Thursday, October 31, 2013

Airport Unusual

When it comes to travelling, airports tend to be the most forgettable part of the experience – or a part of the trip that you wish most to forget. It’s intriguing that after all these years, and all the millions of people who move through airports around the world, that a great airport still eludes so many major cities. A coat of fresh paint will not appease guests, no matter how transient.

One airport in Burlington, Vermont, has introduced features that not only make large airports seem even more unfriendly, but it has taken an approach that makes other places seem built for robots, not humans. Burlington International Airport (BTV) is only one of three airports in the US to offer yoga classes. It also has private rooms for nursing mothers, ample access to power sockets, rocking chairs (!), a free business work centre, and instead of offering its visitors the same run of the mill coffee chain, food and drink offers are provided by local businesses.

BTV has taken a look at the atypical airport experience (the ones we dread) and democratized comfortable and stress free travel. Their experience is made available to every passenger, not just those in club lounges.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Wisdom of Peanuts

If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself - Charles M. Schulz

When Charles Schulz died in 2000, the final Peanuts strip was published the following day. No other hand would draw his famous characters. As he said, everything reaches its end. But Schulz’ legacy holds true and the 355 million people who read his comics are a testament to that. The Peanuts Gang are setting up shop in Tokyo for the next few months, for an exhibit on Schulz’s life and the evolution of the comic strip. For anyone who has followed the touching and comical endeavours of Charlie Brown and co., it’s fascinating to learn about the creative mind behind the strip.

The wisdom of Peanuts is often written about. Simple messages about love, friends and life. At times melancholy, at others inspirational. Always endearing. It taught us basic lessons about determination. Charlie Brown didn’t hit a home run for decades. He once stood holding a kite string for eight days while it was stuck in a tree. Then there was his unrequited red-headed love, a direct parallel to Schulz’s own life. There are a number of quotes from the strip that I love, and this would be one of them, from Lucy: "What shape would the world be in today if everyone settled for being average?" Too true.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rise and shine: the daily routines of history's most creative minds

From the brilliant Guardian, by Oliver Burkeman, 5 October. This is priceless. The path to greatness is paved with a thousand tiny rituals – but six key rules emerge. From the book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.
  1. Be a morning person
    Very early risers form a clear majority of history’s most creative minds, including everyone from Mozart to Georgia O'Keeffe to Frank Lloyd Wright. The crucial trick is to get up at the same time daily.

  2. Don't give up the day job
    TS Eliot’s day job at Lloyds bank gave him crucial financial security. Kafka crammed in his writing between 10.30pm and the small hours of the morning; by day he worked in an insurance office. Limited time focuses the mind, and the self-discipline required to show up for a job seeps back into the processes of art.

  3. Take lots of walks
    Walking – especially walking in natural settings, or just lingering amid greenery – is associated with increased productivity and proficiency at creative tasks. The ubiquity of walking, especially in the daily routines of composers, includes Beethoven, Mahler, Erik Satie and Tchaikovksy.

  4. Stick to a schedule
    Patricia Highsmith ate virtually the same thing for every meal, in her case bacon and fried eggs. Ritual-wise, Le Corbusier was up at 6am for his 45 minutes of daily calisthenics, and Immanuel Kant had neighbors in Königsberg who could set their clocks by his 3.30pm walk. Iron regularity is the rule. The alternative to a rigid structure is the existential terror of no structure at all.

  5. Coffee
    The only substance that has been championed down the centuries is coffee. Beethoven measured out his beans, Kierkegaard poured black coffee over a cup full of sugar, then gulped down the resulting concoction, which had the consistency of mud; Balzac drank 50 cups a day. Consume in moderation.

  6. Learn to work anywhere
    Agatha Christie didn’t have a desk. Any stable tabletop for her typewriter would do. During Jane Austen's years at Chawton in Hampshire in the 1810s, she wrote mainly in the family sitting-room, often with her mother sewing nearby. Continually interrupted by visitors, she wrote on scraps of paper that could easily be hidden away. The perfect workspace isn't what leads to brilliant work, just as no other "perfect" routine will turn you into an artistic genius.

Monday, October 28, 2013

More Than Music

"Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone if your time to you is worth saving then you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin."

The beauty of Bob Dylan is that his lyrics stay relevant. In today’s superVUCA world, innovation is the mother of necessity and in business, we need to get over this idea of treading old ground. Musicians have done the business world a huge service in providing examples of breaking the mould, stepping out and delivering show stopping performances.

The Beatles ignored the stale Rock ‘n’ Roll formula being sold by industry reps out for quick hits. They took inspiration from a variety of styles – experimenting with strings, sitars and the famous cornet on Penny Lane. From a business perspective, Radiohead and Jay-Z have ignored the traditional path of getting music to their fan bases and gone their own way.

Radiohead became rightly frustrated with the inability of record companies to keep pace with the way music is being consumed. The industry was rigid. Bogged down by the standard release process. Obsessed with criminalizing fans who file share. So they dumped the typical promotion routine, made an album and told fans it would be available on their website in 10 days – at whatever price they felt like paying. (It worked for them. See NME’s excellent analysis of Radiohead’s Rainbow album release – 3M album sales including downloads).

Business can champion best practice all it likes, but the winners in this world are the ones who can think differently. Like Mr Bob says, it’s time to start swimming.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Go Where the Crowd Carries You

‘Dreams are free’ is a phrase that gets tossed around carelessly. As a radical optimist, I hold that dreams are what you make of them. We’re all dreamers. It’s just that not all of us are do-ers. But Danny and Drew Duffy are.

In a nutshell, these brothers are class acts on skis. They put in the hard yards in Vermont. Hours upon hours of practice. Every morning. It paid off when the US Ski Team came knocking and invited them to join the development programme. The only thing between them and their dream? Money. $25,000 each. Not small change by any stretch. Their family was already effectively tapped out covering their existing costs and education, so the brothers did what any smart kid would do in the Age of Now. They turned to the internet for help. They turned to crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding, at its core, is community currency for dreams. It’s everyday people stepping up and saying: “You want it? Do it”. A communal make-a-wish foundation. Movies, music, start-ups and sport stars. The internet is here to help.

Going professional is an expensive business. The make or break scenario so often comes down to cold hard cash. Even world champions have no guaranteed income. They spend half their time training and the other walking around cap in hand. This is particularly true of sports that don’t register any primetime attention, or require serious kit and travel to stay involved.

This where RallyMe.com comes to the rescue. A crowdsourcing platform for athletes, it taps into fans to make the dreams of talented sports people come true. The Duffy brothers looked to RallyMe.com and ended up raising $90,000. They were on a plane to Chile two weeks later. How brilliant is that?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dodging Bullets

Vision is a powerful sense, but does it have the power to stop time? Recent research indicates that time moves at a slower rate for some creatures.

If you’re a fly, you can process close to seven times as much info in a second as a human, which is why houseflies split their sides over our attempts to swat them – they see us coming in slow mo.

If you’re a dog you can process information at twice the rate of human, which is why TV is of little interest. A flickering image is all dogs see. If you’re a leatherback turtle on the other hand, time flies. Those guys get roughly a third of the information that we do in a second. It seems that perception of time has to do with size and metabolic rate. Perhaps nature is nodding to the little guys. Now, how to be as fast as a fly and laid back as a turtle?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Passion Economy & Others

New York digital strategist Greg Satell is a smart guy. His excellent blog Digital Tonto of October 9 ran with “4 Corny Business Ideas That Actually Make Sense.” He’s on the money. See the post for the full story of each idea.
  1. Tribal Leadership by Culture Sync based on Robin Dunbar’s research , mapping five Tribes whose cultures respectively are Hostile (rare), Dysfunctional (25% of organizations), Competitive(49%), Collaborative (22%), and Mission-Driven (2%).

  2. Lovemarks: Highly appropriate for marketing in the digital age. As technology makes breaks down traditional barriers to entry, the only sustainable path to advocacy is loyalty without reason;

  3. The Rise of the Machines: Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT argue that automation is taking over in their book, Race Against The Machine ; technology is becoming so productive that machines are displacing humans; and

  4. The Passion Economy (Satell): successful managers must be able to focus the passion and purpose of high performing talent; the key human contribution [in an automated world] will be the ability to imagine and to dream.
Rah Rah #2! Greg calls Lovemarks “decidedly irrational and emotive” and me a “throwback” but “still thinking about humans.” I’ll bow to that.

Monday, October 21, 2013

BIG DATA + BIG LOVE

Big Data is the real deal. The muscular left brain has rolled up to the advertising altar with a diamond promise of marketing perfection. This tech-driven juggernaut heralds fantastic advances in discovering, organizing and manipulating the information deluge to achieve diverse objectives. Outcomes range from awesome to scary – the Edward Snowden N.S.A. surveillance disclosure has revealed just how powerful the data munching is.

We’re in a new era of data mining, excavating, crunching, modeling, measuring, predicting, visualizing, automating, tracking, monitoring, targeting and deciding. Every industry, every institution and every individual is impacted by Big Data. Old-world marketing, personalized healthcare, crime prevention, workforce design, risk management, fertility tracking, energy provision… it goes on. Big Data is our “De-terminator,” a machine programmed to enhance value, but with power to destroy it.

The robot has even reached Hollywood in the form of script analysis to predict hit movies, with mixed receptions. In any industry, the dream side is wont to downplay the machine side of the value equation (and vice versa), but in the future I think they are partners in the sublime. An Oscar-winning writer was recently reported to have been instructed by a producer to get a script analyzed by a data cruncher. Initially resistant, the writer said that “It was a complete shock, the best notes on a draft that I have ever received.”

For the last 15 years, at Saatchi & Saatchi we’ve occupied the right-brain territory in the communications market. We have assiduously invested in understanding the emotional connections that drive humans, fully mapped this space, won by creating Lovemarks for clients, and watched Big Data play catch up. Now the muscular left brain has rolled up to the ad altar with its diamond promise.

I’m excited by the moment. Digital is quarterbacking the future of advertising, making it direct and relevant, personal, immediate and irresistible – and shuffling the players on the board. It’s going to be a fun ride.

Gartner says that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. Data will be in the midst of everything. It’s a dream scenario for brands to find their audiences, know individuals backwards, discover what counts for them, and deliver at warp speed.

How much of the future will be machine-driven versus meaning-driven? Everything that can be machine-driven in advertising will be – buying space, pricing, calibrating, discovering, locating, personalizing and even shaping the message. Here’s where Big Data needs Big Love, because the programs will never read humans quite the way humans do, nor will they respond to humans quite the way humans can.

The Big Data machine can read the lines, but not well between them. It can turn up at the perfect moment, but not ignite it. It can spit out stories based on what came before, but it can’t dream the difference that builds loved brands. In the crunch, the crazies break through. Spock to Kirk: “Captain, we are checkmated.” Kirk to Spock: ‘Not Chess Mr Spock – poker. Do you know the game?’

Big Data + Big Love are an arranged marriage the future can’t do without. It’s time for the two to show respect and openness for what each can bring to the party. They need to find ways to work together, not to discount each other as they often do.

Love can’t do without logic because it will never reach its potential. It needs to find the right road, meet the right people, pick the right moment and then throw caution to the wind. Albert Einstein: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

Logic can’t do without Love because efficiency without quality is an end game. Without a surge in the moment, the nirvana of customized one-to-one real time marketing comes up short. The closer Big Data flies everyone’s optimal offer into us all, the more the distribution side gets commoditized, and the more the spark in the message becomes a priceless thing. We decide emotionally, and this won’t change. Big Data leads to conclusions. Big Love leads to action through the three elements of a Lovemark – Mystery, Sensuality, and Intimacy.

Watch as Big Data + Big Love plays out at decision points in every industry, from purchase through to performance. Thanks to Big Data we’re going to learn a lot more about ourselves. Thanks to Big Love we’ll never understand everything about ourselves. Until the data is flesh and blood, it will be the incalculable factors, the unexplainable pulses, and the mind-blowing ideas that fly the machine over the line.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Amazing Adventures

Phil Keoghan is an amazing Kiwi. He hosts and co-produces The Amazing Race which has been literally running for 12 years, and in honor of the new season, Phil was asked to list his favorite travel destinations. Of the people I know, Phil is the one who has been around the world most. He’s seen things most people on the planet will never experience in their lifetimes, and what a success he has made out of sharing it with the world. In the spirit of travel, here are a selection of his top picks. As the happiness equation values experiences over materials, remember that “travel is the only thing you can buy that can make you richer”. Here are four of his locations I’ve tried and three I plan to:

1. Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands
“Rising 3,000 feet out of the Aeolian Sea, Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. I once took a chef to the top of the volcano for a five-star dinner that he cooked using the heat of the volcano.”

4. Ginnie Springs, Florida
“If you love water and water sports, put this place on your list. Crystal clear freshwater springs located in dense woodlands, the water at a constant 72 degrees year round.”

6. Maui, Hawaii
“When I think of Hawaii I always think of Jurrasic Park and the lush jungles along the Hana Highway. As far as drives go, this one is hard to beat.”

7. Iquique, Chile
“I first visited Iquique, Chile, in the ‘90s to do my solo paragliding certification. Located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama desert this is a flying mecca.”

9. Cinque Terre, Italy
“This is Italy at its finest. Five traditional villages along the rugged coast line of the Italian Riviera. Plus the wine and food are an equal match for the spectacular scenery.”

11. New Chums Beach, Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
“Consistently voted one of the world’s top beaches. It takes about 30 minutes to walk around the rugged coast line and a climb through the native New Zealand bush before you are rewarded with this spectacular national treasure.”

14. Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
“Spending four years in Canada as a kid I had the privilege of driving across country with my parents in a Volkswagen camper van. One of those adventures included visiting every national park in North America and this park is the one I remember the most.”

18. Istanbul, Turkey
“Istanbul is the gateway between East and West, filled with spectacular mosques and inviting bath houses. If you are a foodie, this city is full of flavor. During one of my visits I made the crazy decision to swim one mile across the Bosphorus from Asia to Europe just so I could say I’ve done it.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dancing in the Streets

Boogie, jive, swing, break, mambo, rumba, flamenco, Lindy hop. Call it what you like. Do it how you like. Dancing is a way of self-expression. You can do it in public or private. You can dress up to do it. You can dance at a club, or in your living room. You’re never too young – or too old – to burn up the dance floor. Remember The Hip-operation Crew?

If you dance at least once a week, in whatever style of your choosing, you’ll improve cognitive function and muscle memory and have lots of fun in the process. Dancing is also one of the few physical activities that can ward off dementia. It's better than swimming and reading. The reason? It requires you to make split second decisions, recall steps, coordinate your body, and tune into the rational and emotional parts of your brain all at the same time. The Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire even found that dancing helped people with Parkinson’s Disease improve their divergent thinking skills.

The great thing about dancing is there is no right or wrong way to do it. Your moves may give away your age, but dance is beautiful - even when it’s been translated into code as the people at Universal Everything have just done at the Science Museum in London.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fierce Conversations, Aggressive Listening

Susan Scott's role at Seattle’s Fierce, leadership development and training experts, is to get people to talk to each other. Not small talk; no chit chat or go-over-the-game with your mates, but to get people to really talk to each other and often in terse situations. In a room where there are competing viewpoints, you’ll know that having a productive conversation is harder than two props binding in the scrum.

In her book Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott quotes French philosopher Emile Chartier “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you have.”

When everyone’s success depends on the outcome of a conversation – with a client, a direct report, a board – in a meeting, call, hallway, audio, having a two way exchange is crucial. Making sure what needs to be said is said. Don’t leave it off the table. Good management is about saying things you don’t want to say. Along with being inspirational, being in charge means taking corrective action with the people you manage. There are times to challenge and confront people when needing to have frank conversations.

It’s a complex intuitive task of a CEO. You have to persuade others to come with you. We don’t want to walk away from a conversation the same when we entered it. If you can think that every exchange you have can change your world in some way, you need to leave wide open the door to opportunity. Have a fierce conversation today.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Settle for Underrated?

When statistics are being used to champion safe career choices I just hope no one’s paying attention. Forbes recently ran a list of the 12 most underrated jobs in America. Underrated, because they have decent employment prospects, low stress and reasonable pay, but they’re not particularly sexy. That last point being the subjective element.

Top of the list is computer systems analyst. Electricians, plumbers, librarians, accountants and legal assistants also make the grade. The job titles are ultimately irrelevant. What bugs me about these types of stats is the idea that highlighting ‘safe’ criteria is somehow a means to selling a career choice. How about passion? If you love books and want to share your passion, become a librarian. Who cares if it’s a safe choice? Just do it. We spend a lot of our lives working. If you’re settling for a job, you’re wasting a lot of your life not delivering on your potential. Not being happy. Forget the stats. Do what you love.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Grin and Beer It

Tui Brewery is renowned for its irreverent marketing campaigns. Its blokey sense of humor is integral to its brand and its billboards are so imbedded in New Zealand that they’re effectively fused into the country’s DNA. But the success of the Yeah Right billboard slogan has seen it almost become a brand in and of itself. Tui wanted to find a way to get back to the core of its brand – capturing the essence of male bonding. It’s about banter. It’s about celebrating men being men and giving them reasons to share a beer.

At Saatchi & Saatchi we get to enjoy working with Tui to plan its campaigns. It’s not work really. It’s play. The beauty of advertising is we can do things people only dream of. Creativity knows no limits. Plumb a bloke’s entire house with beer without him knowing? Why not? It always tastes better from the tap. So that’s exactly what we did.

The reactions of Russ and his wife when they discovered ice cold Tui beer was pouring out of every outlet in their home, including the shower, were 100% genuine. Only a typical Kiwi would be so relaxed about it. The prank was completely authentic because it had to be. That’s what Tui is about. Months of planning went into the execution and it could have unravelled at any time. But it didn’t. And with risk comes reward.

As the team in New Zealand know well, you can never be sure whether an idea is going to take off and go viral. That’s the goal of course. To create some social currency. Something people want to share. Something entertaining. With five million views online and counting and media coverage from around the globe that box has definitely been ticked. It’s always a special moment when creativity and passion is rewarded. Tui embraced a great idea and it was executed to perfection. Great result.

A Nod to Sir Alex

As a fervent Manchester City fan it sticks in the craw a bit to be praising the sworn enemy but on the back of our 4-1 demolition of United a week or so ago, I’ll choke down the chicken bone just this once. Sir Alex Ferguson has been an outstanding leader and manager. There, I said it.

I don’t know many people that last 26 years in any job, let alone as a manager in the English Premier League. Certainly not in the cut-throat environment of the past decade where billionaire owners demand results or your head on a platter. His longevity alone is proof that he stood above the pack. Throw in 13 premierships and another couple of dozen trophies and his success speaks for itself.

It turns out Fergie and I have some things in common – off the pitch at least. We’re talking in terms of leadership principles. My eldest son Ben, a lost cause as a Manchester United supporter, sent me a summary of a piece on the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review. A must-read that looks into Fergie’s formula for success. It provides insights from the man himself on how he went about building Manchester United into the club it is today. Eight key lessons are drawn out:
  • Start with the foundation

  • Dare to rebuild your team

  • Set high standards and hold everyone to them

  • Never, ever cede control

  • Match the message to the moment

  • Prepare to win

  • Rely on the power of observation

  • Never stop adapting
A lot of what he talks about is directly applicable to business and are ideas I like to emphasise. At its core, Fergie’s formula is about having a strong vision and delivering on it through strong leadership. It’s about people – understanding what they need and how they can succeed. Teaching them to accept nothing less than winning. Practice like it’s the real thing so you’re prepared for all scenarios. Control change by accepting it.

He also makes valuable points about culture, trust and community. A club, or business, is bigger than one person. It’s about working for your mates and trusting they’re working for you. As he says: “The minute staff members are employed, you have to trust that they are doing their jobs. If you micromanage and tell people what to do, there is no point in hiring them.”

So while I’m a lifelong City boy who will never cheer for Fergie’s lads on the pitch, I’m willing to admire how he goes about life off it. Well done Fergie, you’ve earned your retirement.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SKOL #1

Brazil’s most popular beer and long-term client of F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, SKOL has been named the Most Valuable Brand in Latin America in a survey of 50 brands conducted by BrandAnalytics , Millward Brown and WPP. The 50 Latin American brands are valued at $136 billion. The Brazilian multinational energy corporation and another Saatchi client, Petrobras, was #2.

Fabio Fernandes is the CEO and creative director of F/Nazca Saatchi and has led the transformation of SKOL from #3 beer brand in Brazil to its ascendancy at the top. If Lovemarks has a country as its natural home, it would be Brazil. Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy – what more can I say! The brand report noted that:

To reach the top rankings of the most valuable brands, SKOL adopted a strategy developed by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi. According to him, brands need to create emotional connections with their consumers. Only then will be loved by them, are called "Lovemarks".

SKOL take the Lovemarks business really seriously. They continuously monitor and map their Lovemarks standing competitively. Take note clients!

Under his creative leadership, Fabio and his F/Nazca Saatchi team have helped create a brand that is young, irreverent, funny and even a little subversive. From Skol flavored Easter eggs, to bringing the spirit of Brazil’s famous Carnival into homes across the country, and transforming the humble beer bottle into designer homeware, Fabio and co have seen SKOL become an undisputed Lovemark in Brazil, not just in the beer category.

Check out Brian Sheehan’s book Loveworks for the case story on SKOL – and understand how SKOL “goes down round.”

Magnificio, SKOL and Fabio!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Leadership Lessons from the Shutdown

When foreign tourists turn up at the Statue of Liberty only to be told that it’s closed because the government has run out of money, some of them balk in disbelief. In reality the shutdown is embarrassing for America. Muddling democracy they would argue, is better than communism. Many compare the Congress to a dysfunctional family where the inability to have any constructive conversation does more damage than good to the rest of the family (am engrossed in Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards...). It’s a travesty that it has come to this, but like in all crises one thing we need to do is look at what we can learn from it.

In an article on Inc.com, Samuel Bacharach from Cornell University highlights what leaders can learn from the current relationships in Congress.
  • Don't stay with your base too long. It’s nice where you’re on a team that is cheering you on. Everyone on your side agrees with your plans and what you say. But don’t get lost in it. Know when you get your people together on the same page, singing the same tune, and then know when to start reaching out to others.

  • Make only token gestures to your exact opposites. Don't spend too much time with people you can’t win over. You’ll have your hardliners and though you will need to show that you acknowledge their presence, your efforts will be wasted on trying to convince people who don’t want their minds changed.

  • Try to win the middle. These are people who are open to negotiation. They want a resolution. They may not agree with you 100% but they are willing to make concessions. You’ll have a better chance of winning their vote.

  • Know when not to negotiate. Sometimes talking does do nothing. Especially if no one can agree what to talk about.

  • Don't confuse short-term vs. long-term accountability. Keep perspective. Focus on the larger group. It's not just about your team right now, and in this case it's not just about the Republicans and the Democrats. It's the country Congress needs to be answering to.

  • Keep your ego out of the game. This follows on from the previous point. It’s not about you, and if you can keep it that way the process is easier for everyone. Don Miguel Ruiz puts it best: “Never take it personally.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Greatest Match in Modern Rugby?

Video source: nzherald.co.nz

At Baker St Pub on 1st Avenue and 68th St NYC at 11am on Saturday were a bunch of Kiwis (including Bill Middleton, John McCabe, Chris Liddell and me) and a horde of South Africans to witness one of the greatest sports matches every played. Here are the video highlights. It was relentless best quality from both teams; extreme pressure and physicality. Sportswriters are not really cynics, they are just waiting for games like this to show up. Here are superlative extracts from NZ’s Herald and Stuff.

match world had waited for
will go down as one of the all time greats
there was carnage
maimed bodies strewn over the park
played at a frenetic pace
lead interchanging four times
crowd of 64,000 sensed
outsiders held their nerve
steamrolled
crucial try-saving tackle
countless heroes
the first team to record
extended this year's unbeaten run
again defied the odds
all were immense
vaunted physicality
man of the match was a standout
scene was set early for an epic occasion
tactic was to weather the early storm
but they did much more than that
the two best sides in the world
delivered and more
brutal first-half
players didn't survive
taken off in a stretcher with a protective neck brace
freak hamstring injury
quell the rampant locals
scored a brilliant first try
classy off-load
beat four defenders in silky fashion
brought the crowd back to life
one-handed off-load
superb finish
battled gallantly
defiant defence
absorbing to watch
the best rugby team on the planet.
defended their title
victory
several moments of controversy
yet to be beaten
toughest test of the year
stood up to the physicality
too much skill and fitness
playing starring roles
a thrilling test
lead changed several times
sealing the win
courage and determination
the hostile arena
periods of dominance.
the first time since
to cope with
refused to concede anything.
a hell of a match
Messam struck back
the lead continued to seesaw
brilliant individual effort
made an incredible run

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eating the Weird & Wonderful

As teenagers do, two Kingston boys recently attempted to elevate their fast food experience to a McBanquet. With cutlery and tablecloth in hand, the duo also created a centrepiece of straws and bravely lit candles to shed some light on what would have otherwise been a pretty generic eating experience.

This amusing vignette reminds us that even in the Age of Now, when we want things fast and in bite-sizes, eating remains one of the pleasures in life which we are willing to embrace the weird and wonderful. Forget boring and bland, here are some of the most unique culinary experiences available to be explored and enjoyed.
  • Blind Dining - In London you can eat in the dark at Dans le Noir. When you can’t see what you’re eating, your other senses go into overdrive. Your sense of taste and smell start to dominate, and your mind starts playing games on you. What is this? And why does it tastes like nothing I have tasted before? Not the best for first dates and business meetings.

  • Eating Underwater - At the Anantara Kihavah in The Maldives you can dine in the deep of the sea. They have a wine cellar and restaurant with spectacular views of sea life and you can still send a selfie to friends and family as there is wireless internet.

  • In the Treetops - How about eating in the trees? In New Zealand, not too far from Auckland, you can entertain up to 30 guests at the Redwoods Treehouse. It’s as close to nature as you’ll get.

  • Hanging in Mid-Air - Eating while suspended 50 metres in the sky is not for everyone, but it makes for an incredible spectacle. Dinner in the Sky hosts events in different cities around the world and one event can cater for up to 3 chefs, cooking your fabulous meal for up to 22 people. If the weather is bad, there is insurance!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Feeling Manipulated? It’s Probably the Soundtrack

Our aural senses are hard-wired to our emotions. That’s not a surprise to anyone, I’d imagine. What is interesting is the extent to which music can be used to manipulate our emotions. The BBC took a look at this from the perspective of movie soundtracks. The affects are potentially more pronounced because of the environment and our mental state. We head to the cinema keyed up in anticipation of being taken on an emotional rollercoaster, so we’re prime targets for some emotional manipulation.

The ways that we can be exploited is fascinating. We react physically to music and sound waves, even if it’s not necessarily in tune with what we’re watching. Horror filmmakers, for example, have admitted to using bass waves or vibrations at frequencies below the range of the human ear to induce fear in audiences. They can potentially ramp up the fear levels and heighten anticipation to the point the audience feels sick, even if nothing is happening onscreen. Worth keeping in mind next time you’re nestled in with some popcorn.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

America’s Cup Reverie

Well, that was spectacular, the America’s Cup regatta off San Francisco. Deeply absorbing, highly thrilling, full of technology wonder and human drama. My heart goes out to Grant Dalton, Dean Barker and the crew of Aotearoa for a valiant effort. Inevitably questions will be asked about how we surrendered an 8-1 lead to an 8-9 loss. The magic of sport is that it does throw up extraordinary performances and this is what Oracle produced. You could sense and see their industry in getting their boat going faster, their crew performing better, their decisions sharper.

The CEOs of both teams, Grant Dalton and Russell Coutts, both New Zealanders, are personal friends but a mile apart in terms of temperament and approach. There was something especially Kiwi about seeing 56 year old Dalts grinding on the boat for several of the races; the boss in the trenches, one of the crew, on his way to what was seemingly going to be one of the great upsets in sports. New Zealand vs The World! Our DIY nation against the fortunes of the Oracle of industrial computing! Onshore and out of sight however, was the steely mind of engineering-trained Coutts, corralling his team and machine to wring both incremental and quantum improvements against the clock and eight match points.

It would be endlessly fascinating to ruminate on why New Zealand could not deliver the killer punch and inevitably an interrogation of national character will come into play. Do we need to be more ruthless? More seriously resourced? Less taciturn and more emotional? Are these even the right questions?

New Zealanders will have a decision to make over the coming months as to whether it continues its America’s Cup campaigns. We’ve been in them for about three decades now, and as Larry Ellison said in his post regatta comments, there would not be an America’s Cup today without New Zealanders. My personal view is that the Cup brings great visibility to our sophisticated technology industries and diversifies the view of New Zealand away from being all about sheep and cows. Despite our inability to close out the win, this Cup provides our trade marketers with fantastic material to position our high tech sector given their contributions to both Team New Zealand and Oracle Team USA.

To paraphrase my mate Sean Fitzpatrick, “sport was the winner on the day.” Onwards!