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Stream On

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Today sees the fifth and final installment of our guest blog: Reflections from WPP Digital's unconference Stream. It's been a crash course in what Martin Sorrell is thinking about; growth markets (and what they're thinking about); unmuting the web with SoundCloud and thoughts from Ford on producing both cars and branded content.

In our final post today, David Sable (CEO, Y&R) considers what lessons we can take from a gathering in Greece of 300 thought leaders from the creative, technology and communications space to apply to our own everyday lives and businesses.

Stream of energy.

Stream of ideas.

Stream of connectivity.

Stream of unfettered enthusiasm and joy in discovering.

Stream of conversation.

Stream of the future...

Stream 2011, the "Un-Conference" of WPP, was all that and more.

So it seems only fitting to trade a linear narrative with a stream of consciousness that I hope begins to capture the serious output of this idea fest.

Imagine 300 people at a corporate retreat giving a standing ovation to a 30-year-old entrepreneur, who has just shown them a new way to think about digital video interactivity in seamless real time. That was followed a demonstration by the head of a major corporation doing his rendition of "My Funny Valentine" to the roaring cheers of the assembled lot. In the end, the power of the new format became clear and a discussion came out of it on how to apply it to brands, to learning, to NGO's. Stream is about celebrating, embracing and pulling together disparities to take us to new, better places.

Imagine discussing a new trend in social interaction and linking that conversation to a presentation on the use of open data to create service APPs for cities around the world. Then overlay that with a demonstration of the newest smart phone OS, and toss in the best practices and thinking of leading-edge digital media and marketing, where you are joined in conversation by one of the most successful digital investors in the world together with his newest investment. And from these seemingly disparate threads create an agenda to take the city APP idea all over the world.

Sit at a table for lunch and join a heated debate on what gamification really means to marketers and weigh in on whether or not you think it will be the foundation for all brand communications in the near future. Will your tax return become a game? If so, will more people fill it out?

Sidle up to the bar and participate in a discussion on who will be elected to the US Presidency in the next election and the effect of the Arab Spring, global warming and lousy economies on the vote -- and what the effect of Twitter and Facebook has been and will be on the lot.

The key to the "UNCONFERENCE" is the self-curation of the sessions by the crowd. There are no rigidly structured power-point sessions, no "business casual" uniform (in fact, symbolically enough, the crowd is dressed in as many styles as people.) The sessions are about the free-flow of people thinking and talking -- even the more structured activities inspire total audience immersion.

There are no bad ideas at Stream. The only sin is not to speak up.

When creativity -- that is, intellectual ideas -- are linked to innovation -- that is, new ways of using and adapting technology -- the possibilities for outcome are mind-blowing (for lack of a more technical term) and the experiences created are unlike anything you will find in siloed thinking environments -- no matter how leading-edge they might be.

Stream reinforced my belief that the linkage between creativity and innovation has to be organic and integrated and authentic. It has to feel inevitable -- that one can't live without the other, that the technology isn't gratuitous, an add-on or a conspicuous bow to fashion.

Anyone who believes that "let's do a Facebook" page is a social media solution, or that putting a 30-second TV spot on YouTube creates a viral experience is bound to be disappointed. The linkage of creativity and innovation only begins to mean something for our clients' brands when it creates a new and different user experience.

Creativity + Innovation = Consumer Engagement.

It goes without saying that this is our challenge today and one we must embrace, and so I also come out of Stream with reinforced conviction that successful corporate culture has to live the Stream paradigm as well. The unsiloed thinking there was not simply about dropping walls, institutionalizing cooperation and re-engineering structure. This is also about freeing the mind -- about wanting ideas to come from everywhere up and down an organization. It is about creating new intellectual synapses, being open to quirky connections, tapping in to our innate diversity -- people from all parts of the world with eclectic sets of interests. If we are open to ideas, open to the world and to bringing the world into ours, I can't help but think that our ideas will have the same electric quality we found at Stream.

The paradigm can change -- has changed.

Remember Mark Twain: "I don't trust a man who can only spell a word one way"

STREAM on...

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