With technology's foot on the pedal, we are accelerating into a world where each of us is empowered to contribute wherever, however and whenever we want. Creative tools, from sophisticated design programmes to simple word processors, have democratised content creation. And constant connectivity is increasingly democratising product and marketing innovation, too.
The combination of mass creation and constant social networking have resulted in what The Economist, in its annual prediction magazine The World in 2011, call 'social production'. People, more and more, are using technology to comment on, add to, change and build on the ideas of brands and organisations. In the case of communications content, often these alterations go viral. Sometimes they have greater reach and are simply 'cooler' and more impactful than the original ad or idea. Remember all those variations of the Windhoek Keep it Real campaign? And the Dulux 'we're sold out of red' ad that followed the Vodacom rebranding? It wasn't even made by Dulux.
But more than mashing up and altering branded communication, people are creating entirely new entities, with others from around the world, or from just down the road. Sometimes, as Michael Dell, CEO of Dell, points out, these combinatorial inventions are entirely new companies. Social channels have made it so easy to share concepts and sketches, build on one another's ideas. We source inspiration from far and wide, tapping into global conversations, striking up relationships with experts and obsessives, and building on what others have done. And consumers see no reason not to participate in areas that, previously, brands controlled.
The way we organise ourselves is becoming very fluid. The new generation of consumers, employees and participators sees no value in silos, and battles to work within them. Rather, people are increasingly self-organising into groups in order to do things that interest them; things that they love. Collaboration creates better outcomes, and we are seeing the explosion of creative collectives, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding and group buying. Design-thinking, based on the idea that multidisciplinary teams are the best placed to drive meaningful innovation, is gaining traction in the world's best universities and leading companies.
Instead of simply acknowledging or tolerating others' creations, great brands are utilising this overflowing of creative energy for good. They are effectively channelling the creativity of the masses. They are working with other companies to innovate to meet the needs of consumers. And working with consumers to create new products, channels and ideas. GQ's Street Style platform takes fashion cues from real people. ABSA invited artists to submit digital art for their digital murals at the Design Indaba. Collaboration takes the pressure off individuals and individual organisations to come up with solutions on their own, ends up creating better ideas, and makes the participants loyal to the process and result by engaging them and sharing the success. What is your brand doing to help people come together and create?