployments” now was more commonly known as “Shit this isn’t working, let’s go with plan B!” back in the day. Or a “low fidelity deliverable” very well could have been “this idea I have managed to capture on a serviette in the café just before the meeting” and I’m sure we all know the original (very often smoky and carpet stained) location where “workshops” and “brainstorms” got their start. In fact it was very often mandatory to attend a range of “workshops” and “brainfarts” on a Friday evening before you were clear to knock off for the week. All joking aside though, most of the best ideas and thinking never happen in the office, even today.
So I guess the culmination of my online therapy session here poses a question (as all therapy does…. apparently), the question is…..[drumroll]………….[stretching while I think of the question]…….. OK ready… If you have the ability to think on your feet and adapt quickly, does it matter how you get there and how much information you know before you start? I’m honestly very interested to hear a broad range of feedback, because I think it’s an ever more salient point across a greater number of industries, but in the interest of marking ground I’ll take a swing at it first.
As I see it, it comes down to the Hare and the Tortoise (“Of course!” I hear you say… through some form of bizarre digital telepathy). To deliver a successful project you must find the sweet spot between business objective and user requirement. If the solution you deliver (strategic or production) can fill that gap you’re closer to win than lose. To me balance is everything so, equilibrium of knowledge (Tortoise) and nous (Hare) is optimal. But if I’m to choose a winner, the Hare (nous) gets the nod every time, he might need to do a time management course first, but the Hare gets the bickies!
It’s not just about the ability to assess the immediate landscape and work out an iterative, malleable solution to the problem (because, let’s face it, best practice just won’t give you the entire solution you need), but the pace of improvement and innovation in the digital space renders maintenance of anything but a general knowledge impractical. So it’s time to re-write the classics, because in today’s world the Hare would shit it in.