Friday, 2 December 2011

Inspired Marketing or Simply Lazy at this time of year...

Saw this product bin in the local B+Q store and thought am I witnessing Inspired Marketing or are we getting too lazy to bother.
It’s Christmas, the perfect gift is a £4.98 double pack 10amp 240v extension lead.

Are we appealing to the utterly unimaginative customer and family member OR has someone at B+Q head office realised that sticking ‘Christmas Gift’ on just about anything will sell... er just about anything.

I won’t tell you if I bought it but if I did, I’d include a picture as part of the wrapping it came in to provide a delight should the product fall short of adequate magic.

As an additional comment, how do they make stuff and sell it for that cheap!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

function sadly following form again

Last week I spent time in this international business. The organisation stretches acorss the globe and remains profitable, innovative, ambitious and socially conscious. Hooray.

In its inventory of assets is a R+D facility in the South of England complete with glass reception area and airey atruim, chrome furnishings and air con cafe; you get the picture.

The architects' vision had become a reality. The glass bridge stretching over the halogen lit moat all looked the clever mix of space age and etherial in aesthetic.

I couldn't help think they hadn't explored enough options at the brainstorm and design stages to at least consider what would happen when it rains and how, like so often in the best of designs, the bridge and it's welcome into the levathon might and scale of this huge enterprise was humbled as the heavens opened and rain fell on the campus.

The best the grounds staff could muster was some scratty carpet offf cuts to help prevent anyone slipping over an ending in the pond.

I guess our genius is sometimes misguided. God is in the detail and in the words of the BAUHAUS, put attention into designing what isn't there as much as what will be seen.

A parallel too I thought in designing instruction, workshop and knowledge transfer. If your workshop were a bridge how would it work if it rained? Too literal but I liked the provocation. I also think we should take care to take out more than we put in when designing our interventions.


Friday, 18 November 2011

Stephanie Ferry

My daugther had a 'show and tell' at the nursery.  the theme was jazz and jazz music. Not having a saxaphone hanging on the wall, I simply flicked off a CD from the shelf.  Somewhere in the collection are some Jazz albums I thought.  Let's face it we all own a few discs we picked up on the way home from the garage for a few quid.  In this instance Stephane Grappelli came to hand.  Check him out if you're not an aficionado

This all came as a bit of a shock to my daughter and she rebranded him as Stephanie Ferry.  Which kind of works. I love not only the intepretation of how three year olds percieve and describe this complicated world, but also I like how her rebrand immediately cut through the crap and went to the heart of the matter.

Stephanie Ferry would be a geat name for a band.
Everyone knows what a Ferry is and does.
Stephanie introduces an element of glamour.

I'm working thorugh all my material right now with the eyes of a three year old and working out what she'd say about it all.  Might be I arrive somewhere new without too much effort.

got to like that.

now, you go do the same and ask a three year old to look at your challenges...

Friday, 28 October 2011

voice text messages - I.Q. B4 I.T.

So there’s this ability on clever phones now that allow you to speak into the phone message like “tell Joan to bring coffee to the meeting today” instead of texting it with your fingers. This apparently is brilliant.
I’m just working out that say that saves... er...two seconds in time in someone’s day.  As a percentage of time in a 8 hour working day that 2 seconds saved out of 28800 seconds.  Or 0.007% (ish).  I’m trying to work out the exact productivity opportunity that gives people.
The speed of technology in message sending can only ever go as fast as the time it takes for us to either say the message or text it.  It can’t get any faster as I can’t say what I want any faster. Are we not finding things for phones to do now? what happens if I say "send re-enforcements we're going to advance" and the message recieved is "send three and four pence, we're going to a dance" (or other such pithy anecdote). Are we not finding things for our phones to do? Has I.T. gone before I.Q.?
What I’d like to see innovative thinking into working out how to get a better quality experience when people are together with all that extra seconds or so of time.
Horrendous to think that Joan will spend the first 2 minutes of the meeting explaining to everyone over their latte how she got the message on her phone as sent by a text message from her colleague.

Me, note-pad, not i-pad.

just a thought for a friday...

Saturday, 15 October 2011

10 reasons why it's great to be me right now

I've just been given a hot cup of tea - they always taste the best.
I fitted 70% of my new bathroom in an epic battle of wits and DIY skill today - legend.
I found £5.00 in my trousers I put on to do said bathroom.
I work with my best mates.
I managed to find the missing rubber thingy that was missing off the wheel on my bike.
My daughter made me laugh outloud this week - she does that almost everyday.
My son of 5 months squealed with delight this morning when I woke him up.
Some people work in offices and send memos and emails - I get to write lists like this and not feel guilty about it.
I'm left handed. I like it when I'm reminded of that.
I can see a castle from my office window.

Now, go write your own list and feel how good it is to do so and pass the invite on...


Friday, 30 September 2011

sloppy is breaking a habit.

It would have taken me one minute to have turned off my phone. Taken out the battery. Leave it in the hotel room.

It's something ordinarily I do.

Today I got sloppy.

The phone came with me and where I thought I was in blissful isolation to focus on the task of delivery, my 'back pocket bum call' allowed the world to listen in.



This is about setting and living standards.
I am reminded that for the 1 finger on my hand that finds fault with others, 3 are pointing back at me...

Next week the phone stays off, alone and away.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Who do you want to be = rubbish question

Here's one to think on over the weekend. I was waiting for the train at Waterloo station after client meetings and so forth. I had a few moments to wait for the platform number to appear on the information board.  Above me were the huge advertising banners and t.v. screens we so often ignore.

I then took a second look at this one from Southampton Solent University that asks "WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE". Sorry, I can't flip over the picture.  user error!

I know nothing abnout the University, its staff, courses, students or success but I know that's a rubbish question. How can I possibly know what I want to be in the future? and if I did then it would dictate what I ought to explore now, which is all a little too restriciting don't you think?  The advert has lots of words describing courses and careers which I suppose is there to get the reader to consider his or her life and offer suggestions of where they might focus.  Again a rubbish thing to do.  You're asking someone to choose focus (the WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE) thing but presenting them with thousands of options and no guidance on what to do or how to navigate.
I see this all to often and saw a great deal of this in my years as a teacher. You're asking peope to make decisions and establish focus yet bombard them with options.  No wonder it's hard to make a choice.  Students simply answer... dunno?  I hadn't thought about it? it's difficult to decide and who can blame them. The mind has shut down.

In the word of facilitating creative sessions within an innovation process, I see this happen again with adults.  Too many options and rubbish questions.

in thw words of Mies van der Rohe - God is in the detail. All we need to do to this copy is a little change to make a big difference. Let's consider "HOW DO YOU WANT TO BE?"...  a univerally better question and enables those who support to be much better coaches.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

3 of 3 (this one for music fans)

Assume you read this on a Sunday evening (as I type) and you're on line (obviously), then check this out:

It's a piece of music by Deodat de Severac (sounds like a naff wine) but not so.  This piece of music I like for a number of reasons. I enjoy trying to play it as a rusty pianist. The guy on the YouTube video does a much better job. But I really like the idea that the composer thought of a mechanical box and tried to emulate it.
A music box something with no soul yet Deodat created a beautiful piece of music that captures all the magic of such astonishing little machines.
What's amazing is the more mechanical you try and play the piece and more deliberate and heavy and rhythmical your fingers strike the keys, the more fabulous the piece sounds.  When you slowly wind down and eventually stop playing, it's exactly the way a music box finally springs it's last note in your ear; awesome.

It's one of those 'shouldn't be like that' situations. A music box is something mechanical. It's made of steel and brass and copper. It clicks and whirrs and the sounds are made by the distruption and friction caused by tension in a spring. Yet all metals are sonorous and with that there is the potential of harmony.

If we design the greatest structures around an idea of what they can bring, their essence if you like, I think we'll create great design. In the same way someone plainstaking veneers music boxes in wood. such attention to detail betters the sound although it affects the workings not.

If we design our interventions around the harmonics that we know they'll create, then no matter how hard we hit them or how much friction we find therin the melody will shine through.

now, close your eyes and listen.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

2 of 3 to make up for lost time...

Was leaning on a lampost earlier in the week awaiting a colleague/chum...

An ex student bumped into me and in a few moments we caught up on each others lives.  He then happily trotted off into his future and left me still waiting for my mate. I hope it isn't another 7 or so years before we speak again, but unless we email each other or make an effort to do so, I fear it could be.

Got me thnking.

what is it that makes us want to keep in touch with some folk and not with others despite the intensity, joy and reward or relationships when they are present and in full swing?
My social circle is 100% (and I mean 100%) totally different to what it was 10 years ago, 5 years ago even and maybe a difference of 50% compared to last year...

Am I a fair weather friend?
are you?

At what point does 'I haven't spoke to John for ages' become 'I wont speak to John again?'

are we all juggling a human newtons cradle where onyl so many people can be part of your social connection.  I've read all the stats about 150 people in a social network and so on and part of me disagrees. I know plenty of people who know hundreds of others and successfully speak to them all.

Or am I in the illusion that such is the case? perhaps they just speak about who they know more often.

makes me think i'll get in touch with a few people in the same way I got called up the other week and how a student from 7 years past stopped his world for a few moments to brighten mine.

now, you go do the same and perhaps we'll all be closer.


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

1 of 3 to make up for lost time.

Been off-line for three weeks as I moved house and got 'cut-off' for a period of time.

Apprently this is no excuse as like many people, I've a clever phone and I could type a blogg entry on it, but to be honest...

  • I wasn't patient enough
  • I've not downloaded the apps to do so (something to do with a password that just bored me after trying for at least an hour)
  • I decided to re-frame life and make a holiday

so I'm back with three shorts to make up for lost weeks.

the first observation I have is to do with time and our relationship with it.  I got a train yesterday with moments to spare.  My rule is never run for a train as there is always another.  I don't see my life being that important that I need to rush about that often.  I was very pleased to then get on the 13:53 at 13:55 and we left at 13:56.  the train was late (by a moment) and I boarded it after it had left (in theory).  Had it been on time I would have had to have waited another half hour.

I wondered what sort of state i'd be in had that happened and how different life would be had the 'sliding doors' scenario unfolded...

Made me think about patience and time and all things in our day.  It's odd how we complain abnout lour laptop start up times taking too long yet we sit infront of them for 8 hours a day.  I remember loading a computer game from a cassette and that took up to 5minutes at a go. I used to get so cross and feel at the mercy of wasted time but think nothing of spending the rest of the afternoon defending the galaxy.

This has all been said before perhaps but time is relative. We decide how to waste it or make use of it.

Best I get on with something else now i've written this...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

HBR: not the best advice

HBR appear to be the choice of literature for a great deal of my clients.  Rows of hardbacked booked sit magnificently across oak bookshelves in many offices I visit.  I remember a Korean firm in Seoul where the head of department had every book from HBR associated with creativity and innovation on display. It appeared none had ever been read. I always look for post-it notes, dog eared pages and torn dust jackets as a sign of use.  It’s nice to think leaders write “my thoughts exactly!” in the margin.

In this instance though, the online advice is poor.

Although the two final points make sense. Small teams and keep them together. I take umbrage with the first point.  The last thing you want in a team is a ‘devils advocate’.  I agree it’s good to take stock of your thinking from time to time but it’s important the whole team do that together and then collectively switch to more expansive conversations thereafter.
If one person is constantly analysing ideas, suggestions and first thoughts, NOTHING will get done. After a while everyone will get used to running by decisions and ideas to the naysayer and getting permission to move on. In addition, if the devil’s advocate is tasked solely with analysing all the time, all his/her clever experience will simply be tailored to spot what is wrong with everything.  The more you practise the better at it you get.  Try hard enough to find fault with an idea and you’ll find it. Eventually people will stop coming up with ideas as it’s too risky and personally exposing. So no HBR, DONT have a Devil’s advocate in a group.  Ever.  Everyone is either growing and building ideas or collectively analysing them as one.  It’s the skill of a facilitator to help everyone get aligned between those two worlds.  This isn’t advice that should come as a shock.
On writing all this though, I can’t help but think though I’ve demonstrated the very behaviour HBR advocate in their advice. Oh how soon before the headache begins...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riots - It's not about greed and it ain't about values either.

Obviously a lot out there about the London Riots over the last few days and I accept 100% that writing about it means I join the ranks of the commentators and not the street cleaners and other folk who have to clear up the mess.
I’ve read lots about the difference between the politicians and the ordinary people and how the two speak different language.  I find myself shouting at the t.v. as the political elite serve platitude and cliché; no-one seems to talk anything of sense or worth. I also think how terrible a mess we’d all nbe in if the ‘ordinary people’ had positions of responsibility and had a go at running the country too.  We can all be armchair leaders.
One article caught my eye and I thank the author and the re-tweeter for passing it on.  It got me thinking and I hope it does you also...
I don’t think it’s a question of greed though. No-one thing causes anything like a riot.  I grant there may be a catalyst but life isn’t as black and white.  Greed has been present since the dawn of time. The have and the have-nots have co-existed for centuries and certainly have they been aware of each other.  If the rich are targeted by the poor in such demonstrative ways, is that not proof enough that one has a greater value set than the other as I cannot recall a time when the affluent took arms against lost generations and wantonly took it out on them in the streets.
To say that violence on the t.v. causes riots is false; t.v. also shows romantic comedies, but I don’t see streets filled with passionate kisses. To say that all this lies at the door of the parents is also false – we all know of ‘well brought up people’ who have tremendous power to harm, bully, pester and intimidate.  I don’t think it’s the fault of youth clubs being closed, or churches falling empty, community centres being knocked down or other elements of our society closing around our young people.  No-one thing is to blame.
What is consistent in time like this is action and re-action. We all have a reaction to what we see and hear and take a point of view.  Some will blame greed, some parents, some the government, some the police, family values... I’m waiting for someone to blame teachers or pop music...  or a leaf on a tree.
My opinion (as I’d rather have one than not) is that this comes down to self image. self worth. pride. individuality. I don’t see anyone who is a rioter having any of these. There is perhaps something more interesting and worthy about being at a riot than the alternative – which is bettering oneself, taking a stand to defend a value, rising above the crowd etc.
But of course I’d say that as I had a middle class up bringing in the 80’s and the biggest fear I had growing up was not getting a job, letting my family down or going to prison. I just didn’t take it out on the local JD sports store. Perhaps my opinion would be different had I been born another time. I’ll hold on to that thought when I next feel judgemental.
Guess it’s easy to write about being right.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Sense of perspective

There was a death in the family this week. So this week’s edition is in honour of Alan Callick.
If he was alive now as I type this I guess he’d have mixed reactions about being able to reach so many people so easily and share a point of view with relative ease.
Alan was of a generation where great thoughts and deeds took longer to form into stories as technology was always one step behind the demands on society.  Few could fly, few could make long distance calls, few had computers in which to solve complex math problems and few had any knowledge of anything but the immediate world around them.  Library’s were the central deposit of information, the internet had yet to be born and when you rang someone using the analogue dial you were literally making sparks at a switch board in the centre of town...
Now there is an ingenuity gap between the pace of technology and our ability to catch up with it.  The minority are no longer the ones who have-not’s but in many instances the ‘have’s.  We have all this technology but still it appears are the same core frustrations that plague us.  It’s easy to get all ‘sixth-from’ essay about this but the truth is often very obvious.
Digging out of the attic this week an old acorn electron with programs in cassettes made me smile as I laughed at its primitive nature and design.  But I do remember this being the focus of all my attention and how we all marvelled at the schools first computer with disk drive... I still get excited about new things. My focus is often distracted by the latest HD t.v. offering or speedy laptop.  That inherent wonder on all things has remained constant as I’ve grown up.  If that’s a constant, then maybe the level to which it’s satisfied is also constant.  To come to terms and accept that perhaps is a wonderful thing. It must be wonderful to let go frustration, to let go anxiety and to let go of the pace of life which is now so fast and fierce.
If we’re contributors to this world then let’s do so and design not only with integrity, detail and high standards of quality, but also with humility that nothing is around here for long.  Soon stuff gets stuffed in the attic or thrown away.  The most important and enduring elements of our life last beyond our human frame and physical surroundings.  The most important elements of our design are that of spirit, love and energy.
Keep those dear and they’ll last forever.

 have a good weekend and enjoy your family and friends.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Suger Pie Honey Bunch

Lamont Dozier (of Holland-Dozier-Holland fame) wrote this song in 1965. It was made famous by the Four Tops and hooray for Mowtown hit factory, pop music and all that...

What's interesting (I think) about this song is that the pressure inflicted on the song writers of the time was so immense that every ounce of inspiration was being exhausted.  So where then does inspiration come?

Dozier tells the story of his father and how he ran a boutique/hair dressers and was a bit of a ladies man at the door way. He'd great his regular customers with 'Sugar Pie' and 'Hello Honey Bunch' and Dozier growing up would hear this and have stick in the deep recesses of his mind and memory.

Like everything we get exposed to, our mind records it all.  It's always recording like a tape player (remember them?) and the red light never goes off.  If we keep revisiting the same material, we're essentially over recording the same tune and our minds aren't much of a useful ideas centre. That's a comment for another time.

The point I make on this occasion is that before you search for inspiration for your next idea, look no further than the deep recesses of your mind.  It might take a while for something to bubble up, but I promise there is a gem there.

I'm not a song writer but I imagine I’d have a few lyrics if I wanted to tell a story on life by weaving the lamentations of my Dad into the narrative!

I do facilitate ideas sessions though and everything that people say has the potential to unlock and idea.  It's just a question of getting relaxed enough to share and not judging anything you were once told. Having a great idea is also about playing with something that’s been sitting in your head for a while.  Listen to what it’s saying and soon you’ll hear the song...

Suger Pie Honey Bunch... you know that I love you... (catchy eh?)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Dont pass anything by your grandmother...

I worked in an agency once were we had the 'mum' test or the 'granny test'.

The idea being you ran copy or current client briefs past your granny and if she couldn't understand what was being expressed or written, then your content needed a revisit.

For me that equation doesn’t add up.

Most grannies – especially my own at 90 – are more than literate, have acquired vast amounts of knowledge and understanding of the world during their lifetime and have of course developed quite an extraordinary vocabulary being able to drop words like apostasy and encomium into sentences without pausing for breath.

I’ve confidence that every granny can hoover up the bullet points on our slide decks and correct our use of apostrophe at the same time.

We shouldn’t be arrogant to ask the rest of the world to catch up with our marketing or internal comms. It’s our duty to use our intelligence and rubric to appeal to the world. Given the average age of our supermarket reader is 11 – yes, 11 – words and terms such as leverage, going forward, ring fence, sanitise, strategic have no place in any written form between us let alone pushed into the world.

If the shift from email to tweets is true then why waste our 140 character space on those words... we should perhaps ask our grannies to write it for us.

Friday, 8 July 2011

why a 'professional' isn't something we should aspire to be

Spent a great deal of my time with people this week who describe themselves as 'professional'. This is either in the literature of the business, websites or in their language.

I hate the word.

It doesn't mean anything.

A guy came round my house once to fit the carpets. He had 'professional' on the side of the van and did shit job.
My solicitor describes their service as professional - they are constantly sending me the wrong paper work or missing the details I need right now.
The 'friendly and professional' service I was promised by my ISP wasn't either.
The trust fund I rang up earlier in the week who described their service as 'professional' couldn't help me on the phone as the password I read out from the letter THEY SENT ME wasn't on their system and it was up to me to write in to them and explain why...!

I don’t want to be a professional it means doing all I can to follow procedure, work to rule, follow the process, sit on the fence, avoid confrontation, hold back opinion, apologise for things out of my control or hold back in point of view.

Professionals don’t stand for anything.
It’s a brand that’s lost its meaning and impact.
It’s unimaginative, boring, dull, safe, compliant, stale and chaste.

For me it’s a hygiene factor. It’s like advertising a gas oven as safe.  I expect it to be safe without question in the same way I expect a car to have wheels and a house a front door.  Some things go without mention.

Being ‘professional’ isn’t something that attracts me or will catch my eye.

Go bang a desk.
Go have a point of view.
Go love someone.
Do something!

But don’t be a professional.

Friday, 24 June 2011

small signs make matters better or worse

Whilst out in the week I bought lunch.
Millions of people do that every single day across thousands of cities in hundreds of thousands of outlets worldwide. There is product, staff, customers, tills and maybe even decent service.

There is also the occassional insight into the way some of those high street chains operate.

On the floor of GREGGS the bakers (I know - dirty boy) I saw a sign that had perhaps fallen off the staff side of the till. I can only assume because of the grease build up. It said 'Dont forget to ask the customer if they'd like a drink with that!'.

This tells me a great deal about the mindset of Greggs and the way it develops it's staff.  Taking them out of the workplace and into their own homes, I'm sure each and everyone of them would offer me a drink with anything I ate in their company so why when it's their job and front of mind in each customer interaction would they forget to ask? If the queue at the tills wasn't long enough then I'm sure I could rely on my own thirst to tell me whether I needed quenching.

Perhaps this sign had been taken off to allow another asking for payment to be fitted in it's place.

Touch points like this are brand building opportunities, they count toward the thousand actions that make up the unique picture of something or someone in my mind. It's just a shame any personality at GREGGS the bakers is knocked out of its staff with signs like this...

so what to do?

Give people an idea of how customers should feel, nothing more.
Dont tell your staff what to do, but how to be.
Dont put up signs as they fall on the floor and when you have to communicate to your staff or customers, think personality...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fear (only exists in your head)

have been involved in two high profile projects recently where two or three people have to make decisions on material that will broadcast to many thousands of people.  There is obviously a lot at stake.  Reputation, brand, engagemnet, senior reaction, stakeholder (hate that word) reaction, shareholder value and so on.

This is all factual and unavoidable.  It's impossible to so a 'something' in the business context with out an  reaction from the business as that 'something' happens.  It would appear the laws of physics seem to translate into human behaviour however.  Why is the 'something' always going to be met with an equal and opposite reaction?  In other words, why do people who make decisions often (but not always) default to the "if it could offend, it will"?  As a result, all the creative language, metaphor, expression and re-expression, freedom and anti message is swiped away and the final idea is... well... beige.  Boring. unimpactful. bland.

Everything appears like the walls of a new home.

It's almost as if people are rewarded for NOT upsetting people and avoiding failure, rather than praised and rewarded for thinking differently and creating the un-expected. As a result, the marketeers, the internal comms professionals and the brand ambassadors all go back to the Monday meeting with the same challenge they had at the start of the project.  Only this time they've the experience of executing a thoroughly unoffsensive campaingn.

Maybe fear is just in our head.  I've never known anyone get the sack for doing their job.  I have heard of people get the sack for shagging someone on the photocopier after hours, but not for trying things differently.

Fear isn't part of the project.  It doesn't arrive in a box. it is though energetic. It is passed on from one person to another and it grows when more people are born into the idea of failing.

I'd ask we all suspend the biological default.  There are no more tigers at the mouth of the cave so it's okay to step outside.

Only the good die young.
Only the safe projects get forgotten.


Monday, 13 June 2011

why not insult your consumer in the instruction manual.

I bought a window mount for the sat nav in the car.  It's a plastic sucker thingy with an arm that extends from the windscreen.  It takes about 30 seconds to assemble the parts, clip on and enjoy the Sunday drive.  The USER MANUAL for this device has 8 languages. 8! each chapter identical to the next in illustration spans 10 pages and features handy comments like 'position cradle to your linking' and 'when finished with the device, remove it'.  OHMYGOD! we're driving a car and despite the occasional idiot on the road, most of us have the skill and control to manage a motor vehicle.  This isn't for the challenged. Yet the folk at Belkin (maybe under the instruction of a HR and Health and Safety Legal quango dept) have decided to insult the intelligence of their consumers with the instruction manual.  These guys aren't alone.  I had a friends who told me once his kettle came with a manual that read CAUTION: THIS DEVICE GETS VERY HOT.  Oh and there was me thinking a kettle is for keeping fish in. This is an example of poor design - shit design in fact.  The product answers a simple request from the consumer. They'll be savvy enough to work out from the box whether the product will suit their needs, yet the packaging, advice and 2 year warrenty simply distract from the very thing that will bring satisfaction.  Consumers want to 'get jobs done'. in doing so life becomes faster or easier, happier or richer. They'll thank you for it in repeat purchase. Dont insult your consumer for buying your product and dont assume they wont know how to use it. have your pressed EVERY button on your t.v. remote? There is no need to correct consumer behaviour past the point of sale. If they're doing it 'wrong' its good enough for you and that makes a 'right'.

Friday, 10 June 2011

another missed opportunity, another lack of effort...?

Spent half my week in a hotel. A great deal of my life is spent in hotels so I get to appreciate good ones and spot where others could do even better.  One of the first things that can tell me a great deal about the hotel, the brand and it's people is of course the environment. A little obvious dont you think? have a look at this little gem however!

So here is a beautiful old Red Call box (designed by Giles Gilber Scott who I think penned Battersea Power Station..). Anyway, hidden within this great British design icon wasn't further aesthetic delight but a copy of the menu for the hotel restaurant (a mere 100 yards away).

What glorious dissapointment.

Far from the menu appearing delicious, it looked weathered and tired, the paper faded from the sunlight and the elements. The hotel poster on the wall had also gone away with the wind and the cutlery looked like a set of abandoned tools rather than a fine arrangement of polished steel enticing the prospective diner to take seat.  All that was missing from this sorry ensamble of clutter was the original working phone from which I could make an escape call and a dominoes pizza.

For me this whole thing said more about the hotel and it's relationship with creative thinking than anything else. Why have it? seems someone somewhere went ooh that's a cool thing, an old fashioned letter box, we can put it in the hotel grounds and add character and charm. This will differentiate ourselves from all the other hotels.  Perhaps the brainstorm ended there or the first idea that came out won - let's put a menu in it.

I just can't imagine it appearing on the minutes of the DeVere or a matter arising - what to do with the Red Phone box...

.. if it were a solution to advertsie the restaurant, then like most projects, there wasn't enough time spent on the brief.  The restaurant was the only choice available in the entire complex.

maybe I've got it wrong though.
Perhaps it's an outdoor table and the Red Phone Box is simply a cover used to keep it dry in the rain.


Sunday, 29 May 2011

let it all work it's way out.

A sneaky addition to the Weekly Reid for Monday.

Just finished typing up a final report to a large insight project assocaited with technology and how we use it to help us think, learn and grow.  Lots of work that dates back to October.  I confess I had worries on how this would all make sense when copied out.  I worried about losing clarity and direction. I worried about what discoveries to include and what to leave out. I worried about highlighting the wrong conclusions at the expense of others. In fact, I got in a pickle.

I then remembered to USE the process I was describing.  For me, insightfulness is a learned behaviour. We get better at it the more we do. Instead of looking for the 'right' answer hideen under a rug somewhere in our projects, it's best to be relaxed and sensitised to all possibility.  If it's strong enough to be important, it'll emerge on it's own; all we need do is be recpetive to it energetically.

It was amazing how much simlpy 'poured out' when it came to sorting through my notes. Not wanting to blow my trumpet too much (honk) it just 'fell into place'. what made this extraordinary is I hadn't been thinking about things consciously for about a month.

I guess it proves a great deal about the power of the mind.  Whether real or imagined, the unconscious will do all that hard work for you if you let it.

Now, with the day ahead of you, what can you 'sleep on' until tomorrow.

It is a Bank Holiday after all.

Friday, 27 May 2011

wise man once told me this story...

So I used to do Yoga (loads of it) I was stretchy and subtle and strong.  I ought to get back to it as today I'm all stiff at the desk but that's for me to battle with... Anyway, my Yogi instructor was a guy called Brian.  Lost in the 70's, white hair, soft voice, sunlamp tan that sort of look.  He told me a story of two monks which I am delighted to say is a famous Zen story that I share now.

Two monks, both sworn to silence and solemnity.  The pair had vowed to lead a pure life in search on enlightnment.

They were both walking though a forest one day (as is the behaviour of such monks). Eventually their path led to a stream. There they saw a beautiful young girl, standing on the bank. She was in great distress because she wanted to cross the stream, but did not know how without getting her fabulous robes wet.
Without hesitation one monk scooped her up, stepped through the stream, and set her down on the other side. She thanked him and continued on her way, and the two monks continued on theirs again in silence. Nothing but the forest around them.
The second was confused and stressed. He got more restless by the minute and then finally spoke up.
"Brother," he said, "I do not know what to make of it. You know our order is an austere order, and we cannot so much as speak to a woman. let alone scoop her up and carry across a stream! yet you keep walking as if nothing happened!"
"It is quite simple," the first monk replied. "I set her down on the opposite bank, but you, Brother, are still carrying her!"
So... who, indeed, had the lighter burden, and the lighter step?

I like this story - especially to pass on - as it reminds me that a great deal of how we percieve our current circumstances are what we believe to be true.  We give energy to our perceptions and thoughts the longer we dwell upon them.  If we think of other things and invest in re-frames and new possibilities, we can actually create a better picture of our surroundings and future.

We have choice.

We dont have choise over what happens to us; that which crosses our path in our forest, but we do have choice on whether we allow such matters to concern us still.


Monday, 16 May 2011

Nimble is key

Currently having a few issues with a large, international player. A huge firm with impressive offices, big logos, expensive portfolios and thousands of staff... and of course lots of intertia. The advantage always of being in and working with small agencies, is the ability to turn on a sixpence (anyone know what a sixpence is?).Being small keeps process out and behaviour in.  Decisions are made quicker as everyone can make a few calls, send a quick 'information out' email or huddle round the coffee machine (or bar opposite work) and very effectively work out what's happening, what needs to be done and what actions to take. It breeds integrity and honesty too. Mistakes and impact are'owned' more and not blamed on the process.

It's exactly the opposite behavour I see in large businesses. They can't just make a decision quickly. An element of process can't just be shortened or cornered for the great good and context is totally ignored in following proceedure.  In extreme circumstances, the empowerment and ability to have any value at an individual level is taken away. The staff may as well be robots.

Which in certain circumstances they are...

Be a question giver. Be a rule breaker. Make decisions. Act on them. Own your impact. When it breaks, learn and do it again. Own up for your mistake and celebrate the win.

Product should always win over process. People over product.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

...when I'm sitting at my desk thinking hard

having asked many thousands of people where they have their best ideas, I have yet to have anyone say it's when they are sitting at their desk, thinking hard.

There is always a component of that situation that provides a source of fresh stimulus, material or energy that assists in the creative process - be that a great view or the radio in the background.  I have two top tips this week for getting to a richer place when needing to think differently.  I am posting this for first thing on a Friday morning so you can action upon it right away and try both.

Firsty, I'm assuming your world of work isn't just singluar focus.  You probably have several projects on at once and spend your day dancing between them in intense bursts.  The occassional meeting, toilet break and client phone call break up the routine but otherwise you're at the screen typing up, sending emails and marching on.
I have no context about any of your projects but I do know that changing your environment when shifting from one to another will unlock fresher thinking.  Doing so changes your physicality and in doing so, your ability to be sensitised to new material and to make new connections.  If you choose to sit still with the same headphones on locked into Spotify, your unconscious is just being fed the same diet.


get up. go for a walk. get some fresh air and go back and sit somewhere else and physically drop anchor elsewhere.  Some of the most creative people I know think whilst bouncing balls, walking round the park or by picking up their pads and moving from one room to another - this is not rocket science and by no means should I get high up the literal charts in this advice to my readers. All I can say is it's true.  I spent my whole day in a treehouse today with 8 people practising idea generation and the best way we had to deal with getting tired was breaking the rhythm of being sat still.

The bigger advice is more of a contextual watchout.

You have a choce when managing a project.  Take on the responsiblity of delivery personally, deliver the project on time, to budget, exceed client expectations, excite and delight everyone but you and look forward to early career burn out OR create the conditions where others can learn and problem solve with you, trust the process will look after itself and allow the answers to emerge (which, if you're truely being creative, they will).
This takes a little more time to master but the first step is atunement to 'how you are' with the 'what's going on' around you.  If you're finding no-one can do it but you, it's the first sign you've fallen out of rhythm with your project.

go for a walk and come back again and do something different.

have a good day.

(and an even better weekend).


Monday, 2 May 2011

Shy feels like a crocodile

Weekly Reid is back.

Due to high demand (well a few of my mates) the Weekly Reid is back. This used to be a once-a-week-email to people with whom I worked, but now, my musings are off to the world so sit back and enjoy and once a week (probably a Friday) i'll offer up some more perspectives of life as I see it.

Turns out it's been quite a day.

May daugther refused to say 'sorry' to Mum having accidentally hit her in the face with one of those bead/wire toys.  This sounds all middle class and dramatic but at the age of 2 and a bit, it's important my daughter knows the impact of her actions; getting to know the power of the word sorry is no bad thing.

Anyhow, she went all shy and coy and distracted herself and me with other toys.  Eventually I asked what was wrong and why she wasn't saying sorry.  She said she felt shy.  on asking how she knew she was shy she said she knew because she felt it and that 'Shy feels like a crocodile'.

I guess there is a great deal of attention to the what we are doing at work and not enough 'how' we are doing.  It's easy for us adults to get focussed on the detail they think that matters and of course a job at hand that we all share on email and power point, memo and meeting is easy to keep track of as it's physical.  It exists in discussions and printouts and we can pick up from where we left off.

Feelings though move quicker.  Sometimes fleeting. Sometimes long term attachment. When experienced though, still powerful.

My daugther felt shy and for her that was like a crocodile. 

I have an early start tomorrow. I've spent all day getting the what ready. Although i'll dress snappy, there's no need to act snappy as those around me dont feel the world the same way I do.