Thursday, September 27, 2012

Toyota Tows The Endeavour In L.A.

Los Angeles residents are about to see history being made as the space shuttle Endeavour is towed from LAX to its final resting place at the California Science Centre by non-other than a Toyota Tundra pick-up.

Yes, a Tundra. Identical to the one you might have sitting in your garage. What better way to show off the capabilities of a pick-up truck than by towing a space shuttle that weighs in at over 300,000 pounds!

Toyota is a long time supporter of the California Science Centre, working to raise support and awareness of the space program. Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles came on board for this project, coming up with the concept and helping develop a range of online activities and resources about the Endeavour project.

So keep your eyes on the ground on October 13 – you might just see a space shuttle drive by.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Man Who’s Saving A Nation

The central Pacific nation of Kiribati has become one of the most vulnerable due to the effects of climate change. Entire villages are having to relocate because of higher tides, and the majority of the country’s population of 100,000 people is crammed on to the islets of Tarawa (there are 32 pancake-flat coral atolls over 1,350,000 square miles of ocean).

"It is the surmounting of difficulties that make heroes," said Louis Kossuth, and with this in mind I am proud to announce that the Hillary Institute has named President Anote Tong of Kiribati the 4th annual Global Hillary Laureate.

President Tong is truly inspirational. While fighting the tides of climate change, he made an exceptional gesture to the world in 2008 by declaring 150,000 square miles (the size of California) of Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands marine area a fully protected marine park. This wonder of the ocean has now been designated a UN World Heritage Site.

President Tong has also become an active participant in international diplomatic efforts to raise awareness of climate change, and has most recently been in talks with Fiji to buy up to 6,000 acres of freehold land as a safety net for food production.

Founded in 2007 in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary, the Institute – of which I am a Governor – provides resources, support and inspiration to exceptional leaders in the battle against climate change. It is befitting that President Tong - who faces a series of literally uphill battles - follows in the footsteps of Sir Ed in his pursuit to save a nation in the forefront of climate change.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Championing Young Women

Photographer: Ben Asen

I’m not big on formal ceremony, especially at buttoned-up New York charity shindigs, but last Friday morning was an exception – and it was exceptional. This was the (Em)Power Breakfast at the Pierre Hotel organized by the Young Women’s Leadership Network – a brilliant organization founded by New York dynamo Ann Rubenstein Tisch in 1996. YWLN gives girls and young women a shot at success they would not otherwise have.

The YWLN schools, affiliates and a College Bound Initiative benefit 10,000 students annually. Their programs are highly successful in helping at-risk youth reach their potential and attend college. In America 8% of low income young adults have a college degree. The five YWLN schools across New York City have a 100% college acceptance rate. 80% of graduating seniors are the first of their family to go to college. And at college, they achieve a four year degree at triple the rate of their peers. Talk about turbocharging the future.

I was privileged to be honored at the breakfast – as “The Man We Love” – along with Newsweek editor Tina Brown, Gilt Groupe founder Susan Lyne, and Seventeen editor-in-chief Ann Shoket. The breakfast for 600 raised $1.1m to support programs including enhanced math and science programs, summer learning opportunities, internships, college trips and mentoring events. Kudos to the Estée Lauder Companies and VP Phebe Farrow Port for the energy and momentum they provide to YWLN.

Saatchi & Saatchi New York is a supporter of YWLN through the efforts of SVP Management Director, Gina Christie, who has been awarded a 2012 ADCOLOR Award as a Change Agent for her work with the East Harlem school of YWLN. For me it creates a sort of a NYNZ loop. In Auckland, I have supported for many years the Turn Your Life Around Trust (TYLA) which provides support and choices to the young people at risk of offending. With YWLN I have encouraged the school leadership to look at introducing an entrepreneurial-focused program to their curriculum. This would offer young people the insights and skills to truly break free and be independent to change the world in ways big and small.

This venture is as worthy of support as anything I have ever seen. It genuinely makes a difference, it genuinely creates value, it is genuinely transformative. Get involved.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Meeting Of Minds

The partnership between business, arts and culture goes back centuries. Pope Julius II was both patron and nemesis of Michelangelo and industrialist Andrew Carnegie’s legacy lives on in libraries and schools across the US.

Though the relationship has worked to an extent, there has been a lack of creative cohesion and collaboration between the two categories. However, we may be seeing the evolution of co-working if a recent article published in the Guardian is anything to go by.

There are some new examples of a more collaborative environment popping up where businesses and artists share the same space and in turn contribute to each others’ culture and services. The Birmingham-based theatre company Stan’s Café is an example. The theatre shares a building with a metal works factory and for reduced rent, the theatre company offers the metal manufacturer sponsorship, access to their work and less of an industrial image in the community.

There are also more organic examples, like Schoolhouse Electric, which took up residence in a massive, four-storey red brick warehouse in Portland, Oregon, in 2009. With 103,172 square feet to fill, Schoolhouse Electric opened up the space – rent and utilities free – to a range of independent businesses to create a collaborative work environment. In what is now known as the “Schoolhouse Factory”, the warehouse has now become a ‘work of art’ as the tenants’ creations merge with and influence the space.

Through this belief in collaboration and creation, these businesses are creating a new business model that goes beyond entrepreneurialism. They have created business collaboration in kind.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jammin’ To A New Tune

If you’re a musician you will already understand the creative results you get from jamming with others, but have you ever jammed at work?

From crowdsourcing an idea to connecting thinkers, leaders, do-ers and disruptors(!) companies are starting to recognize the power behind a collaborative approach to idea generation. IBM runs innovation jams where the company runs large events for staff to pitch in and jam ideas. One such session included 150,000 people from over 104 countries over a three-day period.

Behind every great innovator you will find a great team. Thomas Edison tapped into the jamming process at Menlo Park, New Jersey, which led him to once boast that they could produce “a minor invention every 10 days and a big thing every six months”. Working together in a common space, Edison and his team were an early example of an ideas company.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

To Live Longer, Create

There’s a lot of emphasis on keeping our bodies in top condition through diet and exercise, but what about keeping our brains in shape?

A new study published by the Journal of Ageing and Health has found that creative attributes like being open to new ideas is an indicator of longer life. Using data from 1,349 men between the years of 1990 and 2008, the study found that creativity, rather than intelligence, reduced the chance of death.

Our brains help us think, reason and feel, but they are also the command centres for all of our bodily functions. According to one of the study’s researchers, Nicholas Turiano, keeping the brain healthy may be one of the most important aspects of aging well. The study also found that one of the important factors of creative people is that they can handle stress better than others, which helps decrease the chance of stress-related illness and disease.

PS: I’m writing this from the Augustine Hotel in beautiful Prague… a converted 13th century Augustinian Monastery with monks still in residence brewing their 14% - yes 14% - St. Thomas beer… put Prague, the Augustine and the beer on your bucket list.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Travel To Broaden The Mind

Dining on pasta in the spaghetti-like streets of Rome or hiking into the majestic hills of Machu Picchu could actually make you more creative, according to a new study from the University of Florida.

Drawing on results from students who have studied abroad, those that plan to study abroad and those that have no plans to study overseas, the study concludes that those who had been abroad outperformed the other groups on creative thinking tasks. The study found that those that went abroad generated ideas that were higher in quality and more unique on both general and culture-specific measures of creativity.

Inspiration and creativity comes from within but draws from observations and experiences. So take any opportunity to travel when you can. Experiences, especially foreign ones, help you see things from a different perspective and help spur the creative process.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Baskets Of Knowledge

Storytelling is a huge part of what we do at Saatchi & Saatchi. Stories feed Lovemarks and creates powerful emotional connections that enable us to create intimate relationships with our audiences.

Stories are precious. The Maori in New Zealand understand this and surround their most treasured objects with “interesting talk” to increase the mana (standing) of an item.

Another person who understands the power of a well-told story is David Trubridge, the New Zealand-based artist who looks for wisdom in traditional storytelling to inspire. An eco-designer, David’s works encourage a more sustainable way of living to bring balance back into our chaotic world.

Back in August, Saatchi & Saatchi New York hosted an event celebrating New Zealand as the guest of honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. We brought a little bit of New Zealand to the Big Apple then and are bringing it back now with the installation of David’s “Three Baskets of Knowledge” in the Atrium of our New York offices.

They’re beautiful works, but the real beauty comes from the legend they are based upon. The baskets tell the story of the Maori demigod Tāne, who separated his parents – Rangi, the sky father, and Papa, the earth mother – to make way for life between them. Tāne was then sent to the heavens to receive three baskets from gods containing the knowledge of how to live on earth, a trinity of harmonious living relatable to the Western concept of mind, body and spirit.

Recognizing that knowledge is light, David and his team created a lighting installation based on the three baskets. Each one is made from a different material and pattern that represent the knowledge they contain – natural, rational and spiritual. The light of knowledge shines through these patterns, casting intricate shadows on the floor beneath each one.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Anytime’s A Good Time For A Good Idea

The US’s start-up rate may have declined 12% between 2007 and 2010, and small business failures increased 40%, but companies that have done well – and there have been a good many – all had one thing in common: great ideas.

The 2012 Inc. 5000 Companies, which measures the revenue growth of companies from 2008 to 2011, has many examples of start-ups that have shone during tough times. Some of these success stories include opportunists who have matched clever and creative ideas with the times to help save consumers or businesses time and money. One example is The owners of this online company have tapped into a growing market where consumers sell unwanted gift cards for a profit in order to pay for other necessities.

And then there were others that were just good ideas no matter what, like Unified Payments, which supplies credit and debit card-based payment processing for merchants across the US. Unified Payments, which took out the number one spot on the Inc. 500, saw massive growth of over 23,000% from 2008 to 2011.

We might be in cash-strapped times, but there’s always a market for a good idea.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sharing, Caring

Millennials – GenY – have completely different spending habits to their predecessors. A new car and a house used to be top of the spending list us baby boomers, but times have changed.

There are several reasons for this, including job insecurity and stagnant wages, but there are also other, less obvious reasons such as a generational shift in values and importantly, the growth of technology.

Online marketplaces now make it easy for people to share the things they own or even hire household appliances and tools from their neighbors. One of the most popular has been AirBNB, which is a portal for people to offer travellers a room for a night or two. And if you have a car, WhipCar makes it possible for people to rent their unused cars to those in the area in need of a vehicle.

GenY has been labelled coddled, selfish and fleeting, but that’s not really fair. With the growth of social media and smartphones, this generation has created a new economy that is based on sharing. This means that unlike generations before, Millennials are not keeping up with the Jones’ – they’re sharing with them.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Powering The Economy With STEAM

There has been a recent drive to ensure that STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – becomes more prevalent in the education system. Those behind the STEM movement say that we need to focus more on technological production and invention in order to compete with growing economies like China and India. But if we really want to pick up the pace and continue competing on the world stage, shouldn’t we add creativity to the equation?

Rhode Island School of Design President, John Maeda, fervently believes this to be the case and is leading the charge to transform STEM into STEAM by adding an ‘A’ for Art. Artists and designers are a big part of the products that people connect with emotionally. Who wants to love something that is ugly and unusable?

We can power up the economy and implement positive change by pursuing innovation AND creativity. Art teaches us to imagine and play with possibilities. It helps us see outside our current frame of thought and demands ideas. Most of all art and design elevates our quality of life – and that makes the world a more beautiful place to live in.

Monday, September 10, 2012

When Greatness Visits

Many fine words have been written about astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the moon. He died this month in Cincinnati. Armstrong was a high-speed test pilot for the Navy, logging over 900 flights. A fearlessly skilled technician. And an enigmatic presence for those of us who were around at the time of his 1969 moonwalk. The piece of the puzzle I am most interested in is this: how should ordinary people react when greatness is thrust upon them?

At Saatchi & Saatchi we worked with Neil's #2 Buzz Aldrin over a few years on our Innovation in Communication Award. Buzz by name, Buzz by nature. And continuing this thread, Neil by name, kneel by nature: humble, taciturn, focused on team rather than self, in service to his country and his fellow man.

Aldrin thrived in the spotlight, and we appreciated this and even basked in it because we could feel and touch the inspiration that catapulted “us” to the moon. With Aldrin you felt a direct connection to JFK’s dream “that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The Russians were streets ahead (poor metaphor but you get the point) and America’s catch-up in space is an inspiration for everyone today looking at the debt mountain and how to tackle it. How our challenges have become mundane!

After the lunar triumph Neil Armstrong retreated to Ohio to resume a normal sort of a life. He became a professor of aeronautical engineering and did not seek – nor give nor offer to be in – the limelight. He rejected approaches from all-comers – political parties, corporations, advertisers, especially autograph seekers who high profit from what he considered was a team effort made in the name of science and America. He made few public appearances and interviews, and accepted few public commissions.

Armstrong and Edmund Hillary had similar accolades: first on the moon, first up Everest. Ed Hillary was thrust into world fame in 1953. His climb was on the eve of the coronation of QEII and the synergy of the moment was possibly the apex of the Empire. Hillary wore his fame with a mix of studied nonchalance and respect for the respect he was shown. He didn’t seek the spotlight but was generous with it when there was the opportunity to do good and be inspirational. His face is on the NZ $5 bill, he became Ambassador to India, and gracefully participated in many public events and honors.

Neil Armstrong was called a “recluse’s recluse” and while he would have disagreed with this assessment, to my mind the bloke who gave us the profound words “one giant leap for mankind” – before disappearing from view – had a lot to offer the world.

Serendipitously we can thank accountants in Australia (what!?) for a lasting Armstrong legacy. The don’t-take-no-for-an-answer CEO of CPA Australia Alex O’Malley approached Armstrong to take part in a series of video interviews for a leadership series. O’Malley knew something that most other people didn’t: that Armstrong’s father was an auditor. The result is a beautifully produced 45 minute video interview with Armstrong laced together with JFK footage and lunar landings.

General Norman Schwarzkopf once said to me, “When given command, take control and do what’s right.” If greatness visits you one day, you don’t have to be a showman, but do step up, step out, step into it; the world needs you.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Something Old, Something New

And/And is a large part of how we are reinventing the future. It is something I used to talk a lot about a while back when people were confused about how we were going to maneuver in a future full of choice. For decades it had always been Either/Or. Then the internet exploded. Now not only are there a multitude of options to choose from, but you can also personalize things and make your very own, one-of-a-kind creation.

The Street Stone Project is a funny illustration of And/And. Two French artists took it upon themselves to digitally clothe the Louvre’s marble statues, transforming them from classical icons to modern day hipsters. They took something old and used technology to create something new. With a little digital help even the ancient Hercules wouldn’t look out of place in GQ.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Foundering And Flourishing

We all felt the tremor of giants falling during the global recession. It cost US households on average $100,000 in lost wealth and income and some 10 million US homes now face foreclosure.

In his new book, Why Some Firms Thrive While Others Fail, Johns Hopkins University fellow Thomas H. Stanton says that this didn’t need to happen. With better governance and management, organizations like AIG and Fannie Mae could have survived. Stanton has the credentials to make such a proclamation – he was a senior member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and saw what made some firms flourish while others foundered.

According to Stanton, firms that survived the economic crisis possessed:
  1. Discipline and long term-perspective

  2. Robust communications and information systems

  3. Capacity to respond effectively and early on

  4. Constructive dialogue between business units and managers.
What holds all of these factors together is strong leadership. A steady hand and maintaining constructive dialogue across all business units was a key difference between firms that fell and those that still stand today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

No Buts

The word I most dislike in the English language is “but.” This is the standard fare of the abominable “No-Man”. It turns out that listening to complainers is bad for your brain (INC magazine report). Exposure to nonstop negativity actually impairs brain function clip according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session

"The brain works more like a muscle than we thought," Blake says. "So if you're pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you're more likely to behave that way as well."

"There's a big difference between bringing your attention to something that's awry and a complaint," Blake says. "Typically, people who are complaining don't want a solution; they just want you to join in the indignity of the whole thing. This will damage your brain even if you're just passively listening. And if you try to change their behavior, you'll become the target of the complaint."

How do you defend yourself and your brain from all the negativity? Blake recommends these tactics:
  1. Get some distance. Your brain will thank you if you get yourself away from the complainer.

  2. Ask the complainer to fix the problem. Try to get the person who's complaining to take responsibility for a solution. Ask “What are you going to do about it?" Many complainers walk away huffily at that point. Some may actually try to solve the problem.

  3. Shields up! When you're trapped listening to a complaint, you can use mental techniques to block out the griping and save your neurons. Major League Baseball pitchers can sometimes be seen mouthing "Shields on!" as they stride to the mound.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Facing The Champions

The draw for the Champions League has just been made. Real Madrid, the most successful team in the history of Europe will be coming to The Etihad to play Manchester City on November 21. What a day that will be. We never have played these Champions before. And the rest of our group shows why it is called the Champions League. We've drawn the toughest group for the 2nd consecutive year. As well as Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid managed by "The Special One" Jose Mourinho, we will be playing Die Borussen (the Borussians). Borussia Dortmund, the Champion of Germany, and Ajax, the Champion of Holland, a team that won the European Cup for 3 successive years under the great Johann Cruyff.

What a prospect in store; after 40 years of European drought, we get 3 champion teams in one group.

Real Madrid have won this trophy 9 times and it will be great for our team to test ourselves against the very best. This is what athletes and business people live for. To test themselves against the very best. We were made for moments like this.