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Creativity and the meaning of ‘now’
July 3, 2014, 9:37 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience, Zeitgeist

Have been part of the Sydney Social Media week advisory board ( top geezers) on crafting how we can explore our theme of The Future of Now: Always On Always Connected.

For me creativity, and  the future are inextricably linked.  We just won’t make it unless we fully harness the limitless resource of our creative potential.

“As deep knowledge becomes a common asset, creativity will be the differentiating factor. Creativity is not a ‘nice-to-have’ attribute anymore, it’s a prerequisite for performance, development and growth—supporting us in our ability to innovate and drive change faster and better.” –Ben de Vries, Head of Brand Management, Ericsson

But we also won’t make unless we share, we collaborate and we inspire each other with our different perspectives. I believe that social technology and behaviors may well be one of the engines that will provide the forward momentum  to allow creativity to really be embraced.

The team I’m part of  have been doing some global research on this (on Slideshare here) talking  more than 7,000 people in 11 markets and we found that creative thought was  defined as: solutions to problems that are unexpected in any field of work, not just within traditionally creative fields such as writing, design or the performing arts.

Some of the key outtakes of the research (Collaboration, Play, Freedom to fail, Ego support, Space to think, and Idea Collection)  are helping me build my approach to the panel sessions I’m involved in, and these are the notions I’m looking at:

  • How can we achieve more through collaboration and co-creation?
  • How can we facilitate meaningful conversations, practices for devoting time to creative thinking and mindful contemplation?
  • How can we balance and preserve humanness — meaning the ability to listen, empathize, engage, focus and be present in the moment — despite the constant disruption that technology enables?

Would love to know if you find the research useful. Am looking forward to my own Eureka moment. All anecdotes welcome!



how do you value culture?
January 9, 2014, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, Experience, Get Friendly, Great Stuff, passion, Zeitgeist

art-culture_metricv5

It’s Festival time in Sydney. While I’m super excited about taking my inner child by the hand and having a bit of a frolic on Sacrilege, the true sized inflatable bouncy castle Stonehenge in Hyde Park’s Festival Village, I was interested to read this in The Australian

FESTIVAL organizers measure success in terms of ticket sales and economic impact, but a new cultural metric may be tweets and pictures on social media. Last year, an enormous yellow duck was a hit of the Sydney Festival, where 1.7 million people could not have missed seeing it at Darling Harbour. Some 14,000 images were posted on Instagram using festival hashtags.

Mmmm. ‘Cultural Metric’. Good notion. Loads of tension in it:

  • What is culture?
  • How might culture be measured?
  • How do we value it?

The NSW Government is investing more than $5 million to ensure the success of the 2014 Festival,

“Last year the Sydney Festival attracted more than 500,000 people with more than 120,000 tickets sold to paid events, including more than 33,000 people who attended events in Western Sydney. In 2012, it injected almost $57 million into our economy

From that perspective an arts investment looks like a pretty good return to the taxpayers hereabouts. I wonder how they’d value those tweets.

Early last year MoMA curator of Architecture and Design Paola Antonelli led a discussion about Culture and Metrics, (which I’ve entirely re cut below):

  • why bother?
    • the reality is that cultures come and go over time. If we don’t know what’s valuable about a particular culture, we run the risk of losing it forever.
    • not all art is concerned with culture, and not all culture is arts-based
    • it’s the best way to create a future that human beings want to inhabit.
    • MoMA has been one of the most important cathedrals of the imagination in my life since childhood, and envisioning it as a driver of R&D across society at large is extremely exciting.
  • measurement
    • Kate Levin, the Commissioner of The Department of Cultural Affairs for New York City: measuring culture, is mostly about objectives and outcomes. She used The Gates as an example of a valuable, measurable project funded by the Department for Cultural Affairs. Four million visitors to this 16-day installation created $254 million in revenue for NYC.
    • Measuring culture will require us to think of new ways to measure and share the story of a project’s insights and impact.
  • culture and value
    • “For me, The Gates was never about whether the saffron curtains and plastic frames were art. Some people argued that it was a hideous monstrosity while others loved it. Instead, I just felt lucky to be part of the flow of conversation and people as we passed together through The Gates on a beautiful blue and gold day. I felt lucky to be a New Yorker. And that’s the point of culture. It gives us a sense of place while at the same time evoking a deeply personal experience of the universal. “

As Rita observed, and who was at the MoMA talk, it brings to life one of Andy Warhol’s statements:

  • “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.”

Creating a deeply personal experience of an enterprise, creating a real and vibrant culture, feels like a bit of an art, and has the same kind of challenge:

But, how do you measure that?

Answer: With great difficulty.

Then again…. people are the only metric that really counts.

It’s hard. Really hard. Most companies can’t do it. The ones that can, make a fortune. Life is unfair.



how long is the truth?
January 7, 2014, 12:40 pm
Filed under: Digital Strategy, The Rules, triangulation, Zeitgeist

triangulating favourite things

Had an interesting question about the triangulation exercise- how long should it be?

In a true form I’d have to say: How long is the truth?

I’ve put the challenge forward with ‘manifest the outcome how you like…’

I do know that the blank page is the hardest to start with and the that structure is a fine tool to get the ball rolling….

So to help actually answer the question I can put forward some options on process and practice:

  • I’m a big fan of visual thinking as a tool to explore intersection- to mine where commonality lies and to use it to find a singular point of truth
    • the above was a bit of a joke for a mate (if you’re not a Top Gun fan- it means that the absolute truth between his three favourite things is that they FVROOM/ Doppler effect/or can disappear out of sight in a second)
      • this was a while ago- today I’d say that the intersection could be brought to life by Archer
      • this might mean that you could structure a deck like this:
        • Demonstrate key learnings/ Identify themes: one chart each on the major themes of each of the articles
        • Explore intersections: commonalities between each article
        • The absolute truth- your key out take/ observation/ pov
  •  When I started doing these exercises myself as blog posts I tried to keep them around 300 words

I’d love to see a podcast, an interpretive dance, a cartoon if that can take us on a journey of your thinking.

I’m as interested in what you see along the way as the destination of your journey.

Anyhoo- good luck, and thanks for asking.



Since. Sometimes. Say it.
January 14, 2013, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Experience, Zeitgeist

lifeisshortthereisnotimetoleaveimportantwordsunsaid

Life just bites you on the ass sometimes.

I’ve been trying to write this for ages: since receiving the phone call a couple of days before Christmas; since working on releasing the shock and pain and disbelief at the news; since writing that first condolence card; since the first time I could get together with my oldest friends face-to-face to share the wtf-ness; since standing blacked up and bare faced nursing a whiskey and hearing his Dad desperate for some insight, any scrap, at the wake, as to why.

Since, since, since.

I lived my 20′s in a little run down terrace in what is now SOGO, but was then the cheapest place we could find. It was dark, falling to pieces and smelled in the damp, but filled with what became a chosen family, and for me, a true home.

None of us had money, but we were all working doing stuff we loved- art, music, architecture, design. We all were good at creating something out of nothing: the kitchen transformed from a peeling crack lab into a place where mermaids played; a bare wall turned into an ever moving pop gallery of avant cards; a back yard that hosted now famous ‘drinks by the pool’ parties where the blow up wader was just an excuse for ridiculous cocktails and costumes.

There was dancing. Cooking. A million late night conversations. A million bottles of red wine. One very scrappy cat. Sometimes the dishes didn’t get done. People peeled out as they met their partners, or their career took them off to different horizons and eventually the place got sold and we moved on.

That was sometime ago. It lasted about 7 years and felt like forever.

I thought everyone had grown up since then. Not me, obviously, but other people had mortgages and businesses and children and partners. Eventually I only saw some in back yards, with tired eyes and gentle, humorous self deprecating stories of the domestic hurdy-gurdy their lives had become.  Tucked in, I thought. Safe, I believed. Happy, I dreamed.

I can’t remember the last time I told my friend I loved him. That he was important to me. That knowing him has made my life better every day since I met him. That his take on silly and serious and determined and disciplined was a benchmark for me. That I respected his work, was totally crazy about his choice of partner and his children, in awe of his practice and held deep affection for the past we shared and held a desire to co-create memories for the rest of our lives.

Now I won’t get that chance. He is gone. He took himself off the merry-go-round. I don’t know why. No one seems to. I will never understand. I’m trying to come to terms with that. I’m not looking for a silver lining. It’s just crap.

Sometimes we let go of the gold in our lives, the people that we love, to pan for shiny trash. Sometimes the people that we think we know are very very good at hiding their pain. Sometimes the things we don’t say haunt us.

Since. Sometimes. Say it.



We see the stars, and we want them
June 7, 2012, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Great Stuff, Zeitgeist

Milky Way

We were put here as witnesses to the miracle of life. We see the stars, and we want them. We are beholden to give back to the universe…. If we make landfall on another star system, we become immortal. Ray Bradbury Speech to National School Board Association (1995)

Ray Bradbury died today. I love his work: his defense of books, his fight against censorship,  and above all the notions of the miraculous future that would unfold before my eyes as I grew. He was one of the writers that made me excited about the future, made me more conscious of the dark dehumanizing side of technology, one of the architects of the “What Ifs” that still guide my daily  creative explorations and the provider of some of the more accessible componentry of my moral compass.

Here’s one of my favourites, I posted this to David Gillespie just the other day: Doing is Being

Doing is being.
To have done’s not enough.
To stuff yourself with doing — that’s the game.
To name yourself each hour by what’s done,
To tabulate your time at sunset’s gun
And find yourself in acts
You could not know before the facts
You wooed from secret self, which much needs wooing,
So doing brings it out,
Kills doubt by simply jumping, rushing, running
Forth to be
The new-discovered me.
To not do is to die,
Or lie about and lie about the things
You just might do some day.
Away with that!
Tomorrow empty stays
If no man plays it into being
With his motioned way of seeing.
Let your body lead your mind –
Blood the guide dog to the blind;
So then practice and rehearse
To find heart-soul’s universe,
Knowing that by moving/seeing
Proves for all time: Doing’s being!



draw me a picture
July 7, 2010, 8:12 am
Filed under: Zeitgeist

Inspired by David’s Every now and Then post:

Every now and then I plug my blog into Wordle and see what it spits out. As a summation of what I’m thinking about at the time, it often reveals things to me long before I would have stumbled across the themes myself.

I’m pretty happy that ‘people’ is my overarching theme here. As David noticed you do learn a bunch from this exercise. I do like the patterns:

  • in 2006 ‘people’, ‘life’ and ‘others’ were the main themes.
  • By 2007 I kind of got distracted with tactics, ‘online’ and ‘digital’ being the top two.
  • In 2008 ‘community’ and ‘life’ were slugging it out to ge my attention
  • 2009 stories came to the fore (luckily I was looking for ‘great’ ones)
  • and now it’s ‘people’ , ‘time’, ‘creative’, ‘strategy’ and ‘experience’

Love the Wordle. What not create your own? I’d love to see it.



strategic sweet spots
June 9, 2010, 4:38 pm
Filed under: Experience, Zeitgeist

Image: from Can You Say What Your Strategy Is? Harvard Business Review

“Can you summarize your company’s strategy in 35 words or less? If so, would your colleagues put it the same way?”

I’ve never been able to find any strategist that has the same 35 words to describe what they do or what their output is. The role of advertising strategy is always a fun concept to bring to life with interpretive dance at a party. I find it quite a bit more effective than words. And it’s no more silly than the reality.

UPDATE: this afternoon I found a post Project in Progress: What is Strategy? where Bud Caddell is crowdsourcing the question “What is Strategy” and getting some great answers and nice charts from a bunch of people. He’s pout forward 6 definitions. In addition there are nearly 60 responses. All of them are differently articulated).

HBR maintain “Strategy creation is about doing the right things; implementation is about doing things right” but I’m not too sure about that split, if it’s true or if its possible. I personally like the tension between ‘doing the right things and doing things right’. It really all needs to work together if it’s going to get you to where you want to go.

Here’s what some smart people said about ‘doing the right things’ recently:

twitter.com/bud_caddell- strategy is the definition of purpose.

twitter.com/markpollard- in 4 words: an informed, measurable direction – (not always to succeed)

I’m thinking that this is the ‘where are we going and why’ bit of strategy.

I also like Andy Whitlock’s articulation of creative strategy, ‘ideas with purpose’, because it  encompasses ‘doing things right’- and the ‘how are we going to get there and what do we do’ piece of the journey:

My thinking on What’s this Creative Strategy thing all about? can be found in my post How do you describe what you do?

I can’t help but think that there’s often a disconnect between the choice of the destination, the itinerary and the experience of the journey. Creative Strategy identifies and describes how all those elements might work together. So kind of like Passepartout’s Travel Bureau to Awesomeness.

Thanks also to Kate Kendall and her #strategyweek for a bunch of the thought starters.




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