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think wrong

Thinking Wrong: How Might We Rethink the Agency Model?


Thinking Wrong: How Might We Rethink the Agency Model?


Think Wrong in Action.

Kari Hernandez is the President + Co-founder of INK Communications Co. in Austin, Texas. Kari became a Certified Wrong Thinker at a recent Think Wrong Master Class. Thanks Kari for sharing this early story of how you’re using Think Wrong at INK Communications Co.!

This article was originally posted on the INK Communications Co. Blog July 12, 2018


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We hosted a two-day retreat in Austin for the whole staff last month. For some new folks, it was their first chance to meet colleagues from other offices in person. For others, it was the chance to be with their everyday companions with a different agenda, or how about no agenda for a change? For me, it was an opportunity to test out our new Think Wrong chops with our whole team and see collectively what we could dream up for the future of PR and INK.

Our mission is good work with good people makes for a good life. It’s a balancing act and sometimes in our fast-paced agency world of client service and media relations, that good life side can take a hit. We all felt that coming out of a very busy Q1 and Q2. We talked about it a lot as a group over the last few months – how we were and were not living our mission – and a lot of our woes and challenges came back to the same thing: not enough time in the day.

We were recently certified in Think Wrong, the radical problem-solving system that helps you imagine, create, and operate what’s next. During that training, when the group would break, our team would rush to their computers and pound away for as long as they would let us while the other students would chat, step outside, or have a snack. This prompted us to ponder the reason why PR, more than any other creative service, is so “always on.” The obvious answer is that it’s because of media cycles – the news is always on, therefore, so are we. But then what is driving this for our digital, design, and content teams?

We put the traditional agency model to the test on the first day of our retreat. The challenge of the day was, “How might we rethink time and space, in a way that allows us to live our mission, so that we might do more thoughtful and meaningful work that inspires ourselves and others?” We wanted to look at agency life with an open mind, unrestricted from how it is now and has been, outside of structure and rules.

We used a drill called Moonshot, inspired of course by Kennedy’s original moonshot as well as Google X. (In this TED talk from 2016, Astro Teller talks about Google X’s moonshot strategy and the amazing things that can happen when you reward failure.) In this exercise, teams are challenged to think of the most astounding thing they might do together that would have an impact beyond our walls and lives, based on the challenge.

Our teams took on the status quo of agency life.

The first idea? Eliminate timesheets!

That might not be astounding or impact millions of people (or would it?) but it gets at a bigger opportunity: changing we way we value our work. We thought through the absurdity that every hour of work is worth the same amount of money. We asked how we might instead set a budget through the potential value of the impact we’re making for a client. Or the value of the team of specialists needed to attack a particular campaign strategy.

Other teams looked beyond the billable hour at how we form our teams. Two groups rethought our semi-permanent team structure and argued for the benefits of a more dynamic ecosystem of talent where people move more fluidly between clients and projects and even between specializations. We definitely see the value at INK of breaking down silos – between offices, communications specializations, and accounts to share value and experience and form truly integrated programs and cooperative teams. (Our one big happy family “1BHF” approach.) But this is taking that much further and we’re interested to look at how we can continue to meld our skillsets and make them available to our clients more dynamically.

Another interesting concept that bubbled up was eliminating the stigma of stress, anxiety, and depression in our industry. If change is a constant in life, and certainly our industry, and anxiety is a natural brain reaction to change and uncertainty (damn lizard brain), then how we all deal with that is a skill we should teach, and a normal part of being human. It’s certainly not something to hide or feel alone about. We all feel it in some way. We’ll definitely be thinking through this more within our culture at INK and looking for opportunities and resources to help all of us navigate change, and the stress and anxiety it brings, more peacefully.

Overall, we knew an hour-long drill or a day-long discussion wasn’t going to map out the future of the agency. But it was a great way of setting up some themes that we can continue to explore and discuss in our effort to make INK – and hopefully, other agencies out there – a place where you can do good work with good people, and at the same time, live a great life.

What do you think? How might we, as an industry, rethink the agency model to allow for more thoughtful work and eliminate the “always on” mentality in areas where it no longer serves a purpose?


How might we learn to solve next, when we really don’t want to?


How might we learn to solve next, when we really don’t want to?

Even in our own small business we use automation, algorithms, AI, SaaS packages and Amaze-on Web Services to do many tasks that were previously done by us mere mortals. As astounding as this new technology is, none of it would have been created without human creativity, curiosity, innovation, imagination, and passion.

To maintain your ever fleeting competitive advantage (Check out Rita Gunther McGrath’s point of view on competitive advantage) in a hyper-disruptive-amazon-fueled world you’ll want to focus on the people who can imagine how you might use those tools in clever, practical, and original ways to deliver effective satisfaction to the jobs to be done for existing and new customers.

But, we humans have a bug in our operating systems—we’re evolutionarily coded to have an emotional bias towards the status quo, because good enough was good enough when the choice was eating the bland thing you knew rather than being poisoned by a delicious looking berry, or when acting counter-culturally resulted in being thrown into a volcano or being ostracized from your village only to be eaten by a saber toothed tiger. And let’s be honest, that still happens in the workplace.

So how do you manage the opposing forces of knowing how to change and not wanting to with each other to produce the killer solutions that leverage these just-a-click-away assets to power your organization’s future state?

On one hand we know humans are ingenious. On the other hand we know that we are hard-wired to keep doing what’s been done before and is good enough (for both rational and irrational reasons, but with no real ability to discern the difference).

To achieve the results, we’ve been charged with achieving and create a cognitive advantage for our organization, we have to consciously, deliberately, and systematically solve problems by learning to trick our brains, and creating a cultural context where it’s OK to do so—especially in larger or established organizations where the immediate risk of starvation is less. (Scott Kirsner has a provocative take on the difference between Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs that’s worth a read).

Both sides of that equation are tricky without a defined language, frameworks, and tools that are culturally inclusive—exclusive change is going to be a losing battle (just ask the Sneetches).

We created the Think Wrong problem-solving-system to provide just such a common language, frameworks, and tools. We like to describe it as design thinking’s punky little brother mashed up with the scientific method, and topped up with a dollop of behavioral science to help your people create and propel solutions beyond the status quo.

We’ve also learned that, to overcome those pesky heuristic and cultural biases, you need to adopt a scalable, habit-forming, learning-system that gets people excited, provides the pokes and coaching they need to keep putting what they’ve learned into action—and ultimately to be confident and fluent enough in the system to teach and coach others how to use it too.

Click here to learn more about how you can achieve scalable learning and inclusive problem-solving to address your organization’s gnarliest problems.


WWJD—How Jamie Oliver Revolutionized Our Business.


WWJD—How Jamie Oliver Revolutionized Our Business.

The pukka British chef, celebrity, restaurateur, and activist has had an oversized influence on our business over the last year or so.

We applied the Let Go practice and performed a Brand Takeover - where we imagined what would happen if Jamie Oliver took over our business—“What would Jamie do?”

The obvious thing was his books, they have a style and an attitude about them merging stories, instruction, photography and design in a way that projects who Jamie is, they’re aspirational, easy, and fast - they represent a lifestyle. Compare that to the average snore-fest of a business book—crappy paper, black and white, pages of text after text after unread-put-down-never-to-be finished text… Jamie wouldn’t do that, so nor would we.

As the former owner of an advertising and design firm I really loved this book. First of all, it is insanely well-designed, a joy to read, look at, and hold your hands.
— John B. Spence—Author, Professional Speaker / Trainer

The next weapon in Jamie’s arsenal that inspired us was his iPad app - it’s really quite beautiful. It’s easy to navigate, discoverable, and consistent in style and tone with his books - delivering short videos and instructions that not only help you make that dish, but make you a better cook beyond that moment of need. This was a pivotal moment for us - Jamie’s app is the model for our software. Indeed, until that point it wasn’t altogether clear that we needed software, and if we did what form it should take.

Thirdly, when you look at Jamie’s business - he has restaurants around the world - we’re pretty sure Jamie isn’t cooking at them all! How does he scale a business that relies so heavily on him? He developed a system, makes that system easy to implement and scale, and puts his strong brand against it… we asked "how could we do that?"  Much of the system went into the software tool and the online content, but it became apparent that for the more complex scenarios we would have to once again look to Jamie—like Jamie we’ve started running intensive, immersive master classes that would enable others to run our process too.

Image Source:

Image Source:


So a huge thank you Jamie Oliver - you've inspired us in a way you probably never imagined, helping us conquer our own status quo and forge a path that only in hindsight seems obvious.

All I ever wanted to do was to make food accessible to everyone; to show that you can make mistakes—I do all the time—but it doesn’t matter.
— Jamie Oliver

Brand Takeover is an insanely easy Drill to run, and always leads to unexpected outcomes that can help you become unstuck, and energize a team by freeing you from what you think you already know will halt your progress - give it a try by asking yourself the question "What would ________ do if they took-over our organization?" - let us know what happens! #brandtakeover


And if you like any of this and want to solve problems and drive change in your life, or your organization—please read the book, join the Lab, and come to a Master Class.



Our Thanksgiving Think Wrong Heroes

At this time of giving thanks, we are grateful for the Wrong Thinkers at Patagonia.

While retailers across the land have been gearing up for months for the windfall of a contrived shopping frenzy called Black Friday, Patagonia has been busy thinking wrong about how they might use all that pent up shopping gusto for good. 

We've long admired their counter-consumerism culture. In recent years their "Don't Buy This Jacket" ad has brought a smile to our mouths and tears of appreciation to our eyes. 


How can they be so damned smart, do damned right, and so damned good? 
Patagonia, you are officially our Thanksgiving Think Wrong Heroes!

Keep kicking the status quo where it counts!

Worn Wear: a Film About the Stories We Wear Presented by Patagonia Directed by Keith, Lauren, Chris, and Dan Malloy.

Worn Wear is an exploration of quality—in the things we own and the lives we live.

Check out this CNN Money Holiday Shopping article to learn more about Patagonia's bold move on behalf of our planet.

"The threats facing our planet affect people of every political stripe, of every demographic, in every part of the country," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario, wrote in a company blogpost detailing the Black Friday effort. "We all stand to benefit from a healthy environment." 


If Picasso Had a 3D Printer


If Picasso Had a 3D Printer

If you can imagine it, you can create it. And there’s the problem.

3D printing is changing the world—it is disrupting manufacturing, logistics, models for intellectual property, and the credit markets needed for inventory. Calculations around economies of scale change radically—even if unit costs increase they are offset by process efficiency.

But that’s the economics, from a human perspective we now have opportunities to create molds, casts and objects for shapes and intricacies that were previously cost or technically prohibitive. Engineers are no longer constrained as they were in the past—we can construct shapes that surprise, delight, and work in ways never previously conceived. The CFO can no longer say legendary doesn’t fit the budget.

You can have a product quickly and cost effectively made just for you, when you want it. The quality assurance that came with making everything the same, at massive scale will be available on a production run of one.

We have reached a point where, in the words of William Arthur Ward “If you can imagine it, you can create it.”

And there’s the rub.

For many of us, our natural born ingenuity has atrophied. Our problem-solving synaptic pathways are welded firmly in place. So our ability to imagine has become the limiting factor of what we can do. Our fears and our brains hold us back.

The Think Wrong Practices break those connections allow us to picture whole new ways of solving our challenges. When we practice Be Bold to set our aspirations higher, Get Out to invite serendipity, and Let Go to conceive the inconceivable—we smash those calcified synaptic pathways that kept leading us to the same solutions.

During a Think Wrong Blitz, we invite Outsiders to help shake things up. People who bring own unique points-of-view, expertise, and insight—coupled with a useful naiveté about our clients’ challenges and domain. They often help make the orthogonal leaps required to escape the pull of our assumptions, orthodoxies, and biases.

The future will belong to those who can imagine well—and fast. And execute even faster. Again. And again. And again.

Where quality, process, and efficiency were once the most important factor of production, now imagination, quality, and speed are key to winning. 

Mass scale 3D printing is going to change the world as we know it. To learn just how you might harness its disruptive power we encourage you to Be Bold, Get Out, Let Go, Make Stuff, Bet Small, and Move Fast.

And that’s where we can help. 

P.S. Those crazy little creatures in the collage at the top are from Crayon Creations


When wrong thinking met pie, met someone who always says "Yes!"


When wrong thinking met pie, met someone who always says "Yes!"

There's never not a good time to give a shout out to Pam Dorr (a one woman embodiment of the Think Wrong Practices), and the amazing service she's given and continues to give in Greensboro, AL, through HERO.  This is a super video from CBS Evening News from 2013 that recognizes her, and the great work done in collaboration with John's Project M alumnae over the years.

If your feeling hot and find yourself in Greensboro this summer, make sure you stop into Pie Lab on Main Street for some iced tea and a slice of pie!


And the Pie Lab story keeps evolving—congratulations to Breanne Kostyk, who had the secret talent of liking pie, a talent that grew into Pie Lab, that is now no longer so secret, read here.