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Learn Like a Student to Think Like a Strategist

Last week, Capsule had the opportunity to attend the Digital Summit in Minneapolis. A few of us checked out the schedule and chose the meetings we would each attend and headed out to the Minneapolis Convention Center, eager to listen to digital thought leaders and soak up new ideas.

Entering into the auditorium, my mind floated back to my days at the University of Minnesota - a little nervous, a little naive, a lot curious, and like my other favorite lectures, there was not enough ink in my pen nor room in my notebook to capture the “aha” moments and learning curves I would hear. We talked about algorithms and their pervasive and silent impact on our culture. We debated the usefulness of new campaigns when the old campaigns are doing just fine. We discussed deep fakes, SpaceX, Netflix, Tropicana boxes and bot-spotting. We remembered that these developments are terrifying to most of our audience, but yet incredibly energizing and compelling.

So many people are afraid of how quickly things are changing and the role that something like AI is beginning to play in our lives, and I was reminded that there’s a reason “ignorance is bliss” is the cliche it is. Even as an Experience Strategist who encourages people to make bold changes every day, I felt the fear in my face and uneasiness in my gut with what something like AI means for the future. It brought me back to the kind of fear I felt as a kid when I stepped inside my first college lecture or stared up at the stars in the sky in wonderment and confusion at how much I did not know.

Though I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much while in school, it is always a humbling treat to get out of my comfort zone and pay attention to those moments of wonderment and confusion, because that’s when I learn best. When you work in this industry, it is imperative that you never lose that curiosity and drive to learn, because you may blink and miss something industry-changing. Watching Twitch, doing my daily Washington Post crossword puzzle, bingeing Netflix’s “Insatiable,” listening to the Bodega Boys podcast are some of my favorite recent exploratory past times, but it’s also part of my job to stay in-the-know on these things if I expect to remain mildly current in the rapidly evolving world around me and join in on the discussion.

Based on advice I got early on in my career, I have made being open and curious some of the tenets of my personal brand. I spend at least an hour and a half each morning catching myself up on news and culture (NYT, Vice News, Politico, Reddit, The Hill, social media, repeat) and looking for opportunities and events that will allow me to learn something new. This helps me feel like I have a handle on what’s happening and helps me think like a strategist - taking seemingly disparate ideas and forming connections that benefit our clients. Last week, that learning platform was attending Digital Summit.

Greg Swan from Fallon summed it up nicely at the conference: “If you’re not living in the center of change, you’ve already been left behind.” We must embrace change as an opportunity instead of a nuisance, and reinterpret our fear and apprehension as excitement and wonder. Think bigger, immerse yourself in the unkown and become a student of the world. Trust me, it’s a fascinating place right now.

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