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Suresh Balaji

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The Stream Series 2012: Returning to a Childlike State of Mind

Posted: 10/01/2012 9:07 am

Without order, planning, predictability, central control, accountancy, instructions to underlings, obedience, discipline -- without these things nothing fruitful can happen, because everything disintegrates. And yet -- without the magnanimity of disorder, the happy abandon, the entrepreneurship venturing into the unknown and incalculable, without the risk and the gamble, the creative imagination rushing in where angels fear to tread -- without this, life is a mockery and a disgrace. ~ E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

Welcome to the Stream Series. A six part blog series that seeks to capture some of the best thinking from the WPP Stream unconference. Over the next six days, we'll release one blog each day from six different Stream attendees, drawn from a pool of brands, start-ups, media companies, technology companies and venture capitalists. Stream doesn't set out to impose anything. That's not what it's for. It's there to investigate and celebrate disorder -- and see what happens. These articles reflect just some of the ideas discussed in Greece. We've heard from David Shing (AOL) and Esther Dyson (EDventure) so far. Today is turn of Suresh Balaji's (HSBC) turn to share insight from the other side.

*****

I was 8 years old when a ship named MV Doulos docked in the Madras (now Chennai) Port.

Decommissioned now after visiting over 600 ports around the world since 1914, MV Doulos's vision & purpose was to "Bring knowledge, help and hope to the people of the world". The crew's aim was to inform, involve and inspire the younger generation around the world.

The ship and the day I spent on-board are quite vivid in my memory. It was a floating book fair, for the most part. There were also other learning activities disguised as games. I remember meeting the multilingual crew, trying new cuisines, meeting and playing with other kids from various other schools from Madras.

The day ended with me saying goodbyes and walking back home with a big smile - I had made many new friends and was carrying a big bag full of new books and comics.

In many ways, the time I spent at WPP Stream was like that day spent on-board MV Doulos. It was all about getting informed, involved and inspired.

Informed

With no group ever the same, it was like speed dating of ideas, thoughts and opinions. Since the sessions were not officially moderated or policed, the ideas and opinions found levels they deserved based on how the group received it.

The mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, "Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric." The eccentric opinions and ideas at Stream varied from elaborate and complex ones to basic 101s.

Mindshare's tech brains (@splimsoll & @ssorokin) showcased what could be the closest thing to rocket science in the media world. Their new product (or service) called CORE has been built on algorithms and rules that feed on the latest technologies in analytics. It is bringing the future of marketing intelligence to now.

On the other hand, I also attended some simple but highly informative and useful sessions. @garyshainberg took a group of us though a beginners bag of tips and tricks on digital photography. Someone also made a presentation on 'How to visualise your ideas'. In other words, I learnt how to make my doodles useful.

Involved

The first quotable quote at the opening of Stream 2012 was "A conferences is like life. You get out of it, what you put into it". I wondered if I could push my involvement to more than just listening to various presentations.

I had written a fun paper on Client Archetypes a while ago. The idea was to take individual clients' behaviors, try and second guess their value systems and build archetypes. It was based it on various clients and colleagues I had worked with or known of. There were 6 archetypes and most of them fun to an advertising agency or client audience. I had shown it around to a few people earlier but had never thought of taking it any further. WPP stream felt like possible great place to validate my model and I made a last minute entry to the agenda wall.

Contrary to my expectations, the enthusiastic audience joined the debate, challenged me to think harder and helped add new facets to my old theory. I ended the session with a renewed passion to unfreeze my old project with the help of a few 'Streamers' who want to help develop it.

The open-source format made it easy for everyone to get involved in various sessions.

Inspired

WPP Stream was about learning about what inspired others and finding inspiration for yourself. Many a new idea premiered in those two days. These eccentric ideas at Xstream will soon become part of the mainstream.

No words can explain the 3D sound demonstration that we heard. 3D printing technology was real and we witnessed it.

There is also great power that comes from cross-pollination of ideas from various categories. Who would have ever thought that a political party could become a leading edge marketing organization. I participated in an interesting discussion about what Fortune 500 companies can learn from the Obama campaign. The success of Blue State Digital was a testament to the fact that corporations were keen to learn from the hard hitting, ROI driving digital campaigns that the agency works on for the President. Learnings from campaigns for the political world (highly analytics driven and rigorously tested but within shortest of time frames) can have great application in the corporate world.

@Danfung of @conditionone presented his embeddable and immersive video player. Covering the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, he realised the need for 180 degree virtual reality. Apart from the fact that his personal story is inspiring, I feel that Condition One's player is going to change the way we consume videos.

Childlike state

It is no doubt that creativity and innovation will always be the heart and soul of the media, advertising, marketing and technology businesses. To reach your creative high, you must shed your fear of mistakes, banish rigidity and surrender to the flow. In simple terms, reach a childlike state. It is quite rare, in this world of structure and formula, to find an environment and a few days that inspire and allow you to dwell in that state. And WPP Stream managed to be more than that.

As for me, I left WPP Stream like I left MV Doulos many years ago -- many new friends, a bag full of ideas and a big smile.

 
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