Brian Sterricker, Heidi Sterricker, and Dave Perry, my hosts in Milwaukee and members of the United Adworkers.
What makes one project sustainable, while another, comparable idea quickly runs out of gas?
Why does an ad catch on, get talked about, bring results? Why does a social media campaign catch fire and spread quickly? Why does a group pull together, build relationships, hold great events, and function as a network?
I wish I knew. If there were one secret sauce, one key ingredient, everyone would use it every time they launched anything. Instead, we all hope to kindle that spark of inspiration.
A great group, one with that curious spark of success, recently hosted me in Milwaukee as I spoke at Marquette University. The United Adworkers is actually a group of competitors, ringed by the sincere collegiality of the Midwest, more interested in playing Show And Tell than King Of The Hill. My stay included lodging at the chic Iron Horse Hotel and a trip to Miller Park for a Brewers game, coordinated by my hostess, Heidi Sterricker, a leader of the group. It also included many conversations, and many questions before during and after my talk on What I Learned Leading Social Media For A Fortune 50.
Here's what struck me about this dialogue: It was not about "Look at me!" It was about "Check this out!" Or especially, "That's so cool." Recognizing quality -- whoever has done the work -- can be a difficult thing for one's ego. "When is my turn to shine?" I ask myself inside. "What if I never get a turn to shine?" My ego can persist.
That territoriality, that unhealthy competition, that frightened ego is what drains good ideas of their umph as much as anything else, I suspect. When that baggage is thrown off, the mpg is much better, and an idea can truck on down the road. I think that's what my hosts have in the United Adworkers -- a genuine appreciation for good work, whoever has done it. It was a beautiful thing to be around.
I also experienced this phenomenon at the Fortune 50 where I led social media. During a viral promotion, we crashed a server in front of a huge audience, perhaps more than 100,000 people. No one panicked or pointed a finger at me, the instigator of the viral madness. Instead we pulled together, an inspired email workaround was devised, and a team of two dozen of us ran -- as a team -- the most successful social promotion of the 2010 holidays, at least that I know of.
What makes something sustainable? Not saying: "Look at me!" when things go well. Or "It's his fault!" when things go badly. That's a very good start.
To read Teddy Lyngaas' blog post about my talk to the Adworkers, click here. Special thanks to Heidi and Brian Sterricker. Contrary to his tweet, Dave Perry did not dominate me in baseball helmet cheese fries at the Brewers game.