215. Critical Thinking: Anna Wintour On Intellectual Liberty & NOT Highly-Specializing

09 takeaways from this talk:

00:01:41 While you may have a few very precise interests and are studying for/have obtained an degree in a narrow field of study, don’t be too highly-specialized; especially in the age of media and digital. Be curious, try, experience, and learn from as many different projects, people, and interests as you can so you develop multiple skillsets, not just one.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the House of Radon‘s documentary PressPausePlay: Digital, Before & Now. The Most Disruptive Thing to Happen to Humans to Date that going digital has removed every limitation on human creativity. This enables creativity, but also makes it much more difficult to stand out.

Recall also in Dror Benshetrit‘s talk Integrated Product Design: Building a Generalist/ Specialist Business that there are very talented specialists in every field, and unless you devote your entire life to this craftmanship, you’ll never be able to call yourself a master. You can still do things that are meaningful and iconic by approaching your subject through a generalist’s eye, and instead working with specialists.

Conversely, with regard to creative fields, recall in Blair Enn‘s talk How To Start A Startup: 10 Proclamations to Win New Clients Without Pitching that you are either a value-added purveyor of quality offering strategic guidance and you’re commanding a healthy premium for it, or you’re a commodity, fighting competition by figuring out how to produce at a lower cost.  Your branding reputation and expertise are your only meaningful differentiators; it is how you battle for control with your client concerning your competition and the client’s other alternatives. When you brand yourself as an expert with a narrow focus, then your personality is irrelevant because it’s the depth of your expertise that the client is after. Thing is, once you narrow your focus, this requires changing how you offer the services you offer, because the clients who hire you for your expertise will have very specific problems and challenges that won’t be solved using a generalist offer.]

Be completely self-sufficient.

00:03:46 Embrace change, be adaptable, and become completely self-sufficient: Be your own writer, your own coder, your own photographer, your own videographer, your own editor…

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in my interview with author, entrepreneur, and creative director Dave Trott that if you are not adaptable, and if you carry on doing the same thing for 10 years, you will probably get stale at it. With experience you progress, and eventually you get so good at what you’re doing that you begin mentoring other, younger and inexperienced people on how to do what you have become an expert in.

Also, for more on why people, entrepreneurs and startups fail to become successful, watch my lecture How To Start A Startup: 25 Reasons Businesses Fail Within 4 Years.]

“The enormous advantage of tiny staff and even tinier budgets is a premium on originality, independence, and risk-taking.”

00:07:25 Thanks to my very diverse and self-sufficient background in all aspects of running a magazine, when I (Anna Wintour) arrived at the Vogue magazine in Manhattan, NYC where all their departments were compartmentalized and nobody had easy access to the other departments, the fact that I could so easily mingle with and understand all the different departments made me an extremely unique asset in the company.

Once you understand how something works, you not only become better at what you’re doing – as opposed to being good at just one thing, but it can also give you a competitive edge against your competition.

00:07:30 Becoming arrogant and stuck in their ways is a problem large, old brands can find themselves victim to. One thing the most truly disruptive and innovative modern brands have in common is that most of them didn’t spawn from a previously existing corporate structure. Many, in fact, were startups that launched in a garage.

00:08:11 Don’t be a copycat of someone else; cultivate yourself and develop your own point of view and tastes.

It’s striking how people today would rather ‘get a photo’ with me than actually shake my hand, look me in the eye, and say hello.

00:10:10 Want to launch your own startup, brand, or label? Education and training is important, but don’t discount experience. Work and learn from the best, and try various approaches.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall again in my interview with author, entrepreneur, and creative director Dave Trott that with advertising and creativity, you don’t go to university to learn advertising. You don’t learn advertising from teachers because teachers don’t do advertising; teachers teach. You want to learn advertising? Get a hands-on job or an internship in an ad agency and learn how to do it first hand with the people who are good at it. Most of the great advertisers don’t have advertising degrees because all that would do is stop you from thinking.

Learn by working with the best and through trial and error; it’s neither the teacher’s nor the creative director’s responsiblility to teach you, it’s your responsibility to learn. The good students understand this.]

00:10:31 Christopher Bailey, CEO and Creative Director of Burberry is a good example of how to have a modern career in fashion because he manages everything about Burberry.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Recall in the documentary How to Run A Business: Superbrand Secrets From The Fashion Industry that Burberry distinguish themselves through their unique patterned lining inside their coats. However in the 1980s, in an attempt to boost sales, Burberry began using their distinct lining on the exterior of sacs, belts, napkins and glasses cases. Unfortunately, this trend got out of control and the consumer demographic who took a hold of this trend happened to be ill-mannered hooligans who were seen on international news rioting and fighting in the streets.

As a result, Burberry lost control of it’s image, which resulted in a decrease in sales in Burberry’s sales and damaged their brand reputation.

To regain control of their image, Burberry:

  • Brought in fashion designer Christopher Bailey, who returned Burberry to it’s elite status through fashion shows and re-restricted use of Burberry’s signature lining.
  • Took control of the conversation through customer relationship management (CRM) campaigns on social media.]