How to Get Things Right by Getting Them Wrong

Next week marks the return of the Intelligent Content Conference. This year’s ICC is proving to be the biggest ever. I’m looking forward to seeing many old friends and making new ones.

As I ready my materials – my keynote, my workshop, and my interview with author Fran Lebowitz (gulp) – I’m reflecting on my experience with the conference and the idea of strategic content in business. I remember driving out to Palm Springs to speak at the first ICC in 2008. I was (as I’ve done every year since) trying out some new ideas. I had more questions than answers. I hoped to spark discussion and throw ideas into a pool of smart people to sharpen them.

In 2008, my presentation was on context and companies becoming “context aware.” My question was around the idea of context and content and the experiences that content professionals are responsible for. I proposed that context would become the driving force behind a social strategy, a security strategy, a subscription strategy, and a search strategy. (Yes, I called in the 4 S’s). I talked about the Subscription Age, where people would choose – contextually – where and how they would subscribe to content.

I got some of that right. Some of it was just silly. The four S’s, for example, were never used again. In talking about context, I did predict that the Cubs would soon win the pennant. I leave it to you to decide whether my “soon” was accurate.

The important thing here is that I found – and chose – a place to try new ideas, to pose questions. To be wrong. If we always have to be right, we risk never discovering new things. This is especially important as we put together content strategies that guide and lead our businesses. If we always rely on the proven, we’re living in the past. We’re not leading thought, and we’re not differentiating.

Sometimes the challenge isn’t coming up with new ideas; it’s finding, or creating, a place where you can test your new ideas and hone in on their value. If you’re working on a speech, you need a rehearsal audience that will give you feedback. If you’re working on a paper, you need trusted colleagues who can tell you how valuable your ideas are. If you’re working on a book, it’s great to have venues where you can pose your new ideas and see how they land.

One of my test spaces has always been the Intelligent Content Conference. I love the audience that shows up to that event, and I love the stretch of brain cells that go along with those four days.

See you there?  I’ve got some new ideas I’d like to share. Some of them will no doubt turn out to be wrong. If so, I’ll know that I’m doing something right.

Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.