Digital Detectives.

London offered me a different experience than I've had to date: to be immersed in a completely born-and-bred digital shop. Lean Mean Fighting Machine was founded on digital (bravely upon banner advertising, no less) and is still building and innovating upon digital. 

Whereas I would normally dig around and ask about how digital and social media were integrated into the fabric of an agency's work, culture and business model, and the effect that effort had, it was obvious from minute number five at Lean Mean Fighting Machine that these kind of questions would not be necessary.

The night before I visited Lean Mean Fighting Machine, Creative Partner Dave Bedwood sent me an email. 

"We are doing a 'Columbo' session in the morning at 9am, for a new client. It might be worth you sitting in on it," it read.

"A what?" I thought. But I said, "I'll be there." 

I didn't initially draw the connection to the '70s American crime fiction television film series, but nevertheless, it was still clear that Lean Mean Fighting Machine was in full-out detective mode.

To the untrained eye, it would look like a brainstorm. All parties in the room gathered around a table to talk about inspiration for a new client, representing creative, account management, strategy and production. But because it's Lean Mean Fighting Machine, technical development was also present in the room and it wasn't a brainstorm. It was a Columbo, and all eyes were on a flat screen TV.

On the flat screen was a blog, but not just any blog. At the beginning of any new client or project (for as long as they have in lead time), prior to gathering in the room, the greater Lean Mean client team populates the blog to seed ideas. Sometimes the client is invited to participate in the Columbo and in populating and reviewing the blog, sometimes the process remains internal. Once gathered, the Lean Mean client team reviews and discusses what they found and posted, in "show and tell" style. 

It was incredibly interesting and useful. Far from the cold brainstorms one might experience elsewhere, where the client team enters the room and starts the discussion by reading a brief and then staring at each other, the Columbo allows the client team to enter the room armed with inspiration. Not only does it effectively leverage the infinite possibility of online sources, from videos to photos, posts, articles and research, to pop culture reference, music and cartoons, but it also allows for personal input. Some team members drew and posted photos and sketches, while others profiled different aspects of the competition and the market. No one is told what to post.

The diversity of the individuals in the room brought diversity to the perspectives posted on the blog, and the angles from which the new project had been examined. Individuals' natural bent and interests came through via what they shared, informing different facets of the conversation; girly girls (smart girly girls) brought important popular culture reference perspective, insight into women's beauty rules, routines and regimens and knowledge of key influencers in pop culture, while the more technically-minded folks thought deeply about the mechanics of how the product worked and the insights within, while others still posted a blend of humorous and miscellaneous personal inspirations (i.e. “I was reading this article and it made me think this about the product”).

The blog was chalk-full, with pages and pages of thought-starters. There wouldn't have been enough time to collectively review the entire blog, but the team was expected to have done so on their own (and all appeared to have happily done so as much out of personal interest as professional expectation). As each piece was shared, a conversation would explode and build, setting the collaborating minds on fire. The conversation went on for nearly two hours, never missing a beat, energy levels never dropping. The entire team walked away jazzed and the creative and development teams, in particular, walked away informed and ready to create. 

And this was only the first two hours in my digital Lean Mean Fighting Machine immersion. Not a bad start.

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