Inspiring Your Perspective: Takeaways From StratFest

The 4A’s encourages its members to share their experiences and insights. Here, Jenessa Carder, Associate Strategy Director at Isobar U.S., shares her takeaways from the 4A’s Strategy Festival (Sept. 12-14) and her experience judging the Jay Chiat Awards/Global Strategy Category.

Every year, hundreds of thinkers and all-around curious people descend upon New York to celebrate the most inspired work and absorb various stories of our peer’s process.

This year, I was honored to not only to judge the 4A’s Jay Chiat Awards, but also attend several days of the inspiring 4A’s Strategy Festival. Reflecting on both experiences, I now challenge our kind: What are you doing to really challenge your own thinking (and sometimes that of your team)?

Read up on history

As God-is Rivera, Director of Inclusion and Cultural Resonance at VML, put it at StratFest: “We have to remember, perspective is our most valuable asset as strategists.” In perhaps the most inspired presentation of the entire event, she challenged us to look under our noses at Twitter to discover the vibrant community “Black Twitter” — a place hidden in the plain sight of our own social feeds, active in current conversation, and full of subtle sub-context, that can only be understood if you have a deep understanding of history. Black Twitter, she noted, is the first public record of the hidden and metaphorical way of communicating that has been passed down through multiple generations. She challenged those of us new to Black Twitter to read the darker chapters of U.S. history to unpack how the community learned to communicate through metaphors.

Spend time with the little ones

While the industry contemplates whether or not chatbots or voice commerce are the future, Avi Savar, CEO of DreamIt, shared a story of his daughter that reminded everyone to ask what kids think. He told the tale of going on vacation to a destination without an Amazon Alexa and how upon returning home his daughter shared that she missed “Alexa.” To her, Alexa wasn’t a piece of technology; it was a part of the family. What might be a difficult decision for adults to make becomes an obvious decision when viewed through the perspective of a child.

Challenge your team with an experience

In one session about creative briefs, a fellow strategist relayed a story about briefing a team of twenty-something male creatives for a flower company. Instead of the usual “sit down, share and discuss what was found” session, the strategist instead made the creatives order flowers for three females at the agency and wait at reception while the flowers were delivered. Upon delivery, the females were ecstatic, while the males were amazed—a bit of cash resulted in hours, days, weeks of smiles.

Read literature

A former colleague of mine was an English teacher who would always refer back to the most perfect analogy of a literary character or poem at any given moment. Similarly, Lee Dorsey of Doe-Anderson shared how he uses character experiences to inspire personas, archetypes, and even journeys. Lee described, in reality, writers have people in mind when they define a character — people with real needs, pain points — and quite often the author has researched and resolved this character’s point of view throughout a work. In many ways isn’t this what we do as strategists?

Travel to less-known places

As one speaker from Airbnb put it, travel often breaches several of the top five most transformative life experiences. Of course, there are all different types of travel, but the types of travel that usually leave a mark tend to be those where travelers don’t just go to a place, but rather to “live there.” This allows them to experience the authenticity each place has to offer through the people, cuisine, and overall daily-life. Essentially, challenge the status quo and seek the unique. It is the same reason that on a panel about Middle America post-election, our fellow strategists challenged us to explore places like Topeka, Omaha, and Denver — there are more languages spoken there than in some places in California.

Michael Fanuele, who has been on both sides of the table, explained the client’s point of view as to why any of this is important. When you put a little of yourself into your presentation, the clients notice. It brings emotion, a sense of investment, originality and personality.

So in the end, what you explore personally can drastically propel your greatest asset professionally forward. What are you going to dive into?