Breaking Barriers on the Web

Breaking barriers on the Web

Have you ventured ‘outside the box’ today?

Many businesses claim they’re innovative when it comes to the Internet, but few seem to demonstrate it.

Most stay on the cushy path, eagerly following cyber herds with the tried-and-true. “Why take a chance?” After all, going outside the box can be downright scary.

One group that relentlessly ventures into the unknown is “an ideas studio” named Burnkit, which is made up of 14 “thinkers” in Vancouver, BC.

Founded in 2001, many of its web development projects run well into the six-digit dollar figures with a host of notable clients, including Sony PlayStation and Future Shop.

Co-founder Adam Neilson attributes much of Burnkit’s success to its “think before we do” approach.

“We refuse to follow rules blindly,” he stated.

Case in point: when a new mutual fund company Steadyhand asked for help to gain exposure across Canada, a 1,600-pound Grizzly Bear was brought into the picture to dramatically symbolize risk. To demand attention and generate click-throughs, multiple ad units or banners were purchased on individual pages, each providing a window to reveal a part of the giant bear peering at the consumer. No messaging was used, prompting online audiences to ask: “Who the heck put this bear behind my page?”

“It was a really hard sell,” said Neilson. “Not only with the client, but also with the media companies and publishers.”

But the thinkers persevered with passion and got their way. The result: the client enjoyed three times the average click-through rates.

While it’s typical of the success cultivated at this thinking lab, it’s not for the faint of heart, admits Neilson, who points out many companies resist cutting edge ideas.

“As a result, our ideal clients are underdogs in their markets, but with incredible services, ideas or products,” he explained. “They are more willing to break ground to get noticed.”

To gain trust, Burnkit works hard to build relationships with clients and will work overtime to communicate and demonstrate its point of view.

But just how does the ideas studio build a culture that consistently cuts through limitations set by the rest of the industry?

“We trust each other,” said Neilson. Everyone from the senior creative director to the office administrator and producers provide input on projects. “This means we can push each other to make the work the best it can be.”

While inspiration comes from being tuned into advertising, particularly online, both creatively as well as technically, the team also looks to other industries to shatter mind patterns. These include but are not limited to architecture, film and fashion.

Creating a Constructive Mind

On and off the Web, sometimes you need a stronger tool or sharper tactic than your predecessors have forged.

So what’s stopping you from launching as many original ideas as you’d like? That would be fear, suggests entrepreneur and author Seth Godin. But not just the fear of failure.

Godin stated: “What people are afraid of isn’t failure. It’s blame. Criticism.”

“We don’t choose to be remarkable because we’re worried about criticism,” he explained. “We hesitate to create innovative movies, launch new human resource initiatives, design a menu that makes diners take notice or give an audacious sermon because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it.”

Godin went on to state, the products and services that get talked about are the ones that are worth talking about.

Consequently, as you contemplate your next opportunity “to be boring or remarkable,” the author of the most popular marketing blog on the Web encourages you to answer these questions:

1. “If I get criticized for this, will I suffer any measurable impacts? Will I lose my job, get hit upside the head with a softball bat or lose important friendships?” If the only side effect of the criticism is that you will feel bad about the criticism, then you have to compare that bad feeling with the benefits you’ll get from actually doing something worth doing. Being remarkable is exciting, fun, profitable and great for your career. Feeling bad wears off.

And then, once you’ve compared the two, and you’ve sold yourself on taking the remarkable path, answer this one:

2. How can I create something that critics will criticize?

Brainstorming: the ‘100 List’

Another blogger, mind-obsessed Luciano Passuello, presents an innovative tool to generate ideas and solutions. It’s simple. Grab a piece of blank paper and at the top write your issue or question. It might be “100 ways to be more creative” or “100 ways to grow my business.” Then jot down 100 answers or solutions.

If you feel like you’re hitting a wall, keep writing, urges Passuello. He insists your subconscious mind will eventually kick in with some different and surprising answers.

There are only two ground rules:

1. Do it in one sitting.
2. Eliminate all activities unrelated to idea generation — don’t judge or evaluate, don’t stop to count the ideas (number the lines in advance) and don’t stress about repeating entries.

The dynamics of the 100 list:

1. First 30 entries or so: you escape circular thinking
2. Next 40 entries: patterns emerge
3. Last 30 entries: the gems start appearing

Push Your Limits

If you don’t make it outside the box today, at least put a dent in it.

3 responses to “Breaking Barriers on the Web”

  1. Joanna says:

    Great post! What’s especially interesting for me (in addition to the answer to the question “How can I create something that critics will criticize?”) is the spot-on idea of following rules blindly. Most organizations today are metrics-driven, so, if you don’t have numbers to support a hypothesis, then you don’t get to go ahead with trying out new ideas.

    This example of Burnkit’s peering bear really highlights the importance of taking risks in innovating. It’s great that Burnkit was able to persuade the client and media partners to trust them. Too many leaders err on the side of caution today, with the excuse that they’re “solving for their shareholders”; but you can’t build a stellar brand and you can’t tell any sort of story if you fail to take a risk or two.

  2. S. Hay says:

    I agree. more people should make an effort to do great things rather than deliver the same old crap project after project. Unfortunately, this Burnkit group is a rarity on the Web.

  3. Grant May says:

    I don’t know. If you push too far you can lose customers. Call me a coward but I’d rather go down the proven path.

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