Thursday, May 31, 2012

North Moore Dreaming

I moved to Tribeca from West Broadway, SoHo, in 1999. I’m downtown, no question. North Moore St is close to the streaming Hudson River; it’s in industrial edge Manhattan territory that hadn’t been gentrified or sexed-in-the-city like Greenwich Village and Bleecker St. Only four blocks long. No South Moore. My loft had a close-up view of the Twin Towers, and my architect Sam Trimble created for me the perfect sanctuary to crawl into after hard miles on the road. JFK Junior lived in the street. Harvey Keitel was a block or so over and Ed Burns three doors away. Russell Brand has just moved in. Robert de Niro was a strong presence in the neighborhood with his Tribeca Grill, his film production offices, and various properties on the make including Nobu and the Greenwich Hotel. After 911 he became the “Mayor of TriBeCa” with the film festival leading the charge to rejunevate an area torn apart emotionally and physically.

Filmmakers talk about “geographic-specificity” – meaning that the best stories are those tightly contained in a location, in its past present and future, in its mystery, sensuality and intimacy. The New York Times got geographically specific about North Moore St in its April 19 Block by Block column: “Loading-Dock Chic on North Moore Street.”

The piece describes “the quintessential TriBeCa street, paved with cobblestones and lined with converted warehouses…North Moore looks much as it did in the late 1800s, when manufacturing – from ice to glass – took place in the five and six story warehouses that are so coveted today. Everywhere are steel loading bays, shaftways, cast-iron flourishes, canopies suspended with large-link chains and old signs carved in stone.” And while noting that it “has become one of the most seductive addresses in the city,” the Times says “TriBeCa does manage to hand on to a clandestine aura… [it] is many things, but bucolic is not one of them.”

There is a tour of the local eateries – Bubby’s scrambled egg breakfast at one end of North Moore, Andrew Carmellini’s Italian taverna Locanda Verde at the other; Mr Chow around the corner, Corton just over on West Broadway. The Harrison is a block away, and my favorite wine bar The Terrior is on the same street. There’s an original Frank Gehry interior in Issey Miyake at the southwest corner, and the iconic firehouse Hook & Ladder 8 made famous by the Ghostbusters movies.

North Moore, you’re my home and my geographically-specific Lovemark.

In Praise of Tinkering

To win in the Age of Now you need to unleash the unreasonable power of creativity. It’s no longer about coming up with the ‘big idea’ - creative leaders need to go for lots of small ideas continuously. Call it what you will but tinkering, brainstorming and problem-solving all play a vital role in driving success. Some of the world’s most successful inventors (Thomas Edison and Polaroid inventor Edward Land through to James Dyson) used creative principles that can be applied to business problems. Here’s a primer from the website 99% (not Occupy but insights on making ideas happen), article by Jocelyn Glei:

1. Produce and test more ideas. Persistence and productivity are the key. Edison held 1,093 patents - a record that's yet to be broken.

2. Employ "wrong-thinking." Divergent, silly or far-fetched thinking allows exploration of the full realm of possibilities for a solution.

3. Embrace failure.  Whereas the everyman might feel embarrassment in making a mistake, the inventor sees an opportunity for learning.

4. Sketch ideas. Even in our screen-obsessed era, effective innovators still hash out ideas on paper.

5. Trust intuition. Einstein always said that if he wasn't a physicist, he would have been a musician. He was more rooted in intuition and imagery than logic and equations.

6. Love tinkering.  All inventors are die-hard tinkerers. They're fascinated with understanding how things work, and then making them better.

7. Possess a boundless curiosity. Leonardo Da Vinci was an engineer, mathematician, architect, painter, sculptor, cartographer, botanist, and inventor.

Having creative solutions, being creative, inspiring creative ideas, being a creative leader – these are the performance factors upon which to build a reputation It’s not about getting things done. It’s about making things happen one step at a time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Keeping the Show on the Road

I'm traveling constantly so I spend around 250 nights a year in hotels. Over the years, I have come to love old favorites in the places I visit regularly. I'm not promiscuous and seduced by the latest openings; I have very specific needs from a hotel and once I find them I stick with them.

The things I need most are:
  1. Simplicity - since I arrive at all times during the day or night after long flights. 
  2. Always on communications - since we live in a 24/7 world. 
  3. An inspirational gym - it's the best way to beat jet lag. 
  4. A good, casual kitchen - so healthy foods are available 24/7. 
  5. A manager who becomes a friend - a warm welcome from a familiar face can make a real difference. 
  6. Some access to the outdoors - any type of garden, balcony, open windows is so refreshing after hours on a plane or having been stuck in meetings all day.
Places that deliver these necessities include:

The Bulgari in Milan (pictured) which also delivers a creative, inspirational back story - it used to be a nun's convent - and incredible style.

The Orient Express Hotels - in Italy particularly. Maurizio Saccani and his team run vagabond luxury experiences like no other.

The Ritz Carlton everywhere - where customer service is the best I've ever experienced. Our Team One agency works for them and tell me that the essence of Ritz Carlton is "Let us stay with you."

So thank you Attilio, Giampaolo, Maurizio, Franco, Marco, Omer, Ralf and everyone at the Ritz Carlton for keeping the show (and me in particular!) on the road.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Start Me Up, Everyone

A few years back I blogged on Kickstarter, a great idea for funding great ideas. A few years on this site is gathering kudos as a way for funding, launching and scaling ideas that have ‘unreasonable power’, as we say at Saatchi & Saatchi.

In an always-on world of instant sharing, Kickstarter is starting to feel like a model for the future. For an entrepreneur, it’s fast crowd-stormed feedback on whether an idea is an idea or just masquerading as one. If it’s an idea, your world accelerates and all power to you and benefits to others. Otherwise, move on. Effective and efficient. Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast in action. Projects that have been funded range from indie films, music and comics to journalism, video games, and food-related projects. The top three projects crowd-funded have been for video games; the top 10 projects have raised an average of $1.525M each; the top project had 87,000 backers.

While the boundaries of the model remain to be seen, at least it gets an idea up in the air. Solutions to the world’s problems will come from crazy individuals, underpinning my belief that the role of business is to make the world a better place for everyone. Check out this example from New York to raise funds to build the world’s first underground park.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Christchurch’s Cardboard Cathedral

Christchurch is one inspiring city. While the ground continues to rattle with aftershocks the people of Christchurch are focused on rebuilding their city and getting on with life. Temporary structures are popping up across the city – from the stores built from shipping containers to a rugby stadium built upon steel tubes – to help bring some normalcy back to the lives of Cantabrians.

Now the city is preparing for a new temporary structure– a cardboard cathedral to replace the iconic Christ Church Cathedral that’s facing demolition. Built to hold up to 700 people, the temporary cathedral is designed by renowned Japanese architect Shigeru Ban and will be built from paper and cardboard. Don’t be fooled by the materials used. The temporary cathedral has a lifespan of over 20 years.

Innovation like this is at the heart of life after the quakes in Christchurch. It’s fantastic to see such originality and resilience coming out of such a terrible event. Can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

‘Blood Relations’ Win UN Award

Last year I wrote about ‘Blood Relations’, a campaign which brought together Israelis and Palestinians to donate blood. Blood from Israelis was donated to Palestinian hospital patients and vice-versa making this an extremely symbolic gesture.

Last week at the New York International Advertising Festival Awards the United Nations awarded our Israel agency, BBR Saatchi & Saatchi, the gold medal for its efforts to end the conflict between Israel and Palestine through its blood relations campaign. Our client is The Peres Center For Peace. To be recognized this way by the United Nations is a tremendous achievement and I’m proud of Yossi Lubaton and his team. To tackle an issue like this, and to be able to make a difference, is inspirational.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Small But Determined

While small businesses are certainly feeling the effects of the current economic environment, their entrepreneurial spirit is not only keeping them afloat but arming them with optimism. In a recent study, a huge 91 percent of small businesses expected 2012 to be a better year for business than the last.

Despite being stressed and over-worked, small business owners remain incredibly driven. Another study carried out in late 2011 found that rather than disheartening small business owners, the grim economic backdrop made nearly a third of them more determined to succeed. It makes sense. When you’re pouring you life into your work, you’re more inspired than ever to make it work come hell or high water.

Entrepreneurs are defined by their ability to identify needs, spark change and infect those around them with optimism and passion. And they’re a growing bunch – today’s millennials are armed with the drive and passion to turn their business dreams into reality. While they may still be the minority, it’s this group that’s pumping life back into the global economy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Learning from Nature

I’ve spoken a lot about how we live in a VUCA world and the only way to get ahead is to reframe the situation. Instead of worrying about how things are Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, we need to see opportunities as being Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding. Notice that none of these words suggests anything close to ‘stability’ - and that’s just the way it is. The unexpected is part of life, but it makes a lot of people frantic.

Nature is a great teacher when it comes to learning how to adapt. We can learn a lot about managing risks by simply taking a look outside. Take the octopus for example. It is nature’s king of adaptation. You can’t argue with 3.5 billion years of experience adjusting to the curve balls of life.

While we become fearful in times of crisis and prefer to wait for instruction, octopi take things into their own tentacles. Rather than the brain issuing orders, each cell of their body changes color independently. They call it common sense. We call it distributed decision making. It’s like Wikipedia vs. Britannica - it works better when everyone’s involved. The octopus also has the ability to not only notice when there’s a problem, but respond with multiple solutions. It can change color, squirt ink, and even squeeze its body into a bottle for shelter. That’s what I call being flexible. Having all those options you can turn to when things get tough is one of the tricks to surviving a volatile environment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

“Here’s Looking at You, Kid”

All of us can recite a few one-liners from famous movies, but what is more surprising is that many of us recall the same quotes. What makes a particular movie line memorable?

A recent study by Cornell University asked this exact question and suggests that memorable movie quotes can be explained by science. The research involved running over 2,000 movie quotes from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) through a computer that analyzed the lines for patterns, unusual words and word combinations. The results showed that lines which followed a specific set of rules were more likely to be memorable including: using distinctive words and simple syntax; keeping it short; making the lines relatable to anyone; using present tense; and using "front sounds" such as words that start with M, P, F, B, V.

Advertising catchphrases manage to live on too. Think “Just Do It” (Nike) or “Diamonds are forever” (De Beers). While a computer can’t be relied on to construct creative witty one-liners, it can help identify whether we are on to the next big thing since “Show me the money!”

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vidal Sassoon – International Man of Style

Last week saw the passing of three legends: storyteller and artist, Maurice Sendak, muscle car creator Carroll Shelby, and Vidal Sassoon, hairdresser and trendsetter. My first job was with Mary Quant. Vidal Sassoon was as much part of the Sixties as Mary, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Bridget Bardot, Mia Farrow, and for me, JFK, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol. Mary wrote a tribute to Vidal in the Daily Mail:

Vidal Sassoon revolutionised the way women thought about their hair. Before Vidal, they just had a ‘hairdo’. Then Vidal invented cut and style. He was a visionary. He didn’t do perms and sets. He saw that, like architecture — for which he had a passion — hair could be cut into bold, unfussy, structured shapes.

Vidal not only created the most famous and important of his cuts, the ‘five-point’ — which became my trademark — but he went on to develop more and more innovative variations. Asymmetric or ‘en brosse’, I enjoyed them all, as so many of us did.

Sassoon also liberated women from the tyranny of hours spent par-boiling under the bonnet of a hairdryer, with fat rollers skewered to their scalps.

We found the freedom to swim in the sea, drive in an open-top car, walk in the rain and then just slick our head under a tap and shake it to look good again.

As well as being a creative genius, Vidal Sassoon was a formative figure of the Sixties. Along with the Pill and the mini-skirt, his influence was truly liberating.

As a hair stylist he has legions of protégés and millions of imitators. His influence remains ubiquitous; he was, quite simply, an inspiration to everyone around him.

Monday, May 14, 2012

1937. 1968. 2012.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Art of Insight

Eric Kandel is a Nobel Prize winner who has written a book called The Age of Insight. He was recently interviewed in Wired.

Kandel’s book talks about the relationship between science and art and how they influence each other. Science and art represent two completely different ways of thinking but they can both work together to give us a clearer picture of the whole. Kandel uses the example of anxiety to illustrate this point; a brain scan may reveal the neural signs of anxiety, but a painting can show what being in a state of anxiety feels like.

Modern science is showing us that we are not as rational as we think and a lot of the choices we make in life – what brand of soap you buy to whom you marry – are driven by emotion (I’ve been talking about this for years). Experiencing things like design and music is important if you want to understand what’s going on in the world. You can distribute as many surveys as you like, and fill out census forms, but you won’t get the same kind of insight unless you’re participating in the moment. That’s what art is.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Speed and Motion

In a blog post that recounts his experience of walking the Formula One track in Abu Dhabi, and how ‘going against the grain’ can lead to great reward, Tim Leberecht makes an interesting point on the difference between speed and motion. “Speed, like happiness, is relative. Motion, on the other hand, is happiness’ absolute requirement. Motion is what holds it all together.” Once a shark stops swimming it dies. (The same can be said for relationships. As Bob Dylan said, if you aren’t busy being born you are busy dying.)

We can learn a lot from people who challenge the norms, who refuse to accept the impossible and who push the boundaries. These types of people are hugely creative – always looking for new angles and different ways to achieve their goals. They are the navigators of the NOW. Connectors moving in a fast global economy where ideas are shared with millions in an instant and yesterday’s idea is today’s reality.

Keeping things in motion means never losing a second. Being sensitive to the incredible changes around us. It’s about living in the moment, not in the future and not in the past.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One-Word Exam

Last year, Oxford University scrapped its famous one-word entry exam. Affectionately known as the “Essay” or “the hardest exam in the world”, applicants to All Souls College were asked to write an essay from one random word. You never knew until you flipped over your piece of paper if the next few hours would involve you brainstorming about “water”, “miracles” or “corruption”.

There was a method behind the madness though - the exam allowed the University to gain valuable insight into a person’s ability to generate creative connections. The limits were only measured by your imagination. What is quite funny is how much terror a single word can conjure up in some of the best academic minds. If you can’t connect the dots and perform some intellectual acrobatics, you’ll be paralyzed at that site of a word on a white sheet of paper.

Creative problem-solving is something that isn’t really taught yet it’s something we use all the time. We are always looking at how we can turn obstacles into opportunities and problems into solutions. I love asking ‘what if’ questions and getting back to basics, as everything presents a creative opportunity if we apply a different lens to it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Way of the Samurai

If you only paid attention to the media you would think the world was gripped in a downward spiral of gloom and doom. Where is our spirit of innovation and opportunity? I don’t believe the sense of enthusiasm or determination has been lost and neither does Ron Brent, co-founder of Heroic Leadership who asked a similar question in a blog recently.

To take advantage of all the opportunities presented to us perhaps we need to be more like a ‘samurai warrior’ as Brent suggests and learn how to outsmart and outmaneuver our opponents. Samurai warriors used all of their physical and mental skills to ensure that failure wasn’t an option, and they shared their knowledge with others on how to be successful.

In challenging situations is when we need to harness our skills of innovation, wisdom, insight and empathy. I often say that business has a role to play in making the world a better place, but the same can be said for people – by being enthusiastic and energetic we can make this possible.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Come Fly With Me

Over the last seven days I've sat through 3 aborted airplane landings.

A week ago I was flying into Heathrow on British Airways and we were virtually on the ground. We were parallel with the roofs of the terminals when suddenly the pilot hit the accelerator and took the plane up vertically on its nose. Engines screeched, pressure increased, wheels went up and so did we. We screamed into the clouds and there was a fair bit of activity and noise in the cabin around me. The captain then came over the intercom and said we have been pretty close to an A380 and the wind following it had shaken us around. Being off balance the captain felt it was safer to hit wheels up and go around again. We landed safely.

And just last week I was on a Singapore Airlines A380 on a 12-1/2 hour flight from London to Singapore. As we came into land at Changi once again wheels went up and we headed for the open skies rather than the safety of land. A freak thunderstorm hit the airport, took visibility down to zero just as we were attempting to land, and the captain decided it was safer to take us up again. Having explained this to us we entered a holding pattern and then came in again (I guess we didn't have that much fuel left) only for another storm to hit us unexpectedly on approach causing us to lift up once again. Third time lucky we finally made it onto the ground.

There's gotta be easier ways to make a living!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Text ‘CPR’ to 70030 and Donate £5 to Create a Life-saver

Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba’s collapsed on the field during a mid March FA Cup match at White Hart Lane. He stopped breathing and fell unconscious. He'd suffered cardiac arrest. It's reported his heart stopped beating for seven minutes, and that his life was saved by the efforts of first responders and a consultant cardiologist who leapt down from the stands to assist. He was admitted to a London hospital critically ill. Remarkably and thankfully, he has recovered and attended a return Bolton-Tottenham match on Wednesday night, acknowledging the support of 36,000 fans.

It’s unclear whether Fabrice will play professional football again – what is clear is just how important it is for people to know how to use CPR to help someone who has had a heart attack.

There’s a promotion this weekend on TV and in 10 football stadiums run by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Sky Sports and the Premier League to raise money to save lives. It’s totally worthy of your support, today and any day of the week. It costs £5 to train someone with the skills to save a life. This is what they are asking from you, £5.

The BHF teaches people emergency life support skills in assessing an unconscious patient, performing CPR, and helping someone who may be having a heart attack. They want you to know how to help in a medical emergency (or give a fiver).

If someone is having a heart attack in front of you, it’s a really serious matter. You need to act fast and decisively, which is why Vinnie Jones is on the job.  To communicate a succinct message on what to do, BHF through Grey London have paired Vinnie with the Bee Gees (you’ll have to see it).  Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Richard Hytner (who is ManU to his toes, this I will forgive him but never forget) is at the center of a bunch of conversations and deals around this program, including a Sky Sports Special Report on heart disease which screens Monday night.

Your fiver will fund more CPR training and defibrillators. Life-saver will be promoted in match day programmes, on advertising boards, on a giant on-pitch flag before each match; and in the British Heart Foundation’s 700 shops across the UK.

Heart disease is the UK's No 1 killer. See www.bhf.org.uk/lifesaver

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Self-belief in Cumbria

Several times a year I get to speak at universities and colleges. This year I’ve had or got dates coming up in Saudi Arabia, China, Spain, Canada, UK and New Zealand. For MBA audiences it’s more of a full throttle challenge to everything they are being taught. For undergraduates it’s all about inspiration and how they will steer their future. Last Friday I spoke to 120 students at the University of Cumbria in England’s North West, home territory for me. I got a lot of feedback from students, particularly this post below from Grace Neal, who wrote about self-belief. This is a big topic for young people everywhere. With so many young, educated and unemployed people today in Europe, self-belief has got to be top of personal attributes to build. I know, I’ve been there. Here is the speech and below is Grace’s post.

27 April 2012 Lecture by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi

This afternoon, the 27th of April 2012, Kevin Roberts, 'Chief Excitement Officer' of Saatchi & Saatchi visited my university to lecture on ‘Making it in the Age of Now’. Roberts relaxed us all pretty quickly, making a few jokes to ease the tension that the one man who we all want to become our boss was in the room, knowing that he was looking at our faces for probably the only time in our lives for most of us.

This lecture was especially relevant to me, as I wrote my dissertation on Graphic Design within UK Party Politics, therefore the chance to ask questions that were related to my personal studies.

I took notes, jotting down quotes, though wish I had a Dictaphone. Kevin was thoroughly engaging, honest and realistic. He saw the opportunity for communicating/advertising as my generation know it, using social media as the stone cold format for marketing, and our jobs would be to transform it into a platform for emotional engagement with potential customers. Roberts empathized with our position as graphic design students hoping to earn a living from our talent, in the least vibrant area of our United Kingdom. He inspired us to really not let anything hold our ideas or talent back, that we should endeavor to communicate at whatever the price.

But the most comforting for me was that he encouraged us to be ourselves. Completely and utterly, choosing to work in environments we feel most creative in. Making our own rules and justifying that power by being bloody brilliant. The design industry deifies the confident, the sexy and the provocative. I am a generally quiet yet sociable person who generally doesn’t like too much attention. If I do good work, my work should get attention, not me. But the personality of the designer is sometimes dissected and glorified as the governing force behind a piece of work- and I suppose it is, to an extent. However anyone can have a brilliant idea, and as long as I can communicate that just as brilliantly, I don’t have to be the person who never shuts up about themselves. I don’t have to be the person who always has CS7 before it’s released, to be an excellent designer. And that’s uplifting beyond words.

I learned more in that lecture about the industry than I did in the last three years of my degree. And that’s no slight on my tutors at all, I wouldn’t change a thing about my degree course, I’ve been pushed to my limits constantly by people who care. Studying in Carlisle will teach you the skills, Kevin Roberts will teach you how to apply them in business.

So, thanks Kevin, thanks for coming to Carlisle, thanks for supporting the young, and thank you for giving the last few minutes you needed to leave for questions, but most of all, thanks for making me realize that there is no reason at all that with hard work, I can’t be brilliant.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hit It With Your Best Shot

n a recent forum in Rotterdam Roger Federer opened up about reinventing himself. He said that though talent and determination to win are two key factors in his successful career, what took him from good to great is developing mental toughness (see my recent post on Murray Mexted). “…Fighting your own demons is a difficult thing,” he says. “I had them when I was younger… afraid of the unknown and [asking yourself questions] ‘How confident are you?’ and ‘Are you doing the right things?’ A lot of open questions are sometimes a difficult thing to handle - especially if you bring in the pressure.”

Sport is emotional, tennis especially so because of the one-to-one intensity. No team-mates to lean back on. If you have watched any major tennis match you’ll understand how the intensity can help and hinder the best on court. Players collapse on their knees in tears from relief or scream to the gods in frustration. Being able to play an opponent for hours requires the mastering of self belief and the ability to stay focused allowing your intuition to guide you.

The same rules apply to business and life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mentally Ready

Rugby is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. The world’s top players didn’t get to where they are today relying on talent alone. Success takes drive and dedication to both mental and physical training. Ever wondered why players at the end of their careers play consistently better than their younger counterparts? It all comes down to mental toughness.

International Rugby Academy (IRANZ) MD Murray Mexted recently wrote a column on The Roar extolling the virtues of making mental toughness a training priority. IRANZ places focus on developing mental toughness, defining it as “the ability to perform at your maximum every time you play.”

Peak Performance begins in the mind. While players naturally develop the mental skills and mind management techniques as they become more experienced, teaching them to a player (yes, it is teachable) at the start of their career will help them become more successful on and off the field.

Players need to realize everyone is motivated differently, find what works for them and develop it into a process. Meanwhile the coaches need to finely tune each player, working with them to turn what works for them from process to habit.

Rugby is all about the challenge, and mind management is the greatest one facing coaches in today’s game. The game is full of incredibly skilled players, but it’s up to the coaches to tap into their mind and find what motivates them. No easy task, but it’s what the great coaches are able to do.