The three I’s of innovation and creative imitation

by Jeremy Hodge on February 18, 2013

When I was at freshman at The New School studying jazz performance and composition, I had a professor who talked about how we would develop our own musical voice – impressing upon us the three I’s of innovation:

  1. Identify the things you like
  2. Imitate those things
  3. Innovate

As a jazz student, this meant finding other musicians whom you admired and transcribing as many solos as you could from their recordings. Next, you had to incorporate their style into your own playing, whether emulating the way they phrase a melody, or using pieces of their solos in your own playing. Finally, you had to “innovate” – develop your own voice and come up with something new. This last “I” was the toughest, and it’s one that very few musicians or artists will truly achieve. While it’s easy to be a clone, it is much harder to come up with something new.

I’ve been thinking a lot about these three I’s lately when it comes to professional and career development. Recently, when I’ve sat down to blog, I’ve struggled with what to write about. At times, I felt that I am simply repeating like I was saying what so many others who blog about content strategy, social media and marketing are saying. Yet I’ve realized that this is part of developing your craft, whether it’s music or marketing. You need to first listen and find out what your interests are, and once you start talking about it, there’s a good chance you’ll sound like those you follow and admire. Over time, though, you begin to refine your point of view, start to build upon what you know and develop new ideas. It’s frustrating at times, especially when you feel like you might be simply regurgitating what someone else said, but it’s all part of learning. If we’re going to encourage people to develop their skills and identify new areas to build out, we have to be ok with a little bit of imitation.

Social media platforms actually have this imitation phase built right into them. Retweeting someone on Twitter or reposting on Tumblr is a great way to synthesize what others are saying, add a bit of commentary and promote it as part of your overall view on a subject, while giving proper credit. In a way, a retweet or repost is similar to transcribing a solo and incorporating parts of it into your own playing; it’s all creative imitation.

So don’t be afraid to imitate others when trying to develop your own views on a subject, and always listen for new influences. Regardless of the field you’re in, whether it’s jazz, physics or business, you are standing on the shoulders of giants, and you should acknowledge that.


The Super Bowl and the second screen: 2013 edition

by Jeremy Hodge on February 4, 2013

Last year, I wrote a post about the way social media and the “second screen” were integrated into the advertising for Super Bowl XLVI, and overall, I was unimpressed. This year though, I tip my hat to a few brands.

While I didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year, I did check Twitter around the time of the power outage, and that’s when I saw a few brands use social media to join the conversation everyone was having and create some great content.

Oreo not only managed to get something out a few minutes after the power outage, but they addressed it in a classy and funny manner through a really simple image and some copy. I’d say this tweet is much better than the commercial they produced.

Calvin Klein also posted a tweet right after the power outage and even embedded a Vine video in it. Vine, a service that lets you record and share a six second video clip, is still in its infancy and I was surprised to see a brand jumping in as an early adopter. They also took advantage of paid media and purchased “blackout” as a search term on Twitter minutes after the blackout. Anyone who searched Twitter for that term saw Calvin Klein tweets at the top of the results.

There were many other companies that had creative tweets and posts throughout the game, not to mention some really smart marketers who were able to quickly react to the events at hand and produce something that people enjoyed and shared. If you want a good recap of some of the best social moments at the Super Bowl, I recommend checking out this article in Mashable.

Unfortunately, not all brands were so tactful in their use of social media. Marvel’s Iron Man 3 trailer felt like it was cut really short, and to make things worse, the final shot was some text telling viewers to go watch the full trailer at the Iron Man Facebook page. It seemed as if they produced the ad thinking people would enjoy the cliffhanger and take that extra step to “get social.” For me, it killed the momentum of the trailer and was an antiquated way of integrating social media into the campaign.

There is one brand – GoDaddy – that has been showing truncated versions of its ads and encouraging viewers to view the extended versions on their website. As it has in year’s past, GoDaddy featured another one of its blatantly sexist ads. This time, the company showed both its “sexy side and smart side” by having a supermodel make out with a stereotypical looking nerd, sounds effects and all. As a successful Silicon Valley startup operating in an industry that already suffers from a lack of women, GoDaddy should have a bit more class. It’s sad that they feel the need to exploit women for their marketing campaigns and they probably won’t stop anytime soon. However, the folks at, a competing domain name registrar, came up with a great parody ad that highlights the absurdity of the GoDaddy ad and makes me want to register my domains there. Kudos to them.


Thoughts on internal communications

January 30, 2013

My first gig in the corporate world was working as an intern on IBM’s intranet editorial team. Even though much of my work since then has been focused on external matters, internal communications is still something I’m passionate about. The internal communications function is essentially an information service for employees to help them do their […]

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Watson – changing how medical students learn

October 31, 2012

When I tell someone I work at IBM Research and they have no idea what it is we do, I usually follow up with “we built Watson, the computer that won Jeopardy!” If they have somewhat of an interest in science and technology they’ll usually ask a bit more about what else Watson can do, […]

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Factoring people’s time commitments into your content strategy

October 24, 2012

One of the most important elements of content strategy is people and the amount of time they can dedicate to content. I’ve worked on many projects in which the lack of thought put into the people behind the content slowed or hurt the project. I worked on a website in which the planning, creation and […]

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Stop talking, start listening

August 31, 2012

Ironically, I discovered a great blog post on Twitter from Luis Suarez titled “Twitter is Where Conversations go to Die” which echoes a lot my frustrations with social media. In his post, he touches on a number of issues with Twitter including the recent changes to their API guidelines, which snubs third party developers (the […]

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Using Speech Analysis to Care for Dementia Patients

August 7, 2012

One of the reasons I like working at IBM Research, is that there are many projects which have a huge impact on the world and can improve our lives. One of these projects is using speech patterns for dementia diagnosis and treatment. When I first heard about it, I thought a lot about my 87 […]

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Finally! I wrote a new post.

July 26, 2012

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged. I admit that I’ve succumbed to blogger fatigue, but one of the real reasons I wasn’t writing much is that I succumbed to career fatigue and couldn’t nail down my passion and what I wanted to write about. I used to say that I was “pursuing a […]

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Goodbye Euro, Hello (again) IBM

May 4, 2012

Today was my last day at Euro RSCG 4D. On Monday I’ll  start working at IBM Research doing content strategy and development. The decision to change careers was not easy, as I’ve been very happy at Euro and have learned a lot. However, the opportunity at IBM seems like a really good career move for me. […]

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A Rant about Homeless Hotspots

March 31, 2012

It’s been a little over a month since I last wrote, and it’s been filled with a lot of travel and work commitments, so unfortunately, I haven’t had any time to write. There have been a lot of exciting things that have happened over the past month in the tech world, including SXSWi. Amid all […]

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