icandiCQ strategist, Tracy Kirchhoffer is in Chicago attending the IABC 2012 World Conference.
Day 4, brought the conference to a close with the theme of storytelling still being prominent. Interestingly, icandiCQ has been using storytelling for years, as a device to communicate a message effectively, for clients like Nestle, KPMG, the DBSA and Nedbank.

Cirque du Soleil: a culture of creativity, innovation and collaboration
Lyn Heward, former President and COO Creative Director at Cirque du Soleil started her presentation by enacting a story – immediately engaging the audience.

The Cirque du Soleil story is powerful and motivating. As a ‘non-circus circus’, they have grown to being a large organisation with a product that aims to bring happiness, nostalgia, exhilaration, amazement and hope. It aims to reach people through emotion, innovation and understandably, high performing excellence.
The company’s business practices and values are embedded with highly creative ‘titles’ instead of average business jargon. So, as an example ‘Recruitment’ is referred to as ‘Treasure Hunting’. The Treasure Hunters (Recruiters) travel the world to find talented young acrobats, and from a pool of 20 000 people per year, only the best are chosen.

As an engaged company, they seek not only talent and expertise, but the human values of team work, the ability to share ideas, cultural fit as well as the ‘hidden talents’ of individuals. That unique aspect of a person that with a little enticement and nurturing will reveal something rich and inspiring for the benefit of the individual, for Cirque and for the world.

In addition, the culture of the company is to apply creativity (individual and collective) to the everyday tasks as well as the big projects.

Cirque’s leadership values the creation of a nurturing environment where people can trust each other (which is useful for a flying trapeze artist who hopes their catcher will do his job!), but it is mostly about trusting each other with the sharing of intimate creative ideas across the company.  They value the individual contribution and they recognize that creative collaboration must happen everywhere in the company.

Failure is seen as an intrinsic part of learning so they encourage risk taking in a stimulated, nurturing, disciplined environment. Risk taking is referred to as Research and Development. This also creates a shared creative ownership – the lesson being that people work harder if they are part of the creative process.

The video clips that were shown to the audience at the conference did not fail to enchant in the consistent way that Cirque du Soleil has delivered to audiences around the world year in and year out. They are filled with such energy, such passion and expressive emotions and sensuality that after each clip, the audience felt that they had just been part of the show and could not fail to clap and show their appreciation.

Cirque du Soleil provides a benchmark for companies seeking to be a world-class act.

Mobile and gaming: the ‘big shift’
Shel Holtz (@shelholtz) is a writer, blogger, digital and social media expert and experienced communication practitioner. Shel discussed the big shift to mobile and gaming, as communication platforms.

His drives the message that communicators must not pull back in paralysis from the technology, because communicators have a critical and valuable contribution to make – technology and the continuing evolution of technology is critical to the role of communication. He reminded us that every new technology has caused anxiety in society, even as early as the discovery of fire, which enabled man to advance.
Some insights: the adoption of the iPad has been unprecedented, 2014 will see more access to the Internet over mobile devices than wired applications like desktops. 46% of companies have already adopted a mobile website and 45% of companies are using Apps.

Thanks to mobile technology, communication has become accessible to everyone, all the time. Communicators cannot afford for the technologists to monopolise the domain. Communicators are the storytellers and must engage with the technology and build a working knowledge of it – it’s here, and the time to embrace it, was yesterday.

Russel McGuire’s The Power of Mobility reinforces that the value of products and services increase when available on mobile platforms. The message, whether you’re engaging with employees or customers is that if you’re not already there, you need to learn and start playing in the social media field.

But, it’s not just about being present; it’s about understanding contexts and the audience. Are they watching TV and getting information about characters or other aspects about the programme on their mobile device? Are they walking past a shop and via a QR code on a bulletin board in the canteen or reception accessing a video message from the CEO on a critical piece of company information. This changes the playing field – think about it, if your employees have cellphones (which the majority do!), it’s no longer necessary to allocate an 8am slot in the morning for staff to watch an internal television channel or to distribute DVDs to every department.

Company policies, training, education and content deployment needs to be strategized and realigned to meet the needs of the mobile world.

What else is hot? Pinterest and Instagram are mobile social media phenomenon. “Pinterest is the fastest growing social media network, with just under 12 million users at the start of this year. comScore reports that Pinterest has grown 4377% since its public launch in May 2011.  2012 is all about the Visual Web and the Instagram success story points to a key reason why the Visual Web has ramped up this year: tens of millions of people now carry a high quality digital camera around with them everyday, in the form of smartphones like iPhone and Android devices. That’s led to a huge growth in online photographs, which Instagram cleverly tapped into early. The Visual Web is about much more than Pinterest and Instagram. Blogging serviceTumblr continues to expand, driven by the quick, image-fueled blog posts of its users. Visually stunning apps like Flipboard and 500px are also growing fast.” [source: ReadWriteWeb]

Are you gaming at work?
61% of CEO’s admit to taking a daily game break at work. They say it helps take their minds off things, it gives them a diversion, ideas they have been mulling over sometimes ‘click’ when they are engaging in something they enjoy. If they win the game, the feeling lifts them up a little and renews their resolve. So, this could be thought of as an effective tool in the work environment and not an irresponsible waste of time – gaming is the next big thing as an internal engagement (and customer engagement) tool.

Why gaming? Games are voluntary, there is a clear goal, there are restrictions (rules), there are obstacles and people are motivated by winning rewards or points. There is a sense of purpose and mastery. All elements that appeal to human nature.

Gaming is a great tool for learning. Trends in the work place use games to score points for productivity, badging, leader boards which appeals to people’s competitiveness and peer recognition – bearing in mind that the games are linked to social sites.

As an example, IBM developed a set of health and wellbeing orientated games that people could play by themselves or in groups – from stopping smoking to weight loss and fitness competitions.

So, do you need to start gaming in your organisation? Do a mobile tech audit, see what people need and if the glove fits get ‘gamifying’.

That’s a wrap from the IABC conference. Look out for more articles, as we start unpacking our learnings and showing you how to apply best practice and global trends in your communication mix.