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What is a Creative Technologist – Hybrid Executives - We Have a Big Shortage in Healthcare

Posted Jun 22 2010 11:18pm

I have often talked about the need for “hybrids” in healthcare technology and I found the answer with this post – it’s the Creative Technologists that are also in short supply in Health IT.  I’ll add my 2 cents here too in that this is something you either have or do not have and yes it takes a lot of studying, research and the right personality to carry it off, and as mentioned in the article, not be afraid of code. image

The Creative Technologist spans many realms and areas and again as mentioned below, has the sense to hone in on what works and doesn’t jump on every new bit of praising new technology just for the sake of technology.  I see enough of that on the web myself.  

Instead of just one area of focus, the Creative Technologists “consider all media and experiences as their venue”.  I think I fit in here along this line with being able to work both in healthcare with the patient focus and also being able to relate to the physician and healthcare organization focus, and of course add in some code work with having written an EMR years ago and my sales and marketing background, an exhaustive mix at times too.  

“The job title itself is less important than being open to a hands-on and holistic view of technology as part of communication, as part of business, as part of the human experience, and therefore as part of culture.”

Below are some of the highlights from this article which I recommend reading and see if you have any of these people working at your place of employment as they are the '”bridge builders” needed today and are the thinkers.   Bill Gates earlier this year focused on the same subject with his speech given at Berkeley with trying to give the graduating students direction on where to fit in with the business world today.  “Technology doesn’t live down the hall anymore.” 

One item I talk about a lot as well is the “hands on approach” and that is the first key usually in identifying the “hybrid” or Creative Technologist, they do roll up their sleeves and participate with a big degree of enthusiasm.  The quote above mentions exactly this same fact and they are by all means “participants”.  BD 

Back in the 90s, the first time “convergence” was brought up as an important idea, I was asked as a “new media expert” to write an article on its importance – and found just about as many definitions for the term as places I looked. When I was part of a panel of psychologists defining “media psychology,” again, we found that just about everyone using the term defined it differently. Same with “engagement.” These still remain relatively loosely described constructs, words or phrases that, to quote Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, “mean exactly what [we] choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

We’re at a similar point with the term “creative technology.” What exactly IS a creative technologist? What makes her different from a programmer or a flash animator? What makes him different from a copywriter, brand manager, or strategist who can use Dreamweaver? What’s the role of a creative technologist at an agency or in our industry?

I think about this a lot, and not just because I head up the Creative Technology track at VCU Brandcenter’s graduate program and continually refine and redefine our curriculum, but also because I consider myself a creative technologist. And, believe me, I’m different from my students and graduates, and image we’re all different from other people who also consider themselves to be creative technologists. The confusion is exacerbated by the fact that the position called “creative technologist” is defined differently at places that use the name, and the role is filled at other agencies by other titles.

Here’s my take on it. CTs understand the business of advertising, marketing, and branding, take a creative, strategic and people-centric view of how to connect people and brands, and understand the kinds of mediating technologies that can best be used to make those engaging experiences where the connection happens.

They sketch with technology, just like a visual creative can sketch with a pencil.

They’re steeped in strategy, so the things they come up with make sense – it’s not about technology just for the sake of technology.

The experiences they design address real needs of people and brands.

Creative technologists share a creative and inquisitive view of the world. They’re on top of technology trends, aren’t afraid of coding (just as a modern visual designer isn’t afraid of Photoshop or Illustrator), and take both strategic and tactical approaches to creativity. They also understand that we’re in a business, and we’re solving business goals by addressing people’s needs as a priority.

In addition, there’s a shared creative technology mind-set that I describe as “learn, do, teach.” Stay up-to-date on the latest in technology, in research, in business, in design, in advertising, in human behavior. Then do something with it – build something, try out a new API, prototype an idea, make something talk to something else, come up with a new business model. Then show others how this stuff works – evangelize, be a resource, help people move beyond what they already know (and learn from them while you’re doing that). Rinse, repeat.

These “T-shaped” thinkers come from many different disciplines, and they’re likely to consider all media and experiences as their venue – every medium is enabled by a technology (even print and speech), and the fewer artificial barriers we put up, the better. Choose the right medium or media, and remember that something doesn’t need electricity to be interactive.

In agencies with a more siloed approach, first, please rethink that – technology can’t live down the hall anymore; it’s part of everything that everyone in the agency does. Second – CTs fit nicely in the strategic and creative functions, and as floating resources mostly affiliated with one function and that move where needed.

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