Monday, April 30, 2012

Spontaneous Smiley Project

Over the past four years, Ruth Kaiser has collected thousands of smiles. But these aren’t your regular person-to-person smiles, they’re spontaneous smileys. Smiles that are found in our everyday lives and you’ll be surprised at how many are out there just waiting to be discovered! The Spontaneous Smiley Project is an exercise in self-induced feel-goodness, inviting others to upload their own photos of smiles. For each uploaded photo, $1 is donated to Operation Smile which provides free surgeries to children born with cleft lip and cleft palate. It’s also the organization that our Brazilian agency, F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, has been supporting with great creative work. Smiles are right up there on the emotion scale. Just like laughter, smiles are infectious – they make us feel good and we could all use a few more smiles in our lives.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Two Great Books

I just read two great books this week (I still prefer a hardback with beautiful sensual paper to the ease and convenience of eBooks.) And for many years now I have followed a regime of reading two books simultaneously - one fiction and one nonfiction. I just completed a terrific novel by Patrick deWitt called The Sisters Brothers. This was short listed for the Man Booker Prize and is beautifully written. Patrick pays homage to the classic Western but transforms it into an amazing tongue-in-cheek tour de force. The cast of characters is Deadwood-like and the vocabulary is straight from the 1850’s. Patrick doesn’t put a foot wrong and you can’t help but laugh out loud at the humor, the sadness and the true grit of the two brothers. My nonfiction book was called Something in the Air by Richard Hoffer. It tells about the revolution that was happening in 1968 everywhere in the world and sets this against the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. I was 19 years old when all this was occurring and I was swept away in the radical, liberal revolution that was taking place across the world. Reading this book really heightened my awareness of what was going on behind the scenes and brought it all back to life for me again. I own a terrific painting done by Daniel Dens showing that epic moment when Tommy Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos stood on the podium after the 200 meters in protest against racial persecution. Something in the Air tells the story of terrific amateur athletic endeavor from days gone by and positions it smack in the middle of the Human Rights revolution. Two great books.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Super Salesman

A New Yorker in Toulouse, John Leahy is arguably the best salesman on the planet. Under his leadership as Chief Commercial Officer, Airbus has taken off (literally!) and sold over 10,000 aircraft ($1 trillion at list price), making it the world’s largest producer of passenger planes. Ongoing innovation by competitors and financial restraints affecting purchasers make the aircraft business highly competitive and success is hard-earned. To make it in this market, John encapsulates these three Ds:
  • Drive: Highly motivated to succeed and a passion for winning is one of the main reasons John has enabled Airbus to dominate 64% of market share.

  • Determination: Such a stellar career is only possible with a determined and ambitious attitude; John has bucket loads of both.

  • Dedication: John first joined Airbus in 1985 and has the uncanny ability to give customers exactly what they want. At 62, John recently said that he has no plans to retire for several years and believes there are plenty more planes to be sold.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adapt Now

Mistakes – While we instinctively dislike them, they’re one of the fastest ways to learn and improve. It’s all in the mantra: Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast. Tim Harford, who writes the Undercover Economist column in the Financial Times, likes to say that “success starts with failure” and that recognizing our mistakes and admitting them is the first step towards positive change. However, sometimes the inverse is often true. Failure starts with great success. Things get so big, or the market changes so quickly, that the old rules no longer apply. Adapting is a skill that nature has employed for billions of years. When something isn’t working, the only way to survive is to change. Find out what isn’t working. Take risks. Cast the net wide and realize what worked before may not be the best way to do things Now. If you’ve mistakes, learn from them and adapt. It will make you smarter, more agile and give you edge.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jugaad Innovation

Last month I was in India visiting Mumbai and New Delhi, coming off engagements in Seoul, Singapore and Shanghai. India is taking off and Saatchi & Saatchi is putting renewed emphasis into this market of the future. From street to sky there’s a palpable energy in India and the promise of world-changing ideas.

One idea that juices me is Jugaad Innovation, the title of a smart new book for which I was pleased to write the foreword. When I was CEO-in-Residence at Judge Business School I met co-author Jaideep Prabhu, who with Navi Radjou and Simone Ahuja, have sounded a wakeup call from emerging markets to conventional top-down Western innovation that is flailing in the face of today’s challenges.

The Hindi word ‘jugaad’ is, in short, an innovative fix, and it has parallels in different cultures. The core of jugaad innovation’s frugal and flexible approach is to seek opportunity in adversity, do more with less, think and act flexibly, keep it simple, include the margin and follow your heart.

I think this lean, warm and bottom-up approach to generating breakthroughs has a lot to offer. The ideas strongly parallel my beliefs around inspiring with purpose, creativity from the edge, emotion leads to action, mental toughness and the need to win ugly in tough times.

Improvisation and ingenuity and cleverness and resourcefulness go to heart of it, and it brings to mind my home on the edge. Ernest Rutherford, who split the atom, attributed his willingness to experiment and find unorthodox solutions to his background in rural New Zealand. He said: "We don’t have the money, so we have to think".

There are learnings in Jugaad Innovation for every enterprise. With its jugaad stories from emerging markets and beyond, and its reflections on the West, here’s a fresh, vibrant and colorful look at how to win.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Boss Talk

Bruce Springsteen's latest album 'Wrecking Ball' is full of fighting spirit. It's a man's view of the world today and a reminder that we need to keep working to make it a better place for everyone. At the recent SXSW, Springsteen talked about essence of music: creativity.

"The purity of human expression and experience is not confined to guitars, to tubes, to turntables, to microchips. There is no right way, no pure way, of doing. There is just doing."

I agree. The unreasonable power of creativity makes things happen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stirring the Grey Matter

Predicting the good, bad and ugly impacts of computer gaming is keeping a lot of brain researchers in business. When your subject of inquiry is a market involving many billions of dollars, you're onto something.

As expected with something so absorbing as games, the positive and negatives indicated are wide-ranging, covering everything from better hand-eye coordination in surgeons to associating compulsive gaming with being overweight, introverted and prone to depression. As a drumbeater for increasing moments of joy, I see fun on screens as a big positive, and figure the range of checks and balances on modern lifestyles will expand as the research vampires and others sink their teeth into these subjects.

I like the outcome of a November-reported study from Michigan State University's Children and Technology Project. It appears almost any computer game boosts a child’s creativity. Gender, race and kind of game didn't enter into it. However - in the study - using cellphones, the Internet or computers for other purposes did not affect creativity. Hold the phone, there’s a lot more to be discovered about games as the Screen revolution rages.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

School of Hard Knocks

With the launch of its "failure week London's Wimbledon High School is teaching its pupils to embrace risk, give things a go and not be afraid of the unknown". As one of the UK's top girls' schools the focus is to ensure that students understand that failure is a normal part of life and learn the merits of not succeeding all the time. Over the course of the week, pupils attend workshops and assemblies, as well as hear stories of their own parents' and teachers' failures.

When Headmistress Heather Hanbury arrived at the school four years ago, she made a commitment to developing the resilience and robustness of her students. Some were so focused on academic success that the fear of failure was crippling them. Conscious of ensuring the stress doesn’t get the best of the girls, "failure week" is an attempt to teach her pupils how to 'fail better'.

It's not just young people who are afraid of failure. No matter what your age, a lot can be learned about overcoming your fears by listening to other people's stories. Want to get inspired? Take a look at these videos from Stockholm's Berghs School of Communication where some of the world's most loved creators like Stefan Sagmeister and Paulo Coelho share their experiences.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Simple Act of Smiling

If you're looking to lower your stress levels, improve your health and live longer, the antidote may be as simple as learning to smile more. Entrepreneur and health advocate, Ron Gutman gave a TED talk last year that distilled 200 years of research into the science of smiling into a seven minute presentation. Gutman delves into studies from around the world and presented countless reasons why we should commit to smiling more. Who would have thought that:

  • A person's life span can be predicted by the size of their smile. A 2010 study examining the smiles of major league baseball players on pre-1950s collector's cards found that those who weren't smiling lived an average of seven years less than those with beaming smiles.

  • Smiling makes you happier than chocolate. A UK study found that to replicate the brain stimulation of one smile you would need to eat the equivalent of 2,000 bars of chocolate.

  • It's not only chocolate that looses out to smiling - just one smile generates the same brain stimulation as receiving ₤16,000 in cash.

  • Not only does smiling helps reduce stress enhancing hormones, but it enhances our levels of mood enhancing hormones and lowers blood pressure.
Gutman's presentation is a real eye opener and leaves you with a new appreciation of the power behind our simplest and most universal facial expression.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Messi Magic

I’m a Blues fan for life and though I love Manchester City, I can say that Lionel Messi is probably the best footballer in the world at the moment. The Argentine football sensation has just won about every award and accolade in the sport. Here are five outtakes from his success.

  • Desire to win. Messi has won the 2009, 2010 and 2011 World Player of the Year awards. Though expectations fuel his desire to be the best on the field, it’s his own drive that eggs him on. “Something deep in my character allows me to take the hits and get on with trying to win.”

  • Grit. Being tough isn’t just about dominating physically, it’s about showing you have the dogged determination to get out there and make things happen. Messi wants to play every game and doesn’t like to be sitting out a match – not even to rest.

  • Kaizen. Messi’s team mates have praised his influenced on their games. He has taught them to keep improving in every match they play. Continuous learning is the difference between mediocre and great.

  • Mental toughness. The ability to compete, innovate, improve and ultimately win has a lot to do with how tough a person is ‘upstairs’. Messi has overcomed the adversity of his growth abnormality and used speed and agility to out play his peers.

  • Loyalty. Messi has the ability to move anywhere he wants but he’s committed to his club and has said he’d only leave to play for his country. I can’t think of anything better than doing what you love with and for the people you love.
(He's really as good as Colin Bell was!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A List Apart

Ever found yourself staring at a to-do list that never seems to get finished? Well you’re not alone. The list wasn’t famously described as the “origin of culture” by Umberto Eco for nothing – it’s the tool of our subconscious minds use to help ensure we get things done.

I recently wrote about Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength, and in addition to helping people improve their willpower, the book explores both the history of the humble to-do list and how we can make the most of this tool.

The to-do list has been a part of everyday life for millennia – everyone from the crafters of the Bible to Drew Carey has used them to achieve their goals. But despite being such a fundamental organizational tool, people are still working out how to make list work for them and create fulfillment instead of frustration.

Thankfully, by analyzing the history of the to-do list, the authors of the book give three tips to make your list fail-proof. According to them, your list should be:

  • Specific - reconcile “fussy with the fuzzy”

  • Actionable - achievable short-term tasks working towards long-term goals

  • Non-conflicting - don’t include items that conflict with each other – you’ll wind up achieving nothing

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Write DNA

Bryan Stewart is an Amsterdam-based designer who created a typeface as unique as his DNA. Stewart wrote the letters A to Z on his skin using black ink, picking up the creases and lines on his epidermis to create his very own 'skin type'. As I write most of my notes and messages to people by hand this project got me thinking about the uniqueness of handwriting.

Handwriting analysis, or graphology, is an intriguing practice that delivers some impressive insights into people’s personalities. It's a specialized art, but there are some basic traits even us amateurs can pick up on. Does your handwriting lean forward? Then you're typically caring, warm and outgoing. Slant backward? You're observant and typically conceal your emotions. No slant at all? You're practical and keep your emotions in check.

At the Florida International University, a study was carried out to see if handwriting had any relation to future success. Children in different age groups had their penmanship skills assessed along with their grades, and kids with better writing showed to deliver higher test scores. However, what about doctors who are known to have often illegible handwriting? Time constraints and habit are apparently to blame for this, but I wouldn't take the quality of one's handwriting as a prediction of the future. It may reveal a lot about your character traits, but good penmanship skills can be acquired with practice.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Emotional Life of Your Brain

Neuroscientist Richard Davidson is a big fan of emotion. For over thirty years, he has been researching and writing about the relationship between the brain and emotion, and how certain types of mental activity, such as meditation, have the ability to induce changes in the brain.

In his book on the emotional brain, Davidson outlines how we can make better sense of how we feel and what we can do to change the way our brain processes emotion. As the brain is plastic (it has the ability to rewire itself through experience, stimulation and learning) we can use specific training strategies to change how we feel in particular situations. "We can take responsibility for our own brain," says Davidson in an interview. "Often, we leave our emotional patterns to happenstance and we don't intentionally cultivate them. But we shouldn’t think of emotional style as any different than cognitive skills, or activities with a tradition of intentional training."

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rhythm & Response

Knowing of my passion for music Phil Rubel, CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Tokyo, put me on to this curious study. Did you know that there is a mathematical formula in Western music? A team of researchers from McGill and Stanford analyzed over 2,000 pieces of music by more than 40 different composers over the last 400 years and found that it's the rhythm in the tune that people respond to and enjoy. Rhythm gets repeated in music and is the thing that babies, youth in nightclubs and people at weddings get up and move to. The study also revealed that all the composers who were studied had their own unique internal rhythmic signature but conformed to the same mathematical formula when creating their music. What is fascinating is that this 'fractal' rhythm also occurs in nature. Think of the repetitive patterns in snowflakes and prisms of light.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Inspiration Through Adversity

It has been a year since Japan experienced one of the worst natural disasters in history, but their drive to succeed and hard working ethos has kept the country ticking though hard times. In a recent presentation on Japan's Best Global Brands, Interbrand's Global Chief Executive Officer, Jez Frampton, asked his audience two important questions:

  • Can the same determination and spirit we see in Japan today be used to revitalize their overseas brand relationships tomorrow?

  • Can Japanese businesses be as agile and responsive on the world stage as their citizen volunteers were in Tohoku?
Some of the world’s biggest brands are Japanese and most homes would have at least one Japanese product – think Toyota, Sony, Nintendo, Canon. Consumers usually choose these brands for their technical efficiency, innovation and sustainability. They outperform their competitors and are committed to delivering the best products possible. It's their spirit of kaizen (continuous improvement) that sets them apart from the rest.

'Brand Japan' is a crucial factor in the global success of Japanese companies and it will be their ability to tell their story that will help them fend off stiff competition from Korean and Chinese manufacturers. It is all about celebrating achievement and showing the importance of values that go into building a successful brand.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Evolution of Sport

MIT is better known as a prestigious hub of technology and entrepreneurship than a meeting place for sports. Its Sloan School of Business has turned out many great business innovators and leaders, but few professional athletes.

Over a weekend at the start of March more than 100 speakers and 2,000 audience attended the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston to discuss the business of sport and how innovation and creativity can take it to the next level. One part of the conference that caught my interest is the 'Evolution of Sport', where presenters have 20 minutes to present an idea that could change how sport is played in the future. The Best Talk award went to Stanford University Biomechanical Engineering student Muthu Alagappan for "Redefining the positions in basketball". Other topics included Mixed Martial Arts, concussions, the force of slam dunks, automated journalism, the America’s Cup and NASCAR driver development. These presentations are original, thought-provoking, innovative, and make us see athletic capability in a whole new light. Other conference presentations topics ranged from training the athletic brain, to the effects of fan passion (fanalytics) and the power of belief.

Innovation in sport can do a lot to change the way a game is played, but fundamentally it still boils down to commitment and passion. Great athletes have the tenacity to push themselves to the limits in pursuit of being the best they can be, but it takes creativity and the courage to try new ways to get to the finish line.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Seen My Bike Lately?

On the West Coast our SaatchiLA agency posed a world-changing question ahead of the recent South by Southwest Festival: what if we make a bike inspired by the Toyota Prius (SaatchiLA has led Prius advertising in the USA since day 1). The result? The Prius X Parlee (PXP) bike. Toyota Prius Projects is an initiative developed to create conversations and advocacy within new consumer niches. Toyota has a long history of sharing their innovations to improve our way of life, and the PXP concept bike is no exception. It features eco-friendly materials, comfort, efficiency and groundbreaking technology - including a helmet that enables a cyclist to switch gears through "thought-sensitive" technology. This first-of-its-kind bicycle helmet was developed in partnership with Deeplocal, and the bicycle design was developed with Parlee. This video takes you behind the scenes during the brainstorming, development, testing and execution of the coolest bike ever made.

Meanwhile out East in New York, having a bike stolen - or 'involuntarily downgraded' - goes with the urban territory. For that matter, it goes with a whole bunch of territories in which a victim feels financially and morally distraught, and where the authorities will be more concerned about grand theft auto and violations of people before property.

This intriguing video provides a window into the nonchalance (or probably fear to intervene) people have when a property violation is a stranger's problem. Carrying a lock that's half the weight and cost of your bike is not ideal. Bike hiring or sharing is one way to go with various spinoff benefits, assuming it's available in your neighborhood. When it comes to your own beloved bike there's usually no easy answer. Given the global urbanization mega-trend, let the creative call go out to cities to invent, provide or share the cost-effective super solution. No doubt variations of this are already underway somewhere. Bring on the universal mass-producible viable everywhere-usable lockable magic bike stand, the invisible safely-parked bike, or its brilliant equivalent.