What do you do when your brand is occupied?
This was the crazy one-in-a-million question we were confronted with in the months following the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Just days before this year’s 99% Conference, as we were frantically prepping here at our office in Manhattan, thousands of May Day protesters marched down the street seven stories below chanting, “We are the 99 percent! We are the 99 percent!” I glanced over at our five-foot-tall 99% logo in the corner and experienced a strange moment of cognitive dissonance.
As I was contemplating how to deal with the brand confusion incited by the rise of OWS, I ended up thinking back to the very first 99% Conference in 2009. Two sound bytes came back to me: Pentagram designer Michael Bierut‘s tip for unraveling knotty challenges, “The problem contains the solution,” and Echoing Green President Cheryl Dorsey‘s observation that particularly successful entrepreneurs always “see problems as opportunities.” I love those twin bits of wisdom, and how they stress the importance of acceptance and positivity in the face of unexpected roadblocks.
Thus, being occupied became a call to action…
A new commitment to 99% perspiration & education.
We decided to look at the 99% conflict not as a crisis but as an opportunity, a chance to revisit and clarify our goals and come back even stronger. We took some time to reflect on our growth and opportunities as a brand, as well as what we really want to accomplish and what we want to give back. What we concluded is that everything that we do is really about education.
Whether we’re sharing an interview or an article here on the website or a talk at our annual conference, the objective is always the same: To dig into the nitty gritty of what really happens during idea execution and come away with pragmatic insights that you can take home and apply in your studios, companies, and businesses.
Through this research and editorial, we strive to provide the “missing curriculum” for the creative world. The education you get when you’re hunkered down in the trenches, the education you get through action, the education you get through exercising Edison’s famous “99% perspiration.”
After realizing this, the proper evolution of the brand became incredibly clear: 99U, a university of insight built around the skills that we all need to survive and thrive in a creative world. Skills like risk-taking, leadership, innovation, experimentation, decision-making, adaptation, self-marketing, perseverance, task management, focus, and collaboration, among many many others.
99U and the new era of work.
We believe that, in the 21st century, an ongoing education is an essential part of life, creativity, and productivity. It’s no longer sufficient to get a degree, and then call it quits on learning. To create and innovate, we must act, experiment, fail, adapt, and LEARN on a daily basis.
99U will strive to meet this challenge, delivering the missing curriculum that we don’t get in school through world-class editorial, video talks, and live events.
Within the context of Behance, which empowers and inspires millions of creative professionals daily, the launch of 99U marks an expansion of our mission. As more and more people take the reigns on their creative careers, we believe there is an increasing need for real-time, pragmatic insights on idea execution. Our technologies and tools are changing daily, and we must keep pace to be great stewards of our ideas.
In keeping with this new vision, we have a number of exciting 99U initiatives rolling out over the coming year, including an original short film series profiling remarkable creators; a three-book series with Amazon’s new publishing imprint; and an expanded roster of live events.
Myself and the Behance team are hugely grateful for all of the support that 99% has garnered thus far — for your awesome and smart and thoughtful comments here on the website and for your incredible energy and enthusiasm and intention at our annual conference. Even sans %, I can promise you that we will continue to shoot for 110% quality in everything we do as we step into our new 99U identity.
As creatives and makers and entrepreneurs, we are all curious minds, hungry for knowledge. We are students of life, and students of work, and students of action.Welcome to the new campus of idea execution: 99U. Let’s get to work!
Jocelyn & the Behance Team