Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rugby Makes The World A Better Place

Some might think it ironic that a US rugby outfit is taking rugby back to the UK, where the game was first invented, but Play Rugby USA is on a mission.

Play Rugby USA, a non-profit that uses rugby as an educational and inspirational medium for disadvantaged kids in New York, LA and beyond, is a different brand of rugby to the more traditional form of the game played by five million players worldwide.

With a vision of a better world through rugby, Play Rugby USA founder Mark Griffin has rebranded youth rugby as a game in the US that can help improve youth’s mental and physical wellbeing and help drive positive change in their lives. This begins with lessons in the classroom and teaching the values of integrity, honesty and camaraderie. R4UK is the new vehicle.

It won’t be an easy task to bring rugby to boys and girls in inner city London. The UK is a country that has 40,000 football clubs and millions of players and supporters, but Griffin managed to bring rugby to the youth of the US with passionate energy. He is part of the engine room that has seen as the fastest growing team sport in America with a 350% increase in rugby players since 2004.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Virtually No Water

Water scarcity is one of the great challenges, and 22 March was World Water Day. To bring attention to real-life water problems, what better than a reality shock through the first online global drought?

A drought disaster hit over 45 million online farmers around the planet upon opening their Farmerama game accounts on World Water Day. A farmer could continue playing, or end the virtual drought by passing on the message or making a donation for low-cost pumps, water tanks, tubing and other supplies for poor farmers.

Ideas – unlike water – are an unlimited resource that can travel at warp speed. This one, being shareable on Facebook, engages a much wider audience than online farmers. And it allows for donors to contribute, with donations passed directly to the UN to finance practical help for farmers in developing countries.

The campaign is creativity, mystery and relevance hard at work, bringing home with a wallop the daily shock felt by real farmers facing erratic rainfall, to a largely affluent western online community not used to dealing with problems like water shortage.

Thumbs up to Saatchi & Saatchi Frankfurt for its creative chops and for working on a neat World Water Day campaign with Farmerama’s creator Bigpoint to help the UN call attention to water scarcity and the problems of real life farmers around the world.

And while we’re talking water issues, check out this innovation, China’s “all natural toilet of the future.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

Winning Headline For Cyprus

Cyprus is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons eg Cyprus Deal Could Be the 'Trigger' We Were Waiting for in Europe. I much prefer this one: Cyprus on verge of historic win. I lived in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus in the late 70s and early 80s, one on my children was born there.

The aforementioned “verge” turned into an actuality during the weekend when the Cyprus national rugby team set a new world record for successive Test wins when they beat Bulgaria 79-10. The Moufflons, nicknamed after the wild sheep found in the Cypriot mountains, have been unbeaten for over four years. They have beaten the record in Test history jointly held by New Zealand (1965-69) and South Africa (1997-98).

ESPN report that Cyprus' sharp rise through the lower European Divisions has come as a shock to a nation who only played its first international match just six years ago. The growth of the sport on the island has been aided greatly by the sizeable population of Cypriots with British, South African and Australian heritage who established a foundation for rugby players to enjoy the sport they had grown up playing in their places of birth.

The next challenge for the Cyprus XV will be to qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. They need to win six knockout matches and if they are successful, their reward will be a place in the 'group of death' with England, Wales and Australia.

Good luck boys!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Turn Up My Voice – featuring Sharon Stone

Last year Saatchi & Saatchi Italy and CoorDown Onlus released the ‘Integration Day’ campaign, which saw a number of commercials’ regular actors replaced by actors with Down Syndrome on World Down Syndrome Day (21 March). The campaign aimed to see people with Down Syndrome better integrated into society, and particularly the workforce.

This year the dynamic duo paired up again to create another heart-warming and thought-provoking campaign to safeguard and promote the rights of people with Down Syndrome. #DammiPiùVoce (Turn Up My Voice) is a bold online awareness and fundraising campaign using the power of celebrity and connectivity. With more funds it is possible to defend rights of people with Down Syndrome through protective measures, projects that stimulate their engagement and autonomy, and through better information activities.

The campaign has seen 50 people with Down Syndrome asking their favorite celebrity to donate a video to support the rights of people with Down Syndrome. In these videos celebrities call for support from the public through donations. The videos, if shared on the celebrities’ social networks, have a higher chance of amplifying the voices of people with Down Syndrome.

The goal was to reach World Down Syndrome Day on 21 March with the highest number of celebrity videos donated. More than 40 celebrities answered the call, including actress Sharon Stone and Real Madrid boss José Mourinho.

In Italy the basic rights of people with Down Syndrome are still too often denied. This fantastic campaign uses modern communication to reach out and bring attention to the prejudices that surround people with Down Syndrome, to try and make real change within society. Let’s all be a part of this.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fit For the Job

I spent a morning in San Francisco speaking to a group of entrepreneurs who own fitness centers and gyms; dozens of them and in some cases hundreds of them. There were many different and varied approaches to marketing fitness. We all agreed that fit people are fun people, the best sort of person to be and to have around. (Phillip Mills with his Les Mills gyms in New Zealand is the epitome of this. A top man.)

There is a direct correlation between fitness and leadership. A study by the Center of Creative Leadership shows that if you want to perform at your peak, you need to be fit for the job. Exercise improves energy, mood and cognitive performance. It enables our brains to traffic thoughts and emotions, and reduces the impact of stress on the body.

When you’re making big decisions, canvassing multiple time zones and surviving on minimal shut eye, two things you need to do to ensure peak performance is eat well and get exercise. It’s what you need to do if you want to survive the demanding executive lifestyle long-term.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Embracing Joy

A shift in popular culture is TV shows and commercials moving away from favouring “heartlessness” and bitter sarcasm, toward sweetness and good hearted humour (which you can see in the increase in shows like Modern Family and the New Girl). HBR blogger McCracken Grant thinks that this is because society is moving out of an “era of darkness”, where the USA was at war and a recession has crippled economies, into a new era where people are ready to embrace a lighted-hearted approach to their daily distractions.

Perhaps this trend is a reflection of a society optimistically looking toward the future with a smile, rather than forlornly looking at the recent past; where spreading joy is becoming a daily event.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quietly Creative

Want a radical suggestion for harnessing creative thinking? Immerse yourself in silence.

By allowing yourselves distraction free time to think, silence not only allows us time to introspect, but can help break down barriers to creativity.

While you can pay to engross yourself in silence, you can create your own silent retreat by turning off technology and finding a quite spot – whether in your house, in a park, or somewhere further afield. I head to Grasmere, a sleepy village in the heart of the English Lake District, when I really need to distract myself from the modern urban playground and regenerate my creative energies.

Take the time to find your own silent sanctuary. Your creative side will be happy you did.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Keeping It Real

There is nothing more powerful as an idea whose time has come – Victor Hugo

Steeped in history and tradition, many of our core institutions have struggled to maintain their relevancy in the modern world. Libraries that haven’t embraced the digital world have struggled, so too have small shop keepers who find it hard to compete against the scale, speed, economies and reach of larger retailers.

A common thread among failing institutions that leads to their unravelling is an inability to meet the needs of everyday people in a contemporary way. Without changing with the times and offering new, innovative services, institutions will simply cease to be relevant.

One of our greatest institutions, the Postal Service is making some hard decisions about mail delivery. The US Postal Service recently announced that it is looking to cut down its mail service from six to five days a week and so too is the equivalent in New Zealand, which is considering cutting down its mail delivery service to just three days a week. If the demand is not there, then the service needs to shift.

Another example showing the need for relevance is our schools. Dust-bound books and black boards are ‘old-school’ and are quickly being replaced by tablets and screen-based communications. Gen Y parents certainly expect kids to be prepared for the Screen Age. One school forging ahead is Avenues in New York, which equips its students with iPads from the age of seven and aims for students to be trilingual by the time they leave school.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rugby – Brains Over Brawn

Rugby types (the blokes, at least) have long got a bad rap for not having a lot ‘upstairs’, or to be less blunt, having more brawn than brains, but I’d argue playing and following the modern game requires quite the reverse.

Look at how complicated the game has become over the last few years with changes to the rules. Half the fun of watching a game of rugby with fellow fans is trying to figure out why the referee has blown his whistle. Consider that each year the rules change – there are 11 new laws this year – and that there are different ‘interpretations’ of rugby rules between the Southern and Northern Hemispheres, not to mention different referees with different takes on the rules. Sometimes I think you need a degree in the laws of the game just to play.

The top end of rugby was never more competitive and the line that separates a win from a loss is razor thin. Winning is an “And / And” equation of ‘brainware’ making adroit calls both on and off the pitch, not just the hardware of physical talent and brawn driving for the line. Plus, for players, there’s more career-lengthening opportunity in getting the neurons firing. Thanks to technology, interactivity and connectivity, professional players can earn a degree, build a brand or start a business (beyond the car dealership) at a speed that allows a good career to ‘retire’ into. Moonlighting was easier but options slimmer in the amateur days when you could milk the cows in the morning and play for the All Blacks in the afternoon.

Professional rugby, like any other pro sport, requires total commitment and focus, making it harder and more important to plan ahead. I reckon we’ll be seeing more smarts flowing to and from the game they play heaven. Look out David Kirk (Rhodes Scholar/CEO), Nick Farr-Jones (legal eagle) and John Kirwan (Knight-coach), here come the rest of the boys.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Power of Love

One of the joys of being CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi is speaking at events that make a difference. Two weeks ago I was at Magdalene College at Cambridge University where the best part was meeting and exchanging views with Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury for the past decade. This March 20 I will be opening TEDxNavigli in Milan, and there couldn't be a better topic to explore than The Power of Love. My kind of topic.

This TEDx comes from the premise that Love is a real and powerful force, able to transform the human condition for the better.

"Far from its sentimental or New Agey interpretation, Love is an archetypical force, recognized and identified in all cultures and societies, throughout time and space. Love is about connectedness, unity, integration, forgiveness, empathy, peace, compassion, understanding, dialogue. Love is making its way into our contemporary culture through a series of labels: emotional intelligence, positive psychology, sustainability, cultural diversity, gender equality, social inclusion, conflict resolution, open source, crowd-sourcing, the grand unified theory."

To which list I will be adding: Lovemarks. TEDxNavigli is bringing together a potent roster including:
  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Founding father of positive psychology, world renown for his ground-breaking research on creativity, happiness and the flow state.
  • Ervin Laszlo Two times nominee for Nobel Prize for Peace, a philosopher of science, systems theorist, integral thinker; brings a holistic perspective on the individual, society and the world.
  • Nancy Adler McGill professor pioneering in the integration of art and design with business and societal leadership, bringing artistic approaches to the work of managers and executives worldwide.
  • Adam Kahane Expert in social design issues, a facilitator of the transition to democracy in post apartheid South Africa, as well as in other tense contexts worldwide. The author of Power and Love.
  • Fabio Sgaragli Editor, trainer and speaker, but most of all a rounded business thinker and practitioner, with a passion for big ideas, bold stories and inspiring visions.
  • Kavita Parmar Designer, entrepreneur, passionate advocate for change in the fashion industry, as well as international opinion leader on sustainability in fashion and new emerging trends.
  • Gherardo Colombo One of the Italian leading public prosecutors and judges, for his deep education engagement he was awarded the National Prize of Culture and Peace 2008.
  • Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky Conceptual artist, writer, and musician, editor of Origin Magazine, presently artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
TEDxNavigli is sponsored by Fetzer Institute, an American philanthropic foundation whose mission is to foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community. Credit to curator Ferdnando Buscema, who lives the creed with his title of Magic Experience Designer, Saatchi & Saatchi Italy’s Fabrizio Caprara, and the many others who are making this happen.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Simple Message From Above

My old Grasmere neighbour, Williams Wordsworth once wrote that he “wandered lonely as a cloud” until he happened upon “a host of golden daffodils”. But members of the Cloud Appreciation Society aren’t lonely, nor are they looking any further than the clouds to find joy.

To the Society’s founder, Grant Pretor-Pinnery, and his fellow enthusiasts, every cloud does have a silver lining. “There are stunning parts of nature around us if we just change our perspective slightly,” say Pretor-Pinnery. “You’d be happier if you didn’t wish you were somewhere else in the world, somewhere without a cloud in the sky – encouraged by the travel industry. If you appreciate the beauty in that you’d be happier.”

The Society delivers a simple message, take the time to stop, look up, and appreciate your surroundings. Sometimes living life slow is just the way to connect to the creative.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Fix On Netflix

Netflix has been a roller-coaster and of late it has been going fast upwards rather than fast downwards. On the positive these weeks has been a presentation on culture, there is a great-to-reed PPT presentation on slideshare from by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings describing the seven aspects of their company culture. Sheryl Sandberg said it “may well be the most important document ever to come out of the Valley.” Here are some key points:
  1. Choose High Performance over mediocrity: Retaining and attracting high performance people is core to the company’s ethos.

  2. Context, not control: The best managers work out how to get great outcomes by setting things in context, rather than by trying to control their people. High performance people do better when they understand the context.

  3. Take care of your best people: Outstanding employees get more done and cost less than two adequate employees.

  4. Brilliant jerks need not apply: You can be the best and brightest, but difficult people hold back the fittest teams.
Netflix had a PR disaster when it disregarded its customers and the share price melted as a result. It seems to have righted its boat, the service is reportedly terrific, and the House of Cards series with Kevin Spacey is a brilliant idea. The original UK series was riveting and repulsive, and its current star Kevin Spacey, as director of the Old Vic, who I shared a conference stage with a few years ago at the Royal Albert Hall, is well enough versed in English methods and the particular brand of toxicity.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


I just finished reading the best book of fiction I've come across so far this year "Ghostman" a first novel by Roger Hobbs. Two Stories in one, suspense in every chapter, a new dark hero, incredible detail covering just about everything you need to know about committing successful heists in the new millennium... A new franchise is born.

'flectere si nequeo superos. Acheronta movebo.'


Learning Lovemarks

Despite his dislike of MBAs, Steve Jobs once said: "We do want to create our own MBAs, but in our own image." It was his way of saying that learning how to think “business” matters in determining success.

Unlike many people in business today, I didn’t start my career after obtaining a degree. Procter & Gamble was my university. It was there that I learned about creating culture, the importance of the consumer, and the complexity of global markets and local execution.

The concept of a corporate university is essentially a learning environment within an organization. It’s an idea that has been around for decades. McDonald’s established its Hamburger University in 1961 to teach people the “secrets of the business” and now has schools all over the world. The Hamburger University in China is so exclusive, it has a harder acceptance rate than Harvard! Only one percent of applications are successful.

Pixar University goes beyond teaching its employees leadership and business strategy skills. It engages employees in activities not related to their role (like belly dancing or improvisation) but key in fostering creative and happy workplaces, and helping employees to understand each other better.

At Saatchi & Saatchi, we run the Lovemarks Academy to introduce Lovemarks thinking and foster the atmosphere that has made us known as a hot house for world-changing creative ideas. Run by Deputy Chairman Worldwide, Richard Hytner, almost 4,000 Saatchi & Saatchi people from 40 countries have attended the Academy. The potency of these academies is heightened when clients participate, which they do with increasing frequency.

Learning is something that we must continue to do even once we’re working. Embrace any learning opportunities that your workplace may provide. Dedicate time to learn new things outside of work – read, learn a new skill; even skills that might not relate to your work will flow into your everyday exchanges and performance.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Blues are Back in Town

After a few years in the doldrums, rugby in Auckland is back on the radar. For good reason the Breakers basketball team had become the darling of Auckland sports fans with its inspirational winning style and teamship. Rugby on the other hand was characterised by insipid performances and patchy leadership.

A few weeks back Iain Abercrombie facilitated a session between the Blues hierarchy and me to Purpose the franchise for 2013. Chairman Gary Whetton, CEO Andy Dalton and Head Coach Sir John Kirwan couldn’t have been more open, more ambitious and more determined.

Two games into the Super Rugby season, it looks like the tide is turning. New coach Sir JK and captain Ali Williams have got a young team with a taste for winning. NZ Herald’s Marc Hinton wrote after Friday’s game:

John Kirwan's youthful Blues dismantled the seven-time champion Crusaders 34-15, five tries to nil, in front of more than 31,000 joyous fans at Eden Park on Friday night.

Two Super Rugby games, two wins and a maximum 10 points in the bank. Even the prince of positivity, Sir JK, admits he's surprised by how well his team has started this rebuilding year. Foundations laid, this thing will be a skyscraper soon the way work is progressing.

Kirwan conceded a "high-skill, high-tempo, high-impact" approach was going to bring its anxious moments but felt his players had to be trusted to deliver a style they were committed to. "It's a balance we need to find. I think the boys have gone a long way to finding that right balance."

Sport is a game of endless speculation and I have long since learned not to make predictions – but I am confirming that my hometown team has got its mojo back. Beat a pathway to Eden Park.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Thief

When reading about a new hotel in Norway called The Thief, I was reminded of a quote by Andy Warhol. “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” But what about art as something that is good for business?

For those of you art aficionados and collectors, you know a good piece can change a space. A great work of art affects your frame of mind and has the ability to make you feel and think different. (A badly chosen piece can do the same, but with negative consequences!) I am of the opinion that any firm that wants to “Think Different” should embrace the power of art. Whether you’re an advertising company, retail store, bank or dental clinic, allowing creativity to permeate your working environment can change your culture for the better.

Charles Saatchi blazed a contemporary trail. The Chicago offices of Metropolitan Capital Bank & Trust use art in their building because it forces the consciousness to explore its boundaries.” According to CEO Michael Rose, “It challenges us and reinforces, as a daily reminder, the value of creativity and of keeping an open mind through a daily dialogue with the work, which one can see differently on any given day.”

Monday, March 4, 2013

Norway plans TV show of fireplace burning

There is a joke in advertising that you can put a goldfish in a bowl on television and it will rate a three share. Norwegian public television plans to broadcast a burning fireplace for 12 straight hours, with firewood specialists providing colour commentary, expert advice and a bit of cultural tutoring.

"We'll talk about the very nerdy subjects like burning, slicing and stacking the wood, but we'll also have cultural segments with music and poems," Rune Moeklebust, a producer for state broadcaster NRK. "It will be very slow but noble television."

Moeklebust got the idea for the show from the wild success of a firewood book by Lars Mytting, Norway's biggest firewood celebrity. His book "Hel Ved", which means Strong Character in English, is a play on words because ved also means "firewood".

Mytting, a guest on tonight's broadcast, has sold close to 130,000 copies of the book since last year, a huge number in a country of 5 million people, with his publisher claiming that only "Fifty Shades of Grey" sold more copies during the recent holiday season. NRK is not new to quirky programming. In 2011, it broadcast 134 hours non-stop of a cruise ship going up the Norwegian coast to the Arctic, bagging the world record for the longest continuous TV programme along the way. At one point 600,000 people tuned in to watch that programme with 3.2 million people, or over 60 per cent of the population, glued to the screen at one point.

And an earlier broadcast of an eight hour train journey from Oslo to Bergen was so popular, NRK had to repeat it. "People in Norway have a spiritual relationship with fire," Moeklebust said. "Fire is the reason we're here, if there was no firewood, we couldn't live in Norway, we'd freeze." Reuters