Helena Mcaleer
Helena Mcaleer 21 September 2015

An Interview With Lazar Dzamic, Google Zoo

Lazar Dzamic, Head of Brand Planning for Google Zoo, the creative think tank that teaches clients and agencies how to be creative on Google platforms, speaks to Digital Doughnut about his creative journey and inspiration ahead of Inspiration 2015.

Lazar Dzamic Head of Brand Planning for Google Zoo, the creative think tank that works with the biggest clients and the biggest agencies to learn how to be creative on Google platforms speaks to us about his creative journey and inspiration ahead of Inspiration 2015.



Who Are You?
My name is Lazar and I head up the Brand Planning department of Google Zoo, which is Google’s creative think tank that works with the biggest clients and the biggest agencies to learn how to be creative on Google platforms.


What Inspires You And Where Do You Look For Inspiration?
Where I look for inspiration and what inspires me. I have to say it’s not so much related to the work that I do, it’s usually things outside of the work. Ideas usually find me, I don’t find the ideas, I just lay some sort of a honey trap for them. A honey trap is very often a sense of purpose I’ve got about a particular thing, I really want to do that thing, and if it’s going nagging me for months and months, and months and doesn’t go away I know that I have to do it.


Once a sense of purpose is established then I actually try and immerse myself into that particular world, whatever that is. I try to look for clues, look for anything that’s going to broaden my associative map, just good enough for me to paint a landscape that is, interesting, and probably slightly different from what I’ve seen out there. That’s when I know that probably got something I can work with. Then I actually have to write it down.  I always have to write it down in order to not forget about it because that’s how my brain works. Once I write it down the main job of expressing those ideas begins, which is how to summarise them into some pithy thoughts. That’s what people like to hear, that’s what people like to take in.


We know that people don’t like thinking a lot, actually helping people not to think a lot but to soak something up very quickly, so that system one really, really helps.


What Do You Do When You Have An Idea And How Do You Go About Turning It Into Reality?
For me the main thing is not to give up in the first instance and that means doing a lot of baby steps. Trying to materialise the idea into small steps. That way, I can see something very concrete that actually pushes me on to do the next step.


For example, writing a book that means really cracking on the title sometimes. The title is the thing I’ve got finished and then everything else kind of works afterwards. If I have a title I need to proceed into the forward, if I have the forward, I need to proceed and actually do the chapter plan, if I’ve got the chapter plan, then I need to start writing the first chapter. Actually trying to make concrete very small first steps that actually pushes me towards executing the project to the end.  


I’m not a big procrastinator. I actually like things happening very very fast. But sometimes like any good wine, we actually have to decant the idea and actually let it simmer for a while. It’s very very important to stay with the idea through those concrete steps while it’s simmering.


Talk Us Through An Idea Of Yours, From Inspiration to Realisation.

If I were to take you through one idea of mine from inspiration to realisation, I would probably take my Serbian book that was called, "The Flower Shop in the House of Flowers." It’s basically a study about why a very obscure comic book from the 1970s had become absolutely massive in the old Yugoslavia and actually became part of the culture over there and went to the vernacular. Not even Italians now know about it now, but everybody in those territories the ex-Yugoslavian/ Serbia for example knows everything about it.


I was quite, quite curious about why that happened, the more I was researching the more I realised it was not about the comic book, it was about the country how it was at the time, it’s mental framework. I started researching that and the book was the reason for me to start writing in the Serbian language after 11 years hiatus that I had when I actually came to Britain. I didn’t want to do anything with that language anymore, but I changed my mind.


I had the idea to investigate that, I started investigating, putting my thoughts on paper. There was not a lot of formal research that went into it. Mapping out the mental traits that could have contributed to the comic book and it’s kind of poetics. I then created a headline "The Flower Shop in the House of Flowers.", because the comic book is about a fictional completely dishevelled, dysfunctional, surreal secret agent group that are nothing like it but they like to think of themselves as being that. Their headquarters are in a flower shop somewhere in Manhattan. The house of flowers is the last resting place for the Marshal Tito who was the last and the only president of Yugoslavia. I actually put these 2 things together into a title that spurred me on to investigate things further.


I started writing a blog based on the chapters once I had the chapter plan so I started publishing those chapters as shorter versions of chapters as blogs as one kind of Serbian portal. That went really, really well and actually gave me the impetus to continue doing it. Then I realised, Oh there’s a book actually hiding in this one so I started writing proper chapters based on those blogs and developed the whole thing into a book that eventually got published by some of the publishers over there and translated into several languages by now.


Then of course seeing the finish product in my hands was kind of a big moment of well, now I need to do another one.


What Are You Going To Talk About At Inspiration?
My topic at inspiration is going to be, ‘Innovation is Immigration’. I’m going to try to draw on my personal immigration experience 17 years ago when I came to Britain. Me and my wife we were proper asylum seekers and immigrants, then started basically our life from scratch, from there.


I think that innovation in many aspects is like that, you actually immigrate into a new country, you’re going to a new country, into a new space that is completely unknown or fairly unknown. Then you actually need to find your way in and a way to make it work.


The first thing is to look at is innovation, it’s like going to a foreign land, that immediately means that, as Edward Size says, one of the intellectuals who has written a lot about immigration and refugees, actually once said that “any new country, any immigration is actually like fiction”. We actually go into a new environment, with new rules, with new stories, with new narratives that we have to read and decode.


I think that for many companies innovation is that new country, that new fiction that they need to find a way to decode. Once they actually decide to do that, one good way to actually push forward is to burn bridges behind you because then if you don’t have a choice for several other things, then you actually can’t go back. I think this is very, very important many of the companies to move away from, let’s tinkle with it a little bit, let’s try it a little bit, and they never actually do something real. You have to burn a few bridges.


Once you decide, once you start to read that new code, that new fiction of innovation, try to quantify it in an emotional way that actually inspire and uplift people to go with you. It is sort of a struggle you against the world, and the new notions. Actually having your manifesto, your battle cry really does help, and actually putting into practice in everyday life.


I’m going to try to summarize all of this into my 20 minute talk, try to think and talk about innovation from that slightly unusual angle.


Hear Lazar Speak at Inspiration 2015, book your place now:



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