Living in Beta

by Janice Maffei

Living in Beta“We live in beta here,” says Damian Bazadona, founder and CEO of Situation Interactive, an award winning firm creating digital marketing strategies for experiential brands.

Whether they are innovating on ways to market a new Broadway show (how about tweeting the script of Next to Normal?) or opening up a conversation with 50+ employees in a monthly State of the Union where gritty input is expected and valued (“Hey, where’s my path to growth?”), Bazadona embodies what innovative leaders do and it seems to be working: the agency has been named to the top 50 places to work in New York City three years in a row.

I had a chance to sit down with Damian and learn more:

  • Start with a culture match – Fundamental to their cultural DNA is finding “AND” not “BUT” people. Teams count on each member to contribute ideas, listen and learn from each other, and move quickly. Every single department meets with a potential new hire to give their take on whether the candidate has the combination of values and skills to thrive at Situation Interactive.
  • Support risk. “We build risk thinking into everything we do,” Damian says. “We’re comfortable entertaining crazy ideas though we need to see why – where’s the payoff?” Part of the imbedded thought process is spending client money as though it’s your own.
  • Create wins for all stakeholders. Beginning with the client, the Situation Interactive team polishes ideas until it’s clear that all the players will experience success in the project. They invest time upfront understanding what each stakeholder needs for a win and they use those competing ideas as a creative constraint that fuels their best thinking.
  • Avoid “hero” or “loser” labels. “We’re in this together,” says Bazadona. Collaborating is not bargaining among team members but sitting on the same side of the table asking “how do we make this idea better?”
  • The data is right. “Everything we do is trackable” in the world of clicks. Training people to think this way is critical. “It’s not just about instinct, it’s what we can prove works.”
  • Live in beta. Everything moves fast at Situation Interactive – projects, people, deliverables. “We expect people to run at the opportunity,” he says.
  • Operate off a compelling purpose. Bazadona credits Jim Collins’ chapter on Purpose in Built to Last with challenging him to define what was most important. “Doing is better than having,” he says. “That’s what’s at the heart of our business – we love what we do and that passion translates to a win for our clients.”

Damian Bazadona and his team at Situation Interactive live their purpose off the field too. At last year’s holiday party, Damian suggested that employees consider buying less “things” for their loved ones and instead focus on having a memorable shared experience together – taking in a show or a ball game, for example. Many colleagues did just that, pioneering new traditions in their personal space.

Cheers to you, Situation Interactive, for creating an innovative business with a culture to match.


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Janice MaffeiJoanne SpignerJanice Maffei and Joanne Spigner are the founding partners of VisionFirst, helping teams to envision their future state and innovate to get there. They invented the rapid visioning tool, Vision-in-a-Box® and co-hosted a weekly program, “Invent the Future,” which showcased innovators in business, education and not-for-profits.

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