My Name is Dave and I'm Mostly Shallow.

Ideas  /  Dave Mason  /  12.01.13

One of the best things about the kind of work I've been involved in for more than 25 years is that I've been able to stick my nose into so many other people's businesses.

Biotechnology. Aerospace. Education. Mining. Energy. LED technology. Insurance. Heavy equipment. Professional sports. Real estate development. Software. Military contracting. Retail activation. Funeral services (no kidding). And on and on and on.

The incredible people, range of subject matter and business challenges I've been fortunate to be engaged with and the awesome experiences I've had along the way have done a lot for me personally. They've helped feed my natural curiosity about the world in general, and kept me engaged and energized.

I've been totally captivated by the intelligence and passion of the innovators at Sesame Workshop, blown away by the breakthrough thinking and total commitment of the scientists at QLT, awed by the advanced engineering and technology of organizations like TRW, and geeked out at having Wayne Gretzky's personal career mementos in my office. I've enjoyed every second I've gotten to spend with the only billionaire I know personally, and been more than intrigued by the black world mystery of companies like REDACTED, whose CEO told me in no uncertain terms that they did NOT run Area 51 because it did not exist.

So I guess I've become the proverbial T-shaped guy, really deep in one area—the strategic design and brand communication that's the core of my career—and reasonably deep (but of course in contrast relatively shallow) in knowledge about a lot of other areas. And I'm totally cool with that. Because I know that the cross-pollination of ideas generated by solving such a broad range of problems across such a huge range of industries has proven to be an invaluable advantage.

Where am I going with all of this?

It's not out of the ordinary to meet prospective clients who'll spend an hour or so (or send a 10 page document) outlining the totally unique qualities / challenges / opportunities their organizations represent, only to finally ask if my team and I have ever solved their exact problem for another client just like them in their specific industry. I understand the trepidation, but part of me can't help but wonder at the paradox of that question.

Because no two organizations or their business communication or brand challenges are ever exactly the same—even among those who essentially provide the same services or products to the same market—with very few exceptions the answer to that question is invariably "No, but..."

Not "No, but... I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." Rather "No but... 25+ years of creative problem-solving for hundreds of clients representing hundreds of industries and areas of expertise likely means that somewhere in the 'shallow knowledge' section of my experience vault are nuggets of information relating to business challenges and opportunities, markets, human factors, etc. that enable me to quickly grasp the essence of a new client's unique challenge or opportunity, put it into relatable context, and ultimately process it into a workable creative solution." Breathe.

At least from where I sit, the very fact that my team and I may not have deep knowledge about a new client's specific organization / industry or the challenges they might face has proven to be a consistent advantage.

As non-specialists we don't focus on working strictly in a single vertical, so we're not prone to cookie-cutter syndrome: solving the same problems with the same solutions for different clients. We don't approach our clients' challenges or opportunities with self-imposed limitations or fall into the 'we've always done it this way' trap. And best of all we're free to ask 'dumb' questions in order to generate the kind of really, really smart answers that help us to design and execute unique, effective solutions.

Yes, my name is Dave. And I'm mostly shallow. Let's talk.