News & Views

Opinion / Next Practice is Best Practice

by Nick Parish


'Best practice.'

It's a catch-all term that combines one part following simple instructions, one part historical success (written by winners, of course) with a dash of confidence and bakes them into a jargon cake. But the world is changing, more quickly than ever before. Why are we still pretending that what got us here will keep us moving forward?

Contagious inspires and equips companies across the globe to achieve the top 1% of creative ideas, through our research platform, consultancy, quarterly magazine and live events. We’re passionate and optimistic about great ideas, and exposure to them is a big part of why we all come to work every day.

As the company has grown and evolved, we've been asked the same questions many times. What does a Contagious idea look like? How do you evaluate great ideas? What's going to be Contagious in the future? As we’ve thought about these questions ourselves, a sort of mantra has emerged:

 

Next practice is best practice.

 

We use this phrase to not only rebel against the notion of using a checklist to do something creative, but also to champion exploration into newer, better ways of doing things. Most importantly, we use it to remind ourselves of the increasing pace of change and Contagious’ role as field guide to that change. We’re committed to pushing our industry beyond complacency and into a state of constant redefinition.

That's why we're launching Next Practice, as a highlighted series here on the Contagious blog but also as a publication on Medium. Through Next Practice, we'll share our own thoughts on the changing world and what it means for marketers – the type of stuff that we've traditionally published over in our own little corner of the web – to a broader community. You can read stuff like Georgia Malden on The Relevance Trap, Will Sansom delivering the Toolkit for Transformation, or Arif Haq exploring The Memory Conundrum. We'll also be spotlighting some of the brightest minds in the biz – Friends of Contagious like Hazel Barkworth on moving authenticity beyond aesthetics or Matt Cane on Thinking Further than the Future – inviting them to share their take on what's bubbling around the edges of our industry, and what it might mean for the future.

 

An Expanding Universe /

Not too long ago it was generally agreed that the system of marketing and brands was fully contained and relatively comfortable revolving around itself. Call it the Galilean era. Every now and then we'd peer into our telescope and find something new: Hey! There's a planet out there called Pluto!

Today, Pluto, bless its icy little heart, isn't a planet. And we can see so many more celestial bodies that impact the gravitational center of marketing. Our telescope can see into deeper recesses, revealing that this universe of brands, consumers and messages is larger than we can even imagine – and expanding at a faster rate all the time. The world is never going to be less complicated than it is now. There will never be fewer places to give creative ideas life, or a smaller audience accessible at your fingertips.

Yes, it is good to have working knowledge of precedents. Creativity starts with following the rules. Learn about the best practices of the best brands. But after you've learned all that, banish those rules to your subconscious and step to the edge in order to dream up what's next. What's gotten us here won't necessarily lead us to success in the future. 

'Next Practice' is our call to find unconventional wisdom out in the universal ether and bring it back to our solar system, improving on the past to get ahead in this changing world.

 

Living Next Practice /

'Next practice is best practice' has become part of Contagious Thinking in reminding us to stay flexible, to sample the edges, to feel at home with the revolutionary change churning away. 

Here are three ways we try to live this mantra and deliver it to you:

Find the edges. Where does innovative creativity live? Spoiler alert: it’s not always going to be in a category or sector or media you’re fluent with or immersed in. Embrace your discomfort and tour other cultures and disciplines where you can expose yourself to great ideas. Whether that’s contemporary art or academic research or patents or the deep, dark recesses of a weird message board, there’s interesting, unique creativity out there.

Stay optimistic. Separate the gnashing and striving and shoving of the money elements of what you have to do from the free and childlike and curious elements that come with exploration. Banish your inner cynic – the one who'll say 'That's just a fad,' or 'That's impossible' and is content to stay comfortable – and only let him out when necessary.

Adjust your preferences. If you’re confident in the transformative power of creativity – and we certainly are, we think it's going to remain the last great competitive advantage, even after the machines take over – give it the appropriate reverence and respect it deserves. Tweak the settings on your internal Control Panel and create a set and setting that honors big ideas, whether that's in how your workspace is arranged or how you present findings to colleagues.

Most of all, 'Next Practice is Best Practice' reminds us that the impossibly small, geocentric worldview that was taken as fact for so long is now a speck in the rearview mirror of growth and expansion. Our present understanding will hopefully be deemed equally irrelevant as the human spirit of discovery continues to flourish. 

 

Join Us /

Excited yet? We certainly are. And a little bit scared. But here at Contagious we see our mission as being an early warning system for the smartest, most passionate, most creative marketers – those who will be making the stuff that captures cultural attention in the coming years. 

Under the banner of Next Practice we'll be publishing our own thoughts on the black holes, quarks and supernovas in the marketing universe. But we don't want to make this journey alone.

This short introduction should serve to help frame the ideas we're interested in amplifying. In short, we're looking for:

Opinions that test existing assumptions and ask heresy questions
New and exciting cultural shifts or audience behaviours
Surprising case studies that reveal new communications directions for brands 

If you have something to share, drop us a line here, on Medium or at submit@contagious.com and join us as we boldly go where no practice has gone before.