Does Creativity Start with Data? A Disney Behavior Scientist & an Analytics Expert-Turned-Rapper Discuss

Jay AcunzoBlog, Podcast3 Comments

In Part 2 of our “We want to know what it takes to trust your intuition and succeed so what does that mean about using data, should we start with it or with something else?” Series (final name TBD), we explore the other side of the same coin that we examined two weeks ago in Part 1. Perhaps you should start with data.

And we end up somewhere surprising — namely, that maybe what we refer to as “data” is really two different things.

Hear the story of Eric Siegel a predictive analytics expert and rapper — yes, really — who found something unusual but powerful in data about airline food. Then, Duane Varan shares stories about working with ESPN and Disney to understand what this data thing is really all about in a life led by creative intuition.


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Jay is an award-winning podcaster and dynamic keynote speaker. Before creating Unthinkable, he was a digital media strategist at Google and head of content at HubSpot. He’s built content marketing strategies from scratch for startups and produced attention-grabbing documentaries for brands. His work has been cited in places ranging from Harvard Business School to the Washington Post.

Today, Jay hosts shows and works with teams who aspire to be the exceptions to all the noise in their niche.

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3 Comments on “Does Creativity Start with Data? A Disney Behavior Scientist & an Analytics Expert-Turned-Rapper Discuss”

  1. Hi Jay,

    I was wondering how best to pitch creative ideas that are based off Galileo’s ‘what if’ approach?
    How can you sway clients who need to justify every dollar invested into creative with a data point to back it up?

    If the dollar mainly follows the Aristotelian approach to data within most advertising agencies, how can you go about experimenting on Galileo’s method?

    Is it up to entrepreneurs to pivot away from traditional agencies, to be able to fully exercise creative potential and adapt to the changing landscape of culture and technology?

    Who is more averse to the what if method, client or agency or both?
    How can creative young talent find a place to thrive and impact change when the trickle down restrictions of traditional models are so prevalent?

    Appreciated your show today. Enjoyed the thoughts it inspired.

    Happy holidays


    1. Hey Brian, thanks so much for the kind words! Glad the episode was insightful and useful. My knee-jerk reaction is that the Galilean approach is where testing is important. The scientific method relies on that “What if?” line of questioning. If you can get a client (or boss, or peer) to agree to a very safe test, you’re able to take one small step toward a better approach than the Aristotelean model allows for.

      Here’s an example methodology — a raw look at what I’m developing overall as part of Unthinkable’s exploration of moving from average work to exceptional work.

      1) Define an up front ASPIRATION the client has. If you can get a client (or anyone) to articulate/agree upon a very clear future goal that is both specific and concrete, you can now have a productive discussion.

      GOOD EXAMPLE: “We want to be the Anthony Bourdain storytellers of our niche.” Specific = Bourdain tells moving stories from the mundane, day-to-day of his world // Concrete i.e. what is different when you achieve it? “We must develop one pillar content series — e.g. a podcast, like Bourdain has his CNN show — produce tangents off those for awareness — e.g. articles, a book by our executives, etc., like Bourdain has books

      BAD EXAMPLE: “We want more leads from our blog.”

      Note that if you lack an aspiration — if it really gets stuck at “more leads” — it may be impossible to do more meaningful work, because it’s stuck at transactional or short-term or, really, they’re focused on the BYPRODUCTS of doing good work (leads) rather than the good work itself (an amazing blog, podcast, or whatever).

      2) Identify a FIRST PRINCIPLE INSIGHT about the customer. This can be simple (leads are humans; humans hate lead-gen forms; let’s remove our forms and set content free) or complex (convention says avoid making coffee with robusta beans, but in our specific context, our customers want higher caffeine content, available through those beans vs. the accepted type others roast).

      This is the insight you use to build…

      3) a single CONSTRAINED TEST. This is where you test your “What if?” Identify safe constraints up front. e.g. for 3 months we will dedicate $N (small relative to overall spend) to testing our question of “What if…XYZ?” It should align with the Aspiration (“What if we wrote X% more emotional stories than simple how-to articles?”), address the First-Principle Insight (“We need to put subscribe CTAs below or around the content, not gate the content”), and have enough constraints that it feels SAFE.

      The object is to learn quickly, like a startup, not to generate the actual desired results. It’s the first step towards doing so. You want signs that something special is there (e.g. small numbers of people reacting in big ways), then lean into something harder by removing some or all constraints if signal is positive.

      I hope that made sense 🙂

  2. Pingback: Does Creativity Start with Data? A Disney Behavior Scientist & an Analytics Expert-Turned-Rapper Discuss | broadcastingnews

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