Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mystery Loves Company

I often talk about the important role that mystery plays in forging emotional connections with people. Whether you’re an artist, an entertainer, an advertising creative or an educator, getting a strong reaction from people requires a bit of mystery.

This is partly because mystery is such a ubiquitous part of our world. From the inner workings of the human mind to the nature of the universe, there seem to be an infinite number of unanswered questions about our existence.

Why am I waxing philosophical all of a sudden? It has to do with a medical study that I recently read about. It’s forthcoming in the Southern Medical Journal. The study showed strong evidence for the healing power of "proximal intercessory prayer." This is when one or more people pray for an individual while in their presence.

According to this article:

“A team of medical doctors and scientists led by Indiana University professor of religion Candy Gunther Brown found in the study, conducted in rural Mozambique, that prayer brought "highly significant" improvements to hearing-impaired participants and significant changes to the visually impaired . . . Two of the hard-of-hearing study participants were able to hear sounds at 50 decibels lower after the prayer session and three of the visually impaired subjects saw their vision improve from 20/400 or worse to 20/80 or better.”

Whatever your feelings about religion, this is a mysterious – and humbling – finding. Every now and then, it’s refreshing to be reminded how incomplete our understanding of our world really is.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Death of a Car Man

A couple of years ago Jerry Flint, a writer with Forbes magazine, asked to come and talk to me about cars and Lovemarks. We had a crackling couple of hours. Jerry was opinionated, cantankerous, provocative, insightful and curious. And a great storyteller.

He came back in to see me a year or so later to talk about the journey Toyota was on with the Prius in particular, and gave me a copy of a great book, The Dream Machine: The Golden Age of American Automobiles: 1946-1965.

Jerry just died.

He was 79 years old and outlasted many of the Detroit legends he wrote about. Jerry was everything you wanted in a journalist. A great storyteller, full of passion, truth and that ability great writers have to say everything in eight words or less. He combined an anger for bureaucracy with a passion for excellence, particularly in design and performance.

And boy did he know cars.

The world is poorer without him.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inspired Minds at LRGS (Part 2): Creating Creative Leaders

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the idea of creative leadership. In a recent survey of 1500 CEOs conducted by IBM, a majority identified creativity as the most important characteristic for a leader to possess.

For anyone who has ever been at the helm of a large organization, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. The world is increasingly complex, and the problems that we will face in the coming decades will be nearly impossible to anticipate. We need leaders who can turn on a dime and use what is available to them to construct successful, innovative solutions.

This is one of the many reasons that I’m such a proud supporter of the InspirUS program at Lancaster Royal Grammar School. As I’ve mentioned many times before, InspirUS is a 10-week educational program for gifted students. It emphasizes creative thinking, problem-solving and understanding over rote memorization.

As we often say in the InspirUS program, the world needs more innovative leaders and creative thinkers, not more trivia experts.

This philosophy is becoming more widely adopted across Europe. In fact, 2009 was designated “The European Year of Creativity and Innovation,” by the European Union. The initiative aimed “to raise awareness of the importance of creativity and innovation for personal, social and economic development.”

Sadly, the United States has been slow to institutionalize creativity initiatives in its education system. And it certainly shows.

Newsweek recently drew attention to the “creativity crisis” in the United States. In fact, a look at the results of E. Paul Torrance’s well-known creativity test – or “CQ test” – reveals a startling downward trend. According to Newsweek:

“Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. ‘It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,’ Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade – for whom the decline is ‘most serious.’”

Many of the professions that today’s younger generations will have don’t even exist yet. Which is why it’s so important to ensure that young men and women are versatile, confident thinkers who bring originality and insight to everything they do. That’s the goal of InspirUS, and it should be the goal of every school around the world.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wooden Way

When it comes to the topic of leadership, I often look to successful sports coaches for insights into how best to manage talented people. In fact, Vince Lombardi is one of my all-time favorites.

As he once put it: “Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.”

There are few coaches with a track record as illustrious as former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He’s a long-time hero of my friend Bob Seelert’s, and since Wooden’s death earlier this summer, I’ve been reading up on this inspirational leader. Wooden was the first person to ever be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. But, believe it or not, that was hardly his most impressive accomplishment.

In the last 12 years of Wooden’s tenure as head coach at UCLA, the team took home 10 championship titles. Seven of those championships were won back-to-back!

For his momentous accomplishments, Wooden was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom – America’s highest civilian honor – in 2003, and was also the recipient of California State University’s John Wooden Ethics in Leadership Award (which was, obviously, named after Mr. Wooden himself).

Wooden was famous for his “Pyramid of Success,” as well as his 12 lessons of leadership. Here are the 12 lessons, all of which (with the possible exception of #4) I’m in full agreement with:
  1. Good values attract good people
  2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word
  3. Call yourself a teacher
  4. Emotion is your enemy
  5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket
  6. Little things make big things happen
  7. Make each day your masterpiece
  8. The character is mightier than a stick
  9. Make greatness attainable by all
  10. Seek significant change
  11. Don’t look at the scoreboard
  12. Adversity is your asset
Given his hard-nosed determination, his ability to remain cool under pressure and the tremendous emphasis he placed on teamwork, Wooden was the consummate leader, and we’d all be wise to take his lessons to heart. None of them are easy to follow, but they are words to live by nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brigitte Bardot, Then and Now

I’ve been going to St. Tropez since 1977. It’s a Lovemark for me and many others of my generation. I bought a house there five years ago and spend a few weeks there every summer. St. Tropez’s most famous resident is Brigitte Bardot, who still lives there today. There’s a terrific exhibition of her life and impact on French culture at the Espace Rendez-Vous des Lices. It runs until October 31, and it’s a great excuse to visit this exquisite city.

The exhibition covers her entire life: her childhood, her early acting days and her music career, straight through to her animal rights activism. It includes a wealth of personal items, such as previously unpublished letters, as well as paintings, photographs and sculptures of her from over the years that few have ever seen.

“An unsuspecting, well-mannered young lady with a perfect figure, she rose from starlet to star, turned the world on its head and caused nothing short of a revolution. Brigitte will always be known for her sensuality and emotions that helped us learn to forget the war and construct a new epoch, break with social conventions and embrace love itself . . . in her own way, without pretense, natural, carefree, ethereal, direct yet hesitant, Brigitte’s very nature and her life story is also that of our society over the course of the 20th century.” (Exhibition Overview)

As a lifelong BB devotee, I loved this exhibition. She was, along with Marilyn Monroe, Jackie O and Princess Diana, one of the most photographed women on the planet, “her image, distributed so widely, infinitely reproduced, and accompanied by text in all languages . . . The Bardot phenomenon propagated the myth of a liberated woman who extols emotional freedom for the masses.” If you’re in St. Tropez, don’t miss it.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reflections on a Mega-Savant

A few days ago I came across a newspaper from December 2009 that included a story that’s been on my mind ever since. It was an obituary for Kim Peek, the American savant that inspired the 1988 film Rain Man.

Peek was born with a developmental disability that gave him an unbelievable memory, while inhibiting his social and motor skills. He was originally believed to be mentally challenged, until it was discovered that he was a “mega-savant” capable of astounding mental tasks.

For instance, Kim had a photographic memory and could read an entire book in one hour (he read one page with each eye!). By the time he died last December, it was believed that he had committed 9,000 books to memory. He has genius-level knowledge of 15 subjects across science, sport and art.

It was less his mental abilities that impressed me than his relationship with Dustin Hoffman, who met Peek while researching his role in Rain Man. According to Peek’s father, “Dustin Hoffman said to me, you have to promise me one thing about this guy, share him with the world. And pretty soon it got so that nobody was a stranger to him, they were people, and so was he."

From that point on, Peek became a star on the lecture circuit. Audiences would test his knowledge with questions on the most esoteric topics. He rarely answered incorrectly. Peek thrived on the recognition and developed social skills that few thought were possible.

When Rain Man won the Academy Award in 1988, Barry Morrow, one of the film’s writers, gave his statuette to Peek. It soon after became known as the “The Most Loved Oscar Statue,” since Peek carried it with him to all of his speaking engagements, letting anybody in the audience who wished hold it. No other Oscar has ever been held by as many people.

I saw the story as a testament to the importance of helping individuals reach their potential. Hoffman unlocked something special about Peek by encouraging his father to share him with the world. Mentors, producers, teachers and even agents do the same thing by recognizing talent, putting it in front of an audience, and giving it a chance to blossom.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Game They Play in . . . America

As Chairman of USA Rugby, I’ve had the delight of watching the sport take hold in American culture over the last few years. I’ve always felt confident that the game they play in heaven would find a following here in the U.S., but I never imagined that it would grow as quickly as it has.

In the 2009-2010 membership cycle, USA Rugby had 95,000 members, an increase of 35% from 2006. What’s even more encouraging, however, is that, as of 2009, over 100,000 young Americans all over the country have participated in the youth rugby club Rookie Rugby.

This bodes incredibly well for the future of the sport in the United States. As waves of young rugby enthusiasts begin to grow up, we will see an even more widespread adoption of the sport. In other words, what happened to soccer over the last 20 years could soon happen to rugby. Young people of all sizes, shapes and speeds, especially women, are discovering that rugby is about agility and aggression; flow and finesse; physicality and team spirit.

Meanwhile, USA Rugby’s State-Based Rugby Organizations have helped foster the sport in 20 states around the country. And in March of next year, we’ll debut a brand new intercollegiate tournament: the Division I Premier competition. The tournament will feature as many as 32 teams from around the country. There will be four conferences, with the top two teams of each conference facing off against one another in a playoff competition next May.

Helping rugby take root in the US, however, also requires outside sponsorship, and so far we’ve been quite fortunate. Thanks to the National Guard, more than 400 college teams have equipment and uniforms. Emirates Airline has also been an indispensable partner in growing the sport across the nation, while Canterbury of New Zealand has just agreed to provide apparel and equipment to US rugby teams for the next four years.

I’m also particularly proud of how far our homegrown talent has come in recent years. The Collegiate All-Americans continue to get more and more competitive. As do the Eagle Men’s and Women’s Sevens teams. In fact, the Eagles Men’s Sevens earned only 6 ranking points on the IRB circuit in 2008. In 2009 they earned 20, and this year they earned whopping 32. Between 2003 and 2006 they didn’t earn a single ranking point. Amazing progress!

The Women’s Eagles will be competing in the Women’s Rugby World Cup this month. The matches will be broadcast on Universal Sports. US rugby fans may soon be able to enjoy plenty more games from their home. ESPN could soon begin broadcasting college and high school rugby.

And, aside from broadcasting the Women’s Eagles matches at the Women’s World Cup, NBC/Universal will be broadcasting the Rugby World Cup in 2011, where we are finalists at the New Zealand tournament, and 2015, as well as the Churchill Cup.

And get ready for 2016 in Rio where the USA has the chance to defend its Olympic Gold Medal – last won in 1924 at the Paris games by a team made up mostly of Californians.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What Works about Rework

Books on business strategy are usually packed with vague abstractions and useless buzzwords. That’s why I enjoyed Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson’s book Rework so much. It’s a no-nonsense collection of business wisdom from the two founders of 37signals, a wildly successful software company. Like any provocative book, I found plenty to disagree with, but I also found a lot of smart advice.

For instance, Fried and Heinemeier Hannson advise business leaders to “Ignore the Real World.” This is their reply to all those pessimists who insist that a new idea could never work in the “real world.” The authors get it exactly right when they explain that “the real world isn’t a place; it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying.”

Or, as I like to put it, be a radical optimist. Saatchi & Saatchi is guided by a single core belief: Nothing is Impossible. If this isn’t your philosophy, then you’re letting winning ideas slip through your fingers. Unleashing creativity means seeing the world as a place without any limits or rules.

Another of Rework’s more insightful pieces of wisdom is “Decisions are Progress.” According to Heinemeier Hansson, “You want to get into the rhythm of making choices . . . Each one you make is a brick in your foundation. You can’t build on top of ‘We’ll decide later,’ but you can build on top of ‘Done.’” I am a decision freak, have a decent tolerance for making wrong ones (once!), and believe in action over looking at your navel.

You’d be amazed at how many business leaders avoid difficult decisions and instead fill their days with busy work. It’s not enough to simply “get things done.” You need to “make things happen.” You need to take your business in new directions, implement radical new ideas, take chances, aggressively pursue new clients and challenge conventional wisdom. All of this requires the courage to make tough decisions.

Here’s a taste of Fried and Heinemeier Hansson on Hiring:
  • Do it yourself first
  • Hire when it hurts
  • Pass on great people
  • Resumes are ridiculous
  • Years of irrelevance
  • Forget about formal education
  • Hire managers of one
  • Hire great writers
  • The best are everywhere
  • Test-drive employees

Of course, there are a number of instances where I took issue with Rework. I found myself scribbling furiously in the margin when I read the authors’ claim that “learning from mistakes is overrated.” “What do you really learn from mistakes?” the authors ask. “You might learn what not to do again, but how valuable is that?”

Even though they ask this question rhetorically, I’ll go ahead and answer it anyway. How valuable? Incredibly. If you’re genuinely taking chances, if you’re committed to pushing the limits of what’s possible, you will fail. Learning from that failure is the way to fortify your business, to accumulate wisdom and to know what to avoid next time. In fact, it’s safe to say that Fried and Heinemeier Hansson wouldn’t be the successful entrepreneurs they are today if they hadn’t developed the ability to fail fast, learn fast and fix fast.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A 60's Summer at Shoreditch House

As I've mentioned before, youngest son and I have a music venture together. Our first pop-up event goes live on Sunday at London's funky Shoreditch House. If you're in town drop in and say hi to Dan, and enjoy some Summer 60's sounds.

At Red Rose Music we celebrate the past while also championing the future. This Sunday at Shoreditch House, London we are having our first pop up event: A 60’s Summer. We will be taking a look back at our favourite music from the one of the most influential periods of music history – it also marks the start of our personal journey to reignite music retail.

In the meantime I thought I would introduce you to some great bands of the present (and the future):

1. Gayngs

Since their debut album was released in May this year I have been waxing lyrical about Gayngs to anyone with even the remotest interest in music.

The brain child of Midwest producer Ryan Olson, Gayngs are a 23 piece, 80’s inspired, soft rock ‘supergroup’ that features collaborations from acts such as Bon Iver, Solid Gold and Megafaun. They are slow and sexy (the whole album is recorded at the snail pace 69bpm) and in my opinion ‘Relayted’ is one of the must-hear albums of 2010 so far. For fans of 10cc, you must hear Gayngs.

2. The Villainares

The Villainares are a Sydney 3 piece specialising in good times surf rock. I personally get a ‘Youth & Young Manhood’ Kings of Leon vibe from them and it is the perfect sound for Summer (just check out the video!). They are yet to put out anything to purchase but they are a band definitely worth keeping an eye on.

3. The Sandwitches

Breaking out at the South by Southwest Festival, The Sandwitches have backed up the early hype with a great new album ‘How to Make Ambient Sadcake’. The Sandwitches play dreamy but irresistable twee-pop and I guarantee you will be hooked after the first drum roll.

4. Tame Impala

Another great young Australian band. Tame Impala are a Perth based psychedelic rock group signed to the amazing Modular Recordings (home to Wolfmother and The Presets)

Tame do not need as much of an introduction as their debut album ‘Innerspeaker’ has been met with huge success and critical acclaim. Infectious songs that combine 60s psychedelic with 90s stoner rock, suiting John Lennon and Josh Homme fans alike.

5. 1,2,3

The Google proof 1,2,3 are a Pittsbugh duo with just one (albeit exceptional) 7-inch to their name. Like most of the other bands on this list they wear their influences very much on their sleeve, but even with their vintage and familiar sound they come across as original as any band out there.

They may only have 3 songs under their belt but every music blogger out there has already tipped them as a band going places.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Enter, David Trevellyan

Long plane journeys are usually spent in the company of three fictional action heroes. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Barry Eisler’s John Rain and Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon. A new entrant has joined the ranks. Meet Commander David Trevellyan, a veteran of Royal Navy Intelligence. Andrew Grant (believe it or not a former Telco executive), has written two books so far, Even and Die Twice. Set in New York and Chicago respectively, David Trevellyan takes on all comers. He’s smarter, tougher and more focused than all the bad guys. He’s also faster and funnier. Steve McQueen would have played him in a movie.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Friends Make Life Happier – and Healthier

It’s hardly a revelation that good relationships make for a happy life. But, according to researchers at Brigham Young University, friends also help us live longer, healthier lives. In fact, those who have strong relationships with their friends are 50 percent less likely to die early.

As Reuters reports, “Having low levels of social interaction was equivalent to being an alcoholic, was more harmful than not exercising and was twice as harmful as obesity.”

So friendship is healthy, even though it’s becoming less common. At least that’s what Duke University researchers recently found. It turns out that Americans are becoming more and more socially isolated. The Duke study found that a staggering 25 percent of Americans have no close social relations at all. That’s up from 10 percent in 1985. And fully half of all Americans have no close relationships outside of their immediate family.

So, even though social networks like Facebook have enabled us to stay connected to friends, it appears that this virtual connection hasn’t contributed much to good old-fashioned social connection.

Those work-a-holics among us should take note. In my line of work especially, long hours, late nights and weekends at the office aren’t uncommon. Many of us are sure to make time for exercise, but, often, spending time with friends is a low priority, especially when we’re up against a deadline or overloaded with work. This is a mistake. Spending time with friends should be a must-do activity.

Many believe that finding a proper balance between work and life is the key to forming healthy relationships, but I’ve always taken a different tack. For me, it’s about work/life integration. Instead of simply carving out time to be in “non-work mode” I find ways to make my work my life. This can be done in many different ways. On one level, it means creating a career that is full of activities that you find meaningful and pleasurable.

But work/life integration is also about making sure your personal relationships are as important as your professional relationships. Business meetings and personal meetings are both high priorities for me. Just as I would do anything to avoid canceling a meeting with a client, the same is true for appointments to have dinner with old friends.

The truth is, meaningful relationships don’t just happen automatically. They take just as much care and determination as successful careers do.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ANZAC Differences, Commonalities

One hat I wear is ‘Cultural Reporter at Large’ for the excellent Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso. They recently commissioned me to work up a theme for an article on the extreme creativity of New Zealand and Australia versus the rest of the world. It got me pondering on how the DNAs of the two countries essentially differ. Here’s a tennis chart put together for comments. By all means knock it around.

Play nice, we’ll see where it goes.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Money/Happiness Riddle Solved

What percentage of people believe survey results?

Personally, I am skeptical about the proliferation of research purporting to tell us what people think. To me, it is not so much an aid to strategy as a substitute for it. We need to be cautious not to read too much into data when we don’t understand the context or methodology, or we don’t take a hard look at who is paying for it!

But, once in a while, a survey throws up some interesting tidbits – and so it is with the mammoth Gallup World survey that was conducted in 2005-06 and partially released in early July in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Diener, Ng, Harter, Arora). Gallup conducted 136,000 phone interviews in 132 countries in a bold attempt to resolve the “does money buy happiness?” conundrum once and for all. Except that it didn’t – at least not with the clarity Gallup may have hoped for.

Instead, the findings pointed to a clear distinction between two kinds of happiness.

When assessed against long-term measures of happiness – “I am meeting my life goals and living a successful life” – there is a strong correlation with material wealth or lack thereof. People who are well-off financially tend to feel pleased with how their life is going; poorer people are generally dissatisfied.

But day to day happiness – “I am feeling happy today” – is weakly correlated with how rich or poor you are. In other words, whether or not you wake up happy tomorrow morning will be far more influenced by the quality of your relationships and your level of job satisfaction than the weight of your wallet.

Another way to look at these findings is that money buys theoretical happiness but not actual well-being. While it is good to feel satisfied about your healthy bank balance, it is surely just as important to actually live a happy life in the moment.

Gallup made a lot of phone calls to settle on a rather obvious conclusion: money does not buy happiness, at least not on its own. But this is not an either-or proposition. Material wealth brings abundant pleasure and satisfaction, but only when it comes hand in hand with those things that make life worthwhile to begin with: friendship, family, work, love and passion.

Monday, August 9, 2010

And the Winner Is . . .

The body of research around Lovemarks continues to grow. In addition to the methodologies developed by a sister company in London, AMR Research, there is a burgeoning body of academic work and enquiry.

An example is Saatchi & Saatchi Frankfurt partnering with the University of Mannheim to spur scientific investigation into the nature and effectiveness of Lovemarks philosophy and practice. Last week they presented the second annual Lovemarks Award to Friederike Weißbach.

Her thesis sought to validate the proposition that emotional and integrated advertising campaigns are more successful than campaigns that are either simply emotional or integrated or neither. Saatchi & Saatchi’s strategy for client Deutsche Telekom was the basis for the investigation.

Sure enough, Friederike’s research provided compelling evidence that integration – that is, communication that uses a variety of different media to present a core organizing idea – and emotionality have an “exclusively positive“ impact on advertising and create significant advantage on the impact of these campaigns as opposed to others.

Congratulations Friederike.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons Soccer Can Learn from Rugby

How was the World Cup for you? To me it was overblown, over-hyped and over-coached. Too many games, too many fouls, too pampered players. Not enough flair, not enough belief, not enough joy.

The top players like Messi were harassed and kicked to death. The beautiful teams like Spain were cornered through bullying, negative, destructive game plans. Referees were shorn of effective weaponry.

Rugby is a much more disciplined, fluid spectacle as anyone watching the recent All Black/Springbok games will have noticed. The referee has absolute control and he is backed up by the Citing Commissioner. If I were Sepp Blatter (not a pretty thought) I'd learn from the game they play in heaven and institute four changes immediately:

1. Bring on the Sin Bin

Two Dutch players should have been red carded in the final. They weren't because it would have ruined the game as a spectacle. In Rugby this is overcome through the sin-binning of a player for ten minutes. In Ice Hockey, they have improved upon this to have two minute, five minute and ten minute binning. Soccer should institute a similar system and you would see an immediate end to the endless, vicious and professional fouls the game is full of.

2. Punish repeat offenders

In Rugby, if a team infringes frequently then the captain is called to the referee and given a general team warning. The next offender is sin-binned. This punishes the kind of strategy adopted by negative dirty teams.

3. Introduce a citing officer

In Rugby, a player can be cited for an off-the-ball incident post match or for an incident the referee never saw, and then banned. This has really cleaned up the game and precludes even smart ass off-the-ball offenders from getting away with it.

4. Give the referee very strong powers to stamp out dissent

When do you ever see a Rugby player arguing with a referee? Never. When does a Rugby player ever approach a referee aggressively? Never. Why? If he did he would be in breach of Rugby’s code of conduct and banned for several games. Cricket has the same template.

We are all sick of these namby pamby, spoiled footballers protesting, intimidating and arguing with referees. Particularly since we see it carried over at every level of the game, including school boy and grass roots soccer.

The isn't rocket science, it's just best practice. Wakey Wakey, Seppy Seppy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Monocle Miracle

In 2007, Tyler Brûlé launched one of my favorite publications, the culture magazine Monocle. He couldn’t have chosen a worse time. The publishing industry, as it is today, was scrambling for a strategy for remaining lucrative in the face of the internet’s free-content revolution. Meanwhile, the global recession was about to strike.

All signs pointed to imminent failure for the magazine. Adding to the challenge was the fact that, at $150 a year, Monocle is far more expensive than traditional glossy magazines.

And yet, against impossible odds, Monocle has thrived. As this recent BusinessWeek profile of Brûlé points out:

Monocle boasts a global circulation nearing 150,000, a 35 percent annual increase at a time when magazine sales are supposed to be going in the other direction, and a rising subscription base of 16,000.

What accounts for Monocle’s unheard-of success? Simply put: priceless value. As with most magazines, Monocle isn’t an essential product. For households looking to cut corners, buying fewer magazines and newspapers is a no-brainer. According to the annual State of the News Media report, between 1998 and 2008, the number of magazines sold on newsstands dropped by 35%. In the last six months of 2009 alone, circulation for consumer magazines was down by 2.23%, while newsstand sales were down by a staggering 9.1%.

But there’s something about Monocle that thousands of people can’t live without; it’s a local/global thing in a completely original way; it’s surprising, unusual, welcome, useful, collectible, irreplaceable. It’s post-materialist, pro-sustainable and when you think after five minutes of watching CNN that the world is going to hell in a handbag, Monocle shows that life in a lot of places in the world is sane, progressive and cultured. This is priceless value: they help the world be a better place.

Monocle now has stores, and I hope they thrive as a sort of World General Store (they should hook up with Remo Giuffre in Sydney). Stores are the brand extension you always hoped for from a magazine but was never delivered. They see the natural and obvious connection between a magazine and retail.

Monocle has achieved this status because of Tyler Brûlé’s unwavering devotion to an idea. He surprised us beautifully in 1996 with Wallpaper*, and through his spirit of “radical curiosity”, Brûlé has shown again with Monocle that ideas rule the world.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Workforce of Women

Since my previous post on the advantages of being a woman in today’s economy, there’s been quite a lot of media buzz surrounding the idea that women are poised to takeover the business world.

Indeed, women now make up the majority of the workforce. They’ve also weathered the recession far more successfully than men. Roughly three quarters of those who lost their job during the recession carried a Y chromosome.

In her recent cover story in The Atlantic entitled “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin asks “what if modern postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”

As Rosin points out, “The attributes that are most valuable today – social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus – are, at a minimum, not predominantly male.”

This is, by and large, a consequence of the shift to a Participation Economy. Business success in today’s world depends on empathy and personal engagement with clients, consumers and employees. Technological innovation, particularly social networking, has given businesses incredibly powerful tools for doing this. But when it comes to forging meaningful relationships through empathy and social tactfulness, Rosin is correct that we were not all created equal.

This also explains the recent explosion in female entrepreneurs. As a recent Newsweek story observed:

"Between 1997 and 2002, female-led firms grew by nearly 20 percent, while overall firms grew by just 7 percent; by 2005, women represented more than a third of people involved in entrepreneurial activity, and the number of women-owned firms continues to grow at twice the rate of all U.S. firms."

Men will have to work harder to keep up with the throngs of talented women that now populate the workforce. The days of the “boys club” business are long gone, and we will be better off as a result.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Answers to the InspirUS Homework Questions

Earlier this week I posted a couple of homework questions from Lancaster Royal Grammar School’s InspirUS program. If you didn’t get them, don’t feel bad. These problems baffled just about every adult I showed them to. And just think: these are questions for students in grades 3 and 4! In case you don’t remember, here they are again:

1.) What Comes Next?

A E A P A U U U E _ _ _

U O U E _ _ _

P U U _

2.) The Next Line Would Be?


Still stumped? The answers require you to really think outside of the box.

Here’s a bit of explanation. For the first one, if you count the number of letters in each line (including blanks), you’ll notice that they are 12 - 7 - 4. Months, days of the week and seasons. A closer look reveals that these are the second letters of each month, day and season. jAnuary, fEbruary, sUnday, mOnday and so on. Just follow the pattern, and you’ll get:




The second one is even more devious. Each line describes the line before it. The first line is “1.” The second line describes that line. There is one 1, or 11. The third line follows suit, pointing out that there are two 1’s in the second line. The fourth line describes the one 2 and the one 1 of the previous line. This can go on forever! Here are the next few lines:

1 1
2 1
1 2 1 1
1 1 1 2 2 1
3 1 2 2 1 1
1 3 1 1 2 2 2 1
1 1 1 3 2 1 3 2 1 1

These gifted LRGS students are getting a first class education in creative problem-solving. Thanks so much to teacher Kathryn Page and LRGS Development Director Jenny Cornell for their exceptional work (and for sneaking me the answers!).