FAHRENHEIT 212 DOES BIG, FAST, DOABLE
FAHRENHEIT 212 DOES BIG, FAST, DOABLE
This Esquire piece, even if it presents the Fahrenheit 212 consultancy in the best possible (or breathless?) terms, provokes interesting thoughts about how bigger companies could do things better, especially when it comes to innovating their way out of jams in the marketplace. Commentary follows excerpts.
This Company Will Save Your Brand
[After talking with Fahrenheit 212 insiders,] You begin to have the tiniest understanding why monsters like Samsung, Warner Music, Hershey, and NBC have tapped little Fahrenheit 212 to defibrillate their brands.
. . . Here is how Fahrenheit 212 works: They don’t pitch clients; they wait for clients to come to them. When one does, all eighteen employees get on board with the project: creative directors (including one who worked in robotics for NASA and designed rides for Disney), finance experts, designers, business directors (including one with a psychology/philosophy masters from Oxford), a strategic analyst with degrees in sociology and international affairs, and an office manager who was an off-Broadway actor. The company then spends about five months spinning ideas, trying to turn the status quo on its head. Then they actually make whatever new products they dream up, presenting them to the client in ready-to-sell form. Often, what’s presented is the last thing a client expects but precisely what it needs.
. . . Up to two thirds of the firm’s total fee is contingent upon success. In other words, for it to make serious money, its ideas not only have to be market ready, they have to be successful once they get there.
. . . [Their new deodorant concept is] not a miracle cure or the discovery of a new species. But it’s unlike any deodorant, ever — a significant improvement on a mundane, unimprovable product. Which makes you wonder what Fahrenheit 212 might do with something bigger, like the music business. (They’ve been hired by Warner to help rethink the industry’s tired, failing business model.) Or bigger, even. Would it hurt to ask Fahrenheit to spend a few days lifting the hood on the oil industry? Or to do a “big, fast, and doable” (as Vuleta would say) brainstorm with the Sunnis and the Shiites?
Many big companies get so caught up in their own processes that they can’t hear themselves think — or they don’t let themselves think. As Seth Godin points out, you can spend nine-tenths of your day fighting battles inside the company or simply dealing with the cognitive overwhelm of our modern communications systems.
Here’s an observation-cum-philosophical ramble: An organization exists to organize the efforts of a group, so that the group can accomplish more than its members could accomplish individually. This implies specialization, which is why we have different departments for production, sales, finance, marketing, IT, and so on. But specialization — and the simple fact that organizations are large — means that there must also protocols in place to regulate the whole organism. Human nature being what it is, each one of us tends to focus on the protocols that mean the most to us personally, rather than on the best interests of the organism as a whole. It’s a natural by-product of working within an organization that is too big to be comprehended in its entirety. But it also means that we come to prize the protocols — SOPs, hierarchies, workflows — more than they deserve, i.e. not not as tools to achieve organizational ends, but as ends in themselves.
But not Fahrenheit 212. They’re a small band of hyper-creative outsiders, augmented by a few more hyper-creative contractors to do things like 3-D rendering. They don’t have a vested interest in the protocols of a particular company (Samsung, Warners, Hershey, etc.) or of the company’s industry (electronics, music, sweets, etc.). So not only are they not afraid of breaking crockery, they can move ahead without even knowing what crockery they’re threatening to break.
And — big surprise — they’re a ton more innovative than the big, typically bloated enterprises for which they work.
Keep doing things the same way you’ve been doing them, and it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll keep getting similar results — or eroding results, if your industry changes as fast as the electronics business or the music business. But if you’re willing to change things up and send the sacred cows to the slaughterhouse — which would seem to be one of Fahrenheit 212’s principal jobs — you might reap breakthrough success that for now exists only in your dreams.
by Tim Walker
Hoovers Business Insight Zone