One of my ‘bosses’ (he’ll probably shudder when he reads that) is fond of referring to someone’s particular interest zone-cum-skill set as “your sweet spot.” Kinky, huh? Recently, he’s been luring me ever deeper into a few projects at Idea Couture Inc. with the temptation, “Morgan, this is really your sweet spot.” As someone who based his start-up partly on hiring an eclectic group of creatives, he definitely knows the value of drawing projects into our space (he’d definitely shudder if I called it an ‘office’), giving them a custom makeover and then harnessing the right person to lead them into development with the Charles Darwin treatment.

In the rapidly evolving and prototyping realm of Interaction, Innovation and Incubation (and the design, research, experience, interaction, strategy etc. etc. that bind its molecules), you might say that the sweet spot is akin to – if not the inspirational core of – the ‘creative type’ banter currently making the rounds in the current cultural cocktail party that bloggers in this sphere are attending to refashion the future of branding, advertising, stragegy, yadda yadda yadda.

In fact, I’d say the sweet spot (and you’ve got to be able to conjure something from your interests and passions, not just ramble on about them after hitting the Volcano for the night) is so important it should be part of every job hiring. Imagine Sweet Spot being the first section on your CV – not your x-amount of years in Experience Design or your grad studies in anthropology or the million dollar start-up you just sold off or that collection of Boy Scout badges gathering dust in a garbage bag somewhere in your basement. Instead, what are the passions and interests that drive you? That you’ll work double on?

Funny how, in your typical HR interview, interests and ‘hobbies’ are almost an after thought. Before starting at the space with the ‘boss’, I’d gone through a brief tour of duty searching for and courting other job offers. I have to thank him (and the other two ‘bosses’) for letting me into the space because I can’t imagine what a dark night of the soul it might have been had I been offered and/or taken those gigs where I would have been figuring out tribal cultures for the military  (yes, a Canadian spin on Human Terrain was a possibility), spying (whoops, I mean ‘researching’) on corporate execs for investors (very Human Terrain-ish), fighting the qualitative fight on  the quantitative battelfield and such. Imagine stealing fleeting moments in my cubicle penning odes to the sweet spot that might never have been.

To that end, a tribute to the sweet spot, a Top 5 if you will.

#1: TWEEN CULTURE

In my day I was into the Bay City Rollers, the Bee Gees, Earth Wind & Fire, Rush, Captain Stubing, Herve Villachez and Cher. I tell my daughter about the dark days of TV, when Sunday afternoons were limited to Davy & Goliath’s barely concealed Christian propaganda.

Today, Tween Culture is arguably so much more robust than it was in the 1970s that it has become the most powerful driving force in pop culture. Case in point: Miley above. Who’s one of the biggest selling artists today, if not the most ‘popular’? Her. Why? Lots of reasons.

First, Disney had to get its shit together after all that Princess crap it was coasting on through the 90s. They stumbled on (or strategized or hired the right person) a formula that has served them well across their spectrum of Suite Life, Corey In The House, Raven and so on: Neil Simon goes kid. That’s right – the recent Disney show formula isn’t a sitcom, it’s a Neil Simon play on TV for kids. Don’t believe me? Drop by your local high school for the year-end drama presentation and you’ll see.

Second, music. For all the pain & suffering the industry has gone through over the past few years, music is alive, well and thriving as the pop culture engine it has been since the Fab Four invaded North America. Hannah/Miley taps into that tween pop pleasure in a way that Britney Spears only imagined. The lip synching and singing to back-tracks isn’t my thing (us adults are too hooked on that authenticity thing), but given my own tween guilty pleasures of Donny & Marie I can let it slide.

And third? The Christian thing. Yup, it’s like Davy & Goliath are back to haunt me. It’s not big on the show (and the Hannah show is where’s it really at!), but every time Miley gets in front of a TV camera she never fails to thank the good Lord for all the shit he’s done for her.

Disclaimer: it’s one of my sweet spots because of my daughter’s age. Can’t wait for the teen years. Until then, thanks to the ‘boss’ for the first tweeny project.

#2: SEPARATIST VIOLENCE & ISLAMIC MILITANCY

Gotta love that segue, huh? Having written my MA thesis on the campaign against India waged by Kashmiri separatists and pre-Qaeda Islamic militants I’m still very much hooked on the theme. The photo above is, I believe, from a Hizbul Mujahideen web site. That’s an interest-work conversion right there, because the first time I was in Kashmir there was one working phone accessible to foreigners to call out of the state. The second time I was there it had been bombed. And the third time I didn’t even waste my time trying to call home. That HM has web sites calling for actions, posting photos of militants killed in battle etc. is a testament to the speed at which the technology I took for granted in the early 1990s has become accessible. That, and the fact that my friend can now call me from his cell phone up in the Himalayas from a village that had electricity 2 hours per day back then!

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your take on the client), this particular sweet spot likely won’t get flushed out in the work space.

#3: WINE

I still can’t really afford the super-good stuff, but I’m always willing to make budgetary room for something I can’t totally resist. I bought this Viognier in Vancouver while I was out doing a client ethnography. I walked into the shop, asked the clerk for something I couldn’t buy in Ontario, and this was one of my scores. Still haven’t had it yet, but it might make a great intro to the Oregon Pinot Gris my buddy Stanley brought me back from his third or fourth trip into Nike HQ.

Wine is, as I’m finding out, such a rich terroir for Interaction, Innovation and Incubation. This sweet spot is getting sweeter.

#4: DANCEHALL

I’m still waiting for the Miley Cyrus/Ninjaman combination on the “Cherry My Baby” riddim, but until then I’ll tribute this sweet spot for: being a favourite musical genre (less of a 45 buyer now, but still a fan); being a favourite performative genre (rich anthropological territory for understanding culture, language, gesture, membership, conflict etc.); and being a hotly contested cultural domain. Recent controversy revisited has once again positioned dancehall as violently homophobic. No dispute there. In addition to rampant  hyper-sexualization and a mythologizing of gun culture, Jamaican music of late (and much of past too, lest we forget) has been full of calls to bun down the batty man. Like much of the Rasta business, I don’t cater to this. But I will say that this latest spin on the ‘clash of civilizations’ theme that the media tends to fall back on when it’s too lazy to truly investigate a culture is, like Pad Anthony’s “Conference Table,” a great place to meet and discuss/debate ideas about cultural autonomy, expression, appropriateness etc. etc.

#5: ADVERTISING

Yes, I’ve heard the bells tolling for this industry across the blogzone, but I still can’t resist the call. I agree that so much is changing because of 2.0, TV’s cancer, the death of print; advertising is not only transforming right now but will continue to do so in order to deliver whatever it does to its clients (and, by the way, to pop culture – because it will always be relevant in whatever shape or form). To that end – and in typical 2.0 fashion – I’d like to suggest that while the interactive renegades, boutiques and start-ups poach all sorts of business from the lethargic monster firms, why can’t we do the same with the ad agencies?  Creative is as creative does, right?  Find somebody else to do your buying etc. But when brands with age-old presences are ready to have some real fun (and it can still be had on TV) at a slice of the usual agency cost and are ready to make themselves culturally relevant again, hit me up. I’ve got some sweet (spot) ideas