More Than Media: How Starcom Is Igniting Innovation

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A connected culture and screens everywhere necessitate multitasking and thinking of media in ways we never have before, yet the multitude of distractions keep us thinking as minimally as possible.  Open offices are meant for collaboration but are often distracting.  We hear so much about the need to innovate in our industry, but almost nothing about how to innovate.

Starcom, a media agency built on human experiences, recognized the need to change the pattern, to break down the grind and give employees headspace for innovation.  When I pitched the Starcom Makerspace, an innovation incubator in which employees and clients can get hands-on with the latest VR gear, 3D printing, voice assistants and more, Starcom immediately saw the connection.  With our brains engaged in a totally different way, and with eyes on the potential next-gen of technology, the results are turning out to be powerful.

Thinking with Your Hands

In The Makerspace, we encourage everyone to tackle engineering challenges in the most intuitive way: with their hands, first.  You can read about theory and how-to all day but nothing refocuses your mind like making something with your own hands.  With your hands engaged, your brain must change gears from the abstract to the immediate and the distractions of daily work drop away.  The break from the mental pressure of daily work is worth it alone, but this also starts approaching the state of mind where connections come faster, understanding flows more easily and problems are frequently solved with next to no effort.  This is where you get into the zone.

In the Zone

Coders and athletes especially talk about getting in the zone; musicians will sometimes talk about it as flow, but we're all talking about the same thing.  It's that state of intuitive understanding and energized focus where the perfect solution just seems to fall into your mind and out your fingertips. The trick to getting into that zone is finding the right task -- something that's not so easy you can do it without thinking, but not so hard you have to wrack your brain.  The Makerspace aims for that curve of difficulty where anyone can start to touch the zone and then carry the idea, "I can solve this, I just need to do it," back into all their other work.

Looking to the Future

The Makerspace has given us a place to explore our creative and engineering skills freely, to invent a small part of the future at Starcom and in the world.  It's a place and an idea that encourages sharing itself, inspiring people to find their own inventiveness, put it to work and pass the idea along. Even without a promise of hard revenue, the potential value of an idea like that is vast; besides giving us eyes on the future of technology and media, the concept itself is one that I hope to see grow throughout our company culture, changing it for the better.

I began my career at Starcom and I've seen here a fearless approach to risks and new ideas.  They stood strong on that when I pitched The Makerspace and now it's a reality, spreading the confident inventiveness of people who can make things for themselves.  As one of Chicago Idea Week's featured labs, The Makerspace has also given me the opportunity to spread that attitude to the Chicago community.  It's such a powerful bit of knowledge -- that just by getting your hands working on a project, by pulling an idea out of your head and into the world, you can get a look at some of the inner workings of your own creativity -- that we expect the influence of "Makerism" to keep spreading and inspiring all on its own from the seed The Makerspace planted.

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