Written By Dyanis De Jesús
Innovation Series’ guest speaker Ty Montague, CEO of the innovation agency Co:Collective took the stage at Pratt to share his True Story with our academic audience recently. The event –Leading Radical Innovation in Creative Enterprise – is hosted by the Design Management, and Arts & Cultural Management Graduate Departments at Pratt Manhattan, and looks to examine the challenge of change. Guest speakers inspire conversation about the role of the leader in shaping a culture of “creation”. They provide insights from their own practice and share examples of how organizations and nations are designing innovative processes, services and experiences that can help shape a livable future. In Ty’s case, the conversation came from the perspective of enterprises building their brands, communications and their relationship with people/potential customers through storytelling. But this notion is now evolving into what he has defined as “story-doing” – something that really goes beyond the concept of “brand” to affect the entire operation and nature of a business.
True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform your Business (Harvard Business Press) is the recent book by Ty Montague, that sparked the conversation. After more than two decades in traditional advertising, Ty and three partners launched Co:Collective in 2010. Beyond an ad agency, Co: Collective is a growth and innovation accelerator that specializes in inventing and reinventing products, businesses and brands with a simple premise: It is not enough to tell your story, but as it’s been said: “actions speak louder than words”. Ty’s approach to innovation comes from this simple, but powerful principle.
Throughout the event it was apparent that the audience was both engaged and inspired. Using cases such as Zappos or JetBlue or Toms Shoes, just to mention a few, Ty took us through what the team at Co:Collective has defined as the pillars of “story-doing”. These following are six questions to guide clients looking for innovation and change:
- Do you have a story?
- Does the story define an ambition beyond a commercial aspiration?
- Does the story define a clear enemy?
- Is the story being used to drive action throughout the organization?
- Have you defined a few iconic, transformative actions to focus on?
- Are people outside the company engaging in, and participating in the story?
Ty highlighted Zappos’ approach to the importance placed on customer service to inform all decisions for the company, and the business model of Toms Shoes that incorporates a larger ambition beyond shoe sales, with their “One for One” tagline, which mirrors their business model. Moreover, when we reflect on who might be JetBlue’s competition, the answer that comes to mind is “the status quo in a flying experience” – apathy can be lethal.The message is clear, because we – the people at the other side of the stories of these companies – are actually able to experience those stories through actions that involve us.
It is not surprising then, that the companies exhibiting these behaviors seem to be doing better than others (and there are numbers to prove it). Ty’s argument here is that the audience, “we”, are also building our own stories. In a world full of brands, products and services shouting and convincing us that ‘one is better than the other’, we are really just looking for things that fit in “our own story”, which enhance it, and build upon it. And that’s where “story-doing” comes in. We are no longer buying running shoes. We are becoming part of a wellness and fitness story and culture through Nike – for example. That larger ambition, that “purpose”, that “quest” seems to make all the difference in the world we now live in. And the innovators out there like us, must pay attention and take note.
The lesson here for the audience, for all of us looking to learn and apply innovation principles in our own practice and organizations, is very clear: building a brand is no longer a superficial layer applied to an enterprise via marketing and advertising. It is really at the root of any business, which is where their story is born. That story must be clear and at the center, driving the organization from the inside out in every – single- action. This is something easy to say of course, but hard to act upon! Change is inevitable, so how do you choose to take on the challenge?
You can learn more about Ty Montague and his company Co:Collective from its official website.
True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform your Business is a recommended reading and available in Amazon.com.
Co-Founder, CEO Co-Collective
After 20+ years in traditional advertising, Ty and his partners Rosemarie Ryan, Neil Parker and Richard Schatzberger launched co:collective in September of 2010. Co:collective is a growth and innovation accelerator that specializes in inventing and re- inventing products, businesses and brands. Co has been engaged by YouTube, Google, Microsoft, GE and Kohls among others.
Ty is happiest when things are under construction, which may be why he has spent his career as an innovator and agent of change. As Co-President and Chief Creative Officer at JWT North America, Ty and his partner Rosemarie helped lead a 5-year transformation of the agency. This effort culminated with JWT being named Adweek magazine’s 2009 Global Agency of the Year – the first award of its kind for JWT and parent company, WPP. Prior to that Ty launched and helped build the New York office of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, ran the New York office of Wieden + Kennedy and worked at the New York office of Chiat Day.
Creativity magazine has named Ty one of the 50 most influential creatives of the past 20 years, Advertising Age named him one of the Top 10 Creative Directors in America and Fast Company magazine named him one of the Top Ten Creative Minds in business.