Game Change

Diagon Alley

The World of Themed Entertainment is On Notice; whether or not we’ve Noticed.

This sharp, upward curve began with Universal’s opening of the Gates to Hogsmeade and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter; for the first time meeting and surpassing the Theming Standard heretofore set by Disney. Disney has followed with New Fantasyland, and the lushness of those experiences have now been completely superseded by Universal’s Diagon Alley.

And Buckle Up! …as Disney Shanghai opens its doors to heightened levels of group intimacy and marvelousness…

The bar is irrevocably raised, the gauntlet thrown down, and not just among the Big Boys. Whereas, historically, Disney set the standard for immersiveness and Universal led the way in the visceral; now, over the past few years, even the Regional Parks have been upping their game; Cedar Point a leader among them.

Audiences are becoming more sophisticated and more discerning; the more they know, the more they expect. Getting people to part with their hard-earned money, to leave the comfort of home, of entertainment center and keyboard, is calling for more fully fleshed-out experiences of greater immersiveness and a more nuanced, intimate atmosphere than has been delivered in the past.

Nowhere is Noticing more crucial, nowhere is more money riding on more projects meeting a higher standard, than in the UAE.

The last time the UAE began opening up and announcing themed experiences as destination-augmentation was in the early 2000’s; as our industry press waxed rhapsodic about the “amazingly themed” shopping malls that were supposedly rising from the sands of the desert. Closer inspection revealed collections of repainted and refurbished carnival and FEC attractions; virtual sow’s ears dressed up and positioned as experiential silk purses to an audience with a lot of money and not so much exposure to the rest of the world…yet.

The West did itself a disservice at that time in not calling out the carpetbaggers who were taking advantage of the newly-rich spenders in the UAE, surrounding nations and markets. Writing in glowing terms about this second-hand collection of white elephants was, effectively, collusion in delusion and ultimately served no one.

It made us all look bad.

Later in that decade, just as money was starting to be spent in newly-vast quantities in the UAE for projects of massive vision; the bottom fell out of the market. The money disappeared, and along with it came the vaporization of a plethora of excitingly-envisioned projects the realization of which we shall never see. Whether or not those projects would have been well-executed will never be known.

It was a disaster, and it served to further undermine the image of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the UAE as The Next Destination Paradise. Huge developments were stopped in their tracks. Some remain as Ghost Projects, still accessible to wander through and see what magic had been envisioned. When people visit the area, we take them on this “Tour of Broken Dreams” just to see the exciting models and images of extremely creative people, unrealized.

And now, we are coming up on Round Three, The Third Time.

Will this be the proverbial Charm, or will Dubai strike out? For, should this vision not be realized, there will be no Fourth Shot. The world will turn away.

Those of us spending time and working here are betting on the Vision.

In the time it took San Francisco to build a bridge, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, (Vice President of the UAE and Constitutional Monarch of Dubai) has built an entire country.

His Highness has a breathtaking vision and is making that vision reality as building after other-worldly building rises into the sky, as destinations materialize, as the future comes together, here.

The place is fantastic; a panoply of myriad cultures and people in one place, supporting the vision of this part of the world as pivotal in the future of the Globe…as key player in the next Moment in Global Evolution and power.

There is, though, a very real danger in the potential for shortfall; and that danger is deceptively called “value engineering.”

What we are seeing, here, as projects are being taken from plan to platform, is the aggressive shaving of the “unnecessary” in favor of carving a prettier budget and getting an ephemeral “more” for the money that is being spent. We call it the “Curse of the MBA,” as elements are eliminated, lessened or replaced by cheaper materials in the name of profit margin and getting a better deal.

What is missed is that, especially in the world of themed entertainment and destinations, that the 30% that is shaved from the budget may well cause the remaining 70% to become that much wasted capital; as the finished whole runs a very real risk of not achieving even the sum of it’s remaining parts.

The examples are here to see and learn from. Ferrari World, a survivor of the 2008 crash, is only now beginning to recover from the cuts made to budgets during building. Over the past year, as hoarding has come down and the results of millions of dollars in reparative investment are revealed, what is emerging is a more fully populated, energetic experience where something is happening no matter where the eye comes to rest.

Nearly five years after opening, the cavernous feeling is dissipating, the two-dimensional experiences are disappearing and the newly-present lushness and depth are creating a welcoming, curiosity-inspiring, even convivial atmosphere. One can feel the difference in atmosphere, already.

The atmosphere is lush, full and far more exciting than it was even months ago. Well-done, Ferrari World!

The Parks that are currently being built in the UAE are not going to have any time after opening to fix or repair the gaps in experience that are being considered as production moves forward. If audiences show up on Opening Day to an experience that is barren, two-dimensional, reflective of budget cuts; the word on that will be out, worldwide, by the end of that day.

Social Media can kill these projects in a matter of days, before there is time to “repair.” These must be done right, the first time; they must open as complete.

And thus, then, is uncovered a cultural achilles heel in the UAE.

Our interpretation of this is an inner clash of disparate cultures. A product of having the resources to buy or build virtually anything that is desired or envisioned that is compromised by thousands of years of the honorable culture of the souk and of bartering, woven into the DNA.

The Best is what’s wanted; but it’s wanted at a lower price and faster. When bartering for anything that is already manufactured and for sale, this is a social and economic exercise that poses no risk to the product. The seller and buyer square off on either side of the carpet on the block and, once a price is agreed, the buyer walks off with the product intact. The quality of the product has not changed at all during the exchange.

This does not happen with theme parks or shows. What costs a million dollars costs a million dollars. If forced to sell for less, the seller will make adjustments to the product simply in order to stay in business, to survive after this sale or build. Materials cheapen, warranties lessen, durability is mitigated, the product is compromised. It doesn’t take much of this to affect that experience and, though one’s audience may not be able to articulate what makes an experience less compelling, that audience may not return…and may spread the word that what is being sold as Amazing is really just OK.

There will be no Next Wave.

It is imperative that quality be paramount in importance as these experiences are built. Even now, the men and women responsible for ensuring quality in many of the projects being built are daily dismayed at the decisions being made that will affect the quality of the experience. There is a very real concern that what was originally envisioned as lushly themed and intimate will devolve into something spare, too spacious, raw-edged and of “painted brick”…

We see here, all the time, production large and small with the same shortfall in detail. At every level, from shopping mall to grand opening experience; too close a look at detail will reveal sloppy standards, careless execution, what can be interpreted as a cavalier attention to detail. The people in charge, here, are as smart as people any where else; so, what is it that makes poor production values acceptable?

Nothing makes it acceptable; and this level of execution affects the experience. Sometimes directly, sometimes obliquely, but it is always affected. Whether a temporary show at a mall in Abu Dhabi, the Opening of a Dining and Entertainment complex on a beach in Dubai or the launch of a group of theme parks in the desert; completeness of execution, thoroughness of detail, lushness of experience is and shall remain paramount, or success will be elusive.

It is the responsibility of the industry press to do more than reprint press releases as these installations and developments come to be realized. Hard questions must be asked, clear eyes must be focused, we must closely watch the development and share the truth about what is being built…or we risk our own credibility.

The photo at the top of this column shows the lushness of Diagon Alley; the intimacy, the completeness, the fullness of the experience.

The photos, below, show what are evidently acceptable levels of production – projects, openings and shows presented as complete – that are, in fact, unacceptable; the existence of which dilutes what is sold as a finished experience.

No names and places. The purpose is not to name names and point fingers, the purpose is to wave flags.

There is time and there is money to do these projects correctly. That is what is sought.

IMHO.

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“IMHO – Creating Compelling Experience” remains a free download from iBooks or iTunes. Grab it.

 

Show Plaza, during opening night

 

main show plaza opening night

Staples and Screws

Staples and Screws

 

Main thoroughfare, Opening Day

Main Thoroughfare, Opening Day

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Taking Your “Elevator Pitch” to IAAPA

So, you’re off to IAAPA.

Most people heading to this annual confab in Orlando, next week, are going to seek business, meet with colleagues, discover new technologies and resources for adoption and enhancing product.

Some, though, will be looking for new contacts – or the renewal of old contacts – in search of a job or gig.

Things are happening all over the world in Themed Entertainment, these days, and this is a good year to be fresh and available. Heck, it may be a good year to be re-freshed and available!

Last week, the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) held one of its valuable NextGen Webinars in support of preparing the current crop of Able & Gifted young…and credentialed…creative minds for meeting prospective employers, mentors, advisors and generally circulating in the global milieu of themed entertainment and the effective seeking of jobs, therein.

So, for those of you who missed the webinar, or those of you who were on the broadcast and want a refresher, I am publishing a video of our Keynote, here (at the bottom of the page), along with bullets of the points made in our section of the conversation.

The title was:

“Positioning Yourself to Become a Themed Entertainment Pro” – with the sub-headers of…

  • How do I find work in this industry?
  • How can I make a good impression?
  • How can I build my personal brand?

Positioning versus Preparation

The overarching umbrella for all of this is to Be Authentic. There is no secret to this; there is only this Key. So, in light of that, there is Preparation for articulating one’s authenticity, then Positioning for the job one seeks…as treads the path, seeking employment.

Prepare … by knowing who you are; what you are good at doing, what you thrill at doing, what fulfills you that you can do. Do listen to others when they offer opinions on what you “should” do; but make your decision based on what you want to do.

What’s a “Pro”?

The first distinction we make is the colloquially-nuanced difference between the words “Pro” and “Professional.” One can be both, though being a Professional does not necessarily qualify one as a Pro in the sense of being at the top of the game. It is quite possible – indeed, advisable – to enter the arena conducting oneself as a Professional. That is about conduct, ethics, ethos and assiduous attention to detail.

Professionalism.

About a hundred years later, with much accomplishment under the proverbial belt, one gets to call oneself a Pro. Conduct yourself professionally for long enough and you will become a Pro.

Remember; and any of you who’ve been at the TEA Summit or SATE have heard from those of us gathered by the august and estimable Imagineer in Residence at SCAD, George Head, know; the degree you receive is only the beginning of your professional pathway. It is your ticket to find your way; not a substitute for actually having experience.

So, to get the experience; you gotta getta job.

Elevator Pitch

The term “Elevator Pitch” comes from the extemporaneous encounter in an elevator with a person to whom you wish to pitch an idea (or, in this case, to pitch yourself).

You have 30 seconds. What are you going to say? You’re wanting to impress with your value, then get an interview. This is not your interview.

  • Of course, first, it depends on who is the Pitchee. If one is wanting to be a creative director or a show producer – either of which one might choose to be, based on skill and talent – on one’s way to Production Executive-hood; it would depend on who was encountered, which skills or assets one might highlight in that spare window of opportunity which pitch one might lob.
  • Thus, it might be handy to have more than one “pitch” in the arsenal for use at the right opportunity.
  • Practice on your friends, aloud; telling them what you want to do and what you bring to the table that is uniquely suited to that. (You might try practicing on your parents, but they’ll probably insist you get a Real Job and stop wasting your time with Fairydust. So, be prepared for that. Your Grandma will probably be more supportive. So is the way of the world.)
  • Remember: it’s not what you WANT to do that s/he needs to hear; it’s what you can do for your Pitchee that is most important.
  • And, as you elucidate your value, you must communicate your passion and commitment.
  • Qualification is Assumed, at this moment (you’ll have to prove that, later, once you’ve landed an actual interview).
  • Make it personal, from the heart, from the start. If it sounds rehearsed, you may as well go sell used cars.
  • If it would help your case, have one or two photos (and, by that, I mean ONE or TWO) of exemplary projects or accomplishments of which you are proud on your phone ready to share, accessed by a tap or two. (Do I have to suggest you build a special album and place it within the first three in the column? I didn’t think so. Keep it HANDY.)
  • Remember; just as though you are on a Manhattan sidewalk, don’t slow ‘em down and they’ll stay friendly…

Tools at Your Disposal 

Social Media

  • Don’t use the default “link” or “friend” buttons. Send a message that you’d like to connect and why…what’s in it for them?
  • Perhaps comment on something a desired contact has posted, then follow up (later) with a request to link or friend…
  • Do your research on people with whom you want to speak.
  • On the above; at least have googled these individuals before you actually meet with them. Seriously: know who you are meeting and know about their company.
  • This helps to personalize your correspondence.
  • Assume nothing; not knowledge of you, not a common frame of reference, nothing.
  • As far as that goes, don’t assume they will even respond to you. Generation after generation has a healthy percentage of people for whom Courtesy just ain’t natural. Don’t take it personally.

Portfolio or Body of Work

  • Edit the living hell out of it. Less is more.
  • Show what’s unique to you; what sets you apart. Basic skill levels are, in this context, assumed.
  • Share it digitally. You may (as an artist) carry a portfolio, but have it on a flash drive you can leave behind or in a format you can email. Now is always better and ease of retrieval trumps Big, Honkin’ Portfolio in some drawer.

You are Your Personal Brand

  • There is nothing to make up, here. Communicate YOU.
  • Nurture that which is You. Follow your own Vision or Dream for your future.
  • If, in pursuit of that dream, you discover that’s not what you want to do; that’s GREAT information. So stop, quit, move on to what newly inspires you as your vision clears.
  • There is no time limit, and there is no limit on the number of careers or jobs  you can have.
  • Nothing is forever…especially now.
  • And…don’t do it for the money. Just figure you’re not going to get rich, doing this. Some do, and not always the ones who are the best at it. There’s a lot of luck in all of this. If you can be happy not making a lot of money, you’ll be even happier if you do make a lot of money…just don’t count on that being part of the equation.
  • One must find fulfillment in putting smiles and looks of wonder on those cute, little faces at knee-height, throughout this world…

As we said, above, There is No Trick to This

  • Be authentic. If that doesn’t fly, then what you know is that you don’t want to work for that person, because it would not work! (As with dating; the true you is going to show up at some point, so may as well launch with it.)
  • Follow up…by asking how you should follow up, then doing that with a dose of reality. By that “reality,” we mean keep in mind that time flows differently for people managing companies or working in corporations. S/he may say, “…call me in a week and I’ll get back to you…,” and mean it when s/he says it. But most of these people have daily logistical support such that other people manage their calendars and their paychecks are deposited automatically … leaving them with an altered sense of time and it’s passage.
  • Be patient. It’s not personal.
  • And…don’t believe your own press. You may have been called the best thing to come out of your Art of Business or Film or Theatre School in the past decade, and perhaps you are…but what does that mean to the people for whom you want to work. That “best” is subjective and contextual; now you are playing in Reality. (Creating fantasy…ironic, ain’t it?)

So. It’s about Embracing your Passion & Being Authentic.

  • Be yourself.
  • Clean up a bit.
  • Dress nice.
  • By now you’ve heard, “Dress for the job you want, not the job(less) you have…” Even if “they” wear jeans and t-shirts to work where you want to work; class up for your first impression; you’ll make a better impression.
  • Later, when you’re in a t-shirt and someone’s on the way to a client meeting; they’ll know you know how to clean up and talk nicely. Perhaps they’ll ask you along.
  • These things matter.
  • They do.

Good Luck.

Now, get out there and get a job so’s you can hire us Seasoned Consultants to collaborate with you. We’ll help you look good and you’ll help us stay current. Win-Win.

IMHO.

Website: http://www.oziercreative.guru

Video of Webinar Keynote (Opens in separate window, in case you wish to refer to it while reading.)

“IMHO” the book is a free download from iBooks or iTunes. Take advantage of it!

The Humility Factor

IMG_3722 - Version 2

What does Luck have to do with our career trajectory?

Plenty; and let’s not be forgettin’.

Remembering that Luck, Timing and Circumstance often have no small amount to do with being in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of a unique circumstance to showcase (or show-off!) one’s skill or talent, meeting the right person (when s/he’s in a mood that is receptive to what we are or want to be), or whatever series of fortunate events has led us to the project on which we now work, the title we may now carry is a valuable habit to embrace.

What’s the point of this?

The point is that it does us good to remember that there are a lot of people as smart, as creative, as insightful and empathetic, as thoughtful and intuitive, as assiduous and meticulous as are we…currently pumping gas, feeding chickens, weeding gardens, picking fruit, handling garbage, working in plants and factories or…if you can imagine…being lawyers. (OK, I’m kidding with that last one.)

Some do these things, above, because they like or want to do them; though likely not most of them, I’d wager.

We are lucky to be in this particular service industry. (…and let’s not lose sight of the fact that Entertainment is a Service Industry, if we do our jobs well; there should be no distractions and the audience fully taken care-of for us to consider ourselves fully successful.) We craft experiences, tell stories in myriad ways, take people to places they’ve only imagined or which they may have thought were lost forever. We ease their minds of the daily worries while we have them in our hands.

We are very, very lucky. With that Luck comes our concomitant responsibility to embrace Humility, to remain Humble, to watch ourselves from taking ourselves too seriously and allowing us to think we in some way Deserve to be doing what we do.

So much of this, of being where we are, doing what we love do to is Luck.

How can this Humility manifest?

Listen. Listen to every one around…especially when developing an idea. Hear as may ideas and approaches as are available before deciding on a course. Sometimes, what seems the most ridiculous or mundane of ideas can have just that germ in it that inspires brilliance that might otherwise have been missed.

Listen. Listen to those in junior positions, listen to those in parallel positions, listen to those in no position to make a suggestion. One Never Knows from whence the next Idea will come.

Let Go of Ego. Rarely, rarely, rarely is One Guy’s Way the Only Way to accomplish something. It may be the way s/he does it; but frankly, if that’s the way s/he does it every time, that method or process may well be running the risk of becoming stale and irrelevant.

Don’t get stuck in past successes.

Listen to suggestion, take out the virtual toolbox, be sure the tools are polished and ready,  then apply them to the project or process in a way that is inspired by the goal, by the audience, by the story, by the other minds at the table. Allow the path to success to change with each journey; that is where Discovery lives.

Be willing to start fresh, each time. Of course, what was done before will inform what is next accomplished; yet we can allow for the possibility that a different way might be the better way. To do so, one must be open to the surrounding creative, sharp minds…all minds, actually.

Ignore Titles. People are not the jobs they hold, they are not their titles.

From the microcosm of the workplace, headquarters or team, where even the new junior member may possibly be the most realistically innovative (okay: rare, but it could happen: more often, that kid just thinks s/he’s the answer to everything.) to the broader macro of the guy on the street or the bank teller or the gas station attendant…

One never knows what experiences bring others into one’s own sphere: so, best we keep eyes and ears open to what can come our way.

Never dismiss before fully hearing. Actually, never dismiss: what may not be germane today may germinate and grow in the The Idea on the next project.

Humility. The best idea doesn’t have to be the Leader’s. The Leader is responsible for recognizing, embracing and developing the best idea…without ego. That can only be accomplished without ego. Without Assumption.

I recently came across a quote by the inimitable Sir Ken Robinson;

“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they are valued.”

…and the best way to see that a person feels valued is to show that person that s/he is listened-to and heard. Every idea fuels the next one. It’s organic: it’s creative physics.

And I’ll share a grave danger; that of one who listens protectively – if one is working with a previously-envisioned goal in mind and hanging onto that goal – the listening is then false, the energy in the room and the processes undertaken will reflect that falseness, that inauthenticity.

Being willing to embrace the new does not mean the New will prevail, necessarily: it only means the New will be actively considered. And the practical fact is that everything heard, somehow, ends up as some part of the project or result; whether nuanced or fully articulated, somehow it often all ends up in there.

Everything changes. Be a part of that. Be open to it. One who has the zen discipline to maintain that approach stands to be seen as far more successfully creative…and will in fact most certainly be more successful in inspiring and managing creativity than most others.

Simply keep in mind how lucky are we all to be doing what we love…and that very likely everyone else on a given team is just as lucky if not more so.

This, alone, will serve the process – and, ultimately, our audiences – ever so well.

imho.

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Today, I’ve launched my new, UAE website. Take a look: http://www.oziercreative.guru

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“IMHO” the ebook is, wonderfully, still a free download from iTunes or the iBooks store…but only for those who are able to appreciate the evolution of process and can let go of The Way We Do It.

More Than Opinion – Going Deeper

In the wake of the recent conversation on the Responsibilities of Global Citizenship @ The Season Pass, back in August; I was approached, a few weeks ago, by Keith Mahne of Disney Avenue for further, ultimately deeper conversation on Creativity, Responsibility, Creating Experience and How the Hell Did You End Up Doing This Stuff, Anyway…?

Joined by the irrepressible Dusty Sage, these two gents got a little more out of me than I’d expected to share.

There are many paths to Success, Satisfaction and Fulfillment…and myriad definitions of all three. Frankly, when it comes right down to it; it’s all personal. Without personal fulfillment, the rest is empty.

The Success I experience is borne of the response to the work I do from the audiences who experience it, and the Fulfillment I receive is from having touched and moved individuals, en masse, to discover, recover and relive intimate experience…all through my own, creative emotional filters.

The interview speaks for itself (possibly too much!); I’m hoping that some of what is shared herein is new knowledge…I’m sure that some of what is shared will surprise…

It’s all about the Pathway.

Enjoy…and let me hear from you: The Disney Avenue Podcast: Kile Ozier

 

 

You Do Have a Choice

Managing creativity is, in and of itself, a Creative Process. The same input or feedback, depending on the point of view and motivation with which it is given, can serve either to evolve or impede the realization of a concept in development.

Certainly, the work needs to be examined with a critical eye. Step-by-step or measuring point by measuring point, assessment of progress in the context of all possibilities must be made, feedback and direction given. How, however, that input is given can make all the difference in the final result and in the morale of one’s team(s).

The morale of one’s team (must this even be said?) is, fundamentally, what drives productivity, creativity, loyalty, quality and – make no mistake – future business.

In the words of Johnny Mercer, “Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative…”

The same, experienced eye can see and share feedback and direction in myriad ways, falling into two, easy categories; positive and negative. (I KNOW, right? “Everyone” knows this…)

Why, then…

That same eye can look at facets in development on a project and see:

  • something wrong, or
  • something that can be evolved

The terms in which — the voice in which — feedback is shared will make all the difference in what comes out the other side…what we get back.

Critique, given positively, nurtures good energy, supports open creativity and the flow of ideas, paves the way for good work, done well and quite likely done faster.

It all comes down to us, the managers, directors, producers…pick your label…and how we train ourselves to see things.

You have a choice.

When presented with concept; do you view it with the idea of seeing what is wrong with it, looking for problems and pointing them out, directing the solution with your own specifics from that point of view?

Or.

Do you look, first, for what is great about what you see; seeking to identify and embrace the creativity and inspiration behind it and – through that filter – offer opportunities for those who are doing the creating to resolve what you see, to evolve the concept past, over and around the obstacles you might intuit as being in the pathway…?

Certainly, if something can be done better, it should be. That’s the point of what we do. As I’ve quoted, before, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for…?” (Browning)

Simply put; by seeking and inspiring the solutions to possible problems we see from our creative team, already responsible and invested, we can effectively evolve what is already good within the project or concept and the chaff will very likely fall away…simply through the process.

“No. Do it this way…” will result in exactly the opposite; creativity will be squelched, inspiration doused, energy depleted and your project becomes a job.

Tragic.

The Power of Positivity is incontrovertible. It takes as much discipline and self-control as any other, important habit. The rewards for creating and working in such an environment are legion.

Today’s post was inspired by this article on Leadership in Fortune, “…Habits of Highly Emotionally Intelligent People. It’s a quick and insight-sharing read. As long as you’re already here, why not take another moment and check it out. Share it.

Good stuff…imho.

“IMHO” the iBook continues to be a popular and free download for Apple OS and iOS for all devices. Available in iTunes and the iBooks store.

Cannot be Escaped, Must be Faced and Effectively Erased…

Oblique Metaphor

Preparing to depart, tomorrow, for a week of immersion in a culture heretofore completely foreign to me; I have been taking care through these preceding days to carefully examine my Baggage Cart for that insidious passenger: Assumption.

It. Is. Everywhere.

In the run-up to this project, where I will be working through interpreters in multiple contexts, my awareness of Assumption in daily social and professional intercourse has been even further heightened; such that I’m noticing the pervasiveness in everything from dinner conversations to elevator chat.

Listen.

The key to being aware of the presence of Assumption – one’s own and that of colleagues, clients and others – is to Listen.

Listening, acutely, to everyone at the table: hearing what is said and extrapolating what may lie behind it…all the while remaining conscious of and cognizant to the fact of Assumption its ramifications to the course of conversation and the quality of decisions being made.

Yes. I regularly bring this up. That is because Assumption is The One Thing, passively dismissed, that runs rampant and unidentified through most conversations between human beings of every culture; causing subtle misunderstandings that build upon one another and take processes off track without people actually noticing as it does it’s evil work.

It is easiest to see Assumption in what isn’t said, just before what is said.

Read that sentence, again.

To discern that, one’s Listening must be focused on the conversation rather than on the formation of one’s own Next Statement. Truly, almost everything that comes out of our mouths is based on an assumption we make, just prior to speaking.

That assumption may be about a creative process, an approach to the resolution of a previously-encountered problem, even the personal resonance of a “shared” experience.

What do I mean by that?

Few professionals would tell themselves that their methods are “the only way” to accomplish a given task or project. That being said; many a time, I’ve watched as misunderstandings have evolved through the use of “common” terms in conversations referencing disparate experiences. I’ve watched conversations go off-track as underlying misunderstanding proceeds unidentified and people think they are making themselves clear, when the opposite may actually be the case.

A good rule of thumb is, when listening, to ask oneself if one fully comprehends what is being said…or is assumption already at play? Then, clear it up: now.

The Open Probe

To challenge another with “…well, you’re assuming…” or “…aren’t you assuming…” isn’t the most productive nor effectively diplomatic way to address and derail Assumption. Rather, pulling out an old Sales Tool – the “open probe” – can open a doorway to heightened understanding in a matter of moments…

What’s an “open probe”?

  • “Could you say more about that?”
  • “Actually, that’s not clear to me; would you expand on that…?”
  • “You know what; that’s not clear to me… Could you give me an example of what you are talking about? I just want to be sure I get it.”

Contrary to what one might assume; this does not protract the process. Yes, it may slow the meeting, as clarifications are made and appreciation of common-ground communication is uncovered; it will probably both shorten the overall process and lower the overall cost, as well.

imho.

Meanwhile, it is wise to be aware that a question can sound like a Challenge, and to choose language that does not fuel that perception. If one comes from the place of truly wishing to comprehend and appreciate and is confident in that desire to know, in order to move things forward and facilitate understanding; chances are that motive will communicate in tone and word.

Ask questions: don’t assume you know.

Listen for assumptions of others and be sure that what is actually meant by what is being said is understood…by you, by everyone involved.

With assiduous attention to Assumption, one can rule the world.

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You’ll be happy to learn that the fantastic and valuable book, “imho,” is still a free download for OS & iOS from the eBook store and iTunes. The basics, the Five Tenets, some pithy anecdotes. Don’t leave yourself out in the cold; download and read it.

Working and Doing Business on Earth: Responsibilities of Global Citizenship

Back in January, in the run-up to Putin’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, I went out on an editorial limb with This Impassioned Post about exploring our responsibilities toward our fellow inhabitants on this planet in the context of the work we do.

This is a conversation I strongly believe we should be having in all our forums; from classroom, office and boardroom to TEA Summit & IAAPA and as part of most every gathering of professionals in our – and every – industry.

The problem is egregious and insidiously complex. There are no easy answers, and not everyone’s answer or level of responsibility will be seen as the same.

Fundamentally, I believe it is up to us, to us and the leadership whom we inspire, to see that the Discussion is Had…irrespective of the disparate approaches to responsibility and resolution.

Human Rights – Women, Children, LGBT, Genocide of any sort – simply needs to be a subject that is present and discussed in order to begin to achieve enlightenment and, I would hope, some ease and resolution. But, we gotta be talking about it.

It April, at the TEA Summit, though we failed to achieve seeing the subject addressed in official forum, the kickass and insightful men of Season Pass podcast sat down with me for a high-energy and in-depth conversation including the topic of Global Citizenship and Responsibility in the context of Human Rights. It is a pretty great ramping up of the conversation, and was released, yesterday.

You can listen to it HERE; and I urge you to do that.

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I think pretty much everyone who reads this will agree that Human Rights is an ever-present and rapidly escalating issue, here on the planet. I don’t know that there is a country that is exemplary on Human Rights…besides maybe Canada…and I doubt that there will be widespread agreement on a course of action.

What I hope to see Agreed is the need for active discourse, and this is a call for that.

We are responsible for the quality of Life on this Planet; what we breathe and eat and drink, who is allowed to participate in the management of their own lives (um, everyone…), who has the right to decide how we live and who we love (um, no one…).

These are industries with work all over the Planet; we have access to people at every level or caste in virtually every country in the world.

How might we best handle this responsibility?

Listen. Decide. Act.

IMHO.

And hey, subscribe to The Season Pass! These guys deliver a GREAT show…even when they’re not interviewing me…

A Word, from Adele Nazeem, to the Wary/Wise

Part III of our “…To The Wise” Triptych

…To those currently at the top of their game.

Wanna stay there?

Well then; in the words of Adele Nazeem*, “Let it Go!”

We’ve talked about the New Kids appreciating how much experience yet remains after graduation in order to season and weather them into the amazing Creative and Technical resources they are going to be; we’ve addressed the danger to our industries in bestowing lofty titles to the unseasoned and the damage that represents to quality of product delivered by these industries as well as to the crimps and obstacles that puts into the aforementioned developmental pathways of the New and NextGen.

So, part three of this set is for us Old Guys; those who’ve been around and working for a while and aren’t in any way ready to leave…and who may feel just a tad threatened by the Whippersnapper Brigade. All those irritating, bright eyes and fresh, unwrinkled skin and ability to pick up any digital device and just freaking use it…

Buncha know it all’s…

Except; they’re not know-it-alls…more to the point, they’re want-to-know-it-alls…

In Illustration: A Personal Anecdote of a Key and ultimately Pivotal Moment in my own, Professional Life that enlightened me to the fact that ageism can just as often be in the mind of the Older than that of the Younger…

After the Crash of ’08 and returning to NYC in ’09, in Survival Mode, I ended up being brought on as a Specialist @ Apple SoHo. Entering the store on my first evening, which happened to be an all-store meeting; my already-low spirits plummeted. I was clearly the oldest person in the place by at least a factor of two, and for the most part very nearly three.

So, it had some to this. A grey-haired old guy amongst this Ocean of Youth. At that moment I felt that I may as well have become a Walmart Greeter, I felt so immediately irrelevant.

But. I. Was. Wrong.

Grey is just another hair color; and the dynamic on the floor is collaborative, organic, supportive teamwork; playing to everyone’s strengths and interests. The level of curiosity emanating from pretty much everyone in the place as to what others bring to the proverbial table is a powerful force; giving me the opportunity to call forth and apply my own tenets of Experience Creation in the creation of my own experience at Apple…and everywhere.

The most salient of the five being Exploration of Assumption.

I’d assumed a lot about how I’d fit.

What I learned was how curious and willing to explore, how intrigued and hungry to learn were all these nimble minds with which I was now surrounded. How could anyone not be open to learning, with the myriad, disparate minds in Collective?

The population consisted of everyone from the Ohio fratboy to the Arizona Cheerleader, the blue-haired Dancer from Denver to the toughass dyke from Brooklyn, the Irish lass from Boston, the nerdy music guy from Houston, the German, the Dutch, the Theatre geek, the Beauty Queen, the Singer, the writer, the former nurse, the marine, the never-even-thought-about-the-closet Downtown boy, the jock…all on the level playing field of technology… Sharing and teaching all at once on the level playing field of technology and teaching.

Historically, I’ve always tended to pick out YPP’s (Young People of Potential) on my teams and give them more than they might think they can handle, though what I know they can; tossing them in with me as safety net, giving them opportunity to discover what’s possible.

I now seek and embrace every opportunity to be around, to teach and enlighten, mentor and guide younger men and women, especially students, because

  • a) they are so hungry to learn and apply what they know and
  • b) one cannot help but Learn Right Back!

So, back to our conversation and context:

New and NextGen in our workplaces and on our workforces are a huge opportunity for all concerned. They want to learn from you, from us.

At the same time, no one wants to look stupid: and, this is Key…

Remember; on the one hand, these YPP’s come with a fresh body of knowledge from whatever institution or experience brought them to your company or context. They know a lot…of what they’ve been taught. They also know they haven’t actually done anything, yet; put anything in the field. That being said; they don’t want to look clueless to you.

So don’t let ‘em feel clueless.

Allow that these kids (sorry, guys; you’re still “kids” to us…) actually do Know Stuff.

Offer to show ‘em how you do something, and remember to ask them how they might do it. See what they know, appreciate what they know, share what you know and – lo and behold – more times than not a better approach can evolve from the combination of the two.

The more welcoming we are, the more willing to show curiosity and the less afraid to look stupid will be the YPP’s; and that is the portal to developing and mentoring new talent and skill.

Fear is what stands in the way of any progress, anywhere. Our fear of what the kids might represent with respect to our own futures; their fear of screwing up and blowing their First, Big Shot at doing something.

They don’t want your job…not today. They want it, someday (probably sooner than is reasonable, but Youth is Youth – whattaya gonna do?). We don’t want them to not enter the workforce, do we?

We want them to join the team; and we certainly want them qualified to create things…Experiences of which we have not yet even conceived as we prepare to depart.

[And, btw kids; for us veterans, “leaving the work force” is not merely the “equivalent of dying” …it is the same thing, and will very likely happen at the same time. Most of us will work ’til the day we die. You are the same. Get that: we get it.]

The way I see it; we have an opportunity to impart what we know and have learned through doing the work together; to evolve our own processes and enhance our creativity by partnering in mentorship with YPPs.

The YPPs, on the other hand, have the opportunity to Learn From the Best while the best are still around.

That, and as they become executives, these kids’ll be in positions to hire us all for those wonderful, Consulting Fees we see, just beyond the horizon; justifiably inflated by our Evolved Relevance in an industry that is rapidly evolving in it’s own right.

[And: just a hint in that area… Probably best not to boast of being technologically deficient. That’s not really seen as an asset, anymore, and – in case you missed it, up above – these are the guy’s who’ll be hiring us, at some point. Best you be able to operate your iPhone without cursing, know how to create a pdf, be facile with digital conferencing technology and just get over your fear and frustration with the pace of technology.]

Avoid troglodickery (look it up ); have these kids teach you how to work your technology. Just sayin’.

So, as we encounter the New, we can embrace and welcome, evolve alongside and remain relevant far longer in collaborative partnership borne of mentoring.

The suggestion is to let go of any resentment and fear; embrace the YPPs and allow them the freedom to be themselves with you. Everyone will win.

 

*(if you don’t know who this is, get Googling… )

 

“IMHO,” the iBook on the basics of Creating Compelling Experience with Emotional Connection, is a free download from iTunes and iBooks and readable across the spectrum of OS and iOS.

SPECIAL EDITION: Missed Opportunities in Glasgow

For those intending to create spectacle for a living…

…Those interested in and inspired by the prospect of creating Spectacle to engage and move crowds would be well-advised to study yesterday’s Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies in Glasgow…

Not, however, as exemplary concept execution.

Rather, as egregious example of missed opportunities, dropped balls and what would seem to be poorly thought through approaches to storytelling and pageantry.

The full ceremony on YouTube, here.

At the outset, it must be acknowledged that the simple presentation of the athletes is a powerful and moving component of such Ceremony, in and of itself. Beyond that, these Ceremonies had Moments, here and there; momentary tableaux of beauty and near-compelling breadth. These moments, though, were few and far between.

IMHO, the producers and creatives responsible for this Ceremony have let down their audience(s), significantly; leaving it to the audience to infuse the experience with more substance than was actually there out of excitement at the fact of the phenomenon and their own patriotism and sportsmanship.

Having more than three years to plan this Spectacle, it could have been done so much better…without spending an extra dime. What was missing is:

  • thought,
  • creativity,
  • heart,
  • energy,
  • a sense of connection with a live audience and
  • the focus on the experience in the stadium…and, it would seem…
  • rehearsal.

Last one, first. 

A powerful and exciting in-stadium experience, well shot, will translate to the remote audience. This Ceremony, especially at the outset, leaned heavily on pre-produced and inauthentic media; draining energy from the stadium and giving the audience at home no sense of spectacle.

The point of being in a stadium for a Spectacle is to be where the spectacle is happening. Presenting video after video disengages the audience; or, at best, doesn’t engage them as fully or as personally.

In fact, throughout the Ceremony, it seemed that most of the money had been spent on media, animation and graphics when – for my money – just a fraction of that spent on rehearsal halls and staging might well have made for an exponentially-more-compelling Experience. The result was a relatively energy-free, intended-extravaganza that ultimately failed to fully engage.

Even the Hosts were speaking to the Cameras.

Being present in the stadium is the only opportunity for the audience to be immersed in the Experience. When what is delivered in the stadium is designed for close-ups to be telecast to the remote audience – as was a basic mistake of Danny Boyle’s London Ceremonies – everyone is shortchanged…especially the people in the seats.

Some specifics:

In the Positives; the flag entrance was very cool. Nicely done. For the most part, the Put Children First (see below) live segments were solid (though the onscreen talent could have made an appearance in the stadium at the culmination), the international chorus was pretty fantastic and the musical talent was superb.

Beyond that, though…

The very first speaker, Ewan McGregor (love the guy!), wasn’t even in the stadium and was pre-recorded. That entire set-up would have been far more compelling were he to have been live and present. Throughout his moments, he would introduce by video, another video. Lifeless. Not exciting.

Despite John Barrowman’s efforts to infuse energy into the opening number, that segment was focus-free and scattered; launching the evening with little foundation or gravity. Just a moment of pageantry to settle the audience and create a feeling of portent could have made all the difference; followed by something similar to what was attempted as a light-hearted “tour” of Scotland; it’s history, culture and place in the world.

The Scottish Regiment might have been better and more effectively placed, right up front; setting the stage with Legacy and Portent, making a powerful, emotional connection at the very outset without a word being spoken.

Starting the show with one person in the stands is derivative of televised awards shows and dismisses the presence and priority of the Live Audience. This is fine at the Oscars, which is a televised event with a live audience versus such Ceremonial Spectacle, which is a Live Event that is being televised.

Nuance.

So many slow and sloppy walk-ons of principals and performers. Wherefore?

So much ragged choreography. In three years, even volunteers can be rehearsed and deliver crisply.

(And god bless ‘em all for their visible and infectious enthusiasm, passion and commitment; many a show of mine has been carried by volunteer talent, onstage and backstage; I deeply appreciate and respect them all.)

The massive field stage pretty much won the battle for attention in the first segments.

So much space, so few people on it. With successive segments on that field, the space underscored the sparseness and looked underproduced and under cast.

Further exacerbating this effect was the poor choice of a “wooden” stage. The blandness of that surface offers no contrast with whatever is to populate that stage; thus what is on stage cannot be effectively articulated with the lighting…a technique that can effectively “hide” the vast empty space(s) and keep audience focus on the points of action. This is especially pertinent to the small groups that were running around the surface.

Too, a contrasting surface would have greatly enhanced the beauty of the “500 miles” ballet; giving it more drama. As it was, it just looked naked. What lighting effects there were was distracting and diffuse.

Alongside the field stage, the vastly underused Main Stage that stretched the entire length of the field, backed by the massively distracting video screen, served to underscore the relative small physical size of the performers as well as their numbers. Rather than supporting the onstage or on-field performers with these features, the screens and stages effectively fought with and overpowered the live performers…until the addition of iMag on the big screen was finally used with Rod Stewart, et al.

Speaking of Nuance: Rod Stewart…

  • Truly needs no introduction; his voice and presence would have been a most effective and more exciting “introduction,” and
  • He might have been better used only once, after the Procession. Using him twice dilutes both Moments.

Back to the field-long screen. This could have been used for far greater effect than to have been filled with all those expensive and often seemingly meaningless graphics.

  • It could have been used interactively; such that the performers and the screen worked in tandem, collaborating for effect far greater than the sum…
  • Rather than compete with the Processional with it’s big, colorful, distracting animations; perhaps successive and kinetic picture-in-picture images that paralleled the athletes proceeding across the field would have kept focus on the athletes and enhanced the intimacy.
  • Using the relatively tiny, up-high screens for iMag pulled attention from the field and the main stage. Not a good call, imho.

The processional was sloppy and slow. 75 minutes for 6500 athletes is too long. This is where that fantastically-long stage down the side of the field could have been put to great use; introducing each team, shoulder to shoulder and marching them onto the field.

We do know from experience that, with this “Broadway” technique, over 11,000 athletes can be brought onto the field in Procession in about 45 minutes with great, sustained excitement, pageantry and dramatic energy.

Another Missed Opportunity.

TelePrompTer. Next to and hidden by the onstage monitors? Susan Boyle? Just asking.

Put Children First. Nice segment and undertone with the potential to be very exciting; though the ball was dropped. How great it would have been, as we’d been set up for this Big Moment throughout the first part of the show, to see the numbers rocket upwards as the entire world SMS’d their donations to UNICEF. Instead, it was Everybody Do This and On To the Next Thing with no follow-through.

Left hanging, we were.

The cameras were a little out of control. During key moments of the program, when actually paying attention to the speaker was probably of the most importance (for The Queen, perhaps; and Malaysia…), cameras were roaming the crowds, seeking Candids, which inspired the athletes to watch out for themselves appearing on the iMag screens and wave to them…

This probably would have been a good time to not do that.

The baton. What happened to the baton journey? All that pre-produced footage of the seaplane arriving in Glasgow, the staging of the baton exiting the plane and the ten-second Pyro Thing as the Baton began the final leg of the journey to the stadium…then, nothing until it showed up in the Stadium on the main stage.

Another incomplete thought, another broken narrative. Why not just save all that video for the introduction of the baton to the stadium and forego what became the throw-away Riverside Moment? It didn’t serve to move the evening forward; rather, it served to break it up with no payoff.

Was there a rehearsal for the opening of the baton? Her Majesty seemed UnAmused.

To be fair (and I always strive to be so); by the end, the stage(s) were full, the audience and athletes where happy. In such events, the very fact of them happening generally mitigates many failings of the production. Pride in the athletes, nationalism, just the exuberance of all that Youth can come together to create an Evening of Fond Memories.

My point is that were it more fully thought-through, with consideration for the audience and engaging use of the venue; the experience would have been profoundly more resonant, compelling and viscerally memorable.

The Five Tenets, “The Original Five” would have been effectively applied to this project. In fact, I am inspired to build a Master Class around the video of this ceremony. There is a lot to be learned from it, IMHO.

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“IMHO” remains available from iTunes and the Apple eBookstore for iOS and OS. Incorporating the basics and examples of application for the Five Tenets of Creating Compelling Experience, it is a free download.

A Word to the OtherWise

We’ve all seen it, we’ve been there…

Gathered around a conference table, being briefed by a young, prodigious hotshot at the screen; a little too smug than is warranted by actual experience, speaking with sophomoric certainty of things that may not be quite so Definite and, as s/he speaks, revealing a vast absence of experience to back up the brains and talent so proudly on display.

The guy next to you says, sotto voce, “…that kid’s never actually installed a project in the field…”

The “kid’s” in over her head, the audience is disdainful and distracted by the evident disparity between Position and Experience on display at the head of the room. The young presenter isn’t even aware of the effect s/he’s having on the audience…as s/he’s likely unaware of just how much s/he doesn’t know…of how much experience s/he doesn’t actually have. While thinking s/he’s connecting and enlightening, directing and Impressing; what’s actually taking place is a dilution, a falling far short of the implied respect that was in place before the presentation began.

A passion for the work, entry into the Best School(s), studying with the Iconic Men and Women who Created an Industry, Interning with Disney Imagineering then hired into a popular, sexy Concept Development, Creative or Production company and, finally, plopped right into a high-visibility role with the lofty title of Creative Director or Senior Producer…

…with no, real experience to back it up…

…isn’t enough.

So. Who’s at fault, here?

———————————

We received a lot of feedback from our last post, A Word to the Wise, suggesting the focus be turned onto those who employ and present these prodigious young people in roles for which they are not ready; bestowing lofty titles and vast responsibilities to the eminently unprepared and inexperienced.

———————————

I am not a “you gotta pay your dues” guy.

Talented, groundbreaking individuals have been and continue to enter these industries from all quarters for decades; enhancing all our products with the disparate backgrounds and perspectives brought to the mix.

No. Not everyone must start in the proverbial Mailroom. Not by a longshot.

I am a fervent believer in recognizing nascent Talent and offering challenge after opportunity after challenge to refine and season said Talent and launch a successful career. I keep my eye out for Brilliant Youth because it fulfills me…and hey: I want these kids to hire me as they Mogul-upwards…

That being said; it is imperative that Talent be seasoned…that young skill be honed in the realities of the field and trench. Without the practical knowledge of seeing and experiencing one’s actual relationship with and to reality, appreciating one’s effect and effectiveness in communicating with others, building teams and projects, managing, motivating, problem-solving on the fly, balancing cultures from corporate to corporeal … one is simply a collection of untested skill and theory.

Don’t do this to these young people; don’t do this to your industries!

Giving a false sense of accomplishment to otherwise brilliant individuals sets them up for failure and crippling, confusing disappointment, down the line. These bright-eyed young people enter an industry for which they’ve hankered and lusted for years; now, they need guidance and mentoring as they learn to Fly; a sage, safety net.

This also costs the industry money, across the board. Inexperience in key positions threatens to lessen the quality of initial result, protract the problem-solving process, likely call for re-do, retrofit and redesign…and it undeniably, insidiously and sometimes irrevocably undermines the quality of camaraderie and teamwork that is imperative for us all to do our best work.

Title Inflation

Offering a young person, fresh out of school, the position of Creative Director or Producer or Leader at any level smacks of Title Inflation. Are these people being paid, concomitant with that level of executive with fifteen or twenty years’ successful experience; or, is the title being used as bait and in lieu of actually paying the salary of a seasoned professional who can mentor this raw material into the valuable and worthwhile talent, worthy of the (hopefully) big salaries they will (or may) someday pull down?

A few months ago, presenting a workshop to an about-to-graduate group of graduate students at The EMDI Institute of Media & Communication in Dubai, I was struck by the number of these men and women who were about to leave school and planned to open their own businesses. It was only as they kept asking about getting clients and navigating the gig market that it dawned on me that they all planned to jump right in as business owners.

While I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of this multinational group; I took immediate pause and turned the conversation to the reality of learning the craft. No amount of book, study, practical exam and internship prepares one for actually doing the work. Don’t be responsible for this misconception.

What followed was a long and, to many in the room, frustrating conversation about the imperative need for and value of working for someone else, first. Of learning every detail of what a production job entails, from making sure there’s a place to park the generator for nighttime construction lights to securing and placing water for the Talent. The “grunt” work is key to the success of the project, and a good leader needs to be familiar with what it takes to make every detail materialize properly.

That means working for someone else.

One may graduate at the head of the class and leave school with the brightest, shiniest toolbox and the greatest, most creative or organized (or both) brain on the planet. S/he’s still not ready to run the show, or even lead a team.

Give these people a workbench beside the best you can recruit. Allow them the opportunity to watch the woman on the right and the man on the left assail the unique, daily problems of the formless, shapeless work we do and learn reflexive dexterity, to practice practical, unstructured problem-solving not manufactured in the vacuum of a classroom.

And, Ladies and Gentlemen, pay for the Leadership needed and that should be sought to lead and develop these Next Generations of brilliant artists and creators and producers and businesspeople who will take our industries where no being has yet gone.

Don’t saddle the industry with the Brilliant Unprepared. Don’t needlessly risk incomprehensible disenchantment when, given leadership roles bestowed too early, these valuable neophytes find themselves ineffective, not respected, not followed. We all – new, veterans, clients – deserve better.

Paying with titles undermines us all. This shortchanges our clients, dismisses actual experience and implies that School is Enough.

School is just the beginning.

imho.

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“IMHO” the ebook, remains a free download from the eBookstore and on iTunes. Check it out.