Turning the PPPPage (Four P's #177)
Imagination, DAOs, American Authoritarianism, and My New Sister.
To some, the new year might mean "fresh start" or "blank slate." They might make new resolutions, set new goals, perhaps even start new jobs and diets.
For others, the challenges and problems of December 31 did not simply disappear because we turned the page on the calendar to 2022.
One of my big predictions for the year ahead: I expect that creativity (undervalued for awhile now) will return as a priority for many marketers and brands who shifted too hard to programmatic or dynamic content creation over the past few years. For 2022, investing in a creative strategy will become a top priority again in a world that’s no longer ruled by algorithmic targeting.
As new privacy regulations become reality and cookie deprecation takes hold across the advertising ecosystem, brands will need to change the communication from talking at their audience to talking WITH their audience. In addition to engagement, strong creative will be brands’ biggest driver of performance.
I've spent many hours over the past few weeks (including during my vacation) chatting with marketers and business professionals in various Discord channels, Twitter threads, and other digital and IRL communities. Yes, we talk a LOT about web3 and a burgeoning interest in branded NFTs. But we're also talking about bolstering an innovation mindset, not waiting for inspiration to strike but, instead, developing the process and refine the necessary skills to imagine and innovate on demand.
SOMETHING PROFESSIONAL: Using Our Imagination
Sometimes just stepping away from a problem allows you to approach it from a new perspective. While not everyone got time off for the Christmas-to-New Year's holiday Week, many of us did have a break. Time away gives us fresh eyes, which can can reshape our normal frames of reference and encourage innovation. It needn’t involve anything more than fully engaging the moments of reflection that your schedule already affords you. H
Watching my children play together in the pool last week, with nothing but their imaginations to inspire them to create new games and worlds, I couldn't help but smile. As children, we all possessed imagination in abundance. But over the course of our academic and professional upbringing, memorization became more important than the ability to generate new ideas or exercise our imaginations. We tacitly learned that imagination was childish and unimportant, and we turned our attention to other things. And now we're paying the price. Over time, adult "imagination muscles" get weaker.
Experimentation is key to rediscovering the power of your imagination, unleashing greater creativity, and developing breakthrough ideas. Whether as an individual or as a team, first come up with as many ideas and hypothetical plans as you can, and consider them all – but, having consulted customers, experts, and simple facts, be ready to discard any ideas that don’t stack up. Despite the old adage that there are no bad ideas in a brainstorm, the truth is that not all ideas are good ones. Ideas are delicate things – often just as delicate as they are daring. You can’t just throw an idea into the world undefended – in other words, without protection from criticism or the benefit of powerful advocacy – and expect it to fend for itself. You need to be sure that you give it a good shot at being taken seriously.
In their 2021 book, ALIEN Thinking, authors Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux and Michael Wade summarized these ALIEN techniques that can generate great ideas any time:
A is for Attention – the ability to see the world with fresh eyes.
L is for Levitation – removing yourself from a situation, and approaching it again from a different perspective.
I stands for Imagination – envisioning future possibilities based on current situations.
E is for Experimentation - Start with all ideas, then test and learn what's actually a good idea.
N stands for Navigation – Helping your precious ideas navigate a sometimes indifferent world.
Having read this book over the break, it was clear to me that every part of the ALIEN method is designed to help us overcome existing prejudices and narrow ways of thinking. The goal isn’t to teach us to tap into some kind of ethereal realm where ingenious ideas are ripe for picking, but to allow us to rediscover the abilities we already possess, but have neglected in favor of easier, more mundane, safe, repeatable ways of thinking. New ideas or ways of thinking can be disruptive. Even scary. Not everyone is open to shaking up habitual ways of thinking. But if you’re worried about failing, channel that concern into finding flaws in your idea and let it help you hone your plans. Navigate with an understanding of what challenges your ideas may face, and know that the shortest path is not always the best one.
SOMETHING PRACTICAL: In DAOs, We Trust
DAO stands for "decentralized autonomous organization," and brings the models of venture capital, private equity, and individual investing to the metaverse using blockchain technology. Some of the mechanics of the tokenization, claims, and even the legality are a bit clunky and confusing. But they are only going to be more prevalent this year. The first version of use cases that we see for DAOs is as an efficient mechanism to pool capital and buy assets. Think of it as a blockchain-based model for fractional ownership. But having taken part in a few now, I fully believe that DAOs will evolve into much more than this (in fact, it kind of feels like we are still in the ICO era for DAOs today), but pooling funds is what's working today.
Decentralized finance startups have raised more than $10 billion this way in 2021 alone, and major mainstream VC firms like Andreesen Horowitz, Dragonfly Capital, and Kleiner Perkins have joined DAOs to fund companies in the blockchain and crypto industries. The most mainstream example was the Constitution DAO, which failed in its attempt to buy one of the original, remaining documents, but has since expanded (in remit AND value) to take on a new set of objectives.
Crypto, as an industry, has decided that professional sports, will be at the tip of the spear for onboarding the first billion users to crypto. Every sports stadium and arena is now bombarded with it. Citi Field has Tezos signage on its scoreboard. FTX has led the way with its partnership with the Miami Heat, MLB, and e-sports franchise TSM. Crypto.com picked up the baton with a $1 billion campaign that includes partnerships with the Lakers, Formula 1, UFC, and more. Next up, the DAOs, raising hundreds of millions to buy assets, and an industry that is obsessed with sports team partnerships. For example, the Krause House is attempting to purchase, own, and operate an NBA team. With thousands of followers and members, they'll have to raise over $2 billion in order to have a chance. They have a more realistic shot at buying a minority stake in a team, but that wouldn't really achieve its goals. Another group, called WAGMI United, says it’s in the advanced stages of purchasing an English Football League club.
In a DAO, decisions are made by voting in accordance with predetermined rules (such as a majority of participants, or pro-rated weight based on token value/amounts). Those decisions are automatically executed by smart contracts, written on a blockchain, verified in real time. As an "organization," DAOs are inherently more transparent, fair, and efficiently managed. Given the current ownership model of most pro sports leagues, I'm not sure how DAOs will replace the existing centralized governing structures, but some indications are becoming clearer. Some teams, like the Green Bay Packers and Barcelona FC, have fan tokens that give holders some decision-making power over their clubs. They are currently all fan experience-related.
No matter what, you'll likely hear a lot more about DAOs this year, and want to consider what groups you'd like to join, how much you're willing to invest, and what you hope to accomplish. Should be interesting, but this is a real-life application of crypto that has real potential.
SOMETHING POLITICAL: Authorities on Authoritarianism
Throughout the last century of American history, our national identity has been as much defined by our common enemies as any other sense of "purpose." Usually defined by a vague catchphrase like "Defending freedom" or "Defeating tyranny," the post-Cold War years made it clear that the wealth-generating money markets of the U.S. also came with stark economic inequality. There is no escaping the fact that America was promoting a system designed to help the rich get richer.
At the same time, the U.S. had spent the start of the twenty-first century in a never-ending nightmare war in the Middle East. It's now been 20 years since the United States began "The War on Terror," united against a common enemy, but also an imperialist guise that seemed to create MORE violence and inspire future generations of extremists. The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon inspired the U.S. to take action, but what followed was a militaristic invasion of countries that had had little to do with the initial attack, and images and reports of the U.S. military torturing people overseas. The War on Terror succeeded in giving the U.S. a purpose after the Cold War.
But it also succeeded in lowering the bar for what was considered “normal” in the arena of global politics. If the U.S. wasn’t going to play by the rules, why should anyone else? Once a symbol of freedom and prosperity, post-Cold War America was now spreading violence and poverty. Authoritarianism in Russia, the Middle East, Asia, even Africa was on the rise. Then in 2008, a crippling financial crisis steamrolled its way across Europe and the United States, and our systems were revealed to be a dangerous threat to anyone who wasn’t filthy rich. And were easily exploited by those who are filthy rich.
So what happens when the call comes from INSIDE the house? It's been a one year since a gang of domestic terrorists attacked United States Capitol. In many ways, it was a climax of the division, inequality, and authoritarianism of the Trump presidency. The result: Americans attacking Americans and our foundational institutions. It was the darkest day in America, for America, in my lifetime.
Maybe the pandemic will lead people to become even more isolated in their social media bubbles of disinformation and their realities even more distorted by hatred and anger. But there are people continuing to protest in Budapest, Moscow, Hong Kong, and throughout the U.S. who know that we can do better. There are reasons to remain hopeful that authoritarianism will fail, but we must acknowledge that extreme capitalism led to economic inequality – culminating in the crises of the past two decades. America’s moral authority has eroded. But there is one small bright spot. And that’s the knowledge that political leadership built only on money and power are doomed to fail. Eventually.
SOMETHING PROFESSIONAL: New Dogs and Old Tricks
Both of my parents celebrate birthdays in the next few weeks. Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad!
Given the prevalence of COVID in our area once again, and their health risk factors, who knows how/when/if we will be able to celebrate with them. But I am grateful that they do have a new family member to help them celebrate. No, we're not having any more kids. But they just brought home a new puppy, which we all know is the gift that keeps on giving.
After their longtime companion, Franklin, a sweet maltese/poodle mix, passed away last fall, I knew it was only a matter of time before a new dog entered their home. Dogs have extreme healing power, but they are so much more. I fully expect my parents to live several more decades, and having a puppy will (hopefully) reduce stress and add happiness for their later years. I’m certainly not hoping to be forced into taking care of my new baby sister anytime soon, that’s for sure. Perhaps they can even learn a thing or two from their new best friend and extend the quality of their lives, as well.
Animal intelligence is different than human intelligence, and is better measured in how well an animal has managed to survive and reproduce over time. Interestingly, many mammals today are in decline, endangered or teetering on the edge of extinction – but not dogs. The lasting relationship between humans and dogs throughout history is based on our shared intelligence. Dogs are so smart, in fact, that they evolved from wolves to prefer being around humans rather than sticking with the pack. They basically domesticated themselves. Dogs watch us and learn from us, much like an infant does, except canines develop much quicker. Dogs can understand the symbols behind words. They also understand when their owner can or can’t hear their actions.
While my parents' new puppy, Shayna (a.k.a. “Roz?”), still has some extensive behavioral training to go through, dogs are extremely skilled at learning by observation. They may not comprehend the reasoning behind the solution or the problem, but they learn quickly from a success, even if it’s by chance. The intelligence of dogs lies in their ability to understand human communication and their desire to cooperate with us. Training techniques and tactics have become more advanced, even scientific. So as my parents grow old(er) with Shayna by their side, I'm hoping they can teach her how to ultimately take care of them someday!