Sunday, March 28, 2010

Design thinking and Storytelling

A year in the making of a documentary film certainly has been an experience that I’m unable to sum up here in a short blog post. The culmination of many people giving of there time and support to bring the story to life.

The documentary chronicles an extraordinary profile of leaders who share their perspectives through rich storytelling. They share their memories and legends set against the remarkable backdrop of James Bay Northern Quebec.

An account of "David and Goliath" proportions the James Bay Northern Quebec Cree in the early 1970’s have been inhabitants from time immemorial with a growing population of roughly 5000. They were established over a region the size comparable to England in remote communities.  The communities they lived in had no connecting roads. Intercommunity communications was limited. There territories include a magnificent watershed of lakes, tributaries and rivers streaming through dense boreal forest, wetlands and bogs. In fact the Cree to this day trap beaver using techniques that decades earlier were effective when they played a central role alongside the Europeans in the fur trade boom. The first Hudson Bay Post was established at Rupert House today known as Waskaganish.

The Cree used the Rupert River as an inland thruway for traversing their Canoe caravans west toward the Bay to bring their cache of pelts to the Europeans who in turn loaded the fur onto ships. Ships once loaded crossed the Atlantic Ocean back to Europe. The fur was crafted into hats and other fashion. At the time the Cree were part of a multi-national enterprise long before the notion of globalization was in vogue.

Robert Bourassa was the premier at the time in the 1970’s his administration began a massive hydro electric project in the far north squat in the centre of the James Bay Cree territories. These two forces the James Bay Northern Quebec Cree and Quebec Hydro Electric Utilities set the stage for what is one of the most legendary dynamics in Aboriginal history. The story treatment has profiled the central players sharing their perspective whom at that time asserted their rights, protected their traditional activities including hunting, fishing and trapping and preserved their territories against unbridled land development.

Storytelling is a persuasive technique that is central to understanding. We have a rich and diverse Northern Region in Canada that includes deep cultural heritage. The stories from the north unfortunately are being lost. Lack of investment by stakeholders combined with an aging population of Elders within northern Communities puts the concept of “preservation” on a narrow pending timeframe. 
I was in conversation with a leading expert in pedagogy from Canada’s west coast who has worked extensively with the Haida. She shared with me that just three First Nations languages remain vital and in use here in Canada many First Nations languages are now lost as generations pass away.

Of course the stories and knowledge disappear along with the languages this is a tragedy for generations of future Canadians specifically Aboriginal youth.

Design thinking applied to ethnology sustaining oral history and education is now at the forefront for me having gained an understanding of the James Bay Cree's leadership and innovation. 

In Canada we must act together to preserve our countries Aboriginal Elder’s original and authentic stories, that for centuries have been foundational to their peoples survival, education, values, conservation and beliefs.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Doing Art

I'm fortunate to be among my colleagues at the office 

Interior view Reception floor of gordongroup

We use a 52-inch flat screen with Internet feed to review current assignments.  
The design/web people were reviewing work and highlighting different aspects of bringing the products to completion. The presentation included products for about ten different clients. 
These forums take place weekly. The work included Federal Government video, Real Estate Developer brand and cultural work for our Aboriginal clients and a variety of other solutions. Two things struck me about the presentation. Each individual product has its own personality or unique design. The other aspect of the forum that stood out was the cool calm and fun-spirited discourse emanating from the participants in response to the product being cast.

We engage a management style that relies on the philosophy of self-supervision with organization/client control; these two vectors establish a balanced platform that allows latitude for people who bring experience and leadership and vision to the company daily. The team is fully engaged and focused leading the effort to fulfill the client’s aspirations for authentic product that effectively communicates their unique story. The product reflects the focus and tenacity of experts in different disciplines collaborating together integrating their skills into some form of brand building tool that is eventually released to market.
The idea of self supervision supports Seth Godin’s notion of “doing art”.  Art is a metaphor he used in his book Linchpin to empower readers to take charge of their work life and do what their inner voice is telling them to do (he says this is art) rather then remaining locked in an unrewarding career path. In the design field we’re offered the opportunity to produce art literally and also in many other functions we perform.  Our clients are refreshingly supportive and extend to us latitude to support them in joint partnerships. Exceptions happen and in the service industry the art is about managing many different outcomes recognizing that one cannot be idealistic. Managing risk in all aspects of the business internally and market facing from the onset has to be a priority from start to finish.

Seth Godin’s book “Linchpin” a refreshing and unique take on the world of work. 


Monday, March 15, 2010

Digitial Interactive Media

Video that is ubiquitous today online provides users meaningful and easy to understand information that otherwise would be inaccessible. Why is design thinking a core competency today for business?  Design is central to innovation. Innovation has many different faces (IDEO). Investment in design especially backed by sophisticated writing talent combined with intelligent engineering will offer measurable benefits and cut through the din of competitive noise in your market. 

gordongroups multi-disciplinary capability responds to clients needs we assess the opportunity from 500 feet above and carefully determine the unique communications requirement through listening asking proper questions and analytical research.

We introduce the best design thinkers who have core competencies in engineering, photography, writing, information architecture, user experience, project management and a breadth of other innovative abilities to ensure we drive home results that reflect our clients core marketing objective. Click on the link below the visual..

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Convergence & Video

Before was focus and read now its click, play, listen and watch. Overnight video has emerged as the primary mechanism for communications online. 
Video offers some interesting opportunities for organizations. The web has effectively changed the game of distributing content. The term brochure ware has been dropped out of marketing lexicon while the notion of “PLAY” and digital media is the central element of the organizations brand building tool kit.
My aspirations to do filmmaking have come to fruition largely due to a groundswell of demand for content to be broadcast online and in digital format. Evidently we may all be filmmakers as video and animated digital integrates as a primary media for communicating.

Organizations contemplating their options and judging where to invest market dollars today have many choices to consider. You want to ensure you remain vital and competitive. Consideration to leveraging design and innovation in support of driving new business opportunities has to be central to growing and attracting new customers. The important foundation that remains constant among all aspects of technologies, medias, and tools whether digital, traditional, conversations or sand which boards is the identity framework. The core definition of who your company is or who you are as an individual is at the epicenter of successful brand development. So before you get out your HD camera, or engage the web designer or buy a billboard make an investment to engage creative people who will ask the proper questions, research and listen to you and in turn craft a meaningful identity framework that will support and drive building your brand for you and your committed team and your market.
The identity framework has the following structural elements.

Core Constructs
Extended Identity
Value Propositions
Tag lines

We will have ample opportunity to go online and broadcast our organizations unique characteristics. Foundational to leadership in brand building is ensuring the story is meaningful, easy to understand and persuasive.

I got a call last week from an individual who was reading my blog from the United States he contacted me through LINKEDIN. I’ve been following the social media dialogue with great interest looking at ways to connect the dots for my clients as well I’m interested in leveraging the technologies for driving new business opportunity within my fold. I must say LINKEDIN has an upside that I believe provides great utility for people in marketing specifically those selling business to business.  In support of driving new business today I see four activities in support of sales cycles that frankly were not available until recently. The sales cycle chain of activity today goes as follows.
  1. Do an Identity Framework that is persuasive and meaningful. Place this on your LINKEDIN home page. Get a professional who understands brand to check it out for you or better engage a brand expert to execute your I.F.
  2. Get referred by business people who you trust and whom you can in turn network with. Referrals today remain the fastest way to new business opportunities
  3. Contact your new prospect based on the referral book time to meet.
  4. Post the call; send the prospect a request for them to join your   LINKEDIN network.

Simple idea but for someone like me who has networked for many years growing relations this new step is a very effective touch point toward augmenting that initial telephone conversation and building your personal or organization’s brand.

This form of networking with prospects is a completely new way to build a relationship. Previously the telephone conversation set the standard for introduction and defining a relationship. I have found augmenting the conversation with LINKEDIN networking provides your contact core information that enables a much better picture of who you are, who belongs within your community of contacts and other relevant information that should the contact wish to explore their at liberty to do so. Preparation for meeting can be done with much greater understanding of who is meeting whom once the day arrives to shake hands.

Welcome to social media!

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Words explaining organizations, words used for identity frameworks, words put together for slogans, words combined to form sentences for speeches, words carefully chosen for winning proposals, words converted to code and displayed on web sites, words used to draft scripts, complicated words converted to plain language. We’ve focused on words for over twenty years crafting them into sentences in support of our client’s communications and outreach.
Choosing effective prose and the proper words to define for people ideas like authenticity, expertise and innovation are a core competency and baseline for proper communications. gordongroup’s writing team has performed a dual role including setting our standards for all the corporate communications we pump out to our stakeholders and clients combined with preparing manuscripts and copy and integrating those words into our product. Our product of course is relayed to the wider market. Very often words become iconic and core constructs of our clients brand.
The commitment to clear and accessible communications using words has been central to our organization driving our competitive position in the market.
We recognize that proper writing and use of words will provide measurable value and greatly improve the success of campaigns.
I’ve been taking a writing course for last couple of days and the experience has been quite interesting and a welcome change from my usual routine. I’ve been with a group of people engaged in learning writing techniques here in Chelsea taught by Brian Doyle. His focus has been on practical writing techniques and basic understanding of structure and other tips.
A simple tactic that he offered in the three-day course I will offer here. Brian Doyle referred to this technique as a means of creating a structure or vessel for the individual writer to fill in with words. The idea is to start the prose with a sentence that sets the basis for a framework.
The first sentence everyone writes together and it unfolds as follows.
A ________ _________ stood in the doorway.
The writer establishes the character of the story by filling in the blanks. Once the character is established the writer has to follow the structure indicated.
  1. Height & Sex
  2. What held
  3. Hair
  4. What worn
  5. How moved
  6. What capable of
  7. Name
  8. Face
  9. Voice
  10. Hands
So the rules are set and we’re instructed to proceed to write the story.
Not only is this great fun but also a direct tap into right brain creativity.
I suggest readers give it a try….

A thin short man stood in the doorway.
Once he entered the room he produced a flute.
His hair was long and silver he wore a costume with sequins, tails and pointed blue boots.
He waited two steps inside the door for a moment then sprang into a dance spinning around and flowing to the sounds of his flute.
His name was Bernie Blast.
He had a face that was etched with wonder and mystery.
His voice when he spoke resonated with a magical softness that was as calm and reassuring as night and day.
His hands moved dreamlike on the flute it came alive with happiness.

Storytelling and clear writing is an area that is central to successful communication and brand leadership. Learning techniques that enable better use of words or offer structure for establishing characters or dialogue all contribute to more meaningful and improved understanding.
The expectation from clients for the right choice of words is prevalent across all forms of media. I believe now more then ever in the online space. We’re witnessing an upside on broadcast production for the web with scripts, branded video and even brief quips using micro media interfaces such as twitter.
Your choice of words are essential ingredients to your brands success.