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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

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"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.

We live in a world where thoughts and experiences are measured in 140 characters and ideas are ruthlessly disposable.

Much like the rabbit, our ideas are prey to the next – to the now. We can no longer ponder on what we want to say. We simply must be a part of the ongoing conversation. And only those who are willing to take a risk will succeed – knowing that your idea (if it is good) will be adopted and owned by someone else who will make it even better. Technology is a driver, but creativity is what makes it interesting.

To be creative today we must be able to think in ideas that are not executions. To make something perfectly complete takes too much time. 

The rabbit cannot think about where to run when the approaching car is bearing down. The important thing is to run. To stop, to ponder, is to find yourself roadkill.

We must be quick in bringing an idea to life, test it, and if it doesn’t work, change it.

To remain a rabbit and not roadkill, we must be quick and we must be prolific. We must learn to embrace the idea that motion (even if it’s not quite right) is better than getting run over.

"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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