Thursday, March 29, 2012

Making Things Happen in Lancaster

About two years ago I was speaking to students at Ripley St Thomas in Lancaster, and a young man named Tom Grattan was sitting in the audience. Tom got in contact with me recently about how that talk inspired him into a creative career and how Lovemarks has led to success for him.

Tom has used Lovemarks to create strong academic brand identities that connect emotionally with current and future students. While still at Ripley, he organized a range of promotional activities for the school and was so good at it, he was convinced to take a gap year between Year 13 and university to be the school's website administrator. During this time, Tom recognized opportunities, expanded his role, and brought all school marketing in-house. He strikes me as the sort of guy who believes that Nothing is Impossible. Tom tells me he loves his role as marketing guru for Ripley and this year he also undertook the Sixth Form Admission campaign, which resulted in one of its best responses on record.

Tom's success hasn't gone unnoticed in the Lancaster community. Other schools and businesses have reached out to him for marketing ideas, and such is the interest that Tom has had set up his own marketing company - SATO. Stories like Tom's are incredibly inspirational and I’m glad he's had courage to pursue his dreams and make things happen - I have a feeling it's only the beginning for him!

I caught up with Tom last week at a session for Lancaster University MBA's. He's up running and on his way - via Kuwait Airways - for his first trip to the Big Apple.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pressures

In today's VUCA world, we're surrounded constantly by stress and pressure.

In New Zealand, Saatchi & Saatchi coined a wonderful line many years ago from Minty's "Made for moments like this."

I've always enjoyed pressure. Pressure situations to me are the very essence of life. They are a privilege to enjoy. When you are feeling the pressure it means you are in the game and you must be close to achieving something very important.

I recently read some ideas on pressure by Bradley Busch, a mental skills coach. His advice is relevant to life, sport and business. Here's my take on it...

1. Work, work, work and focus on the fundamentals
I've always believed in controlling what I can control and not worrying about what my competitors might do. In a new business pitch I never bother with who else is pitching. All I focus on is doing what we do best and ensuring we deliver our best on the day. To do this usually means you have to work harder than the other blokes.

2. Keep it simple
Ignore the politics, the possibilities, the past, and what might happen. Don't over rehearse, don't get into too much detail, just push yourself to be great and deliver the winning outcome.

3. Bradley believes that every game is the same. He's right. The only thing that changes in the final pitch is the importance of winning or losing. If it's a huge new business opportunity, then the stakes are high. But the game is no different than the game we play every day. The rules are the same. So focus on the game plan, not on the consequences.

4. Play in the now
Our brains crave control and certainty. Therefore, focus on the controllables. It is what we can do that counts, not what the other people might be doing.

5. Don't fear losing
I have no fear of failure. Winning never comes easy, is rarely predictable, and never follows a straight line. Setbacks always happen. Accept it and you will reduce the stress when they occur. Your energy should then be refocused on the task at hand and handling the problem, not on increasing the stress levels. Setbacks should be converted into passionate feel and belief.

Sean Fitzpatrick told me that when the All Blacks lost a test match, they gathered together and absorbed the pain together. Sean told them to hold that feeling so they knew how badly it felt and they would do anything to avoid it in the future.

Pressure. Bring it on.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Young British Artists

Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin will be two who survive. In generations to come I believe both of these artists will take their place in the Pantheons of greatness. I have a couple of Tracey's neons and could not live without them.

Damien Hirst is going on show at Tate Modern on April 4. All the great pieces will be there, including the shark in formaldehyde and the £50 million diamond skull.

Take your friends and your kids.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Art at the Pictures

Ever had the chance to visit Louvre in Paris or MoMA in New York? While there’s nothing quite like seeing works of art in the flesh, it’s not always possible. Not only are geographic barriers holding some people back, but tickets to exhibitions can be near impossible for the average art lover to get their hands on.

The recent Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at London’s National Gallery was one of these shows. Only a couple of hundred thousand people got to personally experience the Renaissance master’s work over the exhibition’s three month run - but all is not lost. Now audiences around the world can experience the magic of Leonardo’s work by simply heading along to their local movie theatre. The documentary of the exhibition, Leonardo Live, has screened in nearly 1,000 cinemas globally, letting everyday art lovers look behind the scenes, tour the gallery and of course, see the art.

While the big-screen exhibition will never replace the gallery, I’m in love with the idea. It normalizes the experience – few people have attended an exhibition in a world-class gallery, but most have bought a movie ticket!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Down Syndrome Day

Talk about the unreasonable power of creativity to send a message…about being normal.

Today is World Down Syndrome Day and to promote the belief that people with Down Syndrome have the right to express their capability and to have the same opportunity as anybody else, Saatchi & Saatchi Italy have put together a campaign for CoorDown - The National Network of Associations for People with Down Syndrome.

Throughout the day, TV audiences in Italy will see Down Syndrome actors replace well-known presenters and actors on several commercials. Participating Saatchi & Saatchi clients include Averna, Carrefour, CartaSi, Enel, illy, Pampers and Toyota.

Reason leads to conclusion, emotion leads to action. This campaign is the difference between showing and telling. We get surprised, we get emotional, we see the unexpected, in familiar surroundings, and we question with both heart and head. With great execution, this creative reframing challenges pre-conceived notions and holds tremendous transformative power over our reactions to Down Syndrome.

The CoorDown campaign idea is to abandon uninformed prejudices and embrace a wider understanding of normality and more importantly, ability. The work goes well beyond what a regular not-for-profit campaign does. Thanks to our Italian clients whose co-operation and enthusiasm has made this possible, and to our people – CEO Giuseppe Caiazza, Chairman Fabrizio Caprara and creatives Agostino Toscana, Alessandro Orlandi, Luca Lorenzini and Luca Pannese.

See the work at www.coordown.it

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Personal Trainer

For the first time in my life I have been working with a personal trainer. I've recommended his blog to you before, Erik Hansen. I'm really enjoying the experience. And at the heart of this experience is the relationship I am building with Erik. As a neophyte to all this, it strikes me that the relationship you have with a personal trainer should be as intimate as the one you have with your close friends, your work mentors, and your priest! I have complete confidence in Erik. I have no doubts about him. I know he will push me as far as we are both able to go. I also know he recognizes when I have had a big night out and I'm not feeling too flash, or when I'm rehabilitating an injury. We're on the same wavelength emotionally and spiritually, and it really makes a difference to my performance.

If you are considering investing in a personal trainer, make sure it is someone you like and trust.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Furniture That Makes You Feel

Good design makes us look past surface appearances and discover a more meaningful context. Students at the Beckmans College of Design in Sweden recently showcased an exhibition featuring their work on furniture prototypes that explicitly evoke emotion and pull at your heart strings. Using Sweden's famous minimalistic style, the students' art work illustrates the themes of tradition and handicraft infused with mystery. The nostalgic emotions created by the simple items in the exhibition, such as a trunk or a chair, allow people to connect with the exhibition in their own way. Accessible art with unlimited imagination.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Integration

I just don't believe in work/life balance. I'm sick of hearing about it. I'm fundamentally opposed to balance in every shape and form. I believe that nothing succeeds like excess. And that balance and moderation should be avoided at all costs.

I work 7 days per week. I also play 7 days per week. Working 7 days per week makes my life easier, fun, and more enjoyable. It takes the pressure off the 5 day work week by giving me valuable stolen hours of the weekend to lighten the ever growing load. I get more done in a 3-hour session on a Sunday morning than in 3 days of a normal working week. And I still have plenty of time to do all the other stuff I want to do with friends, family and alone.

Working 7 days per week is all about attitude. It is an attitude that says I'm determined to live my best life every day. The work I do at weekends is always work I want to do. It's valuable, rewarding and uplifting.

If your job isn't like that - change it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Imagine

I've just read a book by Jonah Lehrer called Imagine: How Creativity Works. It's an uplifting, upbeat rampage through creativity, innovation and inspiration.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, we are all focused on being True Blue rather than plain old green. Jonah tells us that being surrounded by the color blue doubles the output of the imagination. It makes us think of the ocean of freedom.

It got my vote.

He also advocates taking lots and lots of trips. "Travels frees us from the physical constraints of the imagination." I couldn't agree more. Almost all of my breakthrough thinking occurs when I'm on the road, far away from the familiar and the secure.

I also buy into his conclusion that frequent power naps result in more frequent ideas. When we are asleep and dreaming, your brain makes associations and connections it doesn't know how to when we're awake.

A book worth reading.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Power of Groupthink

Challenge sessions, brainstorms and debates can be great ways to get the creative juices flowing. Most of us enjoy working as part of a team, so it comes as no surprise that group thinking is a good way to foster creativity because it gets people to consider new ideas and gather inspiration from places they would not normally look.

Recently the New Yorker published a piece on how creativity is largely now a group process and that many of us are more creative when we are teamed up. The Pixar Animation building and Building 20 at MIT are just two places where collaboration is encouraged by mixing different groups of people with a range of skills in communal spaces and open working environments.

One of the areas where group collaboration has had the most impact is in the field of science. Scientific researchers are often highly specialized in one area and as some of the most interesting scientific questions cross more than one discipline, scientists often have to work together to come up with answers. As Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary General accurately put it "Together, nothing is impossible". Very Saatchi & Saatchi. One Team, One Dream. Nothing is Impossible.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Start It Up

We live in a digital life stream. A forever 'now-or-never' world built on instant expectation, instant availability and instant feedback. The Age of Now is a reality because of people who have the courage, creativity and tenacity to bring ideas to life. Kenya, Brazil and Israel may not be countries first associated with startups, but these nations are currently experiencing a boom of small operators, all hoping to change the world – one idea at a time.

Brazil alone has over 80 million internet users and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Kenya is turning to startups to help improve the quality of life for its people. One example is a web-solution developed by four university students that enables health officials to report and track the spread of diseases in real time. Israel has more startups than any other country and is only second to the USA in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq technology index.

It's exciting to see startups growing in developing countries. It's a reminder that ideas can come from anywhere. The next big thing may not be from Palo Alto or New York City, but from your city or your street. Just a reminder that many well-known companies today started with a small group of people who wanted to make things happen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What’s Your Score?

A 4.0 GPA from the best school won't guarantee success if you don't have purpose. Purpose is fundamental to winning. Without it, you won't have a clear idea of where you're going and getting to your destination will be much more challenging. At Saatchi & Saatchi, our Purpose is "To be revered as the hothouse for world changing creative ideas that transform our clients' businesses, brands, and reputations."

I recently came across a post by a young motivational speaker named Jullien Gordon which got me thinking about the scores that really matter in life. According to Jullien (who has presented before at TED on leadership and career development), the 4.0 that really matters relates to personal, intellectual, social and financial capital. Like an academic GPA, you're in complete control and can increase your score by developing each of these areas.

Personal: Get to know yourself. Here are my three killer questions: What's my five year dream? When am I at my best? What will I never do?

Intellectual: Develop your areas of expertise. Be curious. Be creative.

Social: Grow your social network. This has nothing to do with Facebook and everything to do with the people cheering you on, supporting your professional and personal growth.

Financial: This is the intersection of the other three areas - when the right people are aware of your skills and strengths financial opportunities will start appearing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Finding the Silver Lining

Positivity. We love it. We enjoy looking on the bright side of life. So do we have a bias towards optimism? Do we expect that things in life will turn out better than we originally thought? The belief that the future will be better than the past is referred to as 'optimism bias', and the lottery is a classic example. We know the chances of winning are incredibly slim yet millions of people still buy tickets. Instead of thinking "I'll never win this" people think "I have just as much chance as anyone else at winning". And then when we don't win, we turn it around to be a positive by saying “Better luck next time”.

Optimism gives us hope. It also allows us to make decisions without having to second guess ourselves as we believe we've made the right choice. Optimism allows us to find the silver lining in situations and it’s something that is hardwired into our brains. If we never wondered 'what if?' then we wouldn't have evolved over millions of years to be where we are today.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Exercise Your Willpower

A 32 year study conducted by Duke University in New Zealand has revealed that willpower is central to living a healthy and successful life. The research tracked 1,000 children from birth and found that those who displayed greater willpower as children were more likely to grow into happy, well adjusted and healthy adults. Those less able to control their urges were less likely to do well academically, have fewer savings, be overweight and have issues with drugs or alcohol. They were also four times more likely to have a criminal record than those with strong willpower.

This research is just one of the studies referenced in the new book Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength by American social psychologist Roy Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney. The book is an interesting read and looks at the importance of willpower in history and how it is a determinant to our happiness and overall success.

Luckily willpower is a mental muscle so it can be strengthened by simply taking part in a little daily mind exercise. According to Baumeister, this is as simple as changing small parts of your daily routine - maintaining good posture while at your desk or using the mouse with your other hand. But like all exercise there are three fundamental rules - plan, commit and most of all, do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It Starts With a Hug

Poverty. It's a word at the root of much debate. What causes it? Who's accountable? How can we solve it? Now after twenty years of research, scientists are suggesting that 'toxic stress' in early life may be to blame, and preventing poverty may be as simple as giving a child a hug.

According to the New York Times, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a milestone warning that 'toxic stress' can harm a child for life. 'Toxic stress' can be caused by parental drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse or neglect, and disrupts a child’s metabolism and changes the wiring of their brain.

The good news? The same research shows that affection defuses this toxic stress. By simply ensuring young children receive a daily dose of hugs, lullabies and cuddles, we can help give them the very best start in life and contribute to their long term wellbeing.

Research on the subject is growing, but scientists are already urging society that if we want poverty to become a thing of the past we need to start earlier. After all - it all starts with something as simple as a hug.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Boy in the USA

The coming of age film Boy has been screened at a number of international film festivals, and drawn wide acclaim for its take on childhood and the experience of growing up. The film's director, Taika Waititi, has succeeded in capturing the spirit of 1980s New Zealand - Michael Jackson tributes and all - in a funny and endearing story about a young boy whose dreamy expectations of his ne'er-do-well father are shattered once his dad is released from prison.

Despite it being the most successful domestic grossing New Zealand film of all time, Taika is crowdsourcing funds at Kickstarter to help release the film in theatres throughout the USA. Funds raised will go towards creating prints of the film and providing marketing support. It would be great to see this homegrown movie become a success overseas, so if you can, go to BOY: the American release! and support this movie so that as many people as possible can have the opportunity to experience some great New Zealand talent. The fundraising initiative has already raised over US$90,000 - a great start but small beer when you're wanting your product to succeed in the vast territory of America.

For New Yorkers, Boy opens at the Angelika Film Center on Houston St and at the Lincoln Center this Friday before showing in Santa Monica, Pasadena, San Francisco, Seattle, DC, Boston, Atlanta and Santa Fe (and hopefully on many more screens).