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9/22/2003
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Fall Conference: Six Steps To Success For Businesses

Bran Ferren, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Applied Minds, told the InformationWeek Conference that there are a half-dozen elements companies will have to master to succeed in the future.

Bran Ferren, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Applied Minds Inc. and former executive VP of creative technology and R&D for the Walt Disney Co., laid out the six elements he believes companies will need to master to succeed in the future. He made his remarks during a Sunday keynote speech at InformationWeek's Fall Conference.

  • Vision: A vision should explain what a company will do to change people's lives. For it to motivate people inside and outside the company, it needs to be deeply believed and simple. "One sentence, maybe two, or one long, compound, run-on sentence. If you have a three-page vision statement, you don't have a vision," Ferren says.
  • Talent: Figure out the different factors necessary to attract and retain different types of people, he says. And make sure creative people are among the employees you're attracting and retaining.
  • Trust: Getting this among employees and customers takes daily work, since the forces of business pull away from this. "This doesn't happen as a general part of a business process," he says.
  • Storytelling: This is the essential core of Disney's business. But Ferren contends that every business has to be skilled at telling its customers and employees how it's improving people's lives.
  • Complexity: "The world's too complex for anyone to understand everything they need to about their own profession, let alone anyone else's," he says. That means decision makers will never have even close to all the information they need--so they better have a clear vision to guide them through the uncertainty.
  • Education: "Children are our future, and they're also your future customer base," Ferren says. He contends that the Internet will be pivotal to future education efforts, which makes it critical that schools get better technology. "The most advanced technology in some of our inner-city schools is the metal-detector that frisks them on the way in," he says. The Internet won't replace teachers or librarians. But students will increasingly live in networks of their peers without regard for geography, and they'll expect their teachers to be able to relate to that. Says Ferren, "The Internet amplifies teachers' abilities to tell stories, and to capture the imagination of their students."
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