I have written before about the great approach to strategy taken by the folks at Zeus Jones (learning to fail – and learning from failure – while often flippantly discussed is much more difficult in practice). But strategy is one thing – what happens when you want to actually transform a situation? What happens if the brief is to change behaviours for the long term? And how do you apply disciplined thinking, creativity and social technologies to large-scale problems – like sustainability?

This presentation by Zeus Jones won the PhizzPop final at the recent SXSW conference. The brief was simple: “Help the citizens of Austin live more sustainably using currently-available technologies.” (I won’t go into details around their response to the brief – you can read about the approach taken here.)

There are some great lessons for planners and creatives alike here:

  • Reframe: rather than offer-up a me-too solution around the issue of sustainability, the fundamental human issues were reconsidered and addressed. This insight-focused approach helped the team to re-think and reframe their approach not around consuming less, but consuming more wisely
  • Think big, not big idea: aim to build or exploit the weak ties between social groups but don’t hammer communities with “the message”. The solution suggested that local, community and city resources could be meshed together to create change that would transform the functions and role of all involved.
  • Transform: Aim your efforts towards transforming BEHAVIOURS so that your messaging, your activation and applications focus on a tangible human action that can (or needs to be) changed for the better.


Zeus Jones Phizzpop SXSW Finale from Zeus Jones on Vimeo.

But perhaps the most exciting thing about this, is that the Zeus Jones folks are thinking about actually APPLYING this approach in their own community. Now, that is awesome.