If you're just tuning in and confused why this post is two of three, please refer to the previous post where we covered, at a high level, the definition of a Solution Leader at Rightpoint and an overview of what I do in focusing on Business and Digital Strategy. If you're joining us for the second installment, welcome back! You look fabulous. Thanks for coming along on this little journey.
In this installment, we're going to cover the sources I turn to for News, Trends, and Influences. In Part Three, we will cover Gear, Time Management, and Tips & Tricks.
I consume a lot of content. I know that is pretty normal nowadays, but when I actually started to inventory how much information I'm connecting with on a weekly basis and from how many sources, I was a little surprised. Part of why I was surprised is that I use Feedly (an RSS feed reader) to manage these sources, and present them in a stream of content, which I organize by categories. We will talk about tools in Part Three, but for conversational purposes, when I open Feedly, I just see content coming into categories.
RSS & Feeds
When I expanded my feeds to review which ones I deem most relevant for my work life, I was shocked by just how many I've added to my collection. 92, is the current number of feed sources I'm currently following. 92. Here are the ones that typically give me the most insightful nuggets related to my job:
- Cool Hunter
- The Awesomer
- Gear Patrol
- Gear Hungry
- Chart Porn
- The Oatmeal
You may be wondering, "Why would so many sources focused on consumer goods or curated goods be relevant if you are not only focused on retail?" Aha… I'm so glad you asked! Consumer goods are constantly tuning how they market and position products to attract an increasingly younger, digital-native customer. While I do like to know about trends and cool stuff that is now available, I'm equally interested with how these products are being positioned and the product storytelling being used to differentiate them. So, a big part of how I think about what is happening in the world that might be relevant to my clients is not what but how— how something is being presented and how it is different from everything else out there in its category. I'm panning for narrative nuggets—and at the scale I'm consuming content, it doesn't take long for patterns to emerge across all of these sources. You want an example? In a few weeks, we'll cover the topic of nostalgia and how specific products and campaigns are using the power of nostalgia to influence product and experience purchases for Millennial and GenX buyers.
Other sources that I get periodically (many of these are expected) are Digital & CMO Reports from Deloitte Digital, Gartner and Forrester, and my Daily LinkedIn Digest (those guys have gotten REALLY good at serving up relevant content based on who you follow, your role, and previously shared articles.) Also, I feel like Kantar Retail is a really good source for industry trends that have tremor effects for other industries. CPG/Retail is going through aggressive disruption and transformation right now, and the experience being innovated upon there will have implications for every industry across the next ten years.
Rich Media & Narrative Content
In addition to the content that I read/browse on a weekly basis, there are several favorite sources I turn to for narrative content. I look to these sources to think about narrative and storytelling itself (the construct), as well as the really beautiful and resonant subjects themselves. Also lumped into this category is content I consume purely for personal pleasure—but which almost always teaches me something about how to present complex concepts and information.
When I am commuting (daily) or traveling for work, 80% of the time I am listening to podcasts. I have become addicted to them. The following are podcasts I subscribe to, which I feel have really valuable lessons for my job. And worth noting—where I am providing links, they go to the main website for these shows. You can subscribe to any of them directly from the podcast app of your choice (I personally use Downcast.)
- ReplyAll - ReplyAll is like explaining the internet to your parents… if in this metaphor you and I are the parents, and ReplyAll hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman are our patient children trying to help us navigate the world of memes, emerging social tech, cybersecurity and other fascinating but complex topics. A good example episode would be The Grand Tapestry of Pepe.
- RadioLab - This is the podcast that got me hooked on podcasts. A slight bent towards science related topics, the hosts bring you along with them as they explore the mysteries and wonders that surround us on a wide variety of topics. Update: CRISPR is a good example of a science/tech episode and the implications for society. From Tree to Shining Tree will just absolutely blow your mind.
- 99% Invisible - Roman Mars (a design language professional) takes you into the familiar world to uncover the little-known and fascinating stories of things that surround us in the tapestry of everyday life and experience, but which go 99% ignored by most of us. A good starting episode is 99% Symbolic where he dives into one of his passion subjects, Civic Flag Design.
- The Venture (Gimlet Media and Virgin America) - This is a new one that explores pioneers who brought a new approach to an existing industry and through their perspective, changed the rules of the game. Start with their first episode, Kill Rock Stars.
- ConLaw - A fascinating side-project from 99% Invisible producer and host, Roman Mars. He is hosting a series with constitutional law experts to explore the borders and grey areas of our constitutional law as can be illustrated by the highly unusual Presidency of Donald Trump. It is fascinating, informative and helps us understand how much of our legal system is based on traditions and conventions, rather than black & white. Start with the Inaugural episode.
- Homecoming – This is a new Fiction podcast that is teaching me a lot about how far you can use a particular narrative format (voice, radio, auditory) to create a completely new format for telling snackable, longer form fiction. It's a really interesting concept, and features some really great writing.
- The Memory Palace - I saved my personal favorite for last. Nate DiMeo is possibly the best narrative writer currently alive. The memory palace focuses on the fascinating aspects of little stories that serve as an example of humanity and culture from the point-of-view of a particular moment. So many of the themes he chooses are historical, but his amazing storytelling shows us (with a very light touch) the relevance of these stories to us today. It's like he grinds these gorgeous, snackable mirrors that we hold up to ourselves to find deeper truth. If you're a soft touch for a beautifully told story like me—you have a 50/50 chance of making it to the end of any episode with a dry eye. Start with a personal favorite episode: Craning.
YouTube & Video Sources
In addition to the myriad podcasts that keep me company, I'm also finding great inspiration from some really great YouTube channels. Many of these are from craftsmen or skilled workers who deconstruct the process of making something. I really love rich media content that helps you have insight into how creative professionals and others solve problems. I feel like this is YouTube's most valuable destiny. That said, it also teaches me a lot about how people are curating/crafting their own content and stories into compelling presentation styles and narratives. Here are a few that I think are worth a look:
- Alec Steele - Alec is a blacksmith who lives in the UK. He is the most enthusiastic/optimistic person you're likely to encounter (imagine Ned Flanders with an Anvil) but his joy for the craft is infectious, and he not only shows the successes he has, but also explores the problem solving that goes into learning new skills and confronting uncertainty. Amazingly, he produces a video nearly every single day (5-6 per week.) This is a great example of content-first marketing.
- Binging with Babish - Named for a character from the West Wing, this channel features chef Andrew Rea re-creating dishes featured in television shows. (Think Ross Geller's Thanksgiving sandwich from Friends or Homer Simpson's Moon Waffles.) Well edited, well written (Rea is pretty funny) and very snackable (short content.)
- Foureyes - Carpenter Chris Salomone explores modern design woodworking from his home workshop in California. His love for modernist design (Herman Miller) shows in every episode, and he tries to carefully break down the complex steps of building with modern design's almost never 45-degree angle rule.
- I like to Make Stuff - One man's exploration into becoming a maker. Carpentry, electronics, household projects, you name it. It is also an example of a one-man channel that made the transition from part-time YouTube hobbyist to full-time YouTube creator. Really good tutorials, and he follows-up with lots of supplemental content for you to attempt his projects yourself, at home.
- Jimmy Diresta - One of the godfathers of successfully YouTube maker content. Jimmy started as a carpenter with a studio in Brooklyn to a maker in nearly every medium. Jimmy has a very soothing, non-verbal editorial style--and satisfyingly time-lapsed videos show projects go from raw-materials to completion in usually 8-10 minutes.
- Laura Kamf - In the mode of Jimmy Diresta (I actually think she was one of his former students), Laura is maker from Germany who has grown her own channel with a specific sense of editorial style.
- Tested - This is Adam Savage's channel (from MythBusters.) They cover a wide range of maker community coverage and there is a lot of exploration into arcane areas of making, replication and the influence of technology in how we produce physical objects.
- The Infographics Show - Exactly as it suggests, this channel uses visual media and animation to break down complex topics to help you understand and appreciate typically abstract concepts like size and scale. A recent episode covered "The Most Painful Thing a Human Can Experience."
- The OffCamera Show - Photographer Sam Jones has begun interviewing some of his subjects, and his curious and casual style provides a really intimate perspective on his subjects; filmmakers, writers, actors and artists. In particular, he has a wonderful way of opening and participating in conversations that enable someone to explore themselves, without Jones risking becoming the focus. It is also really well produced.
Ok, this one went a little longer than expected. Join me next time as we wrap this series and cover Time Management, EDC (gear) critical to being an on-the-go consultant, and Tips & Tricks that I have found invaluable in managing my professional life.