Hyper Island puts speed to the test with group-authored book

19 company leaders, three hours and one dinner result in a rapid-fire book, Roadkill or Rabbit: Agency CEOs Write the Book on Speed

"Today is faster than yesterday. Yesterday was faster than the day before." That quote from the opening chapter of a new book from Hyper Island pretty much sums up the state of affairs these days, as the marketing world recognizes the need for speed inherent in the digital era. Companies know they need to be light, agile and fast, but muscle memory leaves many stuck in their pondering, lumbering ways.

In an effort to explore how businesses can and should move faster, digital education group Hyper Island, ad agency organization the 4A’s and ThinkLA assembled 19 top creative business leaders to write the book on speed. And in keeping with the theme, they were asked to conceive, write, illustrate and edit it in three hours. While saving time to eat dinner, as well.

The result is Rabbit or Roadkill: Agency CEOs Write the Book on Speed, which was released on June 6, roughly 24-hours after the rapid-fire, group-authoring session. As can be expected, each of the 19 chapters consist of brief, snack-sized bits of wisdom, the collection of which is compiled in a nice, narrative flow, beginning with chapters like "Press Start" and "Shut the Hell Up and Do Your Job" through to "Change the Game" and "Measured Momentum". Each chapter contains a brief essay or rumination from the author, along with sketches created during the workshop.

Those looking for an in-depth, well-researched tome on corporate agility will not find it here, but that’s exactly the point says Tim Leake, Hyper Island’s Global Partnership Director, and a former agency creative director himself. Hyper Island, he says, helps people deal with the constant effects of digital disruption, and one of the most common themes they encounter is the need to move faster, to react more quickly. "It’s fundamentally working differently than we’re used to working as ad agencies," he says.

"When writing a book literally in a matter of hours, there are certain things you’ll be able to accomplish there and creative hacks to be able to do it, but there are also limitations as to what that book can be," adds Leake. "It can’t be the same book as if you had six months to a year and lots of interviews and research. These are the same limitations agencies and brands are stuck with when they need to be able to react quickly. They can’t do the same things as when they have six months to a year to do a campaign."

This being the first in what Hyper Island hopes is a series titled Write the Book on It, the entire process was experimental. "I don’t even know if we can do what we’re hoping to do," said Leake a few days before the workshop took place.

So how did the experience go? Well, as promised, a PDF version of the book was released within 24 hours of the event. And 19 top business leaders apparently played ball when asked to write a book. Now!

Patrick O’Neill, ECD, TBWA\Chiat\Day and author of the book’s first chapter, "Press Start", says his takeaway from the experience was that feeling uncomfortable with speed is in fact a good thing. "It’s liberating to not hold onto your ideas and to be forced to think about them in a faster way. Your relevance is how fast you are, it seems like. The quality of ideas and everything we put out in the world is important, as marketers. But if it’s not of the moment, or it’s not relevant, it doesn’t count as much as it used to. That tension can really create some new thinking."

Meanwhile, Eric Johnson, President, Ignited says that, "One of the principles that seemed to come across is that when you give a scarcity of time and a very specific focus, you can accomplish a hell of a lot of stuff. All too often in our business, we treat every project as such a precious thing that we tend to let people go on and on, but you don’t really have to."

With one book now complete, Leake says the plan is to bring the process to Cannes where they’ll be leading a seminar around best practices for the agency of the future. With more less time (one hour), more people and an unknown group of contributors, Leake admits the process will be much different that the experience for Rabbit or Roadkill. But as the books title professes, which is pulled from a chapter written by Dan Olsen, Managing Director, Wunderman West, "We must be quick in bringing an idea to life, test it, and if it doesn’t work, change it."

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  • jane stadermann

     In regards to the Chapter 15 given that really
    the whole chapter because I really have to update myself on literary
    definitions. A chapter for each author: I think most of us could deliver this in the given 3
    hours, seeing a 'chapter' seems to equate to a page in length.  


    The he or she who wrote Chapter 15 writes of the 140
    characters which confine his or her expression. Let's just do the cut right
    now: slicing into this epic Chapter 15,  140
    characters leaves us at line 3 and "our ideas are prey to the next".
    We could leave it there, except then we would miss the story of the bunny
    having to run and run so that he doesn't get run over.


    Personally, I would have preferred a rat to star in the
    analogy. Rats are much smarter and can be trained to have road sense....that
    is, not to run on the road in the first place, not to join the rat race. Rats
    learn the maze and work it to their own advantage.


    All in all, if this chapter is supposed to highlight the
    shining quips of wisdom for those of us who are yet to earn the average twelve
    million dollars a year which US CEOs wedge in their piggy banks, then I think
    it has missed the mark. Not only do true innovators mark their place in the
    world through alternate perspectives and adhere to society needs or wants, they
    also have a sense of self-belief which inspires others. I certainly don't want
    to be a brainless rabbit, always fleeing from tyres. Alternatives are to stop
    in the middle of the road, have the semi-trailer screech to a halt, have the
    tatooed red-faced truckie jump down from his rig, whip you into his truck and
    take you home to be pampered by his kids [in other words, gel with your
    tweeting colleagues and see what bigger things you can come up with].


    At the time of my writing this, Rae's article has 140
    tweets. Bit ironic: looks like the world is working for those 19
    cream-of-the-crop creatives. Lucky them: more rats out there than rabbits.


    End notes: [1] no disrespect to all those who have rabbits
    as pets: they really are quite lovely creatures [2] I am not saying all the 19
    authors of this book earn the average 12 mill a year, some may only earn a
    trifling tenth of that amount: they are welcome to come around to my house for
    an apologetic meal if I'm wrong; I cook a mean rabbit stew [3] Good article,

  • Gordana Biernat

    Just read the "Rabbit or road kill" and I have two questions:
    what if I'm not a rabbit and who is driving the cars? A “frightened rabbit” seems
    really unfortunate and hard to identify with.


    Run for your life or die? Instead of a fear-driven rabbit, running for its
    life in panic, I'd rather be compared to a streamlined puma; high on adrenaline,
    outrunning the cars while enjoying the scenery.


    Still, "Rabbit or road kill" is an interesting book since it
    turned out to be an involuntary and subconscious, but very telling depiction of
    the advertising business and its major fears and problems of today.


    I wouldn´t recommend more speed. Too much speed killed an idea and turned it
    into a "creative" roadkill in New York!



  • Kabukulator

    bull. Interesting, but bad metaphor. Moving fast is for people who don't know where they're going. If you're on the right path, you can go as fast or slow as you like. Dissapointing.

  • Snyder76

    Interesting, and I’m probably a
    luddite, but I’m wondering – what if the rabbit isn’t in the road? And why
    would it want to be in the road? Why wouldn’t it want to be in the garden or in
    the forest (where it would have time to ponder)? The road isn’t the natural
    habitat of the rabbit so their analogy just doesn’t work for me. Wouldn’t it
    lead to more group think? Without reflection/pondering how do they know it’s
    really the idea they want to get out there? Let’s say the rabbit does just run,
    what if it runs right into the tracks of the car - quicker roadkill!! (ever notice that about squirrels?). Could be that pondering a moment might keep him from being run over.


    Seems to me, this is a group of
    people who wanted to do something different to get attention, and be cool.


    Having done high speed
    performance driving, the main aspects to keep in mind to be safe and fast are
    concentration, competency and consistency. I see nothing of that here. It just
    seems to me to be “work fast and get out of the way.”


    I’m afraid we are all becoming
    digitized, virtual beings!


    Just me, dragging my feet into
    the digital age.

  • Matt McDermott

    I abhor group brainstorms. But when Tim and gang test drove the concept with a group of us at the Hyper Island NY space last week, I was an instant convert. 

    Rapid thinking. Rapid writing. And zero time to get mired in egos, fear, and failure.