Monday, March 31, 2014

What is ‘Good Enough’?

There’s a small but growing body of research exploring the psychology of consumer perfectionism – or as the learned are calling it, ‘maximization’. It’s an idea based on the premise that there are two types of consumers – those who want the best of everything, and need to know it (maximizers), and those who are more or less happy taking what’s good enough (satisficers – yes, that’s really a word).

While the lingo is uninspiring, what interests me is the argument that perfectionists are more likely to be miserable with the decisions they make. In today’s age, there’s always another option and it’s not possible for people to truly decipher what, for example, is the best running shoe to buy. Factors include price, quality, durability and comfort. A ‘maximiser’ could spend a week researching which shoe to buy, finally commit to it and then two days later see another brand they hadn’t considered and question whether they made the right call.

There is nothing that can’t be compared online. There is no shortage of information to research and be overwhelmed by. Ultimately, it’s just a case of being able to accept there’s always going to be viable alternatives. That’s what freedom of choice is about. Which is why, for brands, believing humans consume anything on a purely rational basis is a waste of time. It’s why emotion trumps reason so often. It’s what makes Lovemarks so powerful.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Makes Something Popular?

Society has a lot to answer for, including what music and literature becomes popular. And, if we didn’t already know it, an experiment by Princeton University scientists has confirmed it. In the experiment, 30,000 teenagers were split into two groups: independent and social. Each group was asked to listen and rank 48 songs by emerging artists, but while the independent group were oblivious to the opinion of their peers, the social group were able to see which songs were most popular.

The experiment wanted to see if the same songs were popular in both an independent and social world, and the results were that they weren’t. “Different songs became popular in different worlds’, said Matthew Salganik, a professor of sociology at Princeton. He uses the example of a song by band 52 Metro, which was most popular in one group and ranked near the bottom for the other.

It seems that social influence could even make bad music popular. In one experiment the scientists inverted the popularity of the songs. “If you believe that perceived popularity is the dominant force, then once a world is inverted, it stays inverted,” says Salganik.

Turning to the real-world, Salganik provided the example of an author who was accused of buying 15,000 copies of his own book in order to get it onto the best-seller list. It worked. He went on to sell 80,000 copies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How Culture Influences Sleep

A good night’s sleep is the crown of any hotel, and any place that invests in improving the experience is putting a spotlight on what really matters. The Fours Seasons recently commissioned a study undertaken by Ipsos of guests’ preferences, looking not only at how they like their beds, but their night time routines, and what they like on their bedside tables. The survey was revealing not only because 92% of guests have a preference over bed firmness, but because it was able to unveil some of the different bedtime rituals of people by culture.

Chinese and Russian guests had a preference for taking a shower or bath before bed, while American’s were more likely, perhaps unsurprisingly, to watch TV before turning in. The majority of Britons were likely to get ready for bed by curling up with a book. Though it’s not so cut and dry, British women were more likely to read a book vs British men who were more likely to watch TV, and Russian women were more likely to take a soak in a tub compared with Russian men who were more likely, you guessed it, to watch TV.

Unsurprisingly, 56% say that an outlet for charging devices is the most important thing to have on/near their bedside table. And, interestingly, the one thing that most respondents (72%) had in common was that even when at a hotel, they were likely to sleep on the same side of the bed as they did when at home.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Bed With Boll and Branch

Can one love their bedsheets? I must say that it is possible now that I have laid my head on Boll and Branch. It was an instant connection. Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy rolled into one. My new Lovemark created an enlightened moment, a new sensation that made me think “why have I not felt this before?”

For me, the appeal of Boll and Branch is not just the feel of the sheets, but their caring for the people who make them. In a market where the conscious consumer is starting to make headlines, Boll and Branch are leading the way for bedroom textiles that are environmentally and socially friendly, spreading awareness and telling a story while they do it. They use fair-trade, organic cotton, and are transparent about suppliers and production.

If you’re interested in trying their products, you won’t find Boll and Branch in a store. This top brand keeps costs down by selling through e-commerce only, so you’ll have to check out their website. A Lovemark that makes sustainability irresistible.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Who Is Most Musical?

A study just released in the UK has tied the musical sophistication of its inhabitants (as they refer to it) to the average income of the area they live in. The immediate headline that followed was that One Direction’s Harry Styles was born in the least musically sophisticated region in Britain. But then sophistication doesn’t necessarily equate to success.

I don’t imagine many people would be surprised to hear children from wealthier families are more likely to have undergone musical training. But it was also quite fascinating to see the outliers. Low-income areas such as parts of Wales and the West Country made it into the 'most musical list', proving money isn’t always tied to musical aptitude. There will be cultural factors in play, no doubt. Unfortunately they haven’t investigated what they might be. But knowing the Welsh, it’s because they love a good sing-a-long in the pub or at a rugby game.

What was also interesting about this research is that it highlighted that those in certain professions, like media or teaching, are more likely to continue their love affair with music throughout life. Possibly they have more flexibility in their lives. More down time to enjoy their passions. Hard to say.

The Beatles, arguably the most influential musicians Britain has produced, all come from Liverpool. It’s middle of the road on this map. Neither here nor there. So it just shows, true talent can emerge from anywhere. It’s not about where you’re born, it’s about what you make of it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dear Future Mom

There’s work that comes out of the Saatchi & Saatchi network that engages, enthrals and excites. And then there is the work that makes us cry. In the three years that Saatchi Italy has been working with CoorDown, Italy’s national organisation for people with down syndrome, they have created moving, heart-warming campaigns that promote the rights of people with the genetic disorder for World Down Syndrome Day.

This year is no different.

In February a woman wrote to CoorDown saying that she recently discovered her unborn baby has the genetic disorder and was scared, asking, “what kind of life will my child have?"

In response, Saatchi Italy filmed 15 people with down syndrome from all over Europe explaining to the future mother what life for her child would be like, that it would be filled with joys and challenges just like it would be for any mother, and that most importantly, her child would be happy and she would be too.

The theme of this year’s World Down Syndrome Day is Happiness and Wellbeing: Access and Equality for All. This campaign out of Saatchi Italy encapsulates the theme perfectly, while breaking down barriers of discrimination that people and families of those with down syndrome face every day.


Find out more about the campaign at, Coordown and The Daily Mail.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Attributes of a Peak Performing Law Firm

I’m not joking. Lawyers are not my favourite profession (apologies to the exception, Bob Latham). Too much conflict and not enough inspiration. Necessary defensively and best when they ideate around a problem.

Dallas TX lawyer and legal rainmaker Cordell Parvin seems to be an attorney you’d want on your side. He wrote a blog about the attributes of a “peak performing” law firm based on the book I wrote with colleagues in 2000 called Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sports Organizations. Here’s what he said.

“When you think about the list that follows, imagine what it would be like being a partner or an associate in my dream law firm.”

1. They make magic - Making Magic is an inspirational aura that pervades an organization. It is a clear, unrelenting vision that this organisation is the best because extraordinary things happen here.

2. They have inspirational lawyers - Inspirational players provide leadership, coaching and depth. They are consistently inspirational – the very essence of grit, guts and repeated displays of genius. Inspirational lawyers are demanding, infectious, accessible and energetic.

3. They create future - They have a deep commitment to developing young lawyers. The senior lawyers act as coaches and mentors for the younger lawyers.

4. Community - There is a sense of firm before each lawyer’s self-interest. That means affirmation, selflessness and co-operation.

5. Exceeding Personal Best - This is a deep commitment to developing legal and personal skills. But, an equally important part of exceeding personal best is creativity, doing things differently, risk-taking, flair and intuition.

6. Game Breaking Ideas - Peak Performing Law Firms enable all their lawyers and staff to continually push for and contribute new ideas which will enable the firm to attract, retain and expand relationships with clients better than other law firms.

7. Focus on Goals - Lawyers focus on firm and individual goals. The goals are well understood by everyone. Goals are challenging but achievable. Smaller goals contribute to larger ones. Lawyers create new goals every 90 days.

8. Sharing The Dream - Peak Performing Law firms are all inspired by a dream of greatness, and they are extremely skilled at sharing that dream with their lawyers, their staff, their recruits, their clients, and their community.

9. The Last Detail - The commitment to getting every last detail right. Because, after all, that is how law firms will be judged. Lawyers pay attention to every detail no matter how large or how small the fee will be.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Frank Oliver. Brian O’Driscoll. Legends.

Both bowed out at the weekend, in different ways. 1970s All Black lock and four-time captain Frank Oliver died unexpectedly in his sleep aged 65; he had been up at 5am every morning working his sawmill and looked forward to a long life ahead. Frank Oliver was a hard man, an enforcer, a rugged man in the tight. He played alongside legendary players such as Andy Haden, Graham Mourie, Ian Kirkpatrick, Brian Williams and Bruce Robertson. His son Anton captained the All Blacks, and Frank went onto coaching in the professional era, a gruff and straight forward communicator. A quintessential Southlander. A top man.

Brian O’Driscoll is from another cut, a man who let his emotions show. When he walked off the pitch for the final time in the Irish emerald in Paris last weekend as a Six Nations champion, he no doubt battled to keep his emotions bottled. His career has been one for the ages, ending with 141 test caps, the world record for a rugby player.

The reception he received at his Dublin farewell on the weekend was spine tingling. He emerged as a centre with raw talent in the late 1990s, with pace to burn and an elusiveness that revolutionized Ireland’s style of play. Where attack earned his name, defence has cemented his legend. A rhino with the touch of an angel. You can’t help but wonder what he might have achieved had he been born in New Zealand, or even Australia. But the man himself would have it no other way.

He is the best player to have never beaten the All Blacks or won a World Cup. But then we can’t have it all our own way. Well done O’Driscoll. RIP Frank Oliver. We will miss you both.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Look At 2054

In 1973, science historian James Burke was asked to predict what the future would look like in 20 years. He didn’t get it completely right. Some of his predictions took twice the amount of time to materialize, but he was famously right about the advent and use of the personal computer.

Burke tackled a similar question in a recent interview in Emirates’ Open Skies magazine, and admitted to sticking to the same philosophy: computers will continue to make life easier for us and get things done faster. He believes nanotechnology will transform society in the next 40 years the same way computers have revolutionized our existence to date.

For starters, computers could be as small as a dust mote and embedded in everything. They will be able to judge our individual consumption patterns and anticipate our needs. We’ll never forget anything.

Burke predicts the development of the nanofabricator. A device that will create anything you want. Just add carbon. Everyone will have one. As a result, we will shift from an age of scarcity, to an age of abundance. We won’t want for anything. We’ll live in small communities rather than cities.

As he says: “I can imagine Earth like a giant, untouched jungle dotted with gardens, which people would tend for the good of their souls, not because they need anything to eat.” Sounds like Grasmere to me.

Burke is basically predicting an entire restructure of the planet. So how right will he be this time? History suggests human nature can’t handle utopia. How can it get there?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Own the Moment

This note sums up the spirit of winning. Own the moment. Every minute matters. The podium is reserved for the brave.

The note was written by the Canadian women’s ice hockey team for their male counterparts who were set to battle Sweden for gold in Sochi. They, of course, had just claimed their own gold in stunning fashion.

With three and a half minutes left on the clock they were down 2-0. They scored. Hauled their goalie off for a final attack. Watched as a long range shot hit the post of their open net. Tied the game with 55 seconds left. Then stole it in overtime. That’s what sport is about. Pure, unadulterated adrenaline. Followed by pure joy. Or despair, if you happen to be American in this case.

The men, inspired by this note, went on to shut out Sweden in the final 3-0. Canada the brave. Earning every inch. They were never going to lose.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Modern Language Shaping Our Minds

If you’ve received an email in the last ten years you’re probably familiar with either :) or :-). The emoticon has become so ubiquitous in our day-to-day communications that our brains now react to them the same way they would to real faces.

Unlike babies learning to understand emotions on faces, we don’t have innate neural response to this mix of grammatical symbols. Instead, it is something we’ve learned over time. Researcher Owen Churches explains, “emoticons are a new form of language… and to decode that language we’ve produced a new pattern of brain activity…This is an entirely culturally-created neural response. It’s really quite amazing.”

Our brains’ ability to adapt to this cultural communication is another example of the incredible versatility of the human mind. How many more mysteries within are brains are still to be understood?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Shadows and Light

Research from the University of Toronto Scarborough suggests that our emotions, both positive and negative, are intensified by bright light. Participants in the study “found the women more attractive, felt better about positive words and worse about negative words, and drank more of the 'favourable' juice and less of the 'unfavourable' juice”. Therefore, if opinions feel stronger in brighter rooms, does that mean that if we turn down the light we could make more rational decisions?

In the classic design book In Praise of Shadows, the author Junichiro Tanizaki writes that “only in dim half-light is the true beauty of Japanese lacquer revealed”. His contemplation on the role of shadows signifies the importance of light - and lack of it – as an aid to reveal the true nature of things.

This truism has a wide range of applications. From personal reflection to interior design, and even attempts to bring people together (like Melbourne’s recent fantastic White Night event), playing with light can draw out feelings, deliver experiences and alter mood. It can make us more open, or cause us to exhibit our emotions more intensely. The most important takeaway is that sometimes revelations show themselves in shades and shadows. What you need to consider is having the right light, in the right place, for the right time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Love Through the Musical Ages

It seems that as much as people want to fill the world with love songs there are plenty of people who want to hear them.

Digital artist Nickolay Lamm has tracked the popularity of certain words (i.e. ‘money’, ‘baby’, ‘lonely’) from every song on Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 list from 1960 to 2013. For each word, Lamm has created a single infographic which uses colored rectangles to represent each song and columns to represent each year. The rectangle’s color reflects the frequency with which the word was used. Blue rectangles indicate that the word wasn’t used in the song, while shades of red highlight the frequency of use. The deeper the red, the more often the word was sung.

What’s interesting about the infographics is the frequency of words over time. People mention ‘love’ in chart topping hits more than they do ‘money’ or ‘sex’. However, the use of the word ‘love’ has decreased in the last twenty years. The frequency of ‘we / us’ continues to dominate – indicating that emotions, heartbreak and relationships continue to rule the air waves.

Monday, March 10, 2014

What Matters Most to You, and Why?

It’s a simple question with a complex answer. “What Matters Most to You, and Why?” Stanford Business School has asked this question of aspirants to its MBA program for years as part of its admissions process. Then they follow up with a second essay question: “What do you want to do – REALLY – and why?”

It doesn’t matter if you’re applying to Stanford, the London Business School, or Saatchi & Saatchi. These are questions you want to be able to answer and they’re applicable to every big decision in our lives. Each of us needs to be able to define and communicate our personal purpose and understand who we are so we can get to where we want to be.

I have tried to drill it down to three questions:

1. When am I at my best?
2. What will I never do?
3. What’s my five-year dream?

If you can meditate on these three questions and answer them, you’ll figure out what’s important to you. We can’t expect people to know us and help us on our way if we don’t have a clear idea of what we want for ourselves. We all stand for something. We all have dreams. Acknowledge them and act on them.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Miracles & Mathematics

In 2009, the Bulgarian lottery pumped out the exact same winning numbers in consecutive weeks. An investigation was ordered. The public couldn’t fathom that it was possible. The lottery must have been tampered with. Surely it couldn’t be coincidence?

Actually a similar occurrence has happened before, in North Carolina in 2007. It’s what mathematician David Hand calls the Improbability Principle, and the basic premise is that events that might seem miraculous, or freakish, shouldn’t really be particularly surprising because it’s just math.

Even with only 23 people in a room, the probability that two of them share the same birthday is 51%. Seems unlikely, but mathematically it’s been proven true. The odds of the same lotto numbers being drawn consecutively is at longer odds, but then given the amount of draws that take place around the globe, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it has happened. Twice. Not only is nothing impossible, it’s not improbable, either.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Is It Love? Forget Daisies, Ask Facebook

With each share, each like, each interaction between friends, Facebook learns a little more about individual users and even (potential) couples. With all this data at its disposal, Facebook claims it is able to predict when two users are likely to become a couple or when they’re about to break-up. Talk about killing the mystery of romance!

In the three months leading up to a couple making their relationship ‘Facebook official’ the amount of activity between the users sees a steady increase. As this graph shows posts tend to increase to 1.67 percent per day in the 12 days leading up to the status change, but once the relationship is made official there is a decline in the amount of activity between the users. The die-off in interaction does mean that the relationship is doomed. Rather posts are more intimate in nature and use words like ‘love’, ‘nice’, and ‘happy’ more frequently. This graph shows the change in positive over negative feelings expressed in timeline posts before and after the start of a relationship.

Facebook also looked into the duration of relationships and found that if relationship reached its three month anniversary it was likely to last four years or more.

That Facebook is able to make such statements with its data reflects that users are sharing so much information that data scientists are able to draw distinct social patterns. It could also mean that they’re able to know things about you before you even know them yourself. In my opinion, I would like to stick with the excitement of not-knowing. Being in love is the greatest feeling in the world, and we shouldn’t let data interfere with magic in the making.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Upside Of Cheerfulness

"Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.” - Charlotte Brontë

Despite the happiness ogres, we underestimate the importance of being cheerful. It seems to have gone out of style as fashion seems to favor a more sullen look on life. “Look at the state of the world,” some of you may say. “There is little to be cheerful about”. But as Charlotte Brontë wrote, cheerfulness is as much a state of mind as it is related to our environment. If you look at cheerfulness, there are more upsides than just feeling good about things. You’re healthier, live longer, and your optimism and attitude of thankfulness with generally cast a brighter light on those around you.

To improve your cheerfulness factor:

1. Exercise – Even adding a brisk 40 minute walk to your schedule three times a week could see the corners of your mouth turn up.

2. Get into nature – Go to the great outdoors, city parks or waterfronts. Getting amongst nature helps you to relax, improves mood and can even spark creativity.

3. Sing – Singing releases endorphins, alleviates feelings of depression and loneliness, helps you sleep better, improves your health.

4. Dance – It’s the movement that makes you happy, it also helps to improve your self-esteem.

5. Laugh – Laughing improves your mood. You can do it with a good show, or even just practice Laughter Yoga.

6. Get older – Yes. The older you get, the more inclined we are to see the good things we already have in life. And there’s no stopping that one!

I’m big on 1, 2, 5 and 6. I’m tone deaf and my dancing days were left on the rugby field.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Oscar Wisdom – “Gratitude Reciprocates”

Matthew McConaughey gave us three pointers in his acceptance speech for Best Male Actor at the Academy Awards. In life, he said, there are three people who matter each day:

• Someone to look up to
• Someone to look forward to
• Someone to chase

A nice matrix and more evidence of the “power of three.”

You can read the full acceptance speech here.

Gideon in the Room

I’ve stayed in my fair share of hotel rooms in my life on the road around the world, and a ubiquitous presence has been the Gideon’s Bible in the bedside drawer. I have often wondered about the who, what and why of this distribution mission, and a recent article by Tommy Andres in Marketplace drew my attention. His post has everything a good story needs...

“The story starts in 1898 with a crowded hotel and two men weary enough to share a room with a stranger. John Nicholson and Samuel Hill were both traveling businessmen when they met in the lobby of the Central Hotel in Boscobel, Wis. There was just one vacancy with two beds, and in keeping with the times, the men decided to split it.

“There were no plasma TVs or pay-per-view back then, of course, so once they checked in, the men had nothing to do but talk. After awhile, they hit on a topic they were both passionate about– their faith. By the end of the evening, the men made plans to create an evangelical association for Christian businessmen.

“A year later, those men set up a meeting at a YMCA in Janesville, Wis., but were disheartened when only one other person showed up. That man was William Knights, and what he lacked in numbers he made up for in ideas. He suggested the group call themselves "The Gideons," based on a story in the Old Testament, of a man leading a band of untrained men to battlefield victory.

“It took some ten years for the group to amass numbers, and most of the members were travelers just like its founders. The Gideons decided since they were already traveling the country, the best way to spread the good word was to put copies of the Bible in the hotel rooms they frequented. The first Gideon’s Bible was placed in a nightstand at the Superior Hotel in Superior, Mont. in 1908.

“More than 100 years later, the group has ballooned to more than 300,000 members and along the way added "International" to its name. Throughout its run, Gideons International has managed to place more 1.8 billion Bibles in hotels in 196 countries. On average, the group says it distributes more than two copies of the Bible per second, and often holds a ceremony with new hoteliers, bequeathing the building with its first book.”