Inspiration from Google Zeitgeist 11

It's actually your brain that gets blown open at Zeitgeist 11. Art work by the Brick Artist, Nathan Sawaya

Imagine being hooked up to an IV bag.  Only instead of saline it’s filled with a high concentration of inspiration.  And instead of the bag being set on a slow drip, it’s turned all the way to the right, to “fire hose.”  That was Google Zeitgeist 11. Themed Each of us, all of us, it was brilliantly choreographed by the fine folks at Google who assembled an amazing cast of characters, all of whom managed to thread the theme through their presentations.

Robert Reich crystallized all of America’s problems and solutions into the simple need for creating communities that build empathy and interdependence. (Is this the potential of social media?) Will write a post on that later.

Ariana Huffington and Ted Koppel presented opposing views (sort of) on the state of journalism. Koppel arguing that the news media only gives people what they want rather than what they need. Ariana’s position is that truth (objectivity doesn’t really exist in journalism) is better achieved by crowdsourcing, curating and greater participation rather than through the filtering that Koppel calls for. Especially when foreign governments and one reporter’s sources can game the system.

Jean Phillippe-Vergne brilliantly compared similarities among The Dutch East India Company, the BBC, AT&T, and National Institute of Health to show how new categories initially operating as state sanctioned monopolies become much better when the “pirates” influence and change them. Think back to the days when the British government had the BBC presenting (almost exclusively) religion and classical music. Supposedly it was good for you. Every one of those categories and organizations initially thought it was best served by aligning with government protection. But was it?

There were stories of success from moguls like Ted Branson and Eike Batista; examples of innovation from technology enthusiasts like Dr. Jay Parkinson (brilliant idea to be a digital doctor); and amazing demonstrations of passion and purpose from the likes of Dave Eggers (826 Valencia) and Robert Hammond and Joshua David who co-founded Friends of the High Line.

Over two days, presentation after presentation by young artists, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs filled attendees’ heads with all kinds of possibilities.

Through many of the presentations I detected a similar formula working again and again, both for its creators and for those of us in the business of marketing them. Here they are:

Listen to your dreams

Every presenter who had a success story to share, from Dave Eggers to Nathan Sawaya, had a nagging urge to do something that would make a difference. Granted Zeitgeist 11 featured only those who succeeded, but many did so against huge odds and despite skepticism.

Avoid the naysayers

This ran through almost every great story. So many people, from young entrepreneurs (Scooter Braun) to successful artists (Miral Kotb) had to free themselves from people who told them they were insane or that their idea would never work. You can’t have that negative energy around you and accomplish anything of significance.

Include the community

You would expect this at a session whose theme is Each of us, all of us.  But in case after case – crowdsourcing designs for The High Line, for example – ideas got better when multiple constituents were involved and communities gathered behind a purpose.

Tell a story

We still need marketing. Whether you launch an idea on Kickstarter, sell your vision to one other person, or put up a website, the story you start and re-write as you go becomes a powerful magnet, attracting attention and inviting others to share it.


No one among the presenters knew exactly how they’d accomplish their goals when they got started. They just knew that they had a goal. They figured out how to navigate there way there as they went. Early failures simply turned into lessons that that helped build the strength needed to persevere.


Google that shit. At least that made Adam Braun’s list. To me it’s simply a reminder that we have a multi-billion dollar infrastructure that connects and enables almost anyone with an idea. Answers, resources, community are all there for our using and sharing. Master the tools and platforms and you have new ways of creating a business. Just look at what Dr. Jay Parkinson did.

When you come home from something like Zeitgeist 11 one of two things happens. You instantly get caught up in the reality and demands of your day job and your new found jolt of energy dissipates . Or you actually rethink what’s possible and actually do something. In which case the energy builds.  I’m definitely going for the latter.





Interesting post, I have to ask, though, why the emphasis on software startups? To my mind, every startup shares a few common traits: many employees have equity; results matter; there's an exit strategy (even if your choice is no exit strategy). Agencies do not typically share equity (or profits); results matter but there is debate about what those results should be (awards, greater sales for clients, greater profits, etc.); and an exit strategy is not really an option, unless you've been hired under contract and your strategy to is get fired before the contract is up but still collect the contract. Thoughts?

Shoot, I have more to say on this, but I'm too tired... sigh, maybe in the next few days. Very interesting post and topic.


I'm not sure how I've never heard of Dr. Jay Parkinson but he certainly gives me hope for the future of healthcare in this country. Thanks for sharing.


That image terrifies me. Thanks Internet.

edwardboches moderator

Yes, his story is pretty amazing. And oh so simple and obvious.

edwardboches moderator

@stuartfoster I took that shot at Zeitgeist11. Brick Artist was there with many of his creations.