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April 24, 2013

Creative Agency Exchange

April 24, 2013
Embracing openness and transparency has created a lot of opportunities for SmallBox. Much of our team is comfortable living our lives online. As a company, we're not worried about keeping our methods as trade-secrets, but rather we're happy to share them and see our ideas spread. (It's all part of a not-so-secret plan to change the way business is done. Our vision is a revolution of organizations fueled by purpose, who provide meaning through work.)
Not every company is comfortable being so open with how they work, but I'd like to make a case for openness and transparency, using an example from last week to back it up.
A visitor from the south
We had the great fortune to participate in a mini creative agency exchange last week. 352 Media Group from Gainesville, Florida, traveled all the way to Indy for some idea share sessions with our team and local friends SpinWeb and Roundpeg. Jeb met 352's CEO Geoff Wilson at the Digital Mastermind Group in Florida, and a few conversations made it clear our teams could learn a lot from one another.

352 Group was most interested in picking our brains about culture-building and we couldn't wait to learn more about their agile process. In the past six months, they made a shift from a waterfall design and development process, where one person hands off the project to the next in phases, to an agile process that includes deep dives and heightened client interaction with one project at time for small teams. That's an extremely simplified version, and if you're interested in learning more, you can check out scrum.org or one of 352 Media Group's videos that describes their process.
The afterglow of idea heaven

We camped out for a full day at SmallBox's soon-to-be office space for a lively exchange. At the end of the day, our heads were swimming with ideas and motivation. Aside from brainstorming what parts of their process might work for us, we couldn't help but ask ourselves one big question, Can we do this more often?

352 Media Group at SmallBox

After one day, we got firsthand testimonial about processes we're interested in exploring. We got to learn about what worked and didn't work for the 352 team. We got personalized responses to our questions every step of the way. It felt like a conference organized just for us. We got our turn in the spotlight too, and it's affirming in many ways to have an eager audience asking questions about the culture we worked so intentionally to craft. I can only hope the 352 team got as much out of our culture side of things as we did from what they shared with us about their agile process. (See more photos from our day together on Facebook.)
Open up and say ah!
(I couldn't resist the Poison reference – sorry guys!)

Back to that transparency thing. This exchange couldn't have happened if we looked at our culture successes as secrets to be tightly guarded. Exchange is a key word in this equation. What filled this day with so much meaning was that both teams shared what we've learned.
Not that we had any from the start, but any trepidation we could have felt about being vulnerable and open would have been absolutely blown away by the value we got from the day. I'm sharing this experience in hopes that it might inspire others to try their own version of this agency exchange.
If you aren't able to be open, what's holding you back? If competition is a problem for you, is there a neighboring industry you can partner with? Would there be meaning for your organization if you had an exchange with a completely different type of business?
Please do let us know if you host your own exchange!


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