I return from a week of lecturing, teaching and learning at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication invigorated and confident about the future. The students I spent time with already embrace the concept of design thinking. They naturally conceive networked solutions. They work even more collaboratively than we do in most advertising agencies.
On the morning of my third day I sat through five stand-up presentations. The assignment: make innovation a movement in America. I have to say I was blown away. No one presented anything remotely resembling an ad or a message. In fact every solution was a platform, an app, a social experience or a community. And more than a few seemed worthy of development and investment. (I offered to put $1000.00 of my own money into one right away so the students could by the URL.)
I wish I could share all the ideas here, but to be honest, some are too good to leak out before the students have a chance to develop them a bit further. But I’ll offer a glimpse.
One team developed a new platform that would encourage corporations to be more innovative (socially, environmentally, economically) by assuring that their products would get rated based on those criteria by consumers everywhere. A new kind of product endorsement based on a company’s behavior if you will.
A second team incorporated gaming dynamics and reputation management into a new platform that would encourage more young people to learn about causes, charitable organizations and support them with either time or money.
A third found a way to focus on innovation (with a small “i”) by inviting ordinary people everywhere to easily identify challenges, gather suggestions and initiate solutions. It was not unlike Alex Bogusky’s new Common, but at a grass roots level.
The students were nervous, but poised. Their presentations weren’t perfect. And their ideas have a long way to go before they’re marketable or able to be monetized. But something’s happening here. A new generation of advertising, journalism and communication professionals are just starting to emerge from our colleges and universities. They represent the first generation that doesn’t use words like digital or social media. To them everything is digital and social. It’s how they think and create. Our industry needs them. Badly.
In one of the classes I spoke at, taught by Dave Allen of North, the students came up with a hashtag to define what it is that they want to do. They want to #buildshit. Not say stuff. Build stuff. Ideas, technologies and platforms that will take advantage of all that the Internet makes possible. For brands, for users, for society at large. I can’t wait. Hope they come to work for me.
Gigantic thank you to Deb Morrison, Dave Koranda, Dave Allen, Dan Morrison, Dean Gleason, Mark Blaine, Harsha Gangadharbatla, and everyone else who welcomed me so warmly and taught me so much. Special thanks to Richard Ward for sponsoring the Executive in Residence Program.