Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Not a Drop to Drink

Over 780 million people around the world do not have access to clean water or sanitation - critical to reducing water borne illness, reducing infection; and feeding crops and livestock. This results in approximately 3.4 million deaths annually; the majority of which are caused by fecal matter, and could be reduced through the simple act of washing hands with soap and clean water.

It’s no quick fix however, but fortunately there are people and organisations out there that are coming up with creative solutions to raise awareness and combat this issue:
  • Wine to Water is an organisation set up by former bartender Doc Hendley, encouraging bartenders around the world to pledge 100% their tips from a shifts work to the charity devoted to fighting the epidemic.

  • Who Gives a Crap is an Australian social enterprise that donates 50% of the profits from its toilet paper sales to WaterAid, who work improve sanitation in the developing world.

  • University of Engineering and Technology created a billboard in Peru that turns humidity into drinkable water.

  • I recently mentioned the campaign Farmageddon, which saw online Farmarama farmers help real-life farms through donations to the United Nations FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization).

  • F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi created this TVC for S.O.S. Mata Atlântica, a Brazilian environmental charity, encouraging people to break the taboo of peeing in the shower to each save over 4000 liters of drinkable water a year.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Can Kicks Back

Late in 2012 I was in a documentary made by filmmaker Scott Galloway called Overdraft. The film presents a broad explanation of America's calamitous $16.7 trillion federal debt problem and the choices Americans have to make to fix it. We’ve since had the “fiscal cliff” and now we have “sequestration”. Debate rages over solutions.

The government should turn to an organization called The Can Kicks Back, a Millennial-led campaign focused on educating and activating this generation on debt and deficit issues. They are concerned about their future lives. Since launching in November 2012 they have built a network of 100+ chapters in 38 states and are in the process of pushing forward with a Bill in Congress.

To connect with Millennials they have been reaching out to them in ways that are not typical to campaigns around issues like the debt, with Gangnam Style and Harlem Shake videos and an edgy campaign called Seal the Deal. I take my hat off to Ryan Schoenike and his team of The Can Kicks Back for their imaginative, ideas-driven communications to get everyone, Millennials to Boomers, students to politicians, involved in winding back the debt before it crushes us.

The America we are delivering to young people is not sustainable and it is our responsibility as “wiser heads” to urge politicians to bring out-of-control spending into some intelligent pattern. Austerity does not seem to be working in the countries that are trying it, and in fact it is looking counter-productive as a singular strategy. Stimulus on the other hand, just looks like throwing even more money we don’t have at the problem. There are various sensible prescriptions for addressing the debt without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were. One manifestation of sequestration – punishing air travelers by laying off air traffic controllers – was thankfully overturned by the Senate today. It was heading to be a metaphor for how not to attack the debt issue. We need velocity, not delay.

What is needed is a selfless approach to the future that is not corrupted by vested interests as the current system. Maybe we should turn to the young people we are saddling with the debt problem for the solutions. The folk at The Can Kicks Back look like a good place to start.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Flown to Distraction

Travel is inherently noisy. It’s a natural by-product of life and movement. Sometimes it’s welcome and expected, and sometimes you just crave quiet. The solution could be as simple as good pair of headphones, or asking the train driver to get someone to tone down their conversation by announcing it over the sound system!

The next time you sit in an airplane, pay attention to how noisy the aircraft is. The engine, the air-conditioning, the rumble as you take off. Then think that there are actually people who are working to reduce the amount of noise produced by aircrafts. After reading an article in the New York Times on the “Technology for a Quieter America” report, I am surprised there is actually an initiative to create a “Quieter America”, which includes the amount of sound inflicted on travellers in airplane cabins.

As a rule, the further distance you travel, the less noise you’ll experience. The higher up in class you go, the further you are from the engine – or if you’re in coach, head to the back of the plane. Richard Fitzgerald is the ‘whispering coach’ for Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class. He trains crew to speak within cabins so that passengers are not disturbed during their inflight snooze. Which is great; if you bought a bed in the sky, you should be able to sleep in it. If you’re more partial to trains, Italy's high-speed Frecciarossa could possibly be the quietest in Europe.

Hemingway, Rimbaud, and Satre were on to something when they made the iconic Parisian cafe Les Deux Magots their place of work. Many people still work at cafes - not just because of easy access to coffee and Wi-Fi - because the subtle cacophony of voices creates the right kind of ambience to stimulate creative thinking. And if you can’t make your way to a café that produces just the right amount of noise, in typical 21st century technophile fashion, there is even an app that produces the right level of background noise to get those creative juices flowing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tear Down The Walls

We need more elastic environments. Not just in urban cities, but in business. An elastic environment is a place that can be used for multiple purposes by different kinds of people. It could be a retail store in the morning and a theatre space when the sun goes down. Or a house where everything is for sale – like FIKA in Tokyo. STORY in New York is a concept store that isn’t afraid to change its character, and The Gourmet Tea in São Paulo is basically a colourful wall that transforms into a side street shop during opening hours.

The concept of elastic environments embodies our culture of constant change. It symbolizes our potential to be free and open to new ideas. Even something as permanent as brick and mortar can work with us, rather than restrain us.

Here are some ideas of how to bring the spirit of elastic environments to your work:
  • Creativity needs space. Change your working environment so that it allows dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

  • Mix it up. Expand your creative suite to include the internet kid, graphic designer, blogger, psychologist, retailer. Even the data scientist!

  • Keep your door open. Invite people to send their ideas at any time. One of them may change the way your business does things tomorrow.

  • Take small actions. Embrace opportunity when it strikes. As soon as the lights went out at the 2013 Super Bowl, Tide sent out a tweet that generated plenty of buzz.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Let’s Get Physical

Guess what’s making a comeback? Physical objects.

You spent the last decade digitizing your life and suddenly paper and plastic are back on the radar. Some bands are even selling limited edition cassette tapes of new albums. Cassette tapes! Who would have thought we would ever hear that word again. Savvy companies are capitalizing on the trend by offering to produce material copies of digital files. One of them, Postagram, allows you to send physical postcards printed from digital photos.

Why the move back to the material world? People miss the romance and sensory appeal of objects. Tactical objects hold memories, and for many, these things have personalities of their own. The smell of books, the design on the sleeve of a record, are now considered “romantic”, “nostalgic”, not old and musty. Digital is too easy to replicate, too easy to copy. You can send an electronic file to many but a hand illustration edition to few. There’s an emotional void that digital has created and it’s an opportunity for brands to create amazing connections with their consumers.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Party with Purpose

With Kweku Mandela

With Michael Jones

Everyone knows that advertising people are party animals. Well, maybe that was back in the Mad Men era. These days a 6pm cocktail event is usually about making the world a better place, and so it was last Thursday night on the 16th floor of Saatchi & Saatchi at 375 Hudson Street. Hosted by the New Zealand global talent network Kea and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), the event was about “Growing Global Leaders”. AUT VC Derek McCormack announced an intern program giving students work and study experience in the USA. Hyperfactory co-founder Derek Handley talked about the persistence of vision in an entrepreneurial start-up company, his new book “Heart to Start” which is a roadmap for aspiring innovators, and his involvement in The B Team, a philanthropic group he has co-founded with Richard Branson. For my part I talked about winning with inspiration, edge, courage and speed.

One of the special people at the event was ‘The Iceman’ Michael Jones, one of the best rugby players to ever wear the #7 jersey. I knew Michael when he was a young All Black and have intersected with his life and career at various times since. Michael is a Samoan New Zealander and carries with him all the dignity, humility and gentle humor that such a combination creates. He still lives in the same Auckland community in which he was born and contributes to young people’s leadership and development. He is also a warrior and a chief, a man of mana and bearing. He spoke of his dream as a young child of becoming an All Black; and gave a message that leadership is delivered through service to others. There was a lively question-and-discussion session after which Kea global chairman Phil Veal issued apologies to everyone I managed to provoke and offend, especially the Australians. Signature of a great dialogue.

As always with a bunch of Kiwis the connections were fast and furious and the chatter loud and long. And being Saatchi & Saatchi, the eclectic nature and geography of the audience reflected the international nature of our network. A special guest was Kweku Mandela, grandson of the great Nelson Mandela, who was in New York for the Mandela Foundation and the launch of a new film project The Power of Words, in association with the Tribeca Film Festival which is underway in New York. The project is a new year-round initiative that engages five filmmakers to offer modern interpretations of Nelson Mandela’s inspirational words.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Future Belongs To The 90s

Before the millennium, people used to wonder what amazing change would happen in the future. We thought we would be living in a Mad Max world, or flying around in aero-dynamic cars and having our brains attached to super computers. We anticipated a VUCA world. One that was volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. What we didn’t expect is how vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding our experience of life could be.

Time is now measured in an instant. 15 minutes is too long. To ask an investor to wait 5 years before seeing a profit is incredulous. Facebook, once the poster child for the digital age, is now seen by kids as being too archaic for their taste. They’re going the way of magazines. Too slow. Too permanent. They want something instant. Something that creates a feeling of urgency with a short shelf-life. They want excitement.

Now that it’s happening, talking about the future feels a bit retro.

Douglas Rushkoff, one of the first people to grasp the concept of viral media and social currency, has just released a book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now. He uses words like narrative collapse (when we have no time to tell a linear story), digiphrenia (when technology and media enables us to be in more than one place) to describe what he calls presentism, which is essentially what I have been referring to as the Age of Now.

In the Age of Now, execution is everything, velocity is everything. It’s "all kinetic energy, no potential energy. No hard drive. All RAM," says Rushkoff. It requires a different approach to how we understand change. Long-term projections are dead. This scares people who are uncomfortable with being accountable and like sitting in a lot of meetings and hiding behind piles of paperwork and research. Stop living for the future. Get some courage. Start doing things for the Now.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Six Keys To Success

Following the success of the British Olympics team at the London 2012 games, which was their best performance since Antwerp 1920, the British Athletics Commission is trying to encourage UK youngsters with inspiration and the tools to succeed in school and in life through sportspeople.

The new initiative is based on six valuable skills in sport that are just as important in life. Jessica Ennis, who won gold in the heptathlon event in London last year, features as the lead spokesperson for the campaign, and appears in a number of clips explaining how she has succeeded in sport using these six keys to success:
  1. Mental toughness

  2. Hunger to achieve

  3. People skills

  4. Sports and life knowledge

  5. Breaking barriers

  6. Planning for success
As she explains in these videos, the lessons she has learned are very much applicable to life. Take for instance, Ennis’ determination in succeeding in her chosen sport despite criticism from officials who said that she was too small to compete in events that traditionally require taller competitors. In sport, as in life, we face a number of naysayers, but it is important to stick to your guns even though others may cast doubt over your thoughts, ideas or actions.

Another good example from Ennis’ career is her ability to plan for success through setting goals, as well as her ability to plan for failure, which helps her cope in times when she does stumble and fall.

These six keys to success are absolutely applicable to us all, not just children, no matter what we’re passionate about in life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Buying Serenity

In this always-on world it can be hard to find time to relax. While spas and retreats can be a great way to take a couple of hours to unwind, they’re not always accessible. Nothing beats an idea, and seeing a hole in the market, a number of companies have developed products they believe will help with unwinding and finding peace at home. A few examples:
  • The Philips Wake-Up Light. The sound of your morning alarm can be a pretty unpleasant way to wake up, so Philips developed a lamp that gradually wakes you up over a 30 minute period by using a soft rising light. The lamp is based on ideas of circadian rhythm where the light from the sun naturally and slowly wakes your body up.

  • Kolher Wireless shower speaker - Kolher have a range of products aiming to make your bathroom a more pleasant and peaceful place to be, including the showerhead that includes a detachable wireless speaker so you can listen to music while you get ready in the morning.

  • Simple Noise is a colour noise generator available online or as an app. The idea being that colour noise, such as white noise, helps to block out unwanted background noise, and also soothes your mind when stressed or as you’re trying to fall asleep.
Too far-fetched for your taste? Have a soak in the tub.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Customer Focus Extremis

The just-published shareholder letter from Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is an object lesson in being purpose-inspired. For context, he attaches, as he does every year, his first shareholders’ letter from 1997 in which he writes “we believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term...we will focus relentlessly on our customers; [we will] obsess over customers; our focus is on offering our customers compelling value.”

Fast forward to 2013 and Bezos quotes an outside observer: “Amazon, as far as I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers.” Bezos counters that “long-term thinking squares the circle. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align. The success of Amazon these past 16 years would come as no surprise to anyone who subscribes to the idea that you take the best care of the customer and everything else falls into place.”

In a parallel universe, I became CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi 16 years ago in 1997, and that year we wrote a purpose statement that is as implacable as the Amazon ethos: “To be revered as a hot house for world-changing creative ideas that transform our clients’ businesses, brands and reputations.” If you get the dream right, if you get the language right, you can sail through the vicissitudes of daily business and focus on the long term. Who know what’s going to happen in 100 days? But if you know where you’re headed in a thousand days or in ten thousand, you’re not going to get knocked off your game.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Health In The Arts

For years people have been touting the benefits of the arts on a person’s health and well-being, but now a study has the statistics to back it up. A study by Ontario-based Hill Strategies shows that those involved in cultural activities scored better on 85% of eight health-indicators. The study also showed that 60% of people who visited an art gallery reported good health compared to 47% of those who did not attend, and 64% of theater goers were more likely to have strong life satisfaction versus 56% among those not attending. It appears ‘many arts goers have better health, higher volunteer rates, and stronger satisfaction with life.’

I recently wrote about the power of art; and love to steal into a gallery in between appointments on my travels. Now I know arts and culture have got body and spirit covered, not just the mind.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

To Do List 2.0

We’ve probably all experienced the ‘Zeigarnik effect’, the persisting nagging feeling you get when you leave a task half-finished to move onto a new task. It was assumed that the only way to overcome this feeling was to return to the task and complete your goal. However, a study showed that simply by writing a specific plan about how to fulfil the goal later the nagging feeling can be eliminated.

Productivity guru David Allen’s Get Things Done manual provides some helpful tips on how to achieve this successfully. He recommends taking your simple to do list and rewriting it to create specific actions; so ‘write blog post’ becomes ‘research and write blog post on the merits of the to-do list’. This helps change an item into something you have to do, into something you have to physically do. You don’t need a fancy app or software for this either, just a pen and paper. All this helps you get the things you have to get done, so you can do the things you want to do.

Winning to me is about action, leaping from getting thing done to making things happen.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

TEDx Navgili, Milan

 loved the experience of presenting at TEDx in Milan a week or so ago. 18 minutes on the “Power of Love.” Thanks to convenor Ferdinando Buscema, magic experience designer. They’ve posted the video on YouTube, another few words to help TED get to another viewing milestone. TED Talks hit a billion views last November, and kudos to TED curator Chris Anderson and team (who are near neighbours with Saatchi on Hudson St) for turning an elite meeting in Monterey into an inclusive global movement.

A few years ago Chris came to our place to speak at the inaugural 7X7 event and posed the question: “Why would a group of otherwise perfectly normal looking people who could be entertaining themselves with some sort of electronic gizmo or otherwise relaxing after a hard day’s work choose to listen to talks?” His answer: “Talking is an ancient communications technology which pre-dates Twitter by about 2 million years. It’s a powerful technology, and it’s powerful because it is ancient. This is how ideas develop in your mind and then sort of explode into collaborative action. This is who we are. All of us have an amazing opportunity in the next few years to reinvent the ancient art of the spoken word. If we do, we’ll be rediscovering fire.” Correct, one billion times plus. (Btw next Saatchi New York 7X7 is on May 7, 7pm).

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013)

Margaret Thatcher just died. RIP Maggie. She was a central personality in the first 25 year phase of the Saatchi & Saatchi story. The Brothers – Charles and Maurice Saatchi – were the Iron Lady’s communications advisers and activists during her rise to power and in two re-elections. They created advertising for the Conservative Party that devastated the sitting Labour Party. The “Labour Isn’t Working” poster of 1979 has been

called the most effective political advertisement ever created (kudos to young Saatchi & Saatchi copywriter Andrew Rutherford). Mrs Thatcher kept indifferent health in the past few years, but still had the spirit to steal the show as she did at the 40th birthday party of Saatchi & Saatchi in 2010 (at least I had her attention during my speech).

I had left the murky and melancholic shores of Great Britain in 1972 to pursue a dream of freedom, choice, opportunity, and prosperity – all the things that the UK didn’t stand for at the time. I cheered Margaret Thatcher on from the sidelines (I was based in the Middle East for P&G) because she stood unequivocally for a new equation – the aforesaid freedom, choice, opportunity, and prosperity.

Shimon Peres said of leadership: “When you have a chosen a destiny… never give up.” Margaret Thatcher was the embodiment of this.

Color Palate

People are more interested in food than ever. We watch reality television about food, and read blogs and magazines about cooking. We have apps on our phones that tell us where our favorite food truck will be parked. Twenty years ago it was McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Now teenagers can tell you where to get the best bánh mì or churros in the city.

Taking photos of food in restaurants is getting so bad that some restaurants are starting to ban the practice. At my old favorite Bouley in New York you can’t take photos at the table. They will take photos for you in the kitchen and hand over copies before you pay the bill. There are billions of food photos on Google. People love recording their lives online, but it also shows the truth in the saying, “we eat with our eyes.”

“Half the brain is visual in some sense,” says Charles Spence, an Oxford university experimental psychologist who has worked with multi-sensory mastermind Heston Blumenthal. Do you know that you might not be able to identify a flavor if you can’t see its colour beforehand? Or that you can actually taste the shade of packaging? A wine connoisseur might even identify red wine flavors in white wine turned red with food colouring all due to the eyes tricking the mind.

My friend Simon Rogan, who heads the Michelin-starred restaurant L'Enclume (I’ll be there today), doesn’t prioritize color in presentation anymore. It’s all about flavor, he says. Which in my opinion is really what good food boils down to.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Future Of Music

In the 90’s, video killed the radio star. Right now, digital tech is doing a number on whole sections of the traditional, too-stuck-in-their-ways-to-change music industry. Digital, then social, and now mobile media has shifted the power away from big corporations (like the now defunct HMV) and given it back to the fans. For the music biz, thanks to iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube, Darwinism is in digital flight.

I talk about the Age of “Now”, and music is at the heart of this super shift. Tunes on the device you want, when you want, where you want, how you want, at a price you can believe in – all this is the way it was meant be. It’s a zone where the most rabid fans can discover dozens of new bands every week, share them with their friends in real-time and move on to the next big thing – all for the price of a monthly Spotify subscription. Never mind the amped opportunity for anyone to become a musician in these digital days.

For professionals in the music industry, it’s quite the challenge. Nothing is like it was 10 short years ago, and every time things seem to settle down, a new technology shuffles the deck. For record execs (the one’s that still exist!), aspiring musicians and brands, it’s about getting in sync, joining the conversation, and answering that question of audience questions: How will you improve my life?

The more we have quantity, the more we want quality. The personal ‘my way’ music gig seems set to continue, from music based on your location or current actions (e.g. Songza/Project Now from Reality Jockey) to music based on your heartbeat, and beyond. Taking a bath? We know what you wanna hear. Working out? Here’s some heavy metal to jam to. Rainy in New York eh - how about some Coldplay? Know how you feel, boom!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Team Of Leaders

Here’s a Wharton-reported take on leadership from an astronaut and adventurer, with examples for business application. It’s about preparation, single-minded focus on the goal and a team of “active followers”. It talks about the leader’s decision, turns at leading, sticking to the game plan even when you disagree, trust, proper communication and real team input that is enabled by the leader giving people power to be active followers.

While the activation is right, the follower language is wrong. Language is pivotal to winning, language sets the mental and the physical frame for victory, and ‘follower’ goes to the big flaw in classic leadership. Leaders need followers.

The difference is central not semantic. A team of ‘followers’ is immediately on the back foot. A team of leaders steps up and finds a way to win. This goes to the core of the Inspirational Leadership model of Peak Performance that I’ve developed with colleagues and teach in companies, MBA classes and across the board.

Real leadership is inspiring people to become the best they can be in pursuit of a shared Purpose, an Inspirational Dream." For a military pointer, look to General Eisenhower who once defined leadership as the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where The Heart Is

New Zealand has once again stolen the heart of an international visitor. This time it’s Monocle magazine’s Chief-in-Editor Tyler Brûlé who was left smitten after a recent trip to Auckland, so much so that he dedicated a love letter to the city for Valentine’s.

Brûlé’s admiration of the city doesn’t surprise me. Auckland was a vibrant city when I moved there, and it’s just getting better and better. The city frequently features amongst the world’s most liveable cities – including Monocle’s – and last year landed the first two spots on a Lonely Planet list of Top New Zealand experiences. The travel guide also stated that it was “hard to imagine a more geographically blessed city”.

Not everyone is singing the city’s praises, and there’s work ahead to make Auckland more liveable. I’m a believer. I’ve said before that Auckland has a youthful energy and it really seems to have gone into overdrive since the Rugby World Cup. I am overjoyed when I return to the city and love being able to refuel my creative energies and explore its new cafés, restaurants, and galleries. Proud to call Auckland home.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Love 2.0

I have always talked about the power of love in our lives, and how we need to embrace it in all aspects of our lives to really reap the benefits. Barbara Fredrickson’s new book proves just how much of a benefit love can be for your health, happiness, and longevity.

Following years spent studying positive emotions, Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become, provides a new scientific view of love. Fredrickson describes love as energizing ‘micro-moments’ that leaves us with feelings of ‘positive resonance’ that occur when we have a connection with somebody and “share a source of positivity”. Fredrickson claims that these moments, which can happen between someone you love or a complete stranger, provide “powerful nourishment for your growth and health,” more so than any other source of positivity.

Fredrickson argues that we need to stop limiting love to an emotion associated with romance and marriage. We need to recognize it as a powerful emotion that can positively affect our entire being, and that can be experienced at various times throughout the day, with people who we don’t have a romantic relationship with. In her book, Fredrickson explores ways that you can experience positive resonance more frequently, to the betterment of yourself and even your work environment.