Thursday, November 29, 2012

Buildings For The Brain

The retail industry has long understood the relationship between the use of space and the way people shop. The look and feel of a store evokes emotions and provokes perceptions, which then influence if people will buy a product or give it a miss. The effect of color on our moods has also been flogged by interior designers. Red is for passion and stimulates the appetite. Blues are calming but can be cold and depressing.

Now, architects and neuroscientists are working together to explore how space and design in buildings can interact with the performance of our brains. Institutions like the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture are working to bring together what we know about how the brain responds to space to transform environments to suit our needs. People with diseases like Alzheimer’s may soon have homes that help them strengthen their memory. Premature babies may have their visual and auditory systems boosted with softer lighting. It’s just another example of how And/And has the ability to deliver amazing results and change our world for the better.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Shining Stars At The Lakes

Two of my favorite local restaurants in the Lake District have recently been awarded the highest honors awarded in fine dining. Simon Rogan's L'Enclume in Cartmel, which I visit and write about every so often, has been awarded its second Michelin star, the first for any restaurant in the Cumbria region. Some of you will recognize Simon from the Great British Menu 2012 where he took out the competition in desserts and came out in the top three for pretty much every other course. Also not to be missed is the restaurant at the Holbeck Ghyll hotel run by chef David McLaughlin. Helped by Stefan one of my all time favorite sommeliers. Always got a hidden gem from Bordeaux up his sleeve. The restaurant has held on to its shining Michelin star for 13 consecutive years, which is no easy feat if you know how tough it is to maintain excellence in the eyes of fussy judges. David never gets complacent and every meal, every day has to be produced to the highest standard. It's a combination of great ingredients, a fusion of flavors and keeping things simple that makes both these restaurants winners.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Fathers And Sons

I am a father of two fine sons, Ben and Dan. Ben heads up Global Talent for Saatchi & Saatchi, and Dan is halfway through a FIFA Masters Program in Sports Management.

We grow closer and closer as I (and they) grow older.

I heard a song today by Chuck Brodsky called “The Point”.

If you are a father or a son you should listen to it.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Tuning Into Drama

According to Google and IPSOS, 77% of people navigate multiple screens while watching television and many people watch television based on what they read on other screens. Our attention is fragmented. You can have conversations with strangers about the plotline of your favorite show or have your say about what’s happening in the world, while watching it all unfold on television. And you don’t even have to participate in the conversation with words. You can Instagram it or hit the ‘Like’ button.

With all this competition for attention spans TV may not get the same dedication it received in the 60s, but live television is still as popular as ever. The creative and production qualities of television drama are unparalleled: Downton Abbey to the CSI franchise to Homeland to Kevin Costner’s Hatfields & McCoys and Aaron Sorkin’s terrific Newsroom (see Jeff Daniel/Will McAvoy’s take on why America is not the world’s greatest country anymore from the series pilot). Take live television events like the US presidential debates and sporting events like the Premier League and the Olympics and Super Bowl, they attract hundreds of millions of viewers from all over the world. Why? Television is the only medium you can watch the drama unfold as it takes place. The beauty of live television is in its unpredictability. You never know who will win, what will be said, or what excitement will unfold.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Food of the Future

A culinary council assembled by the Sterling-Rice Group of more than 100 famous chefs, restaurateurs and food experts have decided what we’ll be eating next year with a list of top food trends for 2013. Looks like we’re in for popcorn and dumplings will be the new donuts.
  1. Tongue twister: Roll over sweet and salty, 2013 is the year of tart and bitter flavors.

  2. Lean and clean: Chefs tastes are moving more towards food that is better for us, yet still tasty.

  3. Dumplings over donuts: Comfort food will be taking on the flavors of Thailand, Korea and Vietnam.

  4. Veggies lead: Salads will no longer be a flirtation on the side, expect them to be the centre of attention.

  5. Mini meals: Kids will be eating mini versions of adult fare.

  6. Global food market: With the growth of the food artisan market, we can now buy good quality crepes and croissants from our local stores.

  7. Small and single: Single servings of food are on the rise as we savor one item of food at a time.

  8. Tutti fruity: Keep an eye out for fruit being used to enhance flavors in things like soups and meat dishes.

  9. To everyone’s taste: Gluten-free, vegan, pescatarian or meat-lover? No problem. Restaurants are bringing variety to their menus.

  10. Popcorn: Sweet, savory, or even sour, you name it, popcorn is set to make a comeback.
So, think like a child, eat like one. Kids rule!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Something Beautiful

The Festival of Light located in Kuwana City Japan is held at Nabano No Sato, a flower-themed park featuring sprawling gardens and giant greenhouses. Running annually from mid November to mid March is one of Japan’s finest Winter Illuminations, including the famous tunnel of light. The pictures do the rest of the talking.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It’s A VUCA World Alright!

In my sole but seminal encounter with the Pentagon when they asked me to provide counsel on the semiotics of the war on terror, I was told by them that my framework of radical optimism did not fit their VUCA worldview. “The world, Kevin, is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.” Way to go General! The self-immolation of top brass over the past two weeks has been VUCA-spectacular. Generals Petraeus, Ham, Allen, Sinclair, Admiral Gaouette and Commander Darlak have bought varying degrees of VUCA-disgrace onto themselves and their country. The windows their actions open into the soul and operations of are startling. I mean what leader of any organization, say for example the supreme commander of the US presence in Afghanistan, has time to write 20,000-30,000 pages of emails to a Tampa socialite. General Allen either has spectacular time management skills, an unusual sense of priorities – or we are more vulnerable than the $711 billion US military budget would lead us to believe.

Much has been made of General Petraeus as the ultimate soldier-scholar, and I am thankful to The Daily Beast for bringing the General’s “lessons on leadership” to my attention. The author is, naturally enough, Paula Broadwell. Context is everything, and in normal situations this reads as a very worthy list.

Lessons on leadership from General David Petraeus:
  1. Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.

  2. A leader must provide a vision—clear and achievable “big ideas” combined in a strategic concept—and communicate those ideas throughout the entire organization and to all other stakeholders.

  3. A leader needs to give energy; don’t be an oxygen thief.

  4. There is an exception to every rule, standard operating procedure, and policy; it is up to leaders to determine when exceptions should be made and to explain why they made them.

  5. We all will make mistakes. The key is to recognize them and admit them, to learn from them, and to take off the rearview mirrors—drive on and avoid making them again.

  6. Be humble. The people you’ll be leading already have on-the-ground conflict experience. “Listen and learn.”

  7. Be a team player. “Your team’s triumphs and failures will, obviously, be yours.” Take ownership of both.

  8. Don’t rely on rank. If you rely on rank, rather than on the persuasiveness of your logic, the problem could be you and either your thinking or your communication skills. Likewise, sometimes the best ideas come from bottom-up information sharing (i.e., “Need to share” not “Need to know”). Use “directed telescopes” to improve situational awareness.

  9. Leaders should be thoughtful but decisive. Listen to subordinates’ input, evaluate courses of action and second- and third-order effects, but be OK with an “80 percent solution”. “There will be many moments when all eyes turn to you for a decision. Be prepared for them. Don’t shrink from them. Embrace them.” Sometimes the best move is the bold move.

  10. Stay fit to fight. Your body is your ultimate weapons system. Physical fitness for your body is essential for mental fitness.

  11. The only thing better than a little competition is a lot of competition. Set challenges for your subordinates to encourage them to excel.

  12. Everyone on the team is mission critical. Instill in your team members a sense of great self-worth—that each, at any given time, can be the most important on the battlefield.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Luxury In The Fast Lane

Luxury cars are built on reputation, quality and performance. Each vehicle is a combination of craft and engineering that needs to work in harmony with its driver, passengers and environment. For many people who invest in high-end cars, the product is more than something that gets you from A to B. It’s a piece of art, an insignia of achievement.

One of our clients, Lexus knows all about the pursuit of perfection. Part of the Lexus commitment is that they will do it right from the start, strive to be the finest, and treat each customer as they would a guest in their home. Now that’s an approach that any service provider could learn from, so it’s great to see that that both industries are working together to make inroads in the luxury hotel market.

Lamborghini recently launched the Tonino Lamborghini Boutique Hotel Suzhou in China; Bentley has developed a themed suite at the iconic St. Regis Hotel New York; and I wouldn’t be surprised if Aston Martin moves its brand into the territory as well. Lexus and The Ritz-Carlton are both represented by our Team One agency in Los Angeles so some client cross-pollination here would produce interesting results, especially for two companies so in tune with their people.

It’s exciting when two different industries come together to create new experiences for customers. It’s And/And. Now the difficult part is deciding where you’ll go.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creativity & Careers

Adobe is one brand that has really put creativity in the hands of the consumer (we all know the PDF but think Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash). For many, Adobe is more than just a suite of software. It’s a tool that makes people feel empowered. With Adobe you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to bring ideas to life and you can create anytime, anywhere as long as you have a computer.

In a recent study on the relationship between creativity and education, Adobe interviewed 1,000 Americans ages 25 and up who were college-educated and working full-time. The questions asked were used to gauge what people thought about creativity and how important it was in their academic and professional lives. Here are some interesting findings:
  • People most associate creative thinking with "thinking out of the box" or "ability to come up with innovative ideas".

  • Most people agree that creativity is valuable to society and contributes to economic growth.

  • Not everyone thinks that creativity is a skill that can be learned. A lot of people still consider it an innate talent.

  • In education, science and math score highly as courses that contribute to creative thinking.

  • A majority of people think that managing people within companies requires more creativity than working with external clients.

  • After intelligence and personability, creativity is the third most important trait to career success.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Turning Spain Around (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted some out-of-the-mainstream ideas for turning around Spain. Today I’ve got some advice for what to do when you are young and unemployed. This is not a issue exclusive to Spain, though Greece and Spain both have over half of their 25 year olds and under unemployed; a calamitous effect on both the young people involved, their families, and their country. It’s not their fault; our generation have failed them. So what to do? When I was 16 I was expelled from school, with no job, and no prospects to speak of. So I have some personal identification with the struggles of the young and out of work. Here’s what I would be doing.
  • Be prepared for opportunity when it does come around. Don’t waste this time idling about; become obsessive about mastering skills: the art of negotiation, a new language, cooking, outdoor survival, lateral thinking. The internet is your free friend so use it.

  • Polish your elevator pitch, study and practice verbal communication and body language techniques, have a good looking resumé, offer surprising skills and a 100% can-do attitude. Be a radical optimist.

  • Be physically fit. Train and work out. Keep up appearances. It helps you stay positive and keeps you sharp and presentable.

  • Be inventive, have ideas, learn about ideas and creativity and how to apply them in business.

  • Emigrate. You have to think about this possibility. At some point you need to go where the work is. I moved to Geneva, Casablanca and Nicosia and have been on the go around the world ever since.

  • Stay optimistic, the world moves in cycles. Iceland’s recovery is an object lesson in how countries can come back from the abyss (radical honesty is a good starter in this regard). Reportedly, Greece is sitting on trillions of dollars of oil, gas and gold deposits in, under, and around Greece – and though this may not save them from short term austerity, it is an object lesson is being prepared and staying open to possibility and opportunity.

  • Remember that a lot of entrepreneurs start with an idea and created a business when they were unemployed.

  • Fail fast; Learn fast; Fix fast.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Turning Spain Around (Part 1)

I have been visiting Spain for many years, I was there last month to give presentations and some media interviews and naturally the subject at the forefront was the state of the Spanish economy. With one in four unemployed and its economy teetering on the edge, Spain is at the sharp end of the financial crisis. A lot of people are calling for change to government and financial institutions. But maybe what Spain needs are some game changing ideas to get it back to the powerhouse it was, which they are immensely capable of – see this week’s New York Timesmagazine story on how Spanish company Zara has become the world’s largest fashion retailer and how founder Amancio Ortega Gaona has just displaced Warren Buffett to become the world’s third richest man.

I am not game to comment on the political and economic structural fixes needed in the Spanish economy, but as a certified ‘crazy’ I am game to suggest a few crazy things Spain might do to get its mojo back.

  • Accountability
    Every country has its psychic handbrakes, and if progress is to be achieved, accountability must be part of the mix. Everyone has to be accountable. Bad practices must be eliminated. The two hour lunch. Property speculation. The underground economy. Evading taxes. Being unproductive – the mañana syndrome or the infinite tomorrow. Cease and desist. Now.

  • Embrace spiritualism
    75% of Spain professes to be Catholic but only 15% of Catholics attend church every Sunday. There is a very high correlation between happiness and spiritual engagement. Go to church!

  • Put yourself into the heart of the consumer
    Find new-world markets for new products and new Spanish brands by finding the way into the heart of the consumer worldwide. Zara have done this brilliantly – they have 5,900 stores globally, more than any other brand or company. Promote the aromas and tastes of Spain to the world and create premium export products including Spanish luxury brands designed to seduce consumers based on Spain’s incredible creative and spiritual heritage and currency.

  • Paella as the new sushi; Sherry as the new Vodka
    Have ideas about how traditional Spanish foods and beverages can be remade into a ‘world’ context by making paella the new sushi or rebranding and remixing Sherry to compete with the Vodka market.

  • Make love, not recession
    Spain’s fertility rate is lower than the EU average. Spain is stuck on 47 million people. Aim for 50 million – more Spaniards please!

  • Form the Spanish bloc in world politics
    With the growth of the language worldwide, Spanish is set to overtake English as a language for international trade. Given the near impossibility of getting Spanish regions to work together within the country, my suggestion is to go right over the top and incorporate the Spanish-speaking Americas, including California, into a Spanish bloc. A global Spanish nation. Expand Spain’s field of influence. Be the global mothership. Connect with the 500 million speakers of Spanish and grab the mantle of being Latin.

  • Pray-in
    The Sagrada Família Basilica in Barcelona is one of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world. Religion is profoundly central to Spain’s history. Make cathedrals and museums mandatory visiting by every world traveller. Create a must-attend religious event or festival drawing Catholics from around the world. Create a massive pray-in. Prayer to move economic mountains.

  • Keep saving
    Spanish are traditionally great savers. Keep the savings going no matter the amount.

  • Inspirational figures
    Identify your most inspirational players. Pick 100 people to make a difference. Show the face of Spanish achievement to the world and at home. Think Rafael Nadal, Fernando Alonso, the afore-mentioned Amancio Ortega Gaona, Javier Bardem (the bad guy in the new Bond movie Skyfall), Penelope Cruz, Santiago Calatrava and Ferran Adrià for starters.

  • Thought-leader in creativity
    Through advertising, online and international retail channels make Spain a thought-leader in creativity, taste, technical excellence and new ideas on important subjects as food and energy. Our confidence in Spain has been underlined by the injection of Argentinean creative genius Pablo del Campo into the mix; our reframed agency is called Del Campo Saatchi & Saatchi España.

  • Learn from football
    Spain won the 2010 World Cup and 2012 European Championship with performances that had commentators calling the team perhaps the best the world has ever seen. Before the 2010 tournament Spain turnaround from “serial flops to serious favourites”. The BBC’s report at the time notes that “Spain's current prowess owes much to the federation's long-term commitment to a nationwide programme for the training of coaches. Not only are there more qualified coaches in Spain than in England, they are all promoting exactly the same style of football - the highly technical, possession-based game that has taken Barcelona to the summit of European football, made Spain's youth teams the envy of the world and allowed the national side to end nearly half a century of failure in Vienna two years ago. From wobblers into winners, the message is clear: the glory has been a long time in the making.” Politicians and economists, take note.

  • Tomorrow, some thoughts for when you’re 22, Spanish and unemployed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Like A 7-Year Old

Is it just a hat or could it be an elephant swallowed by a boa constrictor? In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s famous fable The Little Prince, the narrator draws a picture of a boa constrictor and asks adults around him whether they find it frightening. “Why should anyone be frightened by a hat?” they replied.

As adults, we tend to hang our hats on what we have learned and what we have experienced. We explain our world with logic and rational thinking. But what about radical thinking?

A study in 2010 took this theory to the test by asking a group of college students to write a short essay on what they would do if school was cancelled for a day. Another group of students were asked to imagine that they were seven years old when answering the question.

After this exercise, participants were asked to complete a creative thinking test. Most participants performed as expected, apart from the participants who had been asked to write the essay from the perspective of a seven year old. This group exhibited significantly higher levels of originality in thought.

The Little Prince reminds us to look at the world through the eyes of a child once in a while so that we can see of new ways to approaching old ideas. Take a moment to free yourself from the mental constraints of routine and give yourself the opportunity to think like a child again. I just spent some time with granddaughters Stella (5) and Chloe (2). What a wonderful world they see and live in.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Toughing It Out

It’s not always the physical prowess of athletes that makes them world-class. Mental toughness, focus and resiliency are some of the makings of true sports stars.

If you’re looking for examples, look no further than Nick Springer, 27, who was part of the US Paralympics rugby team that took out the bronze medal in London this year. Struck down in 1999 by a case of bacterial meningitis at the age of 14, Springer refused to let go of life, even after being told that he had a 10% chance of survival and even after being read his last rites. Losing his hands and lower legs in a lifesaving operation, he chose to strive to become a top defender for the US in a game that would make able-bodied rugby players tremble at the knees.

Springer doesn’t let his disability hold him back – he’s a winner. In his first year in the national squad he helped them win a gold medal at the 2006 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships. Two years later he was part of the team that won at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

"A disability might be permanent but being disabled isn't. If I could trade never getting sick for all the experiences and all the memories, would I do it? There's no way in hell. I've done things in my life I wouldn't trade for the world."
- Interview with Nick Springer, CBS News, July 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

The End Of Command And Control

Ex-military personnel are popular hires for big corporations because of their leadership skills. In 2011, 25% of new employees hired by and T-Mobile were ex-military, making the two companies some of the most military friendly employers in the United States. However, a lot of these vets are finding that they are attracted to companies that have thrown out hierarchical command systems of the past.

Leadership through command-and-control, where every decision needs to involve someone of a higher rank, has been replaced by a new model. Progressively more modern armies now use a mission command process which gives the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the mission, but leaves it up to subordinates to use their initiative on how they go about it.

This type of decentralized management model has been transferred to the business world and is commonly referred to as ‘workplace empowerment’. This model helps to motivate staff to make their own decisions, form effective teams and take responsibility for their decisions and actions.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sandy Shore

On Sunday night I was due to fly to Buenos Aires to speak at an HSM conference and to give speeches to clients, Kraft and BGH. For the two days prior to that, we had been watching the progress of Hurricane Sandy and it was becoming clear that New York and New Jersey had learned the lessons of Hurricane Irene a year ago.

Communications were clear and a State of Emergency was declared early in New York, New Jersey and with seven other states following suit. This was the biggest hurricane to ever hit the East Coast and predictions of storm surge flooding left little room for improvisation.

My Newark flight was cancelled and I shifted to a later flight from JFK. During the day, however, it became clear to me that emotionally I was in no fit state to leave NY. I felt the flight would anyway be cancelled but more to the point I felt I could not desert the Agency, my colleagues and my friends. No matter what the rational brain said, my heart told me I could only hunker down and stay.

During that Sunday the warnings became more and more strident with airports closings, subways closing, tunnels and bridges closing, and evacuation orders being mandates. My home and the Agency are in Zone B, meaning we missed mandatory evacuation by one or two blocks.

The hurricane hit as predicted.

Flooding in Battery Park with 13 foot wave surges, disasters throughout the states as predicted.

On Monday the whole of downtown New York from 23rd Street downwards lost power. A Con Edison plant exploded through flooding and at 8:30pm on Monday night, along with millions of others in the region, I lost power and water.

As I write this, we're looking at seven to fourteen more days for many households without power. Zone B came back on on Saturday morning. Five days without power, water, heat or communications.

In times of crisis, none of us are at our best. Some of us are better than others but crisis means we are operating without resources, without a sense of control, without experience, and without knowledge. It seems to me that the only thing you can do in times like this is to listen to your heart, live life very slowly, keep very calm, and attempt to contain and minimize risk in your own environment.

New York is a resilient city. Next week will be better.

My heartfelt thanks to all friends and family who looked out for us during this testing period.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cause For Celebration

The media have a saying, “If it bleeds, it leads”, and you just need to turn on your computer/mobile/tablet to know that media is a magnet for bad news. The world is sometimes painted as being so bleak that we forget that there are some real causes for us to celebrate. Here are 10 reasons to be optimistic about our future. The first five are from Bill Clinton and I’ve rounded it out with some of my own.
  1. Technology
    Access to mobile phones is enabling ideas and freedom like never before. Only 4% of households have internet access in Africa, but over half have mobile phones. This means that millions of people have been empowered with a means to communicate, learn, do business and stay in touch.
  2. Health
    More collaboration between governments, the private sector and foundations has seen inroads into better health systems for people in need. An example of this is in the treatment for AIDS, which now costs on average just $200 per patient per year.
  3. Economy
    It’s not all doom and gloom when you put the world economy into perspective. In the quarter decade leading up to the current economic crisis, more people worldwide moved from poverty to the middle class than at any other time in history.
  4. Equality
    Equality of the sexes has improved vastly over the last few years, especially in Africa and the Middle East – but there is still a long way to go. Since 2002, Bahrain’s national elections have been open to women and in Saudi Arabia, women will be able to vote and run for office from 2015.
  5. Justice
    Where there is inequality and injustice there will always be instability and conflict. While we still have our fair share of this, this is by far the exception rather than the rule.
  6. Liberty
    With the rise of protests demanding freedom and equality around the world it wasn’t surprising that the ‘Protester’ became TIME magazine’s Person of the Year in 2011. People are rising up and refuse to be dictated.
  7. Sport
    You can never doubt the power of sport to bring people together and what better example than the recent London Olympic Games. Sport gives us common passions, allow us to share emotions, and inspires us to greater heights. We are faster, stronger and more agile!
  8. 8. Science
    This year we landed on Mars, discovered the Higgs boson, created the world’s first quantum computing network and published the most detailed analysis of the human genome. These are just a few of the many discoveries made in this year, and through they may not mean much to you today, they will change the way you live in the future
  9. Creativity
    There is an entire generation of people who value creativity and innovation. They will make art, products, music, books and brands that will decrease our impact on the environment and improve our quality of life
  10. Social
    We are all connected. How incredible is that?