I generally make a strong effort not to talk about the things we're working on at Sapient. Mainly because I loathe shameless self promotion, but also because I'm signed to so many client non-disclosure agreements that I'm generally relegated to limiting the details of my campaign work to "I make internet stuff."
I've mentioned over the last year that I'm a fan of Kluster. Kluster is a group decision-making tool with its roots firmly set in social networking. It allows you to set up private or public groups focused around generating ideas in a democratic and collaborative environment enabled through technology.
We started using it about six months ago as an internal experiment between the creative team in one office. It allowed us to produce more ideas, faster, and with better quality.
We then expanded it to include multiple offices across the world. All of the sudden the concept of a global agency really started to come together. The communication between creative teams became more quick and fluid, cultural adjustments to ensure creative worked globally or for specific regions were recognized quickly, and we started benefiting from large groups of people (30+) collaborating on concepts for a single brand.
I think we can all agree the concept of a collaborative tool is really useful, but this isn't what fundamentally shifted the way we work. It's the ability for each member of our creative team to have an equal voice. It's no longer one genius with a hundred helpers, but an equal voice where each team member can rate the idea based on criteria we set like overall concept, stickiness, on brand, on strategy, or cool factor. Ideas with high ratings push themselves to the top where they can be commented on, suggestions can be made, or new variations can pop up.
This democratic process ends up being a reflection of the way consumers will rate your work anyway. Ultimately we're all consumers -- each with our unique set of needs, desires, and emotional triggers. We've also found that by allowing each member of the team to rate an idea we're getting a much higher level of buy-in from not only our creative teams, but the account people, strategists, project managers, and developers that frequently have access to the system.
This open platform seems to resonate with younger creative types in particular that have grown up in a web 2.0 world where open collaboration is the norm. The next step is allowing open collaboration with (the right) clients, which I believe will lower agency costs from staff hours to pitch time.
I met with Kluster's CEO Ben Kauffman last week in NY. Apparently a couple of other agencies have been using the tool in a similar way and Kluster has identified this as a great industry with which to align themselves. They're going to release a new version of their tool focused on the agency world, and anyone that is interested should reach out to them, as it's not posted on their site. I'm a big believer that this is less about the technology that Kluster brings to the table, and more about the cultural shifts it takes within an agency to change the creative process into something that is more relevant for our times. There is one thing that shouldn't be in doubt -- Kluster and great agencies have at least one thing in common: both are in the business of creating great ideas.
~ ~ ~
Freddie Laker is the director of digital strategy at Sapient. He has also founded the Society of Digital Agencies, a collective of notable digital agencies focused on thought leadership and positive industry change, and blogs at takemetoyourleader.com.