Why Hyperspecialization is Killing Your Career


Picture from Cugat´s longplay from StudioMONDO

BECOME THE BEST MARACA percussionist in the world and sit back to watch your career thrive.”

This is what my father would say to anyone seeking study or career advice.

My father was a child of the hyperspecialization economy that started with the postindustrial revolution. In the society he grew up in, his advice proved right: hyperspecialized careers were successful because a company’s competitive advantage was mostly based on efficacy (performance) and efficiency (cost). Hyperspecialized professionals were instrumental in delivering both of these elements.

His advice also worked for me. I chose to study marketing. The most profitable career strategy any marketer could adopt at the time was to find a niche discipline and learn to become the very best at it. CRM, digital, social, mobile marketing, you name it; there were plenty of opportunities to catch the right wave.

Back then marketers frequently compared the ideal marketing team to a symphony orchestra. The partiture functions as the operating manual and makes it possible for musicians, from different backgrounds and disciplines, to understand each other and play together in sync. In charge of the partiture compliance is the Orchestra’s Director, a seasoned musician with varied knowledge of how different instruments are played. This wide-ranging expertise gives him the knowledge to guide the specialized musicians during their performances. The Director is the one-in-a-million generalist talent in the orchestra.

The same happened in marketing. There were partitures (Marketing plans and brand bibles), orchestra directors (seasoned marketing directors) and musicians (marketers specialized in specific disciplines).

Things have changed, however, and in this new economy, my father’s advice on career hyperspecialization, could be poisonous. The most prized competitive advantage that companies currently seek is not efficiency or efficacy, but the ability to constantly break the mold.

Companies must embrace hybridization as a way to combine existing resources and ideas in new ways. In order to thrive, they need to be agile, flexible and imaginative enough as to always stay ahead of the ever-evolving desires of a technologically empowered consumer.

 If innovation is about hybridity then looking beyond your specialization is the fastest way of finding original inspiration, making surprising connections and getting disruptive ideas. You must be able to see the always-evolving bigger picture, leave your specialized jargon aside and integrate other colleague’s abilities, tools and working methods. This is the only way to create the perfect ad-hoc team that makes innovation possible.

The metaphor that describes the perfect marketing team of today is nothing like the old music orchestra. Instead, it is more like a free-entrance jam session.

The partiture is the result of a collective effort, like a jam session it’s improvised and democratic. Everyone needs to know how to play his or her instrument but likewise, there needs to exist a general interest and knowledge of how other’s instruments work as well, and how they add to the mix. During jam sessions, musicians should make room for the usual band of colleagues, but should also welcome outside special guests and partners (strategic allies and vendors, celebrities and influencers), as well as accept self-invited anonymous musicians (brand advocates and consumer generated content).

In order to thrive in our marketing careers we’ll need to get our heads out of our hyperspecialized cubicles and look outside the office windows in search for the next opportunity to break the mold.

I will advice my future children to be curious, to be ravenous and to play other instruments besides the maracas. It is time for the resurgence of the Renaissance Man and Woman.

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How to find conflicts for your brand storytelling

Amy Hempel picture by Unknown Author

Amy Hempel picture by Unknown Author

In order to create effective storytelling strategies, brands must resist their habitual tendency to want the general consensus of the total population. They must instead be bold and put down roots in conflict. It is not about being conflictual for the sake of conflict itself, it is about illustrating a polarizing interpretation of a cultural truth.

This narrative conflict potential should be the new definition for “consumer insight,” not the old “simple universal recognizable truth.” If your consumer insight is universally considered a truth, then it lacks the potential for narrative conflict. The challenge is to find the conflict that a brand can be identified with and go to town with it.

If conflict is the new brand idea, then stories are the new creative campaigns. This is why marketing and advertising professionals tasked with finding stories should learn from research journalists, an occupation profile that needs to be incorporated into our line of work. Planners can learn from reporter’s abilities of observation and research to find scoops. Creative Directors can learn from Editor’s capacity to curate stories. The first should be “storyfinders”, the latter should work as storytellers.

The journalist and writer Amy Hempel illustrated these abilities of observation and curation during an interview for the 166th issue of The Paris Review:

“I don´t feel I have a particularly large imagination, but I do have some powers of observation. Part of it stems from training as a reporter, when you are trained to see the salient points of any situation and see them fast. I can select the one thing that will tell you the most about a character, but this is just from looking around, not from thinking it up. Recently I overheard someone say that she had given a friends of hers a ladder. The gift of a ladder. The reason was that the friend was a woman who’ d just been widowed, and her late husband had been very tall. I’m sure I made a note of that.”

The search for inspiring stories that synthesize a brand’s conflict is becoming the primary activity focus of communication agencies. Advertising agencies are becoming a hybrid between a mythology lab, able to understand conflicts; a newspaper editorial room, able to find the perfect story; and a content producer, capable of making the narration of each and every story spectacular.

You can read the full interview at The Paris Review website here.

For ideas and tips on marketing, storytelling and communication, you can join Antonio Nunez´s free newsletter at antonionunez.com or follow his Twitter @AntonNunez

Storytelling As Seen In The Streets

Author: Unknown

Author: Unknown

For ideas and tips on marketing, storytelling and communication, you can join Antonio Nunez´s free newsletter at antonionunez.com or follow his Twitter @AntonNunez

Guest blogger: The art of Digital Storytelling

By MERCEDES BELL, guest blogger at www.antonionunez.com*


“The medium is the message.”

— the great Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan

More than a century ago, German composer and operatist, Richard Wagner, strove to transform musical drama into a “gesamtkunstwerk,” or “total work of art.” His controversial ideal called for the subordination of music to theater, which he felt to be the superior artform. While Wagner’s radical ideas did much to irk many of his musical contemporaries, the flawed concept of the “total work of art” has had a tremendous impact on the practice of storytelling.

Today, digital storytelling tools could become this generation’s “gesamtkunstwerk.” We say this because today’s audiences have access to enormous amounts of highly specific, interactive content online. (We’re talking about the technology used to build the New York Times’ Snowfall project, not your Facebook timeline.) So if you’ve got a story to tell, you can afford to start dreaming–there’s never been a better time to find ways in which to enrich your work with multimedia storytelling tools.

What is Digital Storytelling?

Simply put, the art of digital storytelling is all about telling stories using digital media. For example, a student may want to create a digital story using a video camera and simple video editing software to discuss a major event in their life, or even their own family history. Digital tools empower us to bring a new and vibrant dimension to our stories and the ways in which audiences experience them.

Of course, with so many tools available, sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. In addition to effectively relaying your story to a wider audience, digital storytelling can convey a sense of innovation and mastery of several different creative tools on the part of the author/creator. Below are a few examples of how digital storytelling tools are making a difference today.

Digital Storytelling in Primary and Secondary Education

The University of Houston provides an excellent resource for using digital media in educational storytelling. The primary goal of the site is to show students and teachers how digital storytelling can be used to augment various educational activities. In addition to tools and other relevant pieces of information, Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling showcases several digital storytelling projects, such as The Reality of Television, which uses digital video to explore the effects television has on life and society.

The National Writing Project and the Pearson Foundation are currently collaborating to find out how digital storytelling can help students improve their literacy and writing skills. Together, the two organizations have been hosting workshops and professional development programs to help communicate the educational benefits of digital storytelling throughout the country. This great documentary produced by the Pearson Foundation provides a glimpse at how powerful digital storytelling can be as an educational resource.

Digital Storytelling for Higher Education

In addition to its many uses for educating primary and secondary school students, digital storytelling has also been shown to have tremendous benefits for college students. In fact, several major universities, such as the University of Maryland and the University of California, Berkeley, offer extensive programs and resources for digital storytelling.

While traditional reading and writing will continue to be a major component of higher learning, digital storytelling promises to offer students a richer palette for communicating their ideas. Moreover, the shareability of visual content is opening up new possibilities when it comes to teaching students through the use of video lessons and social media. The Center for New Design and Learning Scholarship at Georgetown University hosts the Digital Storytelling Multimedia Archive that offers great tools and examples to help students and educators understand the value of digital storytelling at the college level.

Digital Storytelling for Business and Creative Professionals

Business and creative professionals are also finding ways to incorporate data visualization and interactive media into their work. In response to an increased demand for user-friendly “storytelling tech” tools, sites like Prezi and Tableau Public have popped up to provide non-techies with tools they need to communicate complex or data-heavy ideas digitally. For anyone with a passing interest in finding out more about creating digital stories, sites such as these are great places to begin experimenting with the medium.

For quite some time now, authors have been turning to digital storytelling as a way to expose their writing to a more tech-savvy audience. Visual novels, which continue to be extremely popular in Japan, have proven to be a great way for writers to share their stories using digital mediums. In fact, visual novels accounted for nearly 70% of Japanese PC game sales in 2006, and the influence of the medium has been growing internationally ever since. Only the future will tell what kinds of new technologies this growing demand for digitally enhanced literature will bring about.

Storytelling for a New Generation

As the great Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan famously wrote: “the medium is the message.” Indeed, the medium is a crucial aspect of how we experience and interpret a story, and without it, a story would dissipate into nothingness. That said, the rapid evolution of multimedia and digital storytelling tools shouldn’t alarm us. Today’s stories still serve the same purpose that stories always have–to entertain, inform or arouse their audiences.

From woodblock printing to Wagner’s “gesamtkunstwerk,” it’s fascinating to trace the ways in which mankind’s storytelling tastes have evolved alongside technology. Even though digital storytelling could be the primary storytelling medium for generations to come, who is to say that a more effective storytelling medium won’t come along in the next 10 years or even the next 10 minutes?

This post was originally published in onlineuniversities.com

*Occasionally we invite bloggers to enrich this blog with diverse point of views. MERCEDES BELL is a researcher currently finishing up her communications degree and spending her free time getting some real world experience by helping out and contributing to OnlineUniversities.com

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No hay marca personal sin storytelling personal (entrevista)

Entrevista por Guillermo Recolons

Guillermo Recolons: ¿Hay marca sin historia?

Antonio Núñez: No, nunca. Lo que hay es mucha marca con alzhéimer. Detrás de toda marca están sus fundadores, proveedores, distribuidores, clientes inspiradores y detractores. Y cada uno de ellos es una trama que a lo largo del tiempo nutre con numerosos capítulos y conflictos el gran relato de la marca. Por desgracia, en estos tiempos donde todos los ciudadanos reclamamos honestidad y autenticidad, aún quedan muchas organizaciones, personas o empresas que sufren una obsesión por la cirugía estética. Pagan por inyectarse silicona publicitaria artificial y se olvidan de que tienen magníficos relatos reales pendientes de ser rescatados y contados.

G.R: El storytelling se está aplicando con éxito en… ¿qué pasa con las personas?

A.N.: Los relatos personales son el cemento de las relaciones humanas. Estructuramos las relaciones afectivas en términos narrativos. Son nuestros relatos los que nos hacen generar empatía y capacidad de conexión emocional con los demás. Un relato es un puente. Yo conecté con la figura de Nelson Mandela mediante un relato. Una vez en libertad, Mandela invitó a su carcelero a celebrar su cumpleaños. El carcelero se presentó en su casa con un regalo: un bote del crecepelo que le vio usar cada día de su cautiverio.  Con aquel relato descubrí que un político negro capaz de desarrollar una relación cordial con su carcelero blanco durante el apartheid era el líder unificador que Sudáfrica necesitaba. Somos lo que contamos y lo que nos contamos a nosotros mismos. Personas como Obama, Chávez, Bono de U2, Harvey Milk y tantos otros ya lo saben.

G.R: ¿Hemisferio derecho o izquierdo?

A.N: La neurociencia ha demostrado que nuestra atención busca patrones narrativos en el caos de estímulos informativos que nos inunda cada día. Tenemos sed cognitiva de relatos. Un relato logra captar un modo de atención de tipo proyectivo. Nos ponemos en la piel de su protagonista. Por eso logra poner en funcionamiento ambos hemisferios cerebrales: sentimos y analizamos, y ambas operaciones las detona un relato. Por eso un relato es altamente contagioso desde el punto de vista cognitivo.

G.R.: ¿Hacer un pingüino deja una marca imborrable?

A.N: Como cuento en La Estrategia del Pingüino, gracias a las nuevas tecnologías vivimos en un mundo convulso de comunicaciones instantáneas, a tiempo real y de persona en persona. Lograr que muchos pingüinos se arrojen al agua y se interesen por mi mensaje una vez en mi vida no me garantiza que se vayan a mojar por mí una segunda vez. Hay factores de credibilidad, afinidad, empatía y círculos de confianza que influyen en nuestra capacidad para “lograr un pingüino”. Tener tus diez minutos de gloria no consagra tu marca personal para siempre. Hay muchos Susan Boyle y muy pocas Madonnas o Sinatras en el mundo pingüino…

Entrevista originalmente publicada en soymimarca.com

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Cortefiel apuesta por el Storytelling de gente real

En este contexto de crisis económica, cuando el miedo es una de las emociones más cotidiana entre los españoles, Cortefiel lanza su campaña publicitaria “Gente Valiente“. La campaña multimedia utiliza el storytelling personal de un elenco de ciudadanos que se atrevieron a trabajar para hacer realidad sus sueños. Están los relatos personales de ciudadanos como la alpinista Araceli Segarra, la actriz y locutora Sol de la Barreda o el cocinero Mario Sandoval. ¡Storytelling inspirador y optimista para combatir la crisis!

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Comunicación personal y Storytelling en una Semana (Podcast ABC Radio)

Antonio Núñez y Jaume Segalés, presentador de Protagonistas, ABC Radio

Antonio Núñez y Jaume Segalés, presentador de Protagonistas, ABC Radio

Audio completo de la entrevista en “Protagonistas “de ABC Radio, a propósito del libro “Storytelling en una semana”. Una entrevista de Jaume Segalés en los estudios de ABC Radio en Madrid el 18 de Noviembre de 2011.

Haz click AQUÍ para escuchar la entrevista completa.

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7 frases inspiradoras sobre storytelling

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