I gave a talk a couple months ago at Ideo and for some reason I decided to "dis" everyone.
Not anyone there. I’m not a complete idiot. Ideo is of course a brain trust, and a gift to ethnography, anthropology, innovation, creativity.
I did let fly at many of the pretenders in these fields.
And the crowd was not amused.
They assumed, I think, that with every act of criticism I was anointing myself as the one, true authority in matters of marketing and branding. (I had assumed they knew that this sort of thing is for a Canadian constitutionally impossible.)
But I do dis people, and for all my Canadian reticence, I dis often and with enthusiasm. On this blog, I’ve had a go at Kevin Roberts, Sir John Hegarty, Chris Anderson, Jerry Zaltman, Clayton Christensen, Clotaire Rapaille, James Surowiecki, to name a few.
This sort of thing raises a question: Who do I like? It is easy to be critical, but unless you like someone, well, you’re merely nay saying and this is easy and empty.
So here’s a few of the writers and thinkers I like. I am a big fan of Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind. This is a book that resists the BIG PRINT tradition of business publishing, according to which any business book should consist of one idea, exhibited in the title and on the flap of the book jacket, with the rest of the book devoted to shamelessly repetition and lots of examples. The Opposable Mind is both an argument for and a demonstration of, um, what shall we call it, a small print approach to business discourse.
More broadly, I like the tradition created in Chicago by Lloyd Warner after World War II. This was a time when people from industry and the academic world met to solve problems. I put the following people in this tradition, though it is not clear whether and how they worked with Lloyd Warner: Syd Levy, Irv White, Phil Kotler, John Sherry. As a graduate of the University of Chicago, I put myself in this tradition.
There was something reckless and joyful about the work Warner and colleagues did. They appeared to hold that being smart and well informed was the due diligence. What didn’t work we could take down, and try again. This made marketing a restless, experimental, iterative enterprise. The idea was to fail early, often and informatively.
There are several communities that appeal to me. I am giving a few names for illustrative purposes. Please think of these names not as an exhaustive list, but a representative sample. If I have missed your name, for God sake, don’t hate me. Just send me an email. And shame on me.
1) The "interpretive" business school community: John Sherry, Rob Kozinets, Susan Fournier, Russ Belk, Alan Middleton, Doug Holt, David Mick, John Deighton, to name a few.
2) New media: Clay Shirky and others in the ambit of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University; Henry Jenkins and others in the ambit of the Department of Comparative Media and C3 at M.I.T., David Weinberger and others at the Berkman School at Harvard, to name a few.
3) Design world: Diego Rodriguez, Bob Sutton, and others at the design school at Stanford, Michael Beirut, William Drentell and others at Yale, Debbie Millman and others at SVA, to name a few.
4) Planning and creative communities: Boy, there are too many people to know where to begin. Oh, alright, Russell Davies, David Armano, Dino Demopoulos, Faris Yakob, Brian Collins, to name a few.
5) Journalism: Jon Fine, David Brooks, Malcolm Gladwell, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Virginia Postrel, to name a few.
6) Marketing thinkers and practitioners: Seth Godin, Thomas Davenport, Johnnie Moore, John Grant, Tom Guarriello, Tom Peters, Jim Collins, Nick Hahn, Sergio Zyman, Tom Asacker, to name a few.
7) Other: Pip Coburn, Jerry Michalski, Sara Winge,Tim O’Reilly, Andrew Zolli, to name a few.
Ok, so the next time I criticize someone, you’ll know I do not imagine myself the one and only. There are lots of people working this ground. I am grateful to them all, named and not named.
For more details on Lloyd Warner, see my blog post here.
The review of Kevin Roberts here.
The review of Sir John Hegarty here.
To Wordle.net for the image.
Um, are you sure I’m not a typo or something? There’s all these smart people on the list and then there’s me! 🙂
John Deighton is one of the best teachers I ever had in my life.