Lessons from BBN Academy

Creativity is inspiration on fire.

It’s the message that’s tucked into the box of matches every tagger is given when they are awarded the tag torch for excellence among their peers.

But more than just the powerful flame of creativity, inspiration can take shape in many forms. For a designer, it may be spurred from an image, or even a single word. For a strategic planner, an insight into that key differentiation. For a community manager, an amazing post that you just know will excite the fans.

What my experience at the BBN Academy has taught me is that inspiration takes its most powerful shape in people.

Seeing great minds shine. Seeing leaders emerge and lead fearlessly. Seeing how people from all corners of the world can go from strangers to friends over the course of a single weekend all by speaking the same language.

rembrandt-van-rijn-self-portrait-1669And no, it wasn’t English. The language we all shared was advertising. Storytelling. The language of humanity.

I had a beautiful conversation with BBN Chairman, Clif Collier, in which he expressed his admiration for Rembrandt’s self-portrait from 1669, the final year of his life. He explained, much more eloquently than I, how the look of complete and utter content in Rembrandt’s eyes stirs up deep emotions every time he sees it. But it isn’t the soul-searching gaze or some profound stare that makes it so, but rather the thought that at the end of his life a master of his craft could look back on his life’s work and portray such satisfaction. It was the understanding of this that Mr. Collier had found so inspiring.

That conversation helped me understand a thought I’d been struggling with for quite some time.

It’s great to enjoy a piece of art for its aesthetic, a dish for its flavour, or even your favourite sweater for its material. But the way I see it, a deeper satisfaction is found when you go beneath the surface and understand the stories behind the things in front of you.

The thinking behind the people that make all of these things possible.

This goes beyond just the arts, it applies to everything we do. It’s not enough to just see what’s there on the surface. Look past the food and see the culture. Look past the ‘network’ and see the partnership. Look past the framework of the brand identity map and see the strategy behind it. The minds and people that carefully crafted it so that you can climb your strategic mountains from the stairs rather than an icy cliff.

It’s the people behind a creation that make it powerful. And if you can understand the way they reason a certain way or what drives them, you can better employ the thinking they’ve laid out to help you succeed.

If you take one thing away from this article, let it be this.

The author is never dead.

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