Alice Askwith, Elly Russell and Dan Cansdale from iProspect UK take on Google Squared, a six-week course focusing on developing digital, technological and leadership skills.
Google Squared: Week 1
Our first week at Squared was an experience that would throw us straight into the fast-paced, knowledge intensive environment that will allow us to grow as digital leaders. Our first week consisted of 3 Foundation days that taught us the value of identifying team roles, learning group behaviours and enhancing the power of feedback, which we will carry through with us for the duration of the course.
Our first Foundation project was to formulate a marketing strategy to pitch to Southwark Council to keep the Kirkaldy Industrial Testing Museum open without compromising on the historical purity of the workshop space, with minimal funding. Our second Foundation project for the week involved planning and executing 90 activity sessions with children involved with the Shakespeare Schools Festival – the company works with over 1,000 schools across London to put on abridged versions of Shakespearean plays. We were to run these sessions, followed by filming a 2 minute trailer and conducting interviews with the participants.
We were also privileged enough to listen to some inspirational talks from some pioneering digital leaders. Shuvo Saha (Industry Director, Branding at Google UK) spoke to us about ‘Digital Megatrends’, Neil Perkin (Only Dead Fish) spoke to us on an ‘Anthropological View of Digital’, John Willshire (Smithery) on the ‘Fracking of the Social Web’ and Neil Kleiner (AIS) on ‘Social vs. Content’ and Malcolm Bell (Zagorra) on ‘Online Business Models’. We also delved into the world of social media, with a ToolBox session on social listening tools, to aid us in our first major Squared project. We were tasked with formulating an online business, taking into consideration costs, execution, marketing and pitching the business to 4 industry leaders. So it was a busy start to the course!
During the Kirkaldy task I was given the role of ‘Observer’ which meant I wasn’t allowed to speak to anyone in my group, only make notes on everything they did in order to feed back on the positives and negatives from the day, a slightly awkward role as we had just met each other but definitely an interesting experience! For the second task my group were assigned a primary school in West London. After the initial fear of being responsible for a group of children we knew nothing about, cue relentless Googling of ‘what do kids find fun?’, we entered into the school feeling confident with the plan for our trailer. The kids were really great and excited to be a part of our project but we soon realised that no amount of planning could have prepared us for the mayhem that would ensue from looking after a group of 8 year olds. There was laughter, tears and some hula hooping (I turned my head for a second and they appeared from nowhere?!) but we made it out with a successful trailer and the realisation that we had chosen the right career paths. Eight year olds have a LOT of energy.
Throughout the first week we had a multitude of talks from industry leaders. The talks were designed to make us question our own views, with some of the talks covering similar topics but also some which contradicted the other. John Wiltshire and Neil Kleiner both gave talks on different subjects but covered some of the problems faced by advertisers; that consumers are readily losing interest in ads and, to put it extremely, ‘people really don’t care’. It was up to us to find a way around this within our first project, to come up with a business idea that utilised digital technology and encouraged engagement with consumers. The remainder of Week 1 was spent working within our groups on potential ideas for this, most of which weren’t very inspiring or had already been invented. By Friday everyone was exhausted and the rubbish ideas didn’t seem so rubbish any more, we decided to call it a break for the weekend and come back on Monday with a clearer head.
The first week was a fantastic experience – we achieved so much in one week! The Foundation tasks were a good test of character, as they weren’t necessarily ‘digital’ related but it taught me the value of a shared vision for success and working with individuals with a broad variety of skill sets. For me the most inspiring talk was Neil Perkins’ ‘Anthropological View of Digital’ – he provided some brilliant, forward-thinking insights and allowed me to look at the realm of digital at a totally different angle. I found Neil Kleiner’s case study for the One Direction Twitter campaign fascinating – he embraced this channel to dictate online discussion in an innovative way that produced fantastic results and a huge hive of activity. I recommend reading about the power @1DCyberpunk and how she harnessed the dedication of the One Direction Twitter fans.
The best part of this experience this week was the fact that we worked on live briefs as soon as we started. This is a great first test for us to stretch our capabilities, which for me is a really important aspect to the course. Both briefs were refreshing to work on, and as a group we felt a strong affinity with both projects, as they were genuine causes that we could make an impact on. My favourite talk was John Willshire’s ‘Fracking Of The Social Web’ – he depicted his thoughts in a really innovative way and opened my eyes to the fact that brands really need to become a part of existing conversations online and integrate themselves within the fabric of the web in order to be truly successful.