Thursday, February 26, 2015

10 Favorite Cricketers

Image source: cricket.com.au

With the World Cup in New Zealand in full swing, here’s a look at my favorite cricketers of all time… KR
  1. Gary Sobers
  2. Allan Border
  3. Richie Benaud
  4. Farokh Engineer
  5. Harry Pilling
  6. Jimmy Anderson
  7. Clive LIoyd
  8. Jackie Bond
  9. Ian Botham
  10. Frank Worrell

Technicolor Turns 100


Technicolor was first incorporated in 1915; however it didn’t really cotton on until after World War II. Originally considered a passing fad, adding color represented a revolutionary shift in onscreen storytelling, changing visual narratives forever, as told by Adrienne LaFrance in a recent article on The Atlantic.

While it’s hard to imagine not having the option of color these days, not everyone was open to the change. In the beginning, only small parts of films were in color, due to the expense. Largely it was for dramatic effect and to make a bit of a splash. The Wizard of Oz is perhaps one of the most memorable instances; when Dorothy leaves her sepia-toned reality for the colorful Land of Oz.

Color was imbued with emotion, accompanying scenes that filmmakers wanted us to really feel. Scientists in the 1930s were even working to establish an emotion spectrum – emotions being the ‘primary colors’ of the movie palette. From The New York Times in 1937: “Gray, blue and purple are associated with tragedies; while yellow, orange and red complement comedy scenes. Red was the color that best accentuated scenes of great dramatic intensity, with gray and purple the next most effective.”

We’re spoilt with color these days – to the point that directors even use bespoke color schemes to establish the feel of their work. Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock and Sofia Coppola are known for it. One of my favorite TV series ‘True Detective’ is also known for its unique color palette, described as ‘murky’ and ‘stripped’, helping to define the show’s vibe.

Black and white movies may carry nostalgia, but if you look beneath the surface, color carries more than just a splash.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Good Ideas Gaining Traction

Image source: thegreenhead.com

When was the last time you came up with a brilliant idea but stopped there, without having the means or ability to execute it? There’s a solution to this in ‘Quirky’, a modern invention machine that takes ideas and refines, manufactures and markets them, before voila, your invention (yes yours, because you’re still given credit as the inventor), hits the store shelves.

In the past, one of the challenges of having a good idea was getting traction. Ideas that might not have seen the light of day 5-10 years ago now have an entire online industry dedicated to their execution, so they don’t just remain in the dark. Not only that, our digital world provides an organic means of marketing – achieve viral status via social media and you’re one foot in the door.

To start, there’s the obvious difficulty of refining an idea and coming up with a prototype, a gap that Quirky has filled. Etsy provides a different sort of help in the form of a virtual store, and crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter provide a platform to generate revenue, enabling people to make things happen for themselves.

Kickstarter also provides a means to rally people around an idea and test it, and entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to it to get their ideas and early stage companies off the ground. An article on Forbes highlighted those that have seen huge success, such as the Pebble E-Paper Watch, one of the first affordable smart watches on the market, which raised over $10 million in just over a month. Oculus Rift, a virtual-reality headset, raised around $2.5 million in 30 days, before going on to raise more capital and being acquired by Facebook for $2 billion.

This new age of invention and crowd support has prompted all sorts of ideas to come out of the woodwork. TIME published a list of the 25 best inventions of 2014 at the end of last year. A few stand-outs for me include Witricity, technology that allows appliances to pull power from a central charging base instead of using a cord; Superbananas, vitamin-A enriched bananas to help cure blindness in sub-Saharan Africa; and Quirky + GE aros, a smart air conditioner that is powered from an app that can track owners’ movements via GPS and turn itself off and on depending on their proximity to home.

Of course, the selfie stick features in TIME’s list too – slightly goofy, but there’s a market nonetheless.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Showing Solidarity

Image source: hominybaptist.com

Solidarity. Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). So what does it mean to show it? I think a big part of it is precisely that – showing it, not telling it. Showing up. Showing you care.

Here’s a list along these lines, of ways we can show solidarity.
  1. Being there and making an effort. You only regret the things you don’t do.
  2. Looking for ways to help people, without thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’
  3. Reaching out to people. Making connections. Making conversations.
  4. Making time for people. Entertaining their conversation topics.
  5. Being polite. Holding the door open. Sharing.
  6. Appreciating the people around you. Paying someone a compliment.
  7. Thinking about what your actions mean to other people.
  8. Having a sense of humor. Sharing jokes. Laughing with other people.
  9. Seeking help from other people when you need it. Sharing your trials and tribulations.
  10. Being loyal and showing support.
Among other things, solidarity builds social capital. And Loyalty Beyond Reason.

Monday, February 23, 2015

I Am And / And

Image source: laninabipolar.com

I’ve talked about And / And over the years, albeit in a different context, but I see that the idea of not limiting one’s choice to Either / Or is permeating through many parts of life. How we define ourselves through what we do is one of them.

It’s becoming more and more common for people to adopt not just one, but multiple professional personas. I’m told that the popular term for it is ‘slashie’, which purportedly originated from the 2001 film Zoolander, with its ‘actor-slash-model’ award. Slashies have evolved since then to encompass any and every trade, and certainly don’t just apply to actor-slash-models.

Being a ‘slashie’ is about variety. Pursuing multiple interests, taking on different jobs and playing different roles. In the music world it’s common place. A smattering of examples include Bob Dylan (musician / poet / painter), Keith Richards (musician / children’s book author / actor), Brian May (musician / astrophysicist ), Roger Daltry (musician / trout fishery owner).

Though one may say that these people have only taken on second careers out of interest and not necessity, the fact remains that being a slashie enables people to apply varied interests to meet different sorts of people, explore different points of view and ultimately, create richer experiences.

Slashie Sarah Liu explains, “It’s about flexibility…it’s not having one job, nine to five, five days a week. It’s about seeing possibilities above and beyond that and saying it’s ok to reject the status quo, that that’s how change and disruption actually occurs.”

Variety is the spice of life.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Favorite All Blacks

Image source: Brian Joseph

Not necessarily the greatest (though some are) they are the ones who inspired me for different reasons at different times in my life.

Love Found in a Ridgewood, New Jersey Diner


My friend and Worldwide Talent Director at Saatchi & Saatchi Milano Reyna send me a bunch of pictures from his local, Raymond’s Diner. It’s a smart looking place, and all the mirrors feature quotes about love. Here’s the line-up, through the ages.
  • “There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Aristotle
  • “Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.” – Thomas Aquinas
  • “Love does not dominate, it cultivates.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
  • “It is impossible to love and be wise.” – Francis Bacon
  • “Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” – William Shakespeare
  • “If you would be loved, love, and be lovable.” – Benjamin Franklin
  • “Love is the only gold.” – Alfred Tennyson
  • “One is very crazy when in love.” – Sigmund Freud
  • “You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.” – Albert Einstein
  • “Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” – Pablo Picasso
  • “All you need is love but a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” – Charles Schultz
  • “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” – Carl Sagan
  • “Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.” – John Lennon
  • “Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.” – Maya Angelou
  • “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” – Yogi Berra


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Unlocking Passwords

Image source: kusic.ca

When did the password become part of everyday life? Most people will have something to say about passwords. Some dislike them and hope for their elimination sooner rather than later. Some, specifically Ian Urbina in an article on The New York Times, see them as a fascinating extension of people and what makes us (and them) unique.

As Urbina puts it, “We despise them – yet we imbue them with our hopes and dreams, our dearest memories, our deepest meanings. They unlock much more than our accounts.”

We’re told not to choose passwords that have personal significance, and yet we attach details and sentimentality to them that makes them distinct, such as the name of our first pet or our first love. We break the rules because we’re more likely to remember things that mean something to us. But that’s also what makes them weak.

Still, we can’t win. Those who err on the non-personal side of caution are even more exposed. A recent article on Business Insider reported that ‘123456’ and ‘password’ were the most popular passwords of 2014. And those who determinedly stick with passwords that have personal significance will find that after coming up with something that fits the bill – eight digits or longer and a combination of letters, numbers and symbols – their password might not be quite as friendly as they thought it would be.

Creating a password is only half the problem – the other half is remembering it. I came across an article online, ‘6 tips for creating an unbreakable password that you can remember’. One that appealed to me, at both a personal and practical level, was using a line from your favorite song, taking the first letter from each word to form your password, and replacing some of the letters with numbers.

This still might leave people a little stumped – how many song lines can you remember if you follow the rule of having a unique password for every website?

There’s got to be a better way – or at least it’s coming. A 2014 article on CNBC noted that companies are starting to experiment with password replacements, including facial recognition and other biometric features such as a person’s fingerprint, voice, or behavioral patterns. Many of these techniques have been around for a while, and some have been implemented on some devices, but not on any widespread scale.

Cliff Richard once sang of rock ‘n’ roll, “They say it’s gonna die but honey, please let’s face it. They just don’t know what’s going to replace it.” The same could be said of the humble password. At least we still have rock ‘n’ roll.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Creative Industry. Boom.

Image source: design.fh-joanneum.at

Creative industries are becoming a key driver of economic growth globally. In the US, value added for arts and culture accounted for $698 billion (4.3%) of GDP and employed people in 4.7 million jobs in 2012, according to a report by the Department of Commerce. In the UK, the creative industries helped the economy by contributing an all-time high of $76.9 billion (5%) in 2013, according to a report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

On a slightly different scale, the New Zealand creative industry contributes more than $3.6 billion annually to the local economy. The biggest employer is the film and television sector, likely helped by the fact that The Hobbit was in production when the statistics were collected in 2011.

The thing about the creative industry is that it sits at the crossroads of the arts, culture, business and technology; it provides product, export capability, employment and national recognition, which are all things that lead to greater investment; and its products have the ability to improve the quality of our lives from a very human perspective. The development of the creative industry relies on the generating of new ideas, innovation and the tenacity to bring things to life, and in my opinion, if the creative industry is growing, that’s a good sign of human progress.

The growth path for the creative industries seems positively certain, but not without challenges. John Kampfner, Head of the newly launched Creative Industries Federation in the UK, said in an interview with The Guardian that we need to be thinking long term. “…if we fail to think long term, if we fail to invest in our public spaces and cultural education, the talent pool that has projected us on to this level of the past 10 or 20 years will dry up… (We) need to be thinking not just how is our bottom line looking – how much have we sold, but also what is the state of our public arts and public education to fuel the next generation.”

The economic arguments for supporting our creative industries provide impetus for increased investment. But let’s not forget the broader argument – that our creative industries help make our countries what they are – which is a case for investment in itself.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Thrill of it

Image source: freeimages.com

Big Data has permeated every industry. There’s no denying it. From the way our food is grown to scoring the perfect airline seat, someone somewhere has strung together an algorithm that calculates efficiencies to get us closer to what we want.

Remember that fantastic movie Moneyball starring Brad Pitt? The 2011 film based on Michael Lewis’ book told the story of the Oakland Athletics’ pioneering use of scientific principles and maths to win at baseball. Both the book and film spurred a fair bit of speculation about whether sports managers could eventually be ousted by Big Data and technology. Now almost every big sports team has someone doing the analytics and feeding into strategy for that competitive edge. In the lead-up to the preparation for the 2011 World Cup All Blacks’ assistant coach Wayne Smith and statistician Alistair Rogers and NZRU's senior scientist Ken Quarrie uncovered a bunch of fine details about how to deploy their players from diving into data.

I’ll admit that even though I’d like the winning streak of my favorite teams to be more predictable, sport itself would be terribly boring if it were reduced to numbers. Human-decision continues to dominate the game, as Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explains in a recent article on The Guardian.

First, data will only give you the numbers. Interpretation of those numbers requires intuition; intuition that only humans have as a result of expertise and experience. Data can help refine our intuition, but on its own it remains trivial.

Second, humans have emotions. A coach can provide leadership, empathy and recognition, and can make athletes want to run faster and jump higher. Data can’t lead. It can help diagnose problems, but it can’t fix them. It certainly can’t make you want to fix them.

Finally, humans are charmingly unpredictable. Data can help us make better predictions, but it will not make humans more predictable than they already are. Unpredictability makes sports exciting. It’s the thrill of it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Getting Older

Image source: mnginteractive.com

“Look, you get older. Passion is a young man’s game. Young people can be passionate. Older people gotta be more wise. I mean, you’re around a while, you leave certain things to the young and you don’t try to act like you’re young. You could really hurt yourself.”

Bob Dylan, February 2015, 73 years young.

KR

Finding His Voice

Image source: razmatazmag.com

It always drives me nuts when I hear people dismiss an artist of Bob Dylan’s magnitude with, “Sure, Dylan is a great poet, but I can’t stand his voice.” My response to this has always been to shrug and say, “Yeah, OK, but which voice?”

Are the doubters referring to the angry young man of folk records like The Times They Are a-Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan?

Or “that thin wild mercury sound” of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde?

Or how about the proto-punk harlequin frontman figure of the incendiary electric tours through England with the Hawks, captured in Martin Scorsese’s majestic documentary, No Direction Home?

Or the ancient-seeming, all-seeing mystic of the legendary Basement Tapes and John Wesley Harding?

What about the country crooner of Nashville Skyline?

The contented-seeming family man of New Morning?

The heartbroken troubadour of Blood on the Tracks?

The born-again gospel singer of Slow Train Coming?

The archivist of American folk tradition of Good as I Been to You?

Or the Rip Van Winkle of pop music, roaming the despairing landscapes of Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, Modern Times, and Tempest?

Dylan. For more than half a century the man has seemed to define artistic reinvention. I’ve been thinking about Dylan—our most protean, Picasso-like artist—a lot lately because February brings us the release of his latest album, Shadows in the Night. Dylan’s 36th studio record might mark the oddest turn yet in his discography (if we discount his foray into Perry Como territory with 2009’s holiday record, Christmas in the Heart); it’s a ten-song set of covers of tunes written and recorded prior to 1950, most originally popularized by Ole Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra.

Wait a minute, Dylan sings Sinatra? The man whose voice David Bowie once compared to “sand and glue?” The man John Updike described as having a “voice to scour a skillet with.” That’s right, and the result is nothing short of sublime. “I don’t see myself as covering these songs in any way,” Dylan said in a press release describing the record’s stripped down, five-piece band arrangements. “They’ve been covered enough. Buried as a matter of fact. What me and my band are basically doing is uncovering them. Lifting them out of the grave and bringing them into the light of day.” In a five-star rave in the UK Telegraph, Neil McCormick calls Dylan’s singing here “delicate, tender, and precise,” and says of the album: “It is spooky, bittersweet, mesmerisingly moving and showcases the best singing from Bob Dylan in 25 years.”

In the 60s, Dylan famously told a reporter “I’m just as good a singer as Caruso...You have to listen closely.” Here, he proves it. Listening to Dylan cover chestnuts including “Stay with Me,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Where Are You?,” “Why Try to Change Me Now,” and “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” one is reminded that – leaving aside Ella Fitzgerald and Sinatra himself – there may be no greater phraser of song than Dylan. The man knows the dramatic weight of each word, and how twisting a single syllable can change the meaning of a line from an invitation to pity a breaking heart to a warning that a shiv is about to be delivered between the ribs.

On Shadows in the Night Dylan honors some of the songs he loves best and pays tribute to our shared popular music history. And he sings in a voice that’s sly and wise and full of world-weary longing. This is a brawny, original, self-invented voice as American as that of Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain or Muhammad Ali. It’s a voice that recalls, in the phrase of the great rock critic Greil Marcus, “the old, weird America.” It’s a voice that sounds as if Robert Johnson has just been sprung from the grave. And it’s a voice that, at 73 years young, our greatest and most mysterious artist has entirely earned.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tougher Than the Rest


I’ve written often in the past about the importance of grit and mental toughness in the boardroom and on the gridiron. Well, if you want to learn how to cook, ask a chef. If you want to learn how to paint, ask an artist. And if you want to learn about persistence and resilience, who better to ask than a U.S. Navy SEAL?

In a recent article in Business Insider, Wired Magazine writer and founder of the great blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree Eric Barker spoke with his friend and former SEAL Platoon Commander James Waters about how his experiences in SEAL training and deployment align with the latest scientific research about grit, motivation, expertise, and how people survive the most challenging situations.

First is having a purpose and a sense of greater meaning. Barker relates how out of an initial 256 volunteers in Waters’s SEALS training class, only 16 graduated—a whopping 94% attrition rate. Research shows that when it comes to physical distress, our brains quit long before our bodies give out. The difference just might come down to having a higher purpose and an intrinsic goal (“Serving my country is something that matters deeply to me.”) rather than an extrinsic goal (“Being a SEAL would be really cool, and making officer one day would be a powerful position.”).

Confidence is key, but so is staying realistic. “People in tough situations need to be very realistic about the danger they’re in—but they need to be confident in their ability to handle it,” writes Barker, noting that studies have shown how optimism and despair can often be self-fulfilling prophecies.

It might surprise readers to learn that SEALS spend only about 25% of their time deployed in the field, and the rest of their time honing their skills. There are so many disciplines that SEALS must master, preparedness becomes paramount. Indeed, Barker cites research that demonstrates how people who’ve prepared have a greater likelihood of surviving catastrophic scenarios, “because they’ve already done the deliberation the other people around them are just now going through” and “reducing uncertainty reduces fear.”

Focusing on improvement is another SEAL-worthy lesson. Rather than frame situations as binary, win/lose scenarios, consider every situation a learning experience. Take a page from the elitist of the elite: Navy SEALS perform a rigorous debrief following each mission during which they spend 90% of the time discussing what could be improved the next time.

It’s long been said that there’s no “I” in “team.” So it goes that lone wolves don’t play well with SEALS. “Giving help and taking on the role of caretaker [increases] the feeling of meaning in our lives,” Barker writes. Having a support network—knowing that you can give and get help—is invaluable during tough times.

Faced with intensive training that goes on for a year or longer, Waters also learned the importance of celebrating small wins. And the scientific research on happiness backs up his hunch: a series of small victories has a greater cumulative impact than infrequent big wins. Recognizing the small good things also helps you appreciate that life will always have its peaks and valleys.

Finally, laugh! “Experts say that humor provides a powerful buffer against stress and fear,” Barker writes. “When people are trapped in a stressful situation and feeling overwhelmed, they're stuck in one way of thinking: This is terrible. I've got to get out of here. But if you can take a humorous perspective, then by definition you're looking at it differently—you're breaking out of that rigid mind-set.”

These are the strategies the toughest of the tough use when faced with the most physically demanding and dangerous situations the world has to offer. Now, imagine applying these lessons in true grit during stressful business meetings, weekend Hockey League games, or with a tantrum-throwing child!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Importance of Trust

Image source: wikimedia.org

In the advertising business, to instil the trust of clients, it’s simple: consistently deliver great results. Today however there’s an element that can get in the way, born of modern technology that has taken an element of mystery out of the work of creatives.

People now have access to the tools of the trade if they so desire, which means they can apply their own creativity in the form of different colors, fonts and even editing techniques. We’ve all heard of clients taking a lead role in casting ads.

Rory Clayton, a great leader, client and soldier put it best when former (and legendary) Saatchi & Saatchi Art Director Alexandra Taylor – who recently won the D&AD President’s Award – asked what he thought of her creative work.

He paused, looked at her and said: “Alex, I wouldn’t ask you how to run the British Army, so I’m certainly not going to tell you how to do your advertising!”

My own add to this is what Yoshio Ishizaka, then head of Toyota’s International business, said to me a decade ago: “Kevin, you will never know more than us about building cars, but we will never know more about the people who buy them than you.”

Trust your agency.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Entrepreneur.com Collection

Image source: entrepreneur.com

In early December I filmed an interview with Entrepreneur.com’s Catherine Clifford about…I had no idea what it was going to be about honestly, but I was impressed with the crew set-up in my office, they took a lot of care, and Cat was preparing a little nervously in the adjacent meeting room, until she walked in poised and prepared and with a steely perceptiveness pinned me down for an intense 30 minute interview. I thought a couple of hours must have passed, I was exhausted after it. It obviously turned out ok for they extracted six videos from the interview, and have posted them over December and January. Here’s the collection. Thanks to Cat, producer Kian, camera and sound Peelahr Moore, editor Lauren Covello and SweeneyVesty publicist Jon Bier. You got me good.
  1. Why Your Brand Is More Important Than Your Product
  2. Good Companies Make You Think. Great Companies Make You Feel.
  3. ‘The Further Up a Company You Go, the More Stupid You Become’
  4. The Secret to Keeping Young, Ambitious Talent? Let Them Go.
  5. Forget Practical Choices. To Live Your Best Life, Make Happy Choices.
  6. The Best Entrepreneurs Get Out of Their Heads and Open Their Ears

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Favourite Binge TV Series

Image source: pmcdeadline2.com
  1. House of Cards
  2. Justified
  3. The Americans
  4. Homeland
  5. The Blacklist
  6. Longmire
  7. Game of Thrones
  8. Fargo
  9. Banshee
  10. True Detective

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Let It Go

Image source: xonefm.com

Anyone who has young children or grandchildren will be familiar with the phrase ‘Let It Go’ (two year old Cameron and five year old Kendall lit up the One & Only Beach Bar in the Bahamas with a spirited rendition a few months back). The title song from Disney’s blockbuster film Frozen is the most requested karaoke song in 2014 and a tune lamented by parents everywhere. What made Frozen the number one animated film of all time and why do kids love it so? Yalda T. Uhls and Maryam Kia-Keating are two psychologists (sisters and mothers) who decided to find out. The verdict: it recognizes the desire to be happy and free.

One thing that doesn’t make you feel happy and free is a grudge. Think about the last time you held one. It’s hard to avoid that heavy feeling, that extra weight. True, we often talk about ‘carrying’ a grudge like we’re managing some hefty load, somewhat begrudgingly, but voluntarily, nonetheless.

According to a new study this may not be too far from the truth. Literally, holding a grudge can weigh you down.

The interesting thing about the study, by Xue Zheng of Erasmus University, is that it illustrates the close interaction between our mental and physical realities. I’ll explain.

The experiment involved asking participants to recall a time they’d experienced conflict. One group were asked to recall a situation that ended in forgiveness, while the other group were asked to recall a situation where they did not forgive the offender. All participants were then asked to jump five times as high as they could.

Participants in the ‘forgiving’ group jumped the highest, while the ‘grudge holding’ group jumped almost one-third lower (on average) than the forgivers.

So there it is; carrying a grudge extends beyond the metaphor. Forgiveness can lighten the burden. Let it go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sometimes Ideas Just Happen. Or So It Seems.

Image source: cloudfront.net

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a professor of biochemistry at Boston University better known for his science fiction novels. He was one to ponder the genesis of new ideas, as uncovered in an unpublished 1959 essay on creativity. The context of this essay is particularly interesting, as Asimov wrote the essay subsequent to being invited to join a group of people – scientists, thinkers and creative types – who were charged with thinking ‘out of the box’, considering secret classified information.

It was for this reason that Asimov eventually decided not to continue in the group – he worried that having access to such information would limit his freedom of expression. Before leaving the group he expressed himself rather eloquently in a formal essay on creativity, which is just as relevant today as when he wrote it. I’ve extracted a few pearls of wisdom here.

Asimov explains that “unfortunately, the method of generation (of an idea) is never clear, even to the ‘generators’ themselves.” To start, however, what is needed is people with a good background in a particular field, as well as people who are capable of making connections between things that may not otherwise seem connected.

The concept of ‘cross-connections’ is the crucial point. Making a cross-connection requires a ‘certain daring’. Asimov says, “A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance… Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits.”

Apply this to a company, and you’ll see that the people who should be encouraged to come up with ideas are the people who interact most intimately with your customer and who understand, first hand, what goes into the day-to-day labors that make your company tick. Among those people will be some who go against the grain and think differently.

Asimov notes that once a cross-connection is made, the idea becomes obvious (“Why didn’t I think of that?”) and suddenly seems reasonable. (One of Saatchi & Saatchi’s brightest, Cliff Francis, called this ‘Surprising with the Obvious’) During, it usually seems unreasonable. Perhaps this is why Asimov advocated isolation, as far as creativity is concerned – it can be embarrassing to voice new ideas, and thus creativity can be inhibited in the presence of others.

However, all is not lost on creativity in groups, or ‘cerebration sessions’ as Asimov calls them. Their purpose should be to “educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts” – not to think up new ideas.

Asimov talks of the ideal conditions for a creative group: no more than five people who are willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish; no individuals who are more reputable, articulate, or commanding than the others; a feeling of informality and joviality; a relaxed environment; if possible, little to no responsibility or pressure to generate new ideas (“the great ideas came as side issues”); and a session arbiter, asking shrewd questions, making necessary comments and bringing the group gently back to the point.

You can read the full essay here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Winning Formula


Last year I posted a few times on my RLRJ matrix. The successful organizations ahead will load people with Responsibility, Learning, Recognition and Joy, in equal parts every day. People who get ahead give and demand these factors. In 2015, I’ll look to build out the equation as one part of my new role as Head Coach Publicis Groupe.

The formula applies as much to life as to work; it fits with my philosophy of work / life integration. Most companies have a long way to go in filling the four buckets of the matrix. Here are a couple of recent discussions I spotted, worth a look, that touch on the profound range of the four quotients.

Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project drafts an Employee Bill of Rights and blueprint for attracting and retaining the best people:
  1. Pay every employee a living wage
  2. Encourage employees to regularly renew themselves
  3. Give employees the opportunity to have a full life outside of work
  4. Make each employee feel valued, valuable and appreciated
  5. Treat all employees like adults
  6. Be transparent about nearly everything
  7. Provide employees with opportunities to learn, grow and develop
  8. Define and pursue a higher purpose that makes employees proud.
On the joy side from a team member perspective, Laura Brounstein at Cosmopolitan Magazine shares with Business Insider eight easy ways for making work more fun:
  1. Create “happiness-boosting traditions” with co-workers
  2. Get up and walk around
  3. Make your workspace a place you enjoy being
  4. Laugh
  5. Compliment someone every day
  6. Check in with you colleagues and your network
  7. Be appreciative
  8. Create or join an office team or club
I always say the further up a company you go, the more stupid you become. The job at the top is not to manage people but to coach winners, to lead by creating leaders whose job it is to make the decisions. That’s about inspiration, about coaching people not ‘employees’ to be the best they can be. And RLRJ is at the heart of it. I often look to ESPN Coach of the Century Vince Lombardi who turned around the Green Bay Packers. He used football to teach life.