On February 4, 1924, my grandfather, Leo Feichter, hopped off a steamship and put shoe leather to American shore. His gateway, the same as more than 12 million other immigrants from 1892-1954, was Ellis Island, just off the tip of Manhattan, NYC. I’ve often wondered what this Austrian country boy, traveling solo, felt as he gazed across the gray waters and into the teeth of the giant city in front of him. Fear? Knowing him, I doubt it. Uncertainty? Probably. Inspiration? Absolutely!
When working in the creative industry, either as a leader or a teammate, finding inspiration is a continual exercise. Often, the more urgent your search, the more distant your muse becomes. What worked before might be fool’s gold the next time around. It’s a pickle. Our approach at Myriad Media is to continually look for surprising—but low risk—ways to kindle ideas that make our experiences richer.
It was because of New York’s unbridled inspiration that our team launched “Pop Up: NYC,” an experimental ping paid for by the company to give our people an opportunity to work and live in one of the greatest creative hives in the world. This was not simply about working in a different city. We were after the creative verve that comes from being in the middle of the action, surrounded by entirely new influences. We were searching for inspiration.
New York has that air, that feel… if it can be done, here is surely the place. You can connect with anyone; stumble upon big moments; hear accents you can’t quite pin down; dine on food with flavors you’ve never tasted, but somehow have always craved; you can work with the world’s best talent.
Ok, I grant that’s a bit of cliche and ignores all the hard work, funds and luck required to make it happen. However, some of my own best thinking has occurred in New York, simply due to the paradigm shift that occurs when you realize there aren’t any boundaries—at least, not the kind that you’re used to. Pop Up: NYC was about developing opportunities with new talent and clients, as well as our entire team’s ongoing growth.
Outside the System
This 45-day expedition was led by Ricardo Roberts, Myriad Media’s “can-do” Director of Marketing. Ricardo put his travel-planning skills to good use to find us the perfect spot to stay: A charming, old flat on West 72nd, just three blocks from Central Park. He also set us up with temporary desks at Grind, a co-working space that bills itself as a 22nd-century platform that helps people collaborate “outside the system.” Grind was perfect: Affordable terms, buzzing with activity and centrally located at the corner of Broadway and 39th.
When we launched, our NYC explorers were encouraged to represent MM and generate conversations with other creatives. Indeed, after meetings with Vimeo, Pitchfork.tv, Apartment Therapy, Nice Shoes, Athletics, R/GA, and several independent filmmakers—to name just a few—we were left punch drunk on thought-provoking opportunities.
A special moment for me was talking shop over a damn good hamburger with Paul Murphy, a partner at Betaworks. With a collection of products like Instapaper, Digg, Dots, and Tweetdeck, Betaworks is defining what it means to be a media company in this century. Their goal is to “unite ideas, people, capital, and data in an imaginative way that creates beneficial and transformative products for the socially connected world.” Listening to Paul describe how Betaworks sparks progress was a truly heady experience.
There was also the time Ricardo and I crossed paths with a jogging juggler in Central Park. While that was mildly inspiring, it was really just funny.
In all fairness, while the payoff to our team and culture has been significant, it can’t be netted out on the company P&L. I get that. However, when you learn that a young co-worker independently sought out and scored a meeting with a creative director at the Google Creative Lab, you have little doubt the payoff will come one day soon— for co-worker and company alike.
We Went “Camping,” Too
We also challenged our team to shoot a video for Campsite, Myriad Media’s internal learning effort that stretches our skills and provides creative nourishment. If you’re a video producer, shooting in NYC is a bit like a singer performing at, ahhhh well, Carnegie Hall, which is kinda like a baseball player stepping up to home plate at Yankee Stadium… I suppose I’ve made my point.
During my visit to New York, I pictured my grandfather on his first night in the city: A crowded, Upper East Side restaurant and a plate of Wienerschnitzel, Spätzle and red cabbage that tasted better than dear mutter’s. In my imagination, Leo raises his glass, draws a long sip of wine and takes a moment to savor the belief that anything is now possible. To a fella previously limited by the dim prospects of post-war Europe, that must have been powerfully invigorating.
Barriers slowly become accepted parts of your everyday routine and limit your ability to imagine important dreams coming true. So, if your creative process could use shaking up and your inspiration is waning, try changing your location. Go exploring!
Please watch this space in the coming months for my co-workers’ own pop-up stories and Campsite projects to see how they found inspiration in the magical madness of New York City.