17 December 2010

Hyper Island: Burn the Ships

NEW YORK – This is the end of my three days on Hyper Island. We learned a lot about Digital strategies, tools and measurement, all of which were important, but none of them are the most important thing.

Hyper Island really isn’t about “Digital”, it’s about Change. As posted on Wednesday, we didn’t just increase knowledge, we increased our ability to embrace the changes going on in our industry. The change is so swift we can’t even predict the terminology we’ll use in 2011. (Coincidentally, the BBH Labs blog ran this headline just last night: “Digital, can we kill this word for good?”.)

The organizers and instructors here were superior Digital practitioners, but their real strength was being superior Change Agents. Change was the explicit topic at the beginning and the end of the three days, and a constant theme throughout.

“Digital” isn’t just a change for our industry, it’s a harbinger of change. The changes and challenges will keep coming and always cause discomfort. Rather than trying to feel comfortable, the smart strategy is to embrace discomfort. Stick to the mission, which is keeping up with the changes.

Burn the Ships

Hernán Cortés understood how wanting to stick with comfortable ways could distract people from a journey into unfamiliar territory. He led a group of Spanish ships to conquer the Aztec Empire. When they arrived at Veracruz, he burned the ships so his men would have no way of going back.

That’s the spirit we decided to carry back to the office on Monday. Yes, we will go back, but having metaphorically burned the ships, we won’t go back to the ways with which we’ve grown comfortable.

It was a great week. Thanks very much to the organizers, instructors, and of course my fellow shipmates.

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