How We Challenge the Status Quo

March 4, 2019

Netflix didn’t kill Blockbuster. Ridiculous late fees did.

Uber didn’t kill the taxi business. Limited access and fare control did.

Apple didn’t kill the music industry. Forcing customers to buy full-length albums did.

Amazon didn’t kill other retails. Poor customer experience did.

Airbnb isn’t killing the hotel industry. Limited availability and pricing options are.

The lesson above is several measures deep: technology by itself is not a disruptor; not being innovative enough and not being customer-centric is the disruptor. As a business, NJI Media is committed to challenging the status quo. This involves not only being innovative and customer-centric, but also staying on top of our game. Each of our departments and their specialists have their own unique ways of dominating their field, but we thought it would be a good idea to not only shed light on how we mastered our crafts but how we continue to stay on top of it as well.


Technology

As the department tasked with development, the Technology team strives to not only be innovative with its programming skills and creative application of technologies but also stay on top of emerging and changing trends. This allows the developers to put the project first.

Dave: To engage with valuable technology trends as they emerge, it's important to regularly tune-in to conversations within various tech communities. Twitter, HackerNews, Slack workspaces, conferences, and local meetups are vital sources for me. An informed read on what's happening gives me more rewarding targets for my deeper dives. I learn by doing, and I always have numerous experiments going at any time. Some efforts dead-end but others evolve into practical expertise.

Diona: A few things that I do to help me keep updated to The latest Happening in Tech is to follow Medium | Programming blog and follow people on Twitter. Recently I started checking Codepen! Its a great way to learn by browsing pens from others or to just experiment with new frameworks and tools.

Lauren: I make an effort to follow new ideas and trends in web development right from the source. Twitter is one of my favorite tools for this—while scrolling through my feed I'll often come across blog posts, video tutorials, and demos from developers and designers at different tech companies. I also frequently inspect the source code and styles on websites that I like to learn how certain features were made.

Marsel:When it comes to learning new skills or strengthening current skills, I turn to Udemy, an online university teaching everything from development to marketing. I’m currently completing the Complete Master of JavaScript course. Twenty-eight hours of everything from the basics to advance topics, along with projects and coding challenges. I’ve even been able to take some new things I learned and incorporate them into a recent feature for a client. After this course I plan to move to a Data Visualization course.

I also read a lot about my field. Last year I read Industries of the Future by Alec Ross where he discussed how not only sectors will change but the jobs around them will become more tech centered. Currently I’m reading Capitalism Without Capital, a book that discusses the rise of the intangible economy, things such as software and non-physical assets. Even just staying on top of tech policy is important. We had a client recently ask us about Internet Compliance as it relates to the Americans with Disabilities Act and I was able to reference a blog I wrote for it.


Design

There's a saying: you can't use up creativity, the more you use, the more you have. This is certainly true of our Design Team that sleeps, eats, and lives in design. Whether it's dreaming up presentations to capture analytical data or rendering the perfect combination of light, sound, and color, the Design Team is the creative backbone of our organization.

Drew:Whether you’re a designer or just working in a creative agency, you need to stay on top of the latest graphic design trends. Understanding how styles are evolving keeps your work fresh and helps it resonate with clients. I use many different tools to stay current with visual trends in our industry. First and foremost is social media. I make sure to follow designers, agencies, and design blogs that I admire and trust. I make it a daily ritual to peruse through my feeds to see who is doing what with who. Secondly, I frequent online design blogs for inspiration. For visual design inspiration and ideation I visit many different sites. Some of the usuals are Dribbble, Abduzeedo, Awwwards, Behance, Designspiration, and Motionographer. Lastly, I am subscribed to email lists, slack channels, and magazines to help keep up with what the cool kids are doing.

Jessie: My go-to platforms for design trends are Dribbble, Behance, and Instagram. Our design team is constantly sending each other links to cool animations or designs by fellow creatives that we may have missed otherwise. Attending creative meetups and happy hours in D.C. or design events led by AIGA are a great local resource.

Hope: I love to multitask so I end up listening to a couple of different podcasts and videos while I work or do mundane tasks like laundry or dishes. Some of my favorites these days are any and all videos by The Futur with Chris Do (a talented designer and business guru), the Design Matters podcast (a good one features the book cover designer Chip Kidd), and 99% Invisible relating to design in a broader sense. I also really like to peruse Creative Boom for all kinds of tips and inspiration for creatives. And of course if I have time, I love to go to lectures by visiting artists and designers to hear their personal stories behind the work.


Video

A good video can capture your attention. A good story can break out emotions you've never experienced. A well-told message can inspire great change. The Video Team at NJI not only manage to wrestle these abilities into a single three person team, they do with such art and style that you'd think you were watching a Hollywood produced featured film.

Sophia: What I like most about the video production industry is that our tools, resources and styles are always evolving, enabling us to create meaningful content while we grow within our own profession. I believe paying careful attention to the media we are constantly consuming is the key to staying on top of current styles while allowing the potential to create new trends. Watching the way a documentary is shot, the different compositions, narrative structure or simply analyzing how a social media ad quickly grabs my attention, is the key to creative growth within this industry. Trying new things we haven’t seen before is what will keep us unique as content creators. I’m a fan of filmmaking companies like Shoot to Kill NYC, Freethink and Great Big Story which I check consistently for fresh content and unique styles. I’ll watch larger producers like Vice and Vox to stay on top of a wider range of current topics.

Ryan:Video production is always evolving, changing, and growing in every category. In order to keep up with the changing technology and stay up to date, I read various blogs like NoFilmSchool, Cinema5D, and follow different content creators on YouTube who are working on their craft and testing out both new gear and techniques. But at the end of the day, the technology is just a tool. To create content that’s engaging and resonates with viewers, it’s necessary to learn how to frame shots properly, how to light an interview subject, and even how to create a mood and a feeling through music and sound choices when editing. By slightly altering even one of these three things, your tone could go from light-hearted to dramatic. All of these things, no matter how minor they may seem, need to be done deliberately and with intention. The best way to learn this is watching content with intention. Whether that’s a video on YouTube, a feature length documentary, or even a narrative, fiction film—I try to always walk away with something. A shot that was lit in a particularly interesting way, a clever editing choice, anything. After that, I’ll think about how that particular production choice affected me and how I might be able to implement that into one of my own projects in the future.


Strategy

Working in the fields of digital and creative services requires the Strategy to do their homework. They are master puppeteers keeping the Technology, Design, and Video on time and on production. But this also requires them to a master of many talents and to stay up to date on current trends and events.

Nate:It is important to understand and keep up with current trends in our area and industry, but equally important to avoid getting stuck in an echo chamber of ideas and approaches. What I read/watch/listen to outside of NJI Media’s walls isn’t always directly related to what we do, but, new ideas (and especially good ideas) can offer fresh outside perspective, and be applicable when you least expect.

Erin: With a BA in Environmental Policy, I definitely don't have the most traditional path into marketing and therefore, my media habits have played a key role in cultivating what was an interest into an expertise. As I continue to grow in my career, I've become more demanding of the publications I follow and really value outlets that don't just increase that knowledge base but challenge it. Adweek, in particular, is really great about celebrating agencies/brands who are thinking outside the box. Other favorites: “Copywriting - Successful Writing for Design, Advertising, and Marketing” by Mark Shaw; TED Radio Hour; How I Built This; and Freakonomics.

Kasey: I feel fortunate to be in a field that I am genuinely passionate about, and as a result inspiration and knowledge is ubiquitous. I often use Instagram and Youtube and other social platforms to understand how my industry is evolving and what trends are occurring. When I want to learn hard skills I turn to Udemy, they have great courses that you can learn at your own pace, and go on sale very often. At this point in my career I find is very important to balance my hard and soft skills.

Lane:I really enjoy pushing the envelope when it comes to marketing and communications. I like finding the stories of how one brand is using apps to make it big, or how another is using experiential marketing to change the game. To find these, I like to follow popular blogs and sites like Adweek and Buzzfeed. I think Reddit is also a great place to look. To me, its community and ranking system ensures the best/most relevant content stays on top.


Operations

Without logistical and operational support no business can function. Whether it's behind the scenes support, ensuring our paychecks are on time, or all paperwork process properly, Operations is truly the magic behind keeping us functional.

Emily: I am fortunate to be in an industry that is constantly evolving because it allows me to evolve in my career as well. Whether it’s learning something new from an online course or coworker, learning through trial and error, and staying up-to-date on important trends through social media platforms, I Challenge The Status Quo by always pushing myself to develop and grow my knowledge and skills.


Leadership

President Kennedy once said that "leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." Without vision and leadership a company would be lost in the storms of business. At NJI our leaders keep us pressing to do more and be more truly personifying our motto of "Challenge the Status Quo."

Nathan: Our combined skills and experience are what make NJI Media a formidable agency. Because our industry changes on a daily basis, it’s important to stay ahead and adapt our skills to maintain an edge. In an effort to challenge the status quo, and to be an effective leader, I push myself to adapt as often as possible, and to grow each day alongside our talented team of digital experts.

Josh: I attempt to challenge the status quo by always pushing myself to learn. Whether that’s learning a new strategy technique, learning from a co-worker, or learning from my mistakes, I fundamentally believe you can’t push boundaries, unless you push yourself to learn.


Of course Challenging the Status Quo isn't just what we challenge ourselves with. We aim to challenge our clients and competitors with that also-- forcing us to become better with each new website development, design, video production, marketing strategy, operational support, and leadership style.

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