M Booth has taken its own twist on the entrepreneur-in-residence concept that’s becoming more frequently adopted in marketing circles.
In the venture capital world, these temporary posts are intended for serial entrepreneurs in-between startups. Residence posts are used across professional services to bring new perspectives during a short stint. In the PR realm, the Pramana Collective started its own executive-in-residence program earlier this year.
M Booth’s take is to invite an “innovator-in-residence” to work out of the firm’s New York office for about a month. David Bizzaro — an animator, illustrator, filmmaker and puppeteer — just completed his residency during which he continued working on his own projects, only from M Booth’s space.
“It’s bringing the idea of the coffeehouse to M Booth,” says CEO Dale Bornstein, referencing author Steven Berlin Johnson who advocates for coffeehouse-like environments (both online and offline) to enable idea flow.
While Bizzaro wasn’t dispatched onto M Booth work, he was invited to participate in client brainstorms. This distance, he says, fostered a freer exchange of ideas.
“Because it was temporary and on my time — it was a different dynamic,” Bizzaro points out. “If I had been an employee, it would have been totally different.”
Many of those ideas were anchored in process. As one example, Bizzaro recommended that M Booth staffers get into a character for brainstorms the way a puppeteer would for a show. For instance, taking on the persona of Richard Branson or Lady Gaga to solve a problem. In turn, Bizzaro says the Next 15-owned PR firm showed him ways to attach clearer objectives to brainstorms.
“A benefit of having David in the office was a reminder that ‘oh, I really should think differently’ or a reminder to talk to him and learn something new and different,” Bornstein says. “The idea is to create a culture where ideation happens at all levels in different ways—not just in facilitated brainstorms.”
Bobby Hankinson — director of digital engagement at Teach for America, a former journalist at the Houston Chronicle and current blogger for Towleroad — is slated to be M Booth’s next innovator-in-residence.
These initiatives are part of what M Booth is calling its “year of innovation” that includes a developing proprietary brainstorm model and sending daily inspiration digests across the 90-person agency. There’s a short film with highlights from Bizzaro’s residency.