We live and work in a world where five years is an eternity. When Undercurrent was founded in 2007, Facebook was for college kids. Twitter was the toast of SXSW. The original iPhone was under lock and key at Apple. Obama had just announced that he’d run for President. If technological potential was behind a dam, it was about to spring a leak.
Today, virtually every corner of our lives has been impacted by social, mobile, and open-source movements. The time from zero to a million users/customers/members/
In anticipation of this coming tumult our original mission was clear: provide honest objective advice to the people and organizations that find themselves in the path of this tornado. Lucky for us, many of the clients that sought us out were among the largest and most successful companies in the world. And for a time, we found a symbiosis with them. They needed a guide in this new digital world, and we needed well-financed travelers willing to put our methods to the test.
Over time, corporate culture became comfortable with the fact that constant change was the new normal. Digital was here to stay. They hired against it. They shifted their budgets. They started partnering with the right folks (or at least the folks they thought were right). With so many media channels, agencies, and startups approaching them, digital was a box they could check all by themselves.
That left us with mixed feelings. It was satisfying to be right about the coming wave of digital disruption. But being right, particularly in the past tense, isn’t a business. Our role needed to shift from guide to something more. Luckily, more was on the menu.
In the rush to embrace digital, many of the world’s most important organizations fundamentally misunderstood what it is. Digital isn’t a place. It’s not even a pace. It’s an operating system. A method for dealing with the most complex and rapidly changing dynamics we’ve ever experienced.
That means doing digital right can’t be confined to a department or a media plan. Haphazard experimentation on every available platform is not the panacea for being uncool.
Today, the only way to thrive is to embrace a digital operating model. Like a vaccine, we must ingest the core principles of the disruption itself and make them a part of us, or we will be wiped out in the next outbreak.
The two principles that resonate strongest with us are adaptivity and challenging the status quo in service of something better. Put in more idealistic terms, we call that the “ever better future.” Ever better, because for the first time the world (and all the little things in it) can get smarter every day. Future, because technology is all about the adjacent possible.
Every great idea goes from thought to proof that it works (or doesn’t). Our role is to teach our clients (and anyone who’ll listen) how to embrace an adaptive and disruptive model in service of shortening that time to proof.
Today, we’re five years old and still fighting the good fight. The fight for honesty. The fight for thoughtful execution. The fight for lean adaptive development. The fight for clarity and common sense. But more than anything, we’re fighting for that ever better future.
Which is why we’re raising our standards. In the next five years, we will seek out and work with the individuals and companies who have the greatest potential to disrupt their category and change the world. That might mean the biggest player in the category. That might mean the scrappy startup with game changing ideas. We’ll know it when we see it.
Happy Birthday Undercurrent.