I’m sure that you’ve heard the old saying – ‘we know what we know, we think we know what we don’t know, but mostly we don’t know what we don’t know’.

I have found this to be very true in my years in the events and brand experience business.  We mostly make decisions based on what we know, and that tends to be based on a very finite amount of insight.  It turns out that often the best breakthroughs and innovations come from the least expected places.  Often from outside of what we know.  But as seasoned experts we generally feel much more comfortable relying on our past experiences.  We think we know what works, and we’re hesitant to introduce new unproven ideas into the mix.

This reminds me of a story called the ‘Drunkard’s Dilemma’.

A police officer sees a drunk man intently searching the ground near a lamp post and asks him the goal of his quest. The inebriate replies that he is looking for his car keys, and the officer helps for a few minutes without success then he asks whether the man is certain that he dropped the keys near the lamp post.

“No,” is the reply, “I lost the keys somewhere across the street.” “Why look here?” asks the surprised and irritated officer. “The light is much better here,” the intoxicated man responds with aplomb.

In the events business, where execution has always been the priority, we have mainly looked where the light is best, focused on what we know to have worked in the past, and been very cautious, if not suspicious of change.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘this is how it’s always been done’ and ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’.

Well, in many ways our traditional logistics-led focus on event planning is now broken. Increasingly demanding, digitally enabled audiences and the emergence of new experience technologies are now forcing us to explore those places where the light is maybe not so great, where we don’t know what we don’t know, but where the breakthrough ideas that will enable us to create more innovative, powerful and more effective brand experiences, may be found.

Interdisciplinary Design challenges the idea that specialisation is required. That it’s all about what worked best in the past. That decisions must be ruled by age old experience and defined by process and control.

The interdisciplinary mindset and approach require a reframing of what diversity of ideas means, creating collision-prone, serendipitous environments and even challenging our own opinions of what works best.

Sometimes this is uncomfortable, but often this approach can enable us to tap into our most creative possibilities, to create new, refreshing and powerful approaches to brand engagement, empower us individually to become innovation leaders and ultimately drive success for our organisations.

The concept is simple.  Just accept that we don’t know what we don’t know, and that there are trends outside of our experience that may offer incredible new ideas and ultimately better results.  Imagine for example that ideas from retail may offer new insights into powerful new trade show experiences, that the way certain species of animals interact may offer new insights into community building and social interaction, or that TV production expertise may offer ideas for virtual event design.

Inviting diversity into the experience planning process and examining trends from outside of the more traditional event and experience marketing disciplines can lead to the discovery of new ways of thinking about what is possible to create breakthrough brand experiences.

Of course, taking a new, unfamiliar approach will require some effort.  Figuring out how to get started, putting aside the time to do it, determining where to find the most relevant interdisciplinary input and encouraging others to participate in the process, can all be a challenge. But there is growing evidence that sometimes the best ideas come from the least likely places, and that more diverse input can be invaluable to experience designers who really want to create positive change.

Unlike the drunk in our story, in order to drive the much-needed transformation of the events industry we must now look beyond places where the light is best, into areas less familiar on the dark side of the street.

Kim Myhre 
Founder and Managing Partner, Experience Designed

The Meetings Show