History has shown us that many scientific breakthroughs, medical discoveries, leaps forward in technology and brilliant inventions happen rather quietly in some very unassuming places.
And that is the sense I have right now. I am in a small, rather polite seaside town of Karlskrona in Sweden. It’s the sort of place where mature couples come for the weekend, and you have to dine early. And trust me, on Sundays, nothing — I repeat, nothing — is open.
But intriguingly this is home to one of the world’s most innovative and digitally driven marketing schools, Hyper Island. We’re here for the www.IRCthinkin.com, where we have four days and 450 creative minds to come up with ideas that solve a huge problem, an ugly, widespread problem largely ignored by global media: domestic violence against women in developing countries.
Sadly many people see this sort of thing as a private, domestic issue rather than the humanitarian issue it really is. But in reality, this issue holds back the development of entire countries. You can keep pouring money in but things won’t change. However, by releasing women to play a central role in communities, economies and politics and things do change.
Two days ago, on behalf of the International Rescue Committee, gyro and Hyper Island gave the challenge of raising awareness of this issue to hundreds of energetic Millennials, brilliantly creative Generation-Y problem-solvers who were born into the digital age.
What’s interesting is that Hyper Island believes that a high proportion of its students will go on to do jobs that do not exist yet. Therefore, Hyper Island is “training for the future, creating individuals able to cope with change, uncertainty and who are not assholes.” The vision is a generation tasked with creating their own jobs and new business models.
Any preconceived notions about Millennials possessing a sense of entitlement doesn’t seem to apply here. It is hard to be entitled with “experienced-based learning.” There are no lectures and little traditional spoon-feeding. The challenge is given and students are encouraged to find their own way. This is just one of the very creative methods for which Hyper Island is famous.
What do these methods look like? Well, we are in simple but unconventional surroundings; no fancy reception areas or office spaces with creative awards on display. Think open, bright and flexible space. The sessions are facilitated, not taught, led or managed. And ideas are being generated by young, inexpensive, inexperienced talent who rapidly generate ideas, and then reframe, reshape and prototype them.
There is no six months of development time here. There are no job titles. No hidden agendas or surprises for us, the clients. Just hugely diverse groups, working collaboratively with us, in an environment of intense positivity and encouragement.
Indeed, there are no lofty digital experts selling social media strategies. These Millennials are all digital natives; digital is a natural part of the solution.
At gyro, we spend a lot of time talking about how an idea can come from anywhere and can take any shape. (It’s no coincidence that we have been collaborating with Hyper Island for quite some time.) And, like us, marketing ideas are not “killed” (all-too-common language in our industry). Instead, they are curated and evaluated.
And somehow the playful style of these sessions creates a refreshingly ego-less atmosphere.
To top it off, the whole thing is played out in real time in social media, as the students quite naturally share their experiences (at #IRCThinkin) with friends and families, and, where queries are raised, in a tweet, not by a raised hand or iCal invitation.
At this point I will forgive you for suspecting that I have had too much sun and schnapps, or that I have been brainwashed into an Ikea-sponsored cult. But rest assured, I have not. It’s just been great to work without any shoes on, hang out with positive, young creative talent and catch a glimpse of how we are all likely to be developing ideas in the future.
The team from gyro, the IRC and Hyper Island has two more days of the IRC Think-In. We’ve already seen glimpses of brilliance from this motivated group of Millennials, and it will be interesting to see what marketing ideas emerge. You too will be able to see the end result later this week at www.ircthinkin.com in the form of 70 30-second videos.
We all hope that in this unassuming Swedish town (where incidentally they have the oldest concrete bridge in Sweden and the third-largest town square in Europe), powerful ideas will emerge that ignite the world and raise awareness of the terrible humanitarian issue of domestic violence against women in developing countries.
You can find out more at www.ircthinkin.com
Follow on Twitter at @swanninnyc or watch #ircthinkin