Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Forty Winks

Sleep can be mighty helpful, whether to help with complex decision making, creativity, wellbeing or more. As a fan of the siesta, I keep an eye and occasionally share a word on the science and conversation around sleep.

From a performance coach, here’s a nifty update on naps, including these seven tips:
  1. Keep naps to 20 minutes, or greater than 90 minutes to avoid sleep inertia
  2. Nap in a quiet, well ventilated room
  3. Clear your mind, breathe slowly and deeply to help switch off and relax
  4. If you are going to nap at work – make sure you have permission!
  5. Best to nap 6 - 8 hours after normal wake up time
  6. Shift workers can use a late afternoon nap to help stay alert during the night
  7. Use naps to recharge, refresh and reinvigorate the body and the brain

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Rewards of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a unique emotion. It’s also difficult to describe. For a long time it was considered a disorder, a symptom of depression even. Some wag even pointed out that nostalgia is an anagram of “lost again.” But we know it is really nothing of the sort. A recent New York Times interview with social-psychologist Dr. Constantine Sedikides really struck a chord with me. Over the past 14 years, he has set out not just to study the idea of nostalgia and what triggers it, but how it effects our emotions and behavior.

As the article goes on to say:

Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.”


Nostalgia helps us feel connected. It gives our lives meaning – deeper roots. Even when the memory is bittersweet, we feel more human. Nostalgia is good for us.

Brands have long recognized the power of nostalgia. The way it makes us feel. Its strength as a driver of behavior. Drawing up feelings of nostalgia generates positive associations. Sensuality is often the trigger. If you think about what makes you wax nostalgic, it’s typically your senses. Music, in particular, is a powerful trigger. It transports us to another time and place. It reminds us of people, places, events. Good times, sad times. Moments that shaped us. Combined with a sense of mystery and intimacy, we have the ingredients for a Lovemark.

Now that we know just how good nostalgia is for us, it’s about seizing every opportunity we can to create a “nostalgia repository.”

Monday, July 29, 2013


We’ve all heard that scent is a trigger for memory, often referred to as the ‘Proustian phenomenon’, after a story in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time where a character vividly recalls childhood memories after smelling a tea-soaked madeleine cake.

But rather than wait for a fluke of circumstance to ignite a memory, Amy Radcliffe of Central Saint Martin’s set out to create a ‘scentography’ camera that captures scent the same way we might capture something with video or a photograph.

The beautifully crafted ‘camera’, named Madeline after Proust’s story, uses techniques developed in the 1970s (!) to capture scent. There are so many fabulous possibilities where a machine like this could be applied. Here are some of my own:
  • I’ve got a new grandchild on the way. Thank you Bex and Tim. So saving the scent of a newborn comes to mind.
  • Capturing the smell of a New Zealand summer holiday. BBQ, glass of Pinot and all.
  • Your own bed. Imaging being able to rest one’s head on a hotel pillow that smells just like your own.
  • The great outdoors when you’re on a long-haul flight. Whether you’re in first class or economy, air quality in planes leave a lot to be desired.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Five Things I Love About the Lake District

I’m lucky to live in some beautiful places in the world. Meg Waite Clayton, an American novelist, recently spent some time in the English Lake District and is chronicling her time for the Huffington Post. Her experiences of the Lake District prompts me to share things I love most about my unique corner of England.
  • The landscape: Wordsworth did say it was “the loveliest spot that man hath found.” Incredible walks and spectacular vistas to be enjoyed by any age. You will also find largest National Park in England and the highest mountain in the country. And the prettiest village… my Grasmere.
  • The people: Warm, welcoming and genuine. Mates as friends. Read Cumbria Life, our own top drawer monthly magazine to meet the people.
  • Incredible food: The Lake villages have some of England’s top restaurants. My favorites are L’Enclume, Holbeck Ghyll and The Jumble Room. Storrs Hall and The Gilpin Lodge should be visited too. It’s also the birthplace of Sticky Toffee Pudding, Kendal Mint Cake and Grasmere Ginger Bread.
  • Rich in history: 6,000 archaeological sites and thousands of listed buildings. The Lake District was not only the home and inspiration to the likes of Beatrix Potter and poet William Wordsworth, but it also features a 700-year-old pub – The Mason’s Arms… as well as my local the famous Swan at Grasmere a mere 400-year-old stripling
  • The recharge it brings: Sanctuaries should be used for regarding not peace of mind. Invite your closest people to experience and be challenged and channelled. A 24/7 global company needs both nature and nurturing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Go Forth, Young Dan

Dan is pictured 10th from the right in the back row.

A great weekend for me in Neuchatel . . . youngest son Dan completed his post grad degree and begins the rest of his life as an International Master in Management, Law and Humanities at Sport. The FIFA Masters is rated the best in Europe, and the second best in the world . . . with each semester of the program being held in different countries (De Montfort University in Leicester, Bocconi in Milan and Neuchatel in Switzerland. A class of 30 comprising 24 different nationalities . . . The graduation ceremony was beautiful - in the Chateau of Neuchatel - and the after match was a tour de force going on well into the early hours.

A few beers with Springbok legend Morne du Plessis (whose son Luc graduated with Dan, a budding lawyer extraordinaire) talking rugby, and a chat with Bayern Munich legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, whose son Henry also graduated, made the evening a truly sporting once . . . full of fun optimism and laughter.

Cheers Dan Roberts, MA . . . Manchester City awaits!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The passing of my first football hero

My first footballing hero has passed away. His name was Bert Trautmann. He was 89. Legendary Manchester City goal-keeper, true gentleman and force for peace. Bert wasn’t just a hero to me, but to thousands of youngsters growing up in Lancashire. His story is the more remarkable because he isn’t English. Bert arrived in England as a prisoner of war. He had been a member of the Hitler Youth and joined the Luftwaffe as a paratrooper, earning an Iron Cross for bravery on the Eastern Front. During the war, he escaped from both the Russians and French resistance, before finally being captured by the British on the Western Front.

He could have returned to Germany after the war. He chose not to. Instead, he set about earning the trust, respect and love of his new countrymen. It wasn’t easy. 20,000 people marched in protest when he was first selected for Manchester City. He was abused at away games – in London especially, where the Luftwaffe had caused the most damage. But game by game he won us all over. His tenacity, skill and courage were legendary. As a 7-year-old, I watched as he dove at the feet of Birmingham City’s Peter Murphy in the 1956 FA Cup Final and was knocked out. He played on for the final 17 minutes and made a series of mesmerising saves to take Man City to victory. We didn’t know until three days later, but in that collision he had broken his neck. As you can imagine, that news cemented his hero status. He went on to be named footballer of the year that year.

But for all his skill as a footballer, his greatest legacy is helping to heal the rift between our two warring countries. Without doubt, the vile directed at him personally hurt. But he didn’t let it harden his heart. He used it as motivation. He made people stop and think. Yes, he fought for Germany. But he was man of honour and integrity. He didn’t ask for respect. He earned it. He brought England and Germany closer together.

Today, his legacy is being recounted across the world. His story led the Obituary pages of the weekend New York Times. Bert is an inspiration to all of us. He has shaped the lives and perceptions of millions of people. He showed me at a young age that nothing is impossible. It’s a lesson I have championed in my own life. And for that, I thank you Bert. Rest easy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rocking Rod is back!

Am listening to Rod Stewart's new album Time. After meandering around America's songbooks for too long, Rocking Rod is back. He's written a new album based on his life ... and he tells our story (we are contemporaries!!) brilliantly. Nostalgia, some regret, pain but overlaid with dreams, hope and optimism. Brighton Beach takes me back to being a teenager in the late 60's "a scruffy beat up working class teenage troubador ... and you were the finest girl that my eyes had ever seen." Then 35 years on to our whole world falling apart ... "It's Over ..." raw and real ... And then a new Maggie May for all of us. The ultimate summer anthem for us oldies "Can't stop me now, the world is waiting." Bring it on.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Out of Africa

I was in my NY office overlooking the Hudson on a hot summer afternoon yesterday; talking to Brent Smart and Tom Eslinger about our new website. My phone lit up with a text from Nikki, my eldest daughter, who is in South Africa on an adventure trek though the bush then onto Botswana, Namibia and Angola. On horseback. Sleeping rough in the bush.

"Sleeping under stars tonight on Beacon Rock. Faced huge male lion yesterday. He was hidden 5 feet from me. He leapt. Boom-Boom came from his throat. I could feel the pounding heart of my horse. We stood our ground. Escaped with scratches from the bushes. Nikki the brave xxx."

My heart was pounding. “This, I said to Brent and Tom, is what our website should feel like.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Negotiate Using Emotion

If you have only an inkling of what I’m about, you will know I’m big on emotion. It’s driven my choices in life. Emotion is the key motivator to what we do, say and what we ultimately differentiates us as human beings. It’s undeniable that other factors play a part (i.e. financial, convenience) when we make decisions, but it’s our emotions that principally determine what we decide and act upon.

Chris Voss is a former top FBI hostage negotiator who now teaches business negotiation at Harvard University. He understands the intricacies of emotion. How to use it to get the result he wants. Businesses, Chris says, still don’t get it. They enter into negotiations trying to pretend emotion doesn’t exist. That it’s about facts and figures. That business decisions are rational.

Voss strips it back to the core when he says businesses aren’t listening. They focus solely on their own argument. When they’re not talking about it, they’re thinking about it. They’re not hearing the bigger picture. They’re not listening to what people want. I agree with Voss. Nothing in life is completely rational. We all make decisions based on what we care about. If we listen closely, we can understand the emotional resonance in an argument. Then we can better understand if we can deliver what is wanted.

Voss’ perspective goes beyond just the boardroom. It’s also reflective of how brands need to engage with their customers. They need to listen to what consumers want. How they feel about their product. Talk with them, not at them. Go beyond a transaction. Enter a relationship.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

More Risk-Takers, Please

An article in the Guardian recently pointed out that education policy – in Britain at least – is trying to push students to be “realistic”. The encouragement is that youth should take courses that will give them the greatest chance of a job. Students are being shepherded into stable careers in law, medicine, accounting and IT, while creative instincts are being suppressed. This passage, in particular, sums up the problem with such an approach.

“More than ever, we need creative optimists and risk-takers. We don't need more hand-holding and young people being steered into what are seen (for the moment) as 'safe' jobs. In the same way that parents now feel the need to keep their children in a health and safety bubble, this is another example of our inability to live with risk. It's a form of pessimism that is limiting lives and over time could distort education provision as funding and opportunities follow an increasingly narrow pathway.”

One of the downsides of the information age is we’re bombarded with bad news. We’re pre-occupied with staying safe. It’s invading every aspect of our lives. How we eat, how we play, how we raise the next generation.

But we need risk. Without it, dreams would never make it into reality. Ideas are the currency of today and technology is the enabler. We don’t just need creative optimists, we need Radical Optimists. People who believe nothing is impossible. Radical Optimists look at the world and want to make it a better place. Problems aren’t barriers, they’re challenges to be solved.

We should be encouraging our children to discover their strengths and provide them the support they need to be successful as people (not just professionally). Pushing kids onto a path that “might” guarantee a job, regardless of their passion, may sound sensible at a time of economic uncertainty, but fulfillment and passion is a more dependable measurement of a successful life than competitive advantage.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lone Ranger Rides Again

Jerry Bruckheimer's Lone Ranger hit the movie screens last weekend. I grew up watching Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels bring justice to the oppressed and now Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer have revived a timeless tale of good versus evil and right versus wrong.

It's a ramschakle, patchwork, crazy couple of hours with a big opening, some amazing photography, and the best version of the William Tell Overture I've every heard. The hero of the show is Silver, the Lone Ranger's horse (actually I think there were 3 different Silvers used in the movie). He steals every scene he's in. Johnny Depp brings Captain Jack Sparrow to the Wild West and looks like he is having the time of his life.

The one-liners are worth the price of entry and the audience demographic reflects the craziness of the idea. When I was there, it ranged from teenager female fans of Johnny Depp, to a bunch of mid 30's guys in t-shirts, short and baseball hats laughing before, during and after every one-liner, to old fans like me.

The reviewers were probably panicked because high art it ain't. The beginning of a new Disney franchise it is!

For two hours last Saturday night I rode with Kemosabe and Tonto and the rest of the world stood still.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

The Rolling Stones have already penned the theme song, though it’s the Americans who can’t get no satisfaction – job satisfaction that is. According to a recent Gallup poll, 70% of Americans are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. Employees are bored, unmotivated and feeling under-appreciated. Over half of those surveyed say they are effectively “checked out” on the job.

Put it in dollar terms, that’s an annual $550 billion in lost productivity. That’s more than the GDP of Sweden. No small problem for a country that needs an inspired workforce to help it recover from a tough couple of years.

Forbes recently issued a list of the 10 happiest and unhappiest professions. The same themes tend to repeat. People who feel like they are in static roles, doing menial tasks with limited responsibility and growth prospects quickly become emotionally disconnected. And why should you care? Without job satisfaction the quality of service diminishes, innovation diminishes, there is less time with which to make a difference and get things done.

Apparently Canada has the happiest workers in the G8 (I loved my time there in the late 80’s running Pepsi). Whatever they’re doing, I am sure it involves Responsibility, Learning, Recognition and Joy. If you’re one of the 70% who are finding it hard to get inspired at work, here are four ways to get back some of that mojo:
  • Evolve with the times: Is there a better way to do this? Doing things like they’ve been done for the past 10 years is not a sign of reliability. At worse, it’s a tell-tale sign of your age!

  • Look to the top: Who is successful in your field? Who has been an innovator? Read about their work, their philosophy. Learn about what they did different.

  • Consider your brand: What do you want to be known for? How would you like your peers to describe you? Make a list of ways in which you can build your professional reputation and start working on it.

  • Focus on what’s good: Think about the things in your day that you enjoy doing. What about them make you feel good? How can you apply it to the other ‘must-dos’ on your daily list?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Love the Lions

The magnificent Lions’ tour of Australia has just culminated in a spectacular and brutal deciding match in Sydney. It had it all. Suspense, passion, pride, desperation. And ultimately, a triumphant victor. Warren Gatland made history, crushing the Aussies 41-16 and sealing the Lions’ first test series victory in 16 years. For the uninitiated, we’re talking rugby. Not just rugby, Lions rugby.

Given my English roots you can appreciate where my allegiances lie on this matter. I take enormous pride in the spirit of Lions supporters on their four-yearly sojourn to the southern hemisphere. It’s an event that captures the rugby world, and rightly so. This year, Microsoft got in on the act too.

To help promote the spirit of the tour, Microsoft drilled a ‘hole in the world’ that let fans in Cardiff interact with their Australian counterparts in Melbourne in real time, using Skype. It was a brilliant idea. Who doesn’t love a casual yarn between random rugby fans at opposite ends of the globe?

It also got me thinking about how technology is playing a huge role in expanding rugby across the globe. We’re hearing about teams starting up in Afghanistan, China, Uzbekistan and Columbia. The internet is showcasing the sport to audiences the game could never reach before. And they love it. Over one million people have visited the International Rugby Board’s official website to learn the laws of the game. They’re watching videos, using the interactive facilities and taking tests on their understanding. Rugby’s popularity is sky-rocketing. It’s a great time to be a fan.

P.S. But watch these Wallabies waltz back now they’ve dropped Dingo Deans and brought in one of their own to coach them back to glory. Ewen McKenzie is the new man. An Aussie through and through. A winner through and through (and an ex-housemate of mine in Sydney). He’ll spice them up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

New Ideas Meet New Money

In Silicon Valley there are billionaires yet to mark their 30th birthdays. Millionaires who have never had more than one job. There is a whole generation of entrepreneurs using the velocity of digital technology to turn around amounts of money that us older folk would not imagine earning at that age, or in a lifetime. But then what?

A group of young tech entrepreneurs recently decided to buy a mountain in Utah with the intention of using it as a base for their organization called Summit; a place where its members of like-minded, successful entrepreneurs can get together, share ideas – and host parties and ski. NPR called it a “Davos for Millennials.”

In this economy you can expect a few raised eyebrows over such news. (Everyone seems to have an opinion about how you spend your money - even if it is your money!) Some suggest it’s just another example of a wealthy, exclusive group investing in making themselves wealthier and more exclusive; adding to the perception that Silicon Valley is disconnected from America and the world in general. That it’s very successful and rich young inhabitants live in a bubble, trying to out-do each other.

Then there is the recognition that there is a growing movement in Silicon Valley for it to achieve more than just a tech revolution. The services and applications produced by these people’s businesses already redefined the way we do things, so why not tackle the bigger issues and set out to change the world at large? The world is changed one idea at a time. Young entrepreneurs are raking in the revenue from their ideas. How they handle their fortunes is ultimately what will define them. In the eyes of their peers, and the world.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Resilience of Television

David Perry is a class act. For 24 years he has been Head of Broadcast Production at Saatchi New York, living the Nothing Is Impossible spirit with a generous manner and a ton of aesthetic sensibility. He is retiring at the end of July and handing the reins to his protégé John Doris, young but with a 12 year Saatchi record in London and New York already under his belt. David has been giving valedictory interviews and two paragraphs in SHOOT stood out for me. The first quote runs the risk of both David and I looking dinosauristic in this era of point and click, but in a week when the Wall St Journal runs the headline “Tribune Pours Money into TV”, what the hell:

"I love the resilience of TV. All the cool people have been trying to kill it for 15 years. They sell against it. It is one directional. It is a lean-back medium. But it is still where most of the media money gets spent. And all those storytelling skills we developed for TV are perfect for mobile and tablets and rich Web content. Video is still the only way to engage people emotionally. I love and respect digital media but I never saw a website that made me cry. I never downloaded an app that stirred my emotions. TV and video are still where you engage people emotionally, as human beings. Ten years ago, I thought I would get overwhelmed by all the new media. Now I realize that what I have been doing my entire career is dead center where the business is today. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed."

See my book SISOMO: the future on screen for more thinking about the power of story brought to life with sight, sound and motion. David’s other quote is a message for clients who still believe in selling by yelling:

"I'd like to start a movement for self-control and moderation in advertising. There is no getting away from us. There is no place to hide that we can't find you. There is no turning us off. We have invaded every device a person can own. We are everywhere because we can be. We see a moment of silence or a screen without a message as missed opportunities. We would be much more welcome, and our ideas better understood if we occasionally pass up the opportunity to be in people's faces. A little bit less can be a whole lot more."

David spent half his career with Saatchi; expect more from him. As he said to Adweek, “I'm leaving while I've still got my energy and enthusiasm. I'm retiring from Saatchi but I'm not moving to Florida."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Who Do You Trust?

I’m proud to say I know New Zealand’s most trusted person. I would, in fact, count him as a close friend. Sir John Kirwan is a legend. And not for the reason you might think. He is a former All Black #14 and current Auckland Blues rugby coach who has coached internationally for Japan and Italy. He scored one the greatest tries in All Black history at the inaugural 1987 World Cup. While that made him a household name, it was his openness and leadership about his battle with depression that earned him the nation’s trust.

JK has helped to shatter the stigma surrounding depression. He set aside his own fears of what people might think or say about him to help others. He didn’t just front a TV campaign, he made himself available to talk with people who needed his help. He led by example. Selflessly.

JK is a Lovemark to a lot of people. An inspiration. This survey has made me think about the people in our world who I would nominate as the most trustworthy. People who tell the truth. Who stand up for good. Who make a difference. JK is definitely one for me. Who’s yours?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Imagine a Richer Future

I’ve always believed in the power of the imagination. It’s a skill – not some vague daydream – and one that you can practice in the present that can pay dividends in the future. Now research shows that imagination can actually help people save money. Joe Kable a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania recently ran a study that uncovered that people whose brains showed greater activity while imagining the future also make better financial decisions.

Kable asked subjects if they would rather have an immediate reward, or a greater reward in the future. Those with greater activity in the part of the brain that houses imagination chose the latter. Kable believes that his findings can help people make better choices about money by triggering people’s imagination to think about delayed gratification and greater rewards.

This thinking contrasts positively with the ‘Age of Now’ framing in my speeches. For sure we live in the Age of Now – it is an accurate description and has compelling attributes though continuous gratification is not one of them. Sustainability is premised on the idea of a better future – and according to the UN’s Helen Clark, we are living as if we have four planets. Time for some active imagining.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Never Say Die

“We’ll die dancing.” What better way to go out than that? From the crazy edge here’s one to lift your heart, moisten your eye, and loosen your change.

They are The Hip-operation Crew, from beautiful Waiheke Island, New Zealand, and they are unstoppable. A hip hop dance group of senior citizens – age range mid-60s to mid-90s - is headed to the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas in August - wheelchairs, walkers and all. The team has been invited to do a tribute performance there, they’ve got the moves, and boy do they deserve to go.

Apart from inspiring people to pursue their dreams whatever the limitations, the group is all about showing respect to young hip hoppers in the world hip-hop community and connecting senior citizens with young people. Deafness, blindness and even heart stoppages have no chance against the spirit of these inspirational players.

Help them on their way. It’s Vegas baby!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Five Ideas before They Check In

All we travellers ask is an escape from the ordinary. We want excellent amenities and quality, friendly service. Here are five quick ideas for hotels can serve us better in the Age of Now:
  • Check your health online: Most travel bookings are made online and decisions of where to go and who to stay with are made after scrutinizing pages of online reviews. First impressions count. It used to start at the check-in desk but now it happens much earlier in the process. Even at the point of booking there are ways of providing a unique experience. Escape Flight allows users to book travel based on cost, weather and distance.

  • Go viral: Any hotel should be prepared to have its inner workings exposed from the moment a guest checks in. Have stuff that people want to take photos of. Give them experiences that they will want to share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This is word-of-mouth marketing at its best.

  • Have personalities: “Boring” is the death knell for any brand. If there is one thing that travellers are looking for, it’s personality. Why make all the hotels the same just because they share the same name?

  • Reflect shared values: People are more likely to make purchase decisions based on how a brand reflects their social values – even if it means spending more money. What’s important is to know who your guests are and focus on delivering to them instead of trying to play host to a mass market (which always ends up in a lot of beige).

  • Make sure the basics are covered: It’s not enough to have a clean room and a nice bed. The basics nowadays include smart design, cool art, locally produced food and toiletries, places to socialise and chill out, free Wi-Fi – and towels that are not the size of a bathmat.