03/19/2013 09:17 am ET Updated Jul 03, 2013

The Stream Series: Learning From a Magnanimity of Disorder

This is real life, full of antinomies and bigger than logic.

"Without order, planning, predictability, central control, accountancy, instructions to the underlings, obedience, discipline--without these, 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 bureaucratic angels fear to tread--without this, life is a mockery and a disgrace."

~ E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful -- Quote from the first page of the WPPStream Asia bio book

I recently returned from WPP Stream Asia in Phuket, Thailand. And I have to tell that it is the first conference I have ever attended that flew in a 19 year old Romanian rocket scientist prodigy with self-built jet engine on a bike. And the chance to fly a drone with a range of 5 miles around the beautiful Thailand beach where we were staying? A first for me. A real-live 3D printer? On the face of it, this so called 'unconference' was truly magnanimity of disorder.

And yet--it is the happy abandon represented by these and many other weird and wonderful activities that created the atmosphere where you want to risk and gamble to release your creative imagination amongst your bureaucratic angels of the communication world, where simply put, you want to let your hair down. And this was the ultimate goal of the conference: being relaxed and open enough to share with and learning from ideas that can change the way we do digital media and advertising.

Equally important to the atmosphere were the participants. I was fortunate to be selected amongst a group of 100 leaders from agencies, medias and clients which included Nestle, Samsung and Huawei, all of them on the front lines of the ever and quickly changing digital world.

The participants are a critical component because it is the participants who ultimately create what the organizers call an unconference. On the first afternoon, anyone can write up their discussion topic idea on a grid covering 10 different venues each with 8 time slots over the course of two days, a total over 90 topics. Some of the ones I participated in include "Who will be WPP's Biggest Customer in the future: the CMO or the CIO?", "Why Can't Startups and Agencies Get Along"? and "Social Intelligence: What Does it Mean and How to Monetize It?" What a great way to 'talk shop' with the best and brightest in the industry

The Big Board of Discussion Topics, Day 1

The CIO vs. CMO ended up being my favorite discussion because it gets at a core question for the future of my company, CIC, which does social media listening and analytics in China. We have our own technology a team of analysts that turn the 'chatter' on social media into business intelligence. Traditionally, CIC has sold to marketing directors who care more about understanding the insight we provide than the technology we use to get it. However, in recent years we have seen technology companies like Oracle, Salesforce and SAP begin to enter our industry, selling social media listening dashboards directly to the CIO and to the more technically inclined CMO.

Ultimately the discussion led the bigger question of who on the client side is going to be buying what is becoming a more data /technology driven solution reflects that fact that marketing itself is increasingly data/technology driven. Solutions will be more founded upon marketing technology and both the CIO and the CMO are candidates to be making these decisions. However, we also believe that such data/technology, especially that related to social media, is impacting the way the entire organization is doing business, including such elements as internal communications, recruitment and lead generation. Every organization, big or small, will need to embrace the way that business is being impacted by data driven and social media marketing.

It was a fabulous discussion where I heard from various CMO's, CIO's and agencies who serve them. WPP stream demonstrates that investment in a conference based on chaos can yield very positive results. The digital world is itself chaotic and such a conference is a wonderful way to embrace the challenges it brings to our industry.