An Interview with Ajaz Ahmed

Ajaz Ahmed-final.02
Ajaz Ahmed, founder of AKQA and co-author of “Velocity”

why a book?

Agency Review:

Why a book – you and Stefan are steeped in the digital world – and the book itself makes the case for “new laws for a world gone digital” – so why a book? Why a printed, bound, hardcopy thing and not some sort of online digital, rule-breaking, boundary-smashing “thing that doesn’t have a name yet”?

Ahmed:

When you look at the body of work that Nike’s and AKQA’s team have created over the years, it’s extraordinary. It’s a lot of genre-defining work, world firsts in many areas. We get asked all the time “how do you do it?” so we put these thoughts into Velocity to share and hope to inspire people to find their own journey.

Velocity is an idea, a manifesto. We think that the Seven Laws we propose are timeless. The principles and thoughts can be applied in many areas. It’s important not to confuse a ‘format’ with the ‘content’. In addition to being a book, Velocity is available on iBooks, on Kindle, so digital formats. The publisher’s have asked if Stefan and I would do an audio version. We’ve created www.velocitylaws.com it’s an embryo right now, but it has the Velocity Index which asks you a set of questions about your organization. The questions are the most important part of it.

But even in this digital multimedia age, there are still plenty of good things about books. They never run out of battery. You can personalize one by signing it. You can give it a friend who can share it with another friend. It’s an incredible accessible and immediate. There’s still a lot that books can teach us in the same way there is a lot that digital can bring to content.

format

Agency Review:

Would it be fair to say that you guys chose the unusual format – a conversation – for the book because that’s what media (social, internet, etc.) is today – a conversation, not a monologue? But that said, you have some very specific things you want to say to the reader (which are different from what you say to each other) – so tell me about the challenges of using the format to do that.

Ahmed:

The main reason for the conversation is to make Velocity more accessible. What could be more human than a conversation? As we say in Velocity “We chose this format because a conversation is the truest way to reflect how we work, think and solve problems. It’s the to-ing and fro-ing by which we hone, revise and road-test thoughts. It also means you can dip in and dip out at will or share any quote you are inspired by or take issue with. The most boring exchanges are the ones where everyone agrees, so we hope you’ll want to join in.”

degree

Agency Review:

While I agree with you that there’s stunningly too little intuition and way too much use of process, meetings and corporate bigness as an excuse for making decisions, I also expressed a concern at the other end of the spectrum – people who are all intuition and eschew research, analysis and discussion for their own divine inspiration. So how do you strike that balance – or have I misunderstood and is there no balance to be sought?

Ahmed:

Intuition is a science in itself and just as valuable as facts and data. When you use the facts and data supported with your intuition, it’s the ultimate combination.

experts

Agency Review:

I was intrigued by Stefan’s contention at one point in the book that he and his team were, in a sense, the consumers that he was marketing to. That by being the consumers, it gave them cutting edge insight into how Nike could fulfill their needs. But how scalable is that – is it applicable to every brand, and if not, what do you do? And similarly, do you aim for that same thing on the agency side – knowing that you have to have people on multiple pieces of business?

Ahmed:

It absolutely should apply to every organisation. It’s about professional pride and creating something that makes a worthwhile contribution and as a result your fellow species benefit from it. How good does a chef feel when she knows that the food she has designed and created delights people? How good does an artist feel when they know their works have inspired audiences? It’s the same philosophy applied to business.

future

Agency Review:

“Velocity” is a wake-up call to marketers and business people of all kinds as to the reality of the world they live in – it reminds me of William Gibson’s famous line “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” So, tell me what the future looks like – for you and AKQA, but more importantly, for the rest of us…

Ahmed:

Leonardo da Vinci said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” so it’s technology’s role to simplify people’s lives to make them better. The future for me and for AKQA is simple too, the work will always do the talking.

You can read our review of Ajaz’s’s book here, or order it from Amazon here or from Barnes & Noble here – or pick it up at your local bookseller (find one here), or learn more about AKQA here.

Illustration of Ajaz Ahmed by Mike Caplanis

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