Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Leadership: A Perennial and Millennial Issue

Leadership is one of the most pressing needs of our time. As the world we live in becomes more complex, and the diversity we represent uncovers a plethora issues needed to be addressed, we need people who can navigate us through the challenges and inspire us to greater things.

Identifying leadership is an art and a science. There are many who may claim to possess the traits of a leader, but few who have the actual ability to lead. It is a unique mix of empathy and confidence; the ability to know yourself and understand others. A leader acts with courage in spite of fear. A leader steps up to the plate when they sense uncertainty in others. They call it as it is when no one else has the guts.

Adam Canwell makes a point that companies typically see leadership as something possessed by a select few. It’s usually a term used to refer to people at the top of the organization and “star players” who have been identified as having potential. But in my experience, leadership applies to everyone, at every level of an organization.

Anyone and everyone is capable of being a leader. These were two of the key findings from Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends survey report.

We should be ecstatic that 53 percent of Millennials aspire to become the leader or a senior executive at their organization. People want to be their best and motivate others to do the same, and the world will be a much better place because of it. The challenge is how we, the leaders of today, guide them towards this achievement. Leadership is teachable, and learnable. There are many different paths.

My advice to aspiring leaders is to become familiar with the approaches, dive into them, and choose the path that best suits your personality and emotional make-up. A great place to start is Bob Seelert’s book Start With the Answer: Wisdom for Aspiring Leaders.

Image source: trustworks.com

Monday, June 29, 2015

Searching for Peter Drucker

I recently contributed a blog to the Drucker Society Europe, about what I learned and carried with me over the years from Peter Drucker, the man Business Week said “invented management.” As I explained in that article, I’ve been channeling from Drucker for 40 years, ever since I encountered his book The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (1967) while working at Mary Quant’s fashion house in London. Drucker’s revelations about managerial philosophy became embedded in my own thinking and operating framework.

While Peter Drucker is well-known in certain academic circles and business press, he remains largely unfamiliar to a new generation of managers and business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. Peter Drucker’s management philosophy has not dated at all since it was first popularized in the 1960s—in fact, his work is more prescient and relevant today than ever. This is the man who phrased the term “knowledge worker”—and presaged how information would become the world’s greatest currency—in the 1960s.

It’s time to reinsert Drucker’s thoughtful, strategic, and profoundly humane voice into the present conversation about the workplace and executive leadership. I’d like to help by bringing attention to “The Global Peter Drucker Challenge” essay contest for students and professionals from the ages of 18 to 35. The theme of this year’s competition is “Managing Oneself in the Digital Age”; essays are asked to be between 1,500-3,000 words and the submissions deadline is July 15, 2015. Winners will receive free registration to the Global Peter Drucker Forum in Vienna this November (a $2,000 EURO value all-access pass, with a priceless opportunity to hobnob with some of the world’s top executives and business thought leaders) with first-prize winners in two categories also receiving $1,000 EURO prize money and a one-year subscription to the Harvard Business Review.

For the uninitiated, the world of Peter Drucker and his humanistic management philosophy is an inexhaustible treasure trove that awaits discovery.

Image attribute/source: Peter Drucker / buildingpharmabrands.com

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bursting With Enthusiasm

On a recent visit to Saatchi & Saatchi Synergize in Cape Town, I received a particularly enthusiastic welcome from the team. It was loud, energetic and infectious. It was fantastic and I loved it. Thanks again.

The welcome made me reflect on how music can breed enthusiasm. Different beats, tempos and tunes enthuse us in different ways. When I hear the song ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen I certainly don’t just sit around and listen. It makes me want to get up and get moving. It fills me with energy and enthusiasm for the day ahead. Fist-pump optional.

Enthusiasm is about approaching life with gusto and giving things your all. It makes a difference. Children certainly have their fair share of it. And lucky for us, it’s contagious. Demonstrations of enthusiasm by teachers, coaches and mentors are often alleged to have inspired and motivated.

The benefits of enthusiasm should not be underestimated. It’s a crucial part of overcoming challenges, solving problems and reaching goals. It gives us staying power in situations where our inner skeptic might be telling us to throw in the towel. The All Blacks have it each and every time they step on to the field. You won’t hear the word ‘half-hearted’ anywhere near ‘All Blacks.’

You often see it at the Oscars. In 1997 Cuba Gooding Jr. channeled his inner Rod Tidwell by repeatedly screaming “I love you!” and jumping around on stage. In 1999 Roberto Benigni won the Best Foreign-Language Film award for Life is Beautiful and upon hearing his name, hopped into the air and across seats to receive his award.

Great leaders have it in droves, as reflected in their great speeches. When Martin Luther King said “I have a dream” he had enthusiasm. When John F. Kennedy said “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” he had enthusiasm. People listened. People cared. They felt something.

Enthusiasm is all around us; it comes in many forms, and thank goodness for that, because it would be a pretty staid world without it.

Image attribute /source: SaatchiSynergize / twitter.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Foodie Top Ten

Love a list. The below is courtesy of one of the team at My Food Bag, Danielle ‘Daikon’ Pearson. Yum. Enjoy.

10 foods I cannot live without!
  1. Avocado: this wee nutrient powerhouse is full of a number of important nutrients including electrolytes potassium and magnesium, as well as fibre and some of those heart healthy unsaturated fats. Avocados are a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant contributing towards optimal heart health, blood sugar control and weight management (through increasing the satiety of meals and snacks). I enjoy mine in the weekends for breaky with scrambled eggs, bacon or salmon, a grilled tomato, spinach and loads of fresh parsley.
  2. Salmon: another ‘superfood’ high in those powerful anti-inflammatory fats, in particular, omega 3’s. Omega 3’s play a vital role in protecting our cell health and function, as well as cognitive functioning. My absolute favourite way to eat salmon is my mum’s famous salmon en croute and a fresh side salad.
  3. Blueberries: these little balls of goodness are rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C. Research shows blueberries are extremely beneficial for the nervous system and can actually improve your memory! I had friends over for dinner the other night and had a heap of blueberries to use up so I made a macaroon tart topped with blueberries and pistachios, yum!
  4. Almonds: this popular and very versatile nut is the seed or pit of the fruit from an almond tree, a cousin of the peach, cherry and apricot tree. Almond fruit production peaks during the warmer summer months, but luckily for us, almonds are available all year round. One of my favourite ways to start the day is my breakfast smoothie with almond milk, frozen banana, almonds or almond butter, cinnamon and whatever else tickles my fancy (eg. berries, cacao and/or spinach).
  5. Cacao bean: cacao comes from the cacao bean and its name literally translates to ‘the food of God’s’ in the Aztec language due to its super high nutrient profile. Cacao is extremely high in antioxidants (apparently, even more so than green tea and red wine – great reason to eat more chocolate), and is also high in magnesium and iron. This makes it a great addition to your post-workout smoothie, reducing free radical damage and aiding muscle recovery and energy production. I like to make my own chocolate ‘ice cream’ at home using frozen bananas, cacao powder, almonds or almond butter and a drizzle of coconut cream. Yum!
  6. Bananas: you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em! Bananas are another food high in magnesium, potassium, and natural sugars, making them a suitable food for active people. Along with my breakfast smoothies and ‘ice cream’, you can’t beat a slice of homemade banana and walnut loaf with butter, or ricotta and a drizzle of honey for a real treat!
  7. Eggs: another love or hate food. Eggs can be eaten at any time of the day (breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks), they’re super cheap, super versatile and SUPER nutritious. Some even call eggs the ‘natural nutrient pill’ because they’re full of nutrients essential for life. Along with my weekend cook up, another favourite way to eat eggs for me is a good old eggs bene on potato or kumara rostis (instead of bread), with salmon and a drizzle of hollandaise.
  8. Coconut (anything!): coconuts have such a unique flavour and are another very versatile food. Coconuts are high in fibre and iron, with the coconut water being particularly high in electrolytes – a much healthier alternative to many sports drinks! One of my favourite things to eat is a spicy curry using coconut milk or cream. My sister makes a delicious Thai duck curry with lychees, and Nadia’s Thai red chicken and pineapple curry is another fav I have recently added to the list!
  9. Cheese (esp. feta and blue): according to one website, there are over 2000 varieties of cheese and mozzarella rates as the global fav! A refreshing blue cheese, walnut and pear salad on a hot day is one of my favs!
  10. Orange kumara: a sweeter alternative to red kumara, orange kumara is packed with fibre and vitamin C, beneficial for your immune system! Who doesn’t love homemade chips and wedges?! I make these to go with healthy homemade burgers, pizzas, fish n chips, or even eaten cold as a snack.

Image source: nadialim.com

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Youth Employment

A recent International Labour Organization (ILO) study found that lack of higher (post-secondary) education in developing countries leads to poor labor market outcomes for young people, meaning that they have a much lower chance of finding a decent job, or they have to settle for vulnerable or informal employment. The study highlighted that completing secondary education isn’t enough, and pushing undereducated and under-skilled youth into the labor market doesn’t help either.

The study was part of the Work4Youth project, a “five-year partnership between the ILO Youth Employment Programme and The MasterCard Foundation that aims to promote decent work opportunities for young men and women through knowledge and action.” The study’s findings, while perhaps not completely surprising, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wider picture regarding youth employment. It’s not a good one.

According to ILO figures, the global youth (aged 15-24) unemployment rate is increasing. In 2013 it was three times as high as the adult unemployment rate. The actual number is staggering. There were over 37 million fewer young people in employment in 2013 than there were in 2007. That’s a lot more unemployed young people. Many looking for work, although some have probably given up. That’s tough.

Youth unemployment rates in the US mimic this picture. Despite a booming US economy and the jobless rate at its lowest since 2008, youth unemployment is rising. Youth unemployment rates for the 20-24 year age group tend to run about double that of the general population, and more than triple for the 16-19 year age group.

Part of the problem is that the jobs that are available to young Americans are a mismatch with the skills young people have or their level of educational attainment. One of the impacts of this is that not only are youth unemployed, but they’re underemployed; often working in jobs with too few hours and/or working more than one job to make ends meet.

In some of the US’ economic competitors in Europe (e.g. Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands), youth unemployment is half the US rate or less. A recent CNBC article discussed what they do differently. The crux of it is skill-building and relevant work experience. Preparing young people for working life. It may seem simple, but it’s really only just starting to catch on in the US and it needs to scale-up.

NYC’s Urban Youth Jobs Program is a fantastic example of how the government can assist. The program encourages businesses to hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth (ages 16-24) in certain areas, as well as making it easier for youth to find a job and by offering a career training path for youth.

Today’s youth are the future of business, so businesses also have a key role to play. The most crippling effect of unemployment is the loss of self-esteem. Businesses can create self-esteem by creating employment opportunities for young people that offer choices, opportunities and challenges.

Businesses can’t just rely on the system to teach potential applicants relevant skills. They need to recognize that an unfilled role shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a bad thing but perhaps a sign of need; a gap to fill in terms of providing on-the-job training and upskilling, or by providing a mentor in the workplace. Businesses will reap the benefits in the long-term. Young people bring energy and enthusiasm. And we could all use more of that.

Image attribute/source: Christopher Furlong / Gettyimages.co.nz

Monday, June 22, 2015


“People don’t yet know the potential of food,” says chef and social entrepreneur David Hertz. He’s a champion for the kind of potential that goes far beyond a delicious meal or a memorable experience. Put simply: “Good food is not enough, it also needs to do well to society.”

Hertz founded Gastromotiva, a “socio-gastronomic organization” which empowers disadvantaged people in Brazil’s favelas through learning about food and teaching people how to cook.

He calls it “social gastronomy,” using food as the basis for transforming lives by offering free culinary programs for disadvantaged youth. In turn, those youth (all 1,200 cooks who he has trained through the program so far) are encouraged to go back to their communities to train others. The scheme has a pyramid effect, by engaging people and building a network around food.

The program has seen huge success so far. One of his first trainees now has a catering business that employs 20 people. But not only does it offer education and a career path, it’s also provided the impetus for the development of small community food businesses inside the favelas of Sao Paulo – places that are typically rife with poverty, violence and drug trafficking. The program has also been extended to other socially excluded communities, such as prison inmates and jobless immigrants.

“We’re using food to generate love,” Hertz says. “Food is a community.” He’s right. What a fantastic initiative.

Image source: gastromotiva.org

Thursday, June 18, 2015

As Easy As Riding a Bicycle

While you’re reading this at your desk or mobile device, I’d like you to think for a moment of the series of incredibly complex neurological feats you performed that enabled you to arrive in this position. You shut off the alarm clock. . . you bathed, brushed your teeth, got dressed, tied your shoelaces. . . you locked up the apartment. . .  you weathered the daily commute. . . you fixed yourself a cup of coffee. . . you said hi to your coworkers. . .  you logged onto your work network. . . you performed the myriad morning rituals of the modern-day professional. Congratulations—you just passed through an interlocking chain of miracles. And you likely didn’t really think about any of it!

An absorbing eight-minute video from the folks at the YouTube educational video series “Smarter Every Day” landed in my e-mail inbox the other day from a former Procter & Gamble friend John Burke. In it, our host, Alabama engineer Destin Sandlin, demonstrates how the brain works and “un-works” through his trials with a specially rigged “backwards bike.” What makes the bike so special? When Destin turns the handlebar to the right, the bike turns left; when he turns the handlebar to the left, it turns right.

While silent-film-worthy hilarity ensues over his attempts to take to the road, Destin’s struggle to master the vehicle shows him how his thinking is in a rut. His brain “had the knowledge to ride the bike; but not the understanding.” The video is a powerful demonstration of how difficult it is for anyone to change rigid ways of thinking and cognitive bias.

After months of trial-and-error, Destin rides at last, an experience he describes as feeling like “a pathway in his brain had been unlocked.” Tellingly, his six-year-old son is able to master the trick bike in just two weeks—compared with the eight months it takes his engineer dad! That’s because children’s brains have greater neuroplasticity—or the ability to change neural pathways and synapses—than adults, which also explains why young people have the greatest aptitude for learning foreign languages.

Destin took the bike experiment on the road across America and Australia, challenging folks at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, among other locations. Everyone got tripped up. Think you’re any better? I can’t make a bicycle appear in this post, but take a look at this chart and try to quickly say the color of each word instead of reading them:

It’s surprisingly difficult to do, isn’t it? That’s because, the right half of your brain is trying to say the color, while the left half is attempting to read the word. It’s called Stroop Effect and it’s a classic psychological concentration test. Like the trick bike video, the implications are profound: we spend much of our lives with our wires crossed and our eyes wide shut. Untangle and open!

Image source: youtube.com

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Finding Beauty

Popular or ‘trending’ imagery on social media doesn’t necessarily equate to high quality imagery. That’s not to imply that high quality imagery isn’t popular, just that it shares attention with the vast majority of content, while the (more) popular content, which represents a minority, gets the majority of the attention. It’s called a power law.

To some degree, one could also assume that popularity has a positive relationship with sharing, or at least, the popularity of sharers. One image might fall into the hands of the right person at the right time, they share it with their followers and it immediately receives attention. Popularity skyrockets if content happens to be shared by someone who has oodles of followers or is particularly influential.

So what about the gems that go unnoticed on social media? I’m talking about the images that get lost in the vast sea of content, with no one paying any particular attention, and the sharing buzz simply not catching on.

They’re certainly out there. An algorithm has been developed to search them out, thanks to the work of the University of Turin in Italy and Yahoo Labs in Barcelona. They started with crowdsourcing human opinion on the aesthetic quality of pictures and developed an algorithm from there, with an ability to recognize beauty among the unnoticed. It has the potential to highlight talented photographers that might otherwise remain anonymous.

Some might have thought that another factor in the sharing and popularity game is the ‘what’ of photos. Are some topics more likely to be shared than others? Perhaps not; a round-up of Flickr’s most popular images from 2014 is diverse (and stunning).

I quite like Jason Fall’s ‘Holy Smokes!’ technique as a way to gauge whether content, your content, might be shared. His message is simple: the content should be “incredible, sad, awesome, beautiful, intelligent, informative or some other declarative response” if you want your audience to consume it and think ‘holy smoke’. And I would also add, feel compelled to share it.

Image attribute/source: Marc Van Norden / flickr.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

When Talent Management Is The Goal

A captivating article in a recent edition of the Financial Times Weekend Magazine drew out eleven valuable business and talent management lessons from top football (I refuse to say soccer) coaches. The piece, which describes examples around the world of footy, was co-authored by FT columnist Simon Kuper (a brilliant football writer) and talent management consultant Mike Forde (a good mate, and inspirational leader), who served as Chelsea’s director of football operations from 2007 to 2013 and currently consults the San Antonio Spurs basketball team.

I read the article with special interest, given my lifelong love of and involvement in sport. (From 1997-200 I was privileged to serve as the Director of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union; between 2006-2014 I chaired the USA Rugby Board; and in 2000 I co-authored Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sports.)

I’m happy to report I don’t agree with all of Kuper and Forde’s extrapolations from a business perspective. In particular, I take exception with their first lesson: “Big talent usually comes with a big ego. Accept it.” The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team have a highly technical term to describe the counterargument: “No dickheads!” Similarly, at Saatchi & Saatchi, we’ve long touted the mantra “one team, one dream,” while our parent company Publicis Groupe holds firm to “no silos, no solos, no boxes.” Employers need large and luminous talents, to be sure, but no player is bigger than the club; and, no matter how bright the star, it’s the organization that keeps the lights on. Once-in-a-generation talents needs room to express themselves, but they also need to respect the culture, the purpose, and commit themselves to the collective good.

Several of the article’s lessons I couldn’t agree with more, including “single out and praise those who make sacrifices for the organization.” In return for those sacrifices, it is the organization’s job to deliver responsibility, learning, recognition, and joy. If you want a culture where ideas and innovation are generated, you need all four in equal measure all the time. Every conversation should be framed with those four delivered in a way that’s not top-down, but a way of life and a culture. Another learning from the pitch that’s well-applied to the conference room: “the manager shouldn’t aspire to dominate the talent.” In my years in business, the best leaders I’ve seen are in front of, rather than on top of, their organizations. They lead by example and inspire people to do their best work, rather than micromanage the process.

Asking the talent for advice, but reserving the final decision, is another takeway from the football field. The FT article relates a terrific anecdote in which Chelsea’s then-manager Carlo Ancelotti picked his team for the FA Cup final but then empowered the players by allowing them to devise the match strategy. “We all perform better if we have a degree of ownership of what we do,” David Brailsford, general manager of cycling’s Team Sky is quoted in the piece. “Generally we don’t like to be told what to do.”

Finally, there’s “improve the talent,” which I believe to be leadership and management’s killer app. In business the top role of the leader is to create other leaders. That self-perpetuating chain of leadership is good for the organization, good for its stakeholders, and perhaps the single most important thing one can do in terms of fashioning a personal legacy. Arsenal coach Arsène Wenger believes that greatness ensues only when talent meets someone who recognizes his abilities “taps him on the shoulder and says, ‘I believe in you!’”

Great article, FT—these talent management lessons from the sports field should help almost any kind of businesses keep focus on the ball.

Image source: jamieonsport.com

Monday, June 15, 2015

The New Eight-Hour Day

A recent press release from ZenithOptimedia revealed an astounding statistic that somehow feels about right. . . According to the agency’s report, “Media Consumption Forecasts,” people around the world will spend an average of more than eight hours a day consuming media this year.

“The Return On Investment” agency and leading global media services network, ZenithOptimedia (which, like Saatchi & Saatchi, is part of the Publicis Groupe network), found that the citizens of the world will spend an average of 492 minutes a day consuming media in 2015. That figure rose 1.4% from 485 in 2015, and was driven by an 11.8% increase in Internet use.

The report analyzed the changing patterns of media consumption in 65 countries worldwide, examining the amount of time people spent using the Internet, reading newspapers and magazines, watching television, listening to radio, going to the movies, and looking at outdoor advertising (billboards and signage) outside the home.

It’s perhaps no surprise that these gains in media consumption were driven by large leaps in Internet usage; between 2010 and 2014 the amount of time people spent online nearly doubled from 59.6 to 109.5 minutes a day, with mobile tech opening up new avenues for devouring content on-the-go. The report predicts that media consumption will only continue to rise worldwide, reaching 506 minutes a day by 2017.

Even while experiencing relatively small declines, television continues to dominate global media consumption, accounting for 42.4% of global media consumption. Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2014 the average time people spent reading newspapers (in their traditional print form) fell by 25.6%. Among the report’s other eye-popping stats: Latin America leads the world in media consumption by a wide margin, with people spending an average of 744 minutes consuming media in 2014 (that’s nearly twelve and a half hours, folks); and it’s lowest in Asia Pacific, with a 301-minute per person average (about enough time to watch the first two Godfather films; skip the third).

Obviously, the implication and opportunities these statistics suggest for brands and advertisers are enormous. “People around the world are clearly hungry for even more opportunities to discover information, enjoy entertainment and communicate with each other, and new technology is supplying these opportunities,” says Jonathan Barnard, ZenithOptimedia’s Head of Forecasting. “Technology also enables brands to communicate and learn from consumers in new ways.”

The ZenithOptimedia report is revelatory; certainly required reading for anyone working in media. Perhaps the most profound question it raises is this: what does it mean that the average person spends half his or her waking life consuming content? “You are what you eat,” the old physician’s saw goes. If we’re watching, reading, listening, consuming eight hours of stuff a day, Marshall McLuhan’s prophesy, “the medium is the message” has truly come to fruition.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

World Gustavson Day

I’m honoured to have been a part of UVic’s inaugural World Gustavson Day celebrating the school’s 25th birthday celebrations with the school’s alumni.

Events were held in Victoria, Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Calgary, Toronto, San Jose, New York and Shanghai, with all participants tuning in for a live webcast from New York.

Here are 10 things I shared:
  1. Winning is a mind-set, be committed to making things happen.
  2. We live in the age of the idea, it is the currency of our millennium.
  3. Ideas are the most fragile thing in the world, people will kill ideas easily and be the abominable no-man.
  4. Be a radical optimist. Believe in your ABCs: Ambition, Belief, Courage.
  5. Get yourself fired up for something bigger than yourself, have a dream, make sure it is a BIG dream!  Reach for the stars, it needs to be a dream that turns you on and makes you happy.
  6. Avoid moderation at all costs, live the best life you can.
  7. Find a company that delivers 4 things in equal parts: Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, Joy.
  8. The winning equation: IQ + EQ + TQ + BQ powered by CQ.
  9. Build a culture where you are getting lots and lots of ideas out there fast.
  10. Think like a three year, act like a three year and your creativity will rip.

Image source: livestream.com

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New Directors’ Showcase Alumni Directors

To celebrate 25 years of the New Directors’ Showcase, Saatchi & Saatchi have invited 25 NDS alumni to create 25x25: an experiment in film, which will be premiered in Cannes on Thursday 25 June.  Leading up to the film’s premier in Cannes, one of the 25x25 directors will be revealed each day, along with their original film from the NDS archive.

Featured today is Antoine Bardou-Jacquet 'The Child' which delivers a high-speed chase through the streets of New York City with both landmarks and people rendered as all text, here a picture has been painted by a 1,000 words (or more).  Well worth a look, head over to the New Directors Showcase now.

Image attribute/source: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet / saatchi.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


First came ‘#’ and the ‘# key’. A familiar button for those of us on conference calls. The ‘hashtag’ itself made its entrance around 2007 when users of Twitter and other social media websites became familiar with its use. Those who are familiar with hashtags will be aware that they’re more than just a word with a grid-like symbol in front of it. Hashtags have power. What started as a way to organize online conversation topics has become a global phenomenon – a tool for generating social awareness, and the ability to spark a social movement.

‘Hashtag activism’ is a growing trend, with words and movements gaining power and traction with the help of the hashtag. They enable people to unify around a common goal and to promote awareness of an issue. A fundraising campaign for the #IceBucketChallenge became a viral sensation, not to mention the $15.6 million raised for the ALS Association.

But can the hashtag actually bring meaningful change? You can hashtag all you like, but who cares – what does it achieve?

Some would argue that awareness is really the main outcome. But the benefits are wider than just that. Hashtags can promote a conversation that might not be had otherwise. In some cases they might create a desire to learn more, do more, and get more involved. I think most people will agree that’s a good thing.

Image source: digitaltrends.com

Monday, June 8, 2015

Overeating at the Intellectual Buffet

The phrase ‘information overload’ used to imply something active. It happened as a result of searching out information and consequently consuming too much, and feeling swamped. Today, ‘information overload’ has somewhat different connotations, precisely because technology allows us to be continually connected.

We’re constantly being bombarded with emails and text messages and there’s also the added distraction of social media, websites and video. We don’t necessarily have to search for it; information just comes to us. ‘Distraction’ is somewhat of an understatement for some who find that the constant barrage of information from these different sources can be difficult to manage, particularly in the workplace.

In keeping with the concept, there’s no shortage of advice on the internet if you do a Google search for ‘information overload’. These sources will tell you how to manage it and how to take control of it for your own good. (I’m a morning person….and I was fascinated to learn I am not alone.)

Fast Company suggests making big decisions first thing in the morning, to maximize your brain’s resources (which become depleted over the course of a day that involves several small decisions). Quartz and Forbes refer to it as ‘eating the frog’, referencing Oscar-winning producer Jake Eberts. Partly it’s about making big decisions at the start of the day, and partly it’s about tackling things that you might otherwise avoid first, so they’re not hanging over you for the rest of the day.

Another common piece of advice is to self-manage. It takes discipline to deal with distractions and focus, and it starts with you. To quote former CEO of Caesars Entertainment Gary Loveman, “You have to guard against the danger of overeating at an interesting intellectual buffet.”

Image source: hsto.org

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Build Your Wings on the Way Down

I started my career with Mary Quant in the swinging sixties and never looked back. One lesson I learned right at the beginning was figure out what you’re good at, and then focus on becoming great at it. As the writer Ray Bradbury said: “jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.”

It’s taken a fair amount of grit; a combination of discipline, commitment and focus. It’s been an exciting ride and I’m far from done. There are a few lessons learned along the way, here are a few for those looking for a bit of career advice.
  1. Lead with your heart. Emotion and passion before logic and reason. Think about what you want to do and then figure out how to get there.
  2. Find your niche. It’s the intersection between what you’re good at, what you love to do, and what people value you for.
  3. Find a mentor. Every successful leader has had people along the way who have mentored them, challenged them and had their back. I’ve been very fortunate to have many mentors throughout my career, and I still do.
  4. Be restless. It can push you to new places, try new experiences, think of new ideas and take on new challenges. Have a low boredom threshold.
  5. Move quickly and make things happen. Spending too much time thinking and talking in meetings can breed uncertainty. Back yourself and look (and move) forward.
  6. Stay nimble. Re-invent yourself if you need to. It’s never too late. Remain curious and keep learning.
  7. Work for a company that delivers Responsibility, Learning, Recognition and Joy. Even the best jobs aren’t fantastic 100% of the time, but if you can find those four things, you’re in a good place.
  8. Give back. Find someone to mentor. Give advice freely and help other people succeed.
  9. Make happy choices. Regret is wasted emotional energy. Take responsibility for your own happiness.
Image source: staticflickr.com

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lessons from a String Quartet

Think of a string quartet – a tight ensemble; four players of stringed instruments – two violins, one viola and one cello. They all read from the same song sheet, but with no conductor, their success hinges on their ability to stay in sync. They’re communicating constantly, which results in a very intimate and often very noticeable rapport – a model for teams in the workplace.

Allison Eck discusses why in an article on 99U, referring to such foursomes as “a musical metaphor for conversation: each group has its own rhythm, style, and way of coming together as a whole.” Slightly larger ensembles can sometimes work in the same way, with no conductor, just synergy, relying on collaborative communication to keep the music going and sounding good.

Eck shares a few lessons that string quartets (and larger ensembles) have to teach the professional world. I’ve abridged a few here:
  • Switch chairs (and roles) often. It means being flexible – sometimes taking a backseat for the benefit of the group and allowing others to step up, which cultivates group confidence.
  • Don’t just play, but really PLAY your part. In a quartet, it’s about more than just reading the notes off a sheet of music. It’s about playing those notes “beautifully and with absolute conviction” (it takes emotion to make music). In the workplace, it’s about scrutinizing your individual role within a group and applying some thought to what you’re bringing to the table.
  • Be yourself. There’s room for some comparison to others, but at the end of the day, you should stay fundamentally true to yourself. Imitating others can be crippling and can distance you from being present in the moment, because instead of focusing on the task at hand, you’re focusing on trying to be someone you’re not.
  • Anticipate needs. Become attuned to others within the group – how they’re feeling and what pressures they might be under. Don’t just react. Have your finger on the pulse of the group so you can moderate your responses accordingly.
  • Know the score. In a group, this means having an agenda and knowing what each person in the room has to offer. Forge alliances.
  • Embrace uncertainty. Eck refers to a sort of paradox, where a person’s rational self-constraint and passion come together. “You have to be inspired enough that you want to be leading it [the group], and yet most of the time, you can’t,” says violinist Sarah Darling.
Image attribute/source: Emerson Quartet / The Ridgewood Blog

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Generation Next @P&G Alumni, Miami

A week or so ago I had a hugely energizing experience chairing a one day conference with 150 young leaders in marketing and advertising at the P&G Alumni conference in Miami. I worked with P&G Alumni Network chair Ed Tazzia and his team to assemble a world-class faculty of P&G alumni including:
  • Chip Bergh, CEO Levi Strauss
  • Gary Briggs, CMO Facebook
  • Bracken Darrell, CEO Logitech
  • Lisa Gevelber, VP Marketing for the Americas, Google
  • Melanie Healey, Group President, P&G
  • Vince Hudson, VP US Marketing Samsung
  • Kip Knight, President H&R Block
  • Jim Stengel, former P&G GMO
  • Mónica Sánchez, Practice Lead, Quantitative Storytelling, Dieste, Inc. 
  • Kay Napier, CEO Arbonne, Chairman Natural Products Group 
  • Peter Hempstead, Director, World Kitchen 
  • Pat McKay, Partner, ArchPoint Consulting 
  • Alberto Carvalho, President, Brazil Operations, P&G 
  • Chuck Baker, CoFounder and CEO, Cayenne 
  • Anne Sempowski Ward, CEO, Thymes Corporation
Here are some of their gems:
  • "You can create a brand overnight" (Darrell)
  • "If you want to change the world become a marketer" (Darrell)
  • "The cost of computing power and storage will become zero" (Darrell)
  • AHA! Ambitious Purpose, Humanity, Always On, Organizational Energy (Stengel)
  • "You can have great advertising, but if it doesn't sell more tacos..." (Knight)
  • "Being a Multiplier is a mindset about making geniuses, not being one" (Gevelber)
  •  "Dream Big, Work Hard, Play Team, Be True" (Gevelber)
  • "Ship Love" (Briggs)
Some of the themes that bubbled during the day included:
  • Resilience. Several speakers touched on the importance of grit. In her session on "the best advice", Melanie Healey said the #1 choice to make is to "choose to work hard with a passionate, purposeful, and gritty attitude".
  • Velocity. This was a key theme from Facebook and Samsung; producing work very rapidly that is 'of the now'; the need for highly compressed creation and production cycles in response to current/relevant events. The 90 day gold standard from briefing to on-air has been reduced to 21 days.
  • Optimism about Advertising. When asked if the relevance of advertising is declining, Facebook CMO Gary Briggs felt the reverse is true; that simple and clear messages creatively presented are more important than ever. And Red Lobster CEO Kim Lopdrup said that video remains the most important sales medium because of its ability to make emotional connections.
P&G people are the best. What a day! Inspiration and hearty humor. Bring on 2017.

Image attribute/source: Samantha Avivi / Twitter.com

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Changing Face of Happiness – To Fun And Laughter

Who doesn’t want to be happy – or in some cases, happier? We’re often given advice on how, or which factors we should look to in future to achieve happiness. A recent study looked back, offering an interesting point of comparison.

In 1938 the Bolton Evening News asked its readers, “What does HAPPINESS mean for you and yours?” It was thought to be one of the first studies into the ‘science’ of happiness.

Readers were asked to rate the importance of ten ‘happiness’ factors: equality, politics, beauty, religion, leadership, humor, leisure, knowledge, security, and action. They were also asked whether it was easier to be happier in Blackpool or Bolton (both situated in Lancashire, North West of England, 20 miles from where I grew up), at weekends or midweek, how often they were happy, and whether luck played a part.

Two-hundred and twenty-six Boltonians responded in the form of a letter. Security, knowledge and religion came out on top.

Last year the University of Bolton’s Centre for Worktown Studies hooked up with the Bolton News to recreate the study, with the findings showing that the nature of happiness had changed for the people of Bolton. Security still featured in the top three, but knowledge and religion were replaced by good humor and leisure in the top spots.

Interestingly, seventy-six years on, people were also happier when they were away from Bolton, and happier on the weekends. They also believed that luck played a greater role in their happiness, in comparison to people in 1938.

The study was a little simplistic, yes – most of us know that happiness is about more than ten factors that you can identify on a happiness index. There are interdependencies, social and cultural factors, and there’s also the importance of relationships which play a major role. But the findings offer an interesting perspective on how things have changed for people. Boltonians in 2014 seem to value more fun and laughter in their lives.

Image source: ytimg.com