Archive for the ‘Business Management’ Category

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Note to Real Estate Advertisers … remove Lorum Ipsum from your website and replace with actual captions before you let the site go live.

*sighs*

What do they teach the young people nowadays? Mutter mutter, grumble grumble.

Mind you, it’s easily done.

I well remember many years ago my company was preparing a website for the Liberal Party who were about to defend their Victorian Government in a general election. (Don’t shoot me, fellow leftie peeps, it was paying work and not all my partners were lefties.)

eff-kennettAnyhow this work mainly consisted of sticking up simple web pages with each Liberal candidate on, and then a short bio after them.

But in preparing the draft of the website for the notoriously mecurial Jeff Kennett and the Liberal Party luminaries, the junior flog who was doing the grunt work on the website hadn’t been provided with a list of names of the candidates, so he just typed “Some Liberal Wanker” as a placeholder under each photo. He was presumably a leftie, too. Or maybe just sceptical about politicians generally.

Anyhow, the account executive concerned bundled up the website draft without looking at it and emailed it to everyone for their approval. Like that.

When we realised the error, with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs, a few bottles of wine were opened and we bunkered down waiting for the phone call telling us we’d been sacked.

But apparently, when Jeff saw the mock up, he laughed like a drain and commented, “Well, most of them are!”

A politician with a sense of humour? Who knew?

Since those days Jeff has gone on to reinvent himself as a media personality, a passionate supporter of his beloved Hawthorn Football Club, and most of all as an effective and thoughtful advocate for the anti-Depression group Beyond Blue. And good on him, too. Having once been one of Australia’s most polarising personalities, he is now considered something of a local treasure, and the work he’s done on Depression has changed lives. Funny old world.

oh-really

 

It’s been awhile since we had a really good F*** Up to share, and we can feel your nervous anticipation, Dear Reader, so here is a new one for you. Ta-da!

 

cock flavour soup mix

 

Quality since 1922 indeed. We think that means since twenty past seven last night.

Believe it or not, this was seen on a BRITISH supermarket shelf by our eagle-eyed correspondent. Amazing.

As for which market segment might go hunting for this particular item, let us just say that our lips are sealed.

neuro-blissMeanwhile, I am not the only blogger driven nuts by the stupidities of packaging. The Flaklist kindly found this beauty.

As he says:

Oh good, my years of waiting have finally paid off.  At last, there’s a drink on the market that has married the shapely form of a butt plug with the distinctive colouration of a used condom.  That’s just what I’ve always said would make a beverage look irresistibly appetising.  Brilliant.

And you thought we are harsh!

Flaklist also takes aim at a series of packaging ephemera from Sainsbury’s in the UK.

Along the lines of health warnings like “Contains Nuts” being on a clear-wrap packet of peanuts, he bemoans the idiot extra comments advertising writers put on packaging in case we don’t, just, you know, get the point.

This is my favourite. Yes, when in doubt, say more. And more and more and more.

 

fruity

 

Refreshing and fruity.

Fruity (adjective) – having the taste or smell of fruit.

Raspberry (noun) – a type of fruit.

Incontrovertible (adjective) – using the term ‘fruity’ to describe a fucking fruit.

Junior marketing managers approving packaging detail, please note.

dislikeOne of the biggest and most persistent criticisms of Facebook that you hear in people’s grumbles is that it has morphed from being a social networking site into nothing more than a mechanism to deliver you ads and sponsored PR content.

In a way, that’s hardly Facebook’s fault. It is, to its users, a “free” service, after all. So the business model demands that they sell ads.

Of course, as any good marketeer will explain, there is an unwritten compact between the advertisers and the advertised to that we ignore at our marketing peril.

Too much advertising, or too badly targeted, or too repetitive, and the great unwashed masses start turning away from the advertiser or advertisers who are pestering them to the point of distraction. You see the same effect with TV advertising. You’re watching a favourite movie, and the same advertiser pops up in every ad break, playing you the self-same message time after time after time.

Sure, the advertiser is getting their desired “reach and frequency figures”, but they are also very likely having afacebook-fail net negative effect on their market. How much advertising is enough is a much more complex discussion than the simple sheets of “Xs in boxes” that advertisers get from their media buying companies, whose skill set is generally focused on, well, buying more and more media. That’s how they make their money, after all.

Unfortunately, the way the website is set up now is making it increasingly user-unfriendly and sometimes downright annoying.

In case you doubt such a harsh judgement, read how Wired correspondent Mat Honan “liked” everything he saw on Facebook for two days. Here’s what it did to him.

It’s a great article – very informative and enjoyable. Enjoy.

Oh, and if you want to avoid a similar fate, there’s a simple solution – stop hitting that damn LIKE button!

Article begins:

There’s this great Andy Warhol quote you’ve probably seen before: “I think everybody should like everybody.” You can buy posters and plates with pictures of Warhol, looking like the cover of a Belle & Sebastian album, with that phrase plastered across his face in Helvetica. But the full quote, taken from a 1963 interview in Art News, is a great description of how we interact on social media today.

Warhol: Someone said that Brecht wanted everybody to think alike. I want everybody to think alike. But Brecht wanted to do it through Communism, in a way. Russia is doing it under government. It’s happening here all by itself without being under a strict government; so if it’s working without trying, why can’t it work without being Communist? Everybody looks alike and acts alike, and we’re getting more and more that way.
I think everybody should be a machine. I think everybody should like everybody.
Art News: Is that what Pop Art is all about?
Warhol: Yes. It’s liking things.
Art News: And liking things is like being a machine?
Warhol: Yes, because you do the same thing every time. You do it over and over again.

The like and the favorite are the new metrics of success—very literally. Not only are they ego-feeders for the stuff we put online as individuals, but advertisers track their campaigns on Facebook by how often they are liked. A recent New York Times story on a krill oil ad campaign lays bare how much the like matters to advertisers. Liking is an economic act.

I like everything. Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked—even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me. I know this sounds like a stunt (and it was) but it was also genuinely just an open-ended experiment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d keep it up (48 hours was all I could stand) or what I’d learn (possibly nothing.)

See, Facebook uses algorithms to decide what shows up in your feed. It isn’t just a parade of sequential updates from your friends and the things you’ve expressed an interest in. In 2014 the News Feed is a highly-curated presentation, delivered to you by a complicated formula based on the actions you take on the site, and across the web. I wanted to see how my Facebook experience would change if I constantly rewarded the robots making these decisions for me, if I continually said, “good job, robot, I like this.” I also decided I’d only do this on Facebook itself—trying to hit every Like button I came across on the open web would just be too daunting. But even when I kept the experiment to the site itself, the results were dramatic.

THERE IS A VERY SPECIFIC FORM OF FACEBOOK MESSAGING, DESIGNED TO GET YOU TO INTERACT. AND IF YOU TAKE THE BAIT, YOU’LL BE SHOWN IT AD NAUSEAM.

The first thing I liked was Living Social — my friend Jay had liked it before me and it was sitting at the top of my feed. I liked two more updates from friends. So far, so good. But the fourth thing I encountered was something I didn’t really like. I mean, I don’t truly like Living Social either, whatever the hell that is, but who cares. But this fourth thing was something I sort of actively disliked. A bad joke — or at least a dumb one. Oh well. I liked it anyway.

One thing I had to decide right away was what to do about the related items that appear after you’ve liked something. Let’s say you like a story about cows that you see on Modern Farmer. Facebook will immediately present you with four more options to like things below that cow story, “relateds” in Facebook parlance. Probably more stories about cows or agriculture.

Relateds quickly became a problem, because as soon as you like one, Facebook replaces it with another. So as soon as I liked the four relateds below a story, it immediately gave me four more. And then four more. And then four more. And then four more. I quickly realized I’d be stuck in a related loop for eternity if I kept this up. So I settled on a new rule: I would like the first four relateds Facebook shows me, but no more.

Sometimes, liking is counterintuitive. My friend Hillary posted a picture of her toddler Pearl, with bruises on her face. It was titled “Pearl vs. the concrete.” I didn’t like it at all! It was sad. Normally, it would be the kind of News Feed item that would compel me to leave a comment, instead of hitting the little thumbs up button. Oh well. Like. The only time I declined to like something was when a friend posted about the death of a relative. I just had a death in my family last week. It was a bridge I wasn’t going to cross.

But there was still plenty more to like. I liked one of my cousin’s updates, which he had re-shared from Joe Kennedy, and was subsequently beseiged with Kennedys to like (plus a Clinton and a Shriver). I liked Hootsuite. I liked The New York Times, I liked Coupon Clipinista. I liked something from a friend I haven’t spoken to in 20 years—something about her kid, camp and a snake. I liked Amazon. I liked fucking Kohl’s. I liked Kohl’s for you.

My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.

Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.

Also, as I went to bed, I remember thinking “Ah, crap. I have to like something about Gaza,” as I hit the Like button on a post with a pro-Israel message.

By the next morning, the items in my News Feed had moved very, very far to the right. I’m offered the chance to like the 2nd Amendment and some sort of anti-immigrant page. I like them both. I like Ted Cruz. I like Rick Perry. The Conservative Tribune comes up again, and again, and again in my News Feed. I get to learn its very particular syntax. Usually it went something like this:

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Sound familiar?


A sentence recounting some controversial news. Good!

A sentence explaining why this is good.

A call to action, often ending with a question?

Once I see this pattern, I start noticing it everywhere. SF Gate, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s web presence, uses a similar tactic.

It is a very specific form of Facebook messaging, designed to get you to interact. And if you take the bait, you’ll be shown it ad nauseam.

I was also struck by how different my feeds were on mobile and the desktop, even when viewed at the same time. By the end of day one, I noticed that on mobile my feed was almost completely devoid of human content. I was only presented with the chance to like stories from various websites, and various other ads.

Yet on the desktop — while it’s still mostly branded content — I continue to see things from my friends. On that little bitty screen, where real-estate is so valuable, Facebook’s robots decided that the way to keep my attention is by hiding the people and only showing me the stuff that other machines have pumped out. Weird.

As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left. Rachel Maddow, Raw Story, Mother Jones, Daily Kos and all sort of other leftie stuff was interspersed with items that are so far to the right I’m nearly afraid to like them for fear of ending up on some sort of watch list.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND LOOK AT THIS BABY THAT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE JAY-Z.

This is a problem much bigger than Facebook. It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other. We set up our political and social filter bubbles and they reinforce themselves—the things we read and watch have become hyper-niche and cater to our specific interests. We go down rabbit holes of special interests until we’re lost in the queen’s garden, cursing everyone above ground.

But maybe worse than the fractious political tones my feed took on was how deeply stupid it became. I’m given the chance to like a Buzzfeed post of some guy dancing, and another that asks Which Titanic Character Are You? A third Buzzfeed post informs me that “Katy Perry’s Backup Dancer is the Mancandy You Deserve.” According to New York magazine, I am “officially old” because Malia Obama went to Lollapalooza (like!) and CNN tells me “Husband Explores His Man-ternal Instincts” alongside a photo of a shirtless man cupping his nipples. A cloud that looks like a penis. Stop what you’re doing and look at this baby that looks exactly like Jay-Z. My feed was showing almost only the worst kind of tripe that all of us in the media are complicit in churning out yet should also be deeply ashamed of. Sensational garbage. I liked it all.

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Annoying for you. Even more annoying for everyone else.

While I expected that what I saw might change, what I never expected was the impact my behaviuor would have on my friends’ feeds. I kept thinking Facebook would rate-limit me, but instead it grew increasingly ravenous. My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers.

That first night, a small little circle with a dog’s head popped up in the corner of my phone. A chat head, from Facebook’s Messenger software! The dog turned out to be my old WIRED editor, John Bradley. “Have you been hacked,” he wanted to know. The next morning, my friend Helena sent me a message. “My fb feed is literally full of articles you like, it’s kind of funny,” she says. “No friend stuff, just Honan likes.” I replied with a thumbs up. This continued throughout the experiment. When I posted a status update to Facebook just saying “I like you,” I heard from numerous people that my weirdo activity had been overrunning their feeds. “My newsfeed is 70 percent things Mat has liked,” noted my pal Heather. Eventually, I would hear from someone who worked at Facebook, who had noticed my activity and wanted to connect me with the company’s PR department.

But I’d already put a stop to it by then anyway, because it was just too awful. I tried counting how much stuff I’d liked by looking in my activity log, but it was too overwhelming. I’d added more than a thousand things to my Likes page—most of which were loathsome or at best banal.

By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked. To be honest, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like what I had done.

1929 it ain't. Relax, people.

1929 it ain’t. Relax, peeps.

“Wall Street hammered, Dow closes down more than 300 points!” screamed the headlines.

And stocks did indeed get slammed on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ending the day down 1.87%, at 317 points in the red. The drop wiped out all the benchmark average’s gains for 2014, and put an end to a five-month winning streak for stocks. This was the Dow’s largest point drop of the year since February 3; percentage-wise, it’s the worst plunge since April 10. At 16,563, the index is well below the all-time closing high of 17,138 hit just a couple of weeks ago.

Additionally on Thursday, the S&P 500 saw a 1.89% drop to end at 1,932, and the Nasdaq fell 1.98%, ending at 4,374.74.

So what’s going on? Well, Yahoo Finance editor Phil Pearlman says those looking for easy answers are going to be disappointed. “Over the last 25 years, stocks have their worst month in August. This is the worst time of the year, and we’re getting a preview of that on the last day of July.” Why? Your guess is as good as the experts.

Oooops.

Oooops.

Experts believe the selling was triggered by a variety of factors. To add to the long-standing laundry list of troubles in Ukraine and violence in the Middle East, Argentina failed to reach a deal with bondholders and defaulted late Wednesday. Argentina’s benchmark Mervel index dropped more than 6.5%.

The employment cost index in America also posted its fastest rise since 2008, stoking fears of inflation and chatter of an earlier-than-expected Fed rate hike. There are suggestions of interest rate rises elsewhere too. More expensive money always stokes sell-offs of companies that are highly leveraged or involved in market sectors that respond poorly to interest rate rises such as housing and building.

Though the US selling was intense, there was little evidence of the panic that typically marks the end of selloffs. After years of being rewarded for buying every dip, investors seem conditioned to treat corrections as buying opportunities, though little buying was apparent as of the close. So is this the correction that canny investors have been waiting for?

“I have no idea; my best guess is that [it is]” said Pearlman. “But if we get a 4%-5% pullback,” he continues, “the resulting “panic” could lead to a bottom, which will provide an attractive entry point for some investors with cash ready to put into the market.”

Yahoo Finance’s Jeff Macke commented, “If you’re too nervous to sleep tonight, you’re too long stocks. Trim a little gains if … you’re already nervous. If not, ride it out. This is the way markets are supposed to behave.”

Or to put it another way, if you expect the stock market to always go up, you should probably be investing your money on the gee gees or bingo.

Get ready to buy value. Always look for a track record, good management and good value. As always.

Have you heard about the new road safety ad? You're about to.

Have you heard about the new road safety ad? You’re about to.

Big ups for this road safety spot from China, via Volkswagen, who are to be warmly congratulated for a brilliant piece of marketing that is not only attention-grabbing but also very relevant to their market.

At a stroke they become a good corporate citizen and get millions of people applauding their brand.

Smart.

 

At the Wellthisiswhatithink marketing guru training school, we are becoming increasingly interested in the potential for these very localised broadcasts of text messages as a marketing tool.

As we understand it, you can send a blast of messages out to all people nearby who have bluetooth enabled on their smartphone. The opportunity to grab people’s attention as they linger in (or pass by) any given locale is interesting to say the least.

Alright, alright: no one wants dozens of unwanted text messages turning up on our phones all the time. But that simply means adhering to what we have always known.

To be accepted, all advertising (whether it’s a TV ad, a billboard, a radio ad, or a text message) needs to combine relevance, useful information, and entertainment value – when entertainment value doesn’t necessarily mean ho-ho humour, but always means what we call inherent interest, which is usually delivered via enhanced creativity. Rule one of advertising: be noticed. Rule two: no-one was ever bored into buying anything.

This great ad triumphantly ticks both boxes.

(Sorry that the YouTube video comes up covered in banner ads – now that IS annoying. Just click them away, peeps.)

 

Beware scams say ASIC

Beware scams say ASIC

 Tens of thousands of Australians are being scammed each year, with dating and romance scams topping the list of financial losses for 2013, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).The latest figures from the consumer watchdog show a 10 per cent spike in scam reports last year, as well as an alarming trend in phishing and identity theft.

The ACCC’s Targeting Scams Report says Australians lost $25 million to dating and romance scams.

But out of a total of 92,000 complaints received – amounting to losses of $89 million – just 2,777 related to dating and romance scams. The most complained about scam was advance fee-upfront payment scams, where consumers are typically asked to make a payment with their credit card to access a bogus refund, prize or other kind of reward.

ACCC deputy chairwoman Delia Rickard says the figures are only a small snapshot of how much money people are losing to scams.

“We talk to other agencies, and work is being done so there will be a central repository of all reported scams in Australia but that’s not in place just yet,” she told the ABC.

“So we know it’s significantly more than the $89 million that was reported to us.”

She says dating and romance scams are very concerning.

“I think scammers are learning that by forming a personal relationship and really putting effort into knowing their victim and forming those trusting bonds, that this is the market for them,” she said.”This is where they can get the biggest pay off. The majority we’re aware of are under fake profiles in online dating sites. We’ve done work with the dating and romance sites in terms of best practice guidelines on how they can kick the scammers off.

“Some sites seem to be better than others and we’re about to review all of this work and do another round of work with those sites so that they’re better at identifying scammers, keeping them away from the sites and also giving warnings to their members.”

More than 10 per cent of scam victims reported losing more than $10,000.

As people age they appear more likely to be victims. Scams were most commonly reported by people in the 45-to-54 age category, and the number of people aged 65 years and over who reported being scammed nearly doubled to 18 per cent.

Watch that phone

In line with a shift in recent years, 52 per cent of scams were delivered via phone and text message, with combined total financial losses of $29 million.

Ms Rickard says she is very concerned about the “huge increase” in phishing and personal identity theft.

“These can take all sorts of forms but usually it might be ‘fill in this survey and you could win a $50 voucher’ and you go to fill in the form and it will ask you for a range of private things with your name, age, address,” she said.

“It might ask for your credit card details so they can deposit winnings into it, Medicare numbers, passport numbers.

“What scammers do is they then use this information to impersonate you to open all sorts of accounts, run up debts in your name, drain your bank account.

“So people really need to learn the importance of that personal information and not give it out unless they’re absolutely clear about who they’re dealing with and it’s clear why that person will need that information.”

In 2012, the ACCC received about 84,000 complaints with total losses to consumers of of $93 million.

The report also found that scammers continued to favour sending ‘high-volume scams’, which involve targeting a large number of victims with requests for small amounts of money.

scam alertVery helpful website
The latest information about scams and tips for consumers can be found at http://www.scamwatch.gov.au The most recent warning is very helpful.SCAMwatch is currently warning consumers to be on the lookout for energy billing scams currently doing the rounds.

A new “phishing” email pretending to be from reputable energy companies is currently circulating, which claims you owe money for an outstanding gas or electricity bill.
The email will ask you to click on a link to view or update your account and arrange payment via money transfer. If you click on the link, you risk infecting your computer with malware and having your personal information stolen. If you pay this ‘bill’ via money transfer, you will never see your money again.
Don’t let scammers raise the temperature of your heating bill in the lead-up to winter – if you receive an email out of the blue from someone claiming that you owe their company money for an outstanding energy bill, press delete.

How the scam works

  • You receive an email out of the blue from someone claiming to be from a reputable energy company, informing you that you owe money for 2013 energy usage.
  • The email may appear to come from an official part of the energy company such as the ‘Accounts Payable’, ‘Receivable Department’ or the ‘Accounts Receivable Team’. The email may even have all the trademarks of a bill – it may state that it is a gas or electricity bill, and include a fake account number, account summary, billing period details and due date for payment. However, on closer inspection, the email may contain spelling and grammatical errors – a tell-tale sign that something is amiss.
  • The email may claim that the reason for the outstanding amount is that you have exceeded your energy consumption limit. It may even claim that you are eligible to use a discounted energy tariff to pay the bill if you click on the link.
  • The email directs you to click on an embedded link, attachment or zip file to access your account and view your statement, and then direct you to a money transfer service with instructions on how to pay the bill.
  • If you click the link or attachment, your computer may be infected with malicious software and your identity compromised. If you transfer money, you’ll never see it again.

Note: you don’t have to be a customer of the energy company claiming that you owe them money to receive this email.

Protect yourself

  • If you receive an email out of the blue from someone claiming that you owe money for outstanding energy usage – just press ‘delete’.
  • If you’re not sure whether an email is a scam, verify who they are by using their official contact details to call them directly. Never use contact details provided by the sender – find them through an independent source such as a phone book or online search.
  • Watch out for tell-tale signs – whilst the sender may claim to be from an official source, their email may contain spelling mistakes or use poor grammar.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in an email from an unverified sender – they may contain a malicious virus.
  • Keep your computer secure – always update your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and only buy from a verified source. If you think your computer’s security has been compromised, use your security software to run a virus check. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
  • Never send money to someone you don’t know and trust – it’s rare to recover money from a scammer. If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Do you know more?

Sources: ABC, Scamwatch

workoutAs we work in a creative environment, we probably spend more time than most thinking about how to preserve and enhance the capacity of our brains. In the advertising industry, you’re often said to be “only as good as your last idea”. Which is why this research echoed with us. Anything we can use to keep our ideas fresh and flowing is good news!

But, a brain workout?

Yep, it’s a thing.

Fact: We are outliving our brains. Life expectancy in the developed world is now about 80 years old. And the trend towards longer living is speeding up. With better nutrition, shelter and medical care, girls have a one in three chance of living to 100, while boys have one in four.

And the problem?

Well, our cognitive brain performance actually peaks in our early 40s. That means mental functions like memory, speed of thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, and decision-making decline in the last 30 or 40 years of life. Ironically, as we accumulate “life wisdom”, we gradually lose the ability to access it and use it. And as our population ages, and we retire nearer 70 than 60, for example, this becomes critically important.

The truth is most people don’t consider their brain health until they’re faced with injury, disease, or simply getting old. But just as we’ve come to realise that we can improve our physical health through diet and exercise, we can improve our cognitive health too.  It’s simply a matter of engaging in the right mental workouts.

Science now strongly supports the fact that our brains are one of the most modifiable parts of our whole body. Our brains actually adapt from moment to moment, depending on how we use them; they either decline or improve, and which direction they go depends on us and the way we challenge them.

exercising brainA research team at the Center for Brain Health at The University of Texas at Dallas is working on how to improve brain performance at all ages, and their findings show that making our brains stronger, healthier, and more productive requires actually changing the way we use them every single day.  And that’s where daily changes come in.

Before we can really perform at peak levels with our brains, we all must first abandon toxic habits that are depleting brain resources, and also incorporate complex thinking into our daily routines.

So are you ready to make your brain smarter? Here are a few scientifically proven ways to do it.

Quiet Your Mind

“Don’t make rash decisions!” In a word, slow down. And give your mind a break, now and then.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve all been given that advice, and as part of our career has been “helping people to make better decisions more easily” with the business “decisions, decisions” we warmly applaud the idea. Unwonted speed in decision making is often a recipe for failure, and sometimes those failures can cascade disastrously through an organisation, when if a little time had been taken for reflection, and we had employed tried and tested decision-making tools, we would have made our chances for success much greater.

Why take a break? Well, the brain can often better solve complex problems when you step away to reflect on ideas and crucial decisions rather than acting without weighing choices.

Shhhhhhhhh.

Shhhhhhhhh.

A halt in constant thinking slows your mind’s rhythms, allowing it to refresh.

Put a knotty problem in your subconscious, be confident that a solution will occur to you – indeed, say, “my subconscious is going to solve this” out loud – and then forget about it for a while. More often than not, a solution will occur when you least expect it. Your subconscious mind will pop out an answer without you wearing yourself out worrying the problem to death.

As a simple rule to give your brain a chance to help you, employ a “Five by Five” principle where you take a break from whatever you’re doing five times a day for at least five minutes to reset your brain.

When we let our brain work behind the scenes, we have our best “a-ha!” moments. And don’t we all want more of those?

In the Wellthisiswhatithink dungeon we find ours occur in the shower. So often, in fact, that we sometimes take a long, hot, relaxing shower when we don’t really “need” one, because the insights seem to flow so easily!

Translate Your World

Move away from surface-level, uninspired thinking and eschew predictable thoughts by pushing past the obvious and really think.

There is so MUCH to think about. How do you decide what you MUST think about? Answer: synthesise.

There is so MUCH to think about. How do you decide what you MUST think about? Answer: synthesise.

For example, if you were asked what a movie was about, you, like most people, you would often give a play-by-play of events that occurred, full of detail.

But to boost brainpower, think instead of the major themes of the film and relate it to personal situations in your own life and how they apply.

As an exercise, think back on one of your favourite movies or books from the past year and generate five to eight different short take-home messages you can glean from it.

This consciously analytical or critical process, which is called “synthesised thinking”, strengthens the connections between different areas of our brains. Our brains actually become quickly jaded by routine – by driving through the treacle of vast amounts of information – since they were actually built to dynamically shift between details and the big picture. When you’re a cave man being chased by wolves, it becomes unimportant to be able to describe each wolf in fine detail, and very important to work our which one is closest to you and likely to catch you, and what to do about that. Get the idea?

Our brains also hate information downloading, so it helps to think like a reporter. What really matters in the story? Don’t get overwhelmed by information flow – in fact, demand that you are relieved from it.

When taking in large amounts of information, try to explain it in a few sentences. Kick off your meetings with provocative big ideas. Power important email messages with simple but thought-evoking subject lines.

Stop Multi-tasking. Really. STOP.

We have written before about how we are inundated with more and more tasks every day.

Nu-uh. Not going to happen.

Nu-uh. Not going to happen.

Relentless simultaneous input and output fatigues the brain and reduces productivity and efficiency. You may think that by doing two or three things at once – like participating in “corridor meeting” on your way to somewhere else while tapping out a couple of emails on your smart phone –  you are actually moving faster through your day. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Our to-do lists keep getting longer while performance and accuracy slip. So, when working on higher-order thinking tasks that matter, allow your focus to be completely uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes at a time and then gradually increase the length of those intervals.

And remember – you can never do everything. There will always be “something” on your list of things to do. Worrying about the length of the list is a sure-fire way to increase your stress, and stress reduces your ability to think clearly.

So prioritise your lists, and be comfortable with the fact that “everyone dies with something on their list”.

Move Your Feet

Recently published research shows that aerobic exercise stimulates positive brain change and memory gains faster than we previously thought possible.

Adding regular aerobic exercise that elevates your heart rate to your routine at least three times a week for an hour won’t just help with physical health, it will also increase brain blood flow to key memory centres in the brain and improve our memory for facts. When you combine complex thinking with aerobic exercise, brain health benefits are amplified. You don’t have to become a gym junkie – a brisk walk round the block or your local park is an excellent choice.

Works just as well in an office as it does on a 747.

Works just as well in an office as it does on a 747.

And here’s a thought: if you really can’t get away from your desk, what about doing some of those “sitting in your place” exercises that they now recommend to help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis on aircraft?

Roll your neck, shrug your shoulders, shake your hands, waggle your feet, push them up and down.

Anything that improves circulation and muscle use will help your brain, too.

Action this day.

Until recently, we thought that cognitive decline was an inevitable part of getting old, but the good news is that’s officially not the case.

Toxic physical and mental habits and a life on autopilot are key culprits for unnecessary cognitive decline. Research has shown that healthy adults who use these strategies can regain lost cognitive performance, improve blood flow in the brain, speed up communication between its regions and expand its structural connections.

See results fast!

Just like all those ads for food supplements and gym memberships, you can actually evoke some of these positive changes in a matter of hours. Adopting this new, healthier way of thinking translates into immediate real-life benefits that support our ability to make decisions, think critically, reason and plan.

In other words, shaping your brain by engaging in the right kind of daily mental exercise has the power to reverse brain aging and actually make you smarter, more creative, and less stressed.

So boost your brainpower! You have nothing to lose, and much to gain.

This core of this article was originally written by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, author of “Make Your Brain Smarter,” who is founder and chief director of the Centre for Brain Health, and a Distinguished University Professor at The University of Texas at Dallas. Wellthisiswhatithink has added to it substantially.

 

Seeing as how, like, we work in the good old ad industry thingy to earn a crust, we have remarked many times how in today’s wired-up world one unhappy incident can turn into a worldwide embarrassment.

Ryanair: today, it's all about the, er, cock up.

Hmmmm.

We can spend millions on advertising and marketing, but it takes just one dis-satified, disgruntled customer to start a hare running that can cause lost custom, a trashed brand, and a story that could run and run for weeks or months, running out of control into the darkest and unreachable corners of the world wide interweb.

One such story about a complaint letter sent to Ryanair was posted to Facebook on April 25th, by James Lockley, and is rapidly going viral, apparently. Indeed, people are re-posting it on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts pleading with people to help the story go viral.

Without commenting on the veracity of the content, the letter is also very funny.

Let us make this clear: we weren’t at Stansted airport with James and his missus so we can’t judge the bona fides of the story one way or the other, and in our experience there are always two sides to every story. Our interest is therefore not in the incident itself, but in how social media makes companies’ reputations vulnerable to customers with a gripe, and how they need to be aware of the risk and have plans to mitigate it.

The airline is apparently in touch with the customer. We await further news with interest.

For other F*** Ups just put F*** Up in the search box top left of the page – there are lots to enjoy …

And by the way, we would just like to note that this is the 700th blog on Wellthisiswhatithink – over the last couple of years we have enjoyed many thousands of hits and comments, with a more than healthy number of “followers” and lots of great interaction with you, our much-valued readers. We’d just like to say thank you, and keep reading!

police

 

This story in today’s Age (and many other newspapers around the world) is very amusing. Click the link if you have ANYTHING to do with business, advertising, marketing or communications.

http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/nypd-social-media-campaign-backfires-20140423-zqy75.html

We keep trying to tell people, you cannot do one thing in social media (or any other type of communications) and another thing in “real life”. It will come back to bite you. Big time. Just like NYPD, who got their “hashtag” hijacked, very embarrassingly.

Remember: the best “social media” your business or organisation can use is the oldest one of all. It’s called “Word of Mouth”. People who want to say nice things about you to their friends, family and colleagues, and do.

You don’t got that, you don’t got nuttin’. And if you got nuttin’, don’t broadcast the fact to the world.

Incidentally, social media messages are often left to the least senior member of a communications department while the marketing manager and other important people focus on the sexy stuff like TV commercials and big colourful press ads.

That would be a mistake.

To enjoy the full list of “F*** Ups” we have spotted, reported or re-reported, just put F*** Up in the search box on the top left of our page. Enjoy :-)

The new iPhone?

The new iPhone?

 

Regular readers will know that we are somewhat in love with our iPhone, which we consider far and away the most amazing and liberating piece of technology yet to fall into humankind’s hands.

We’re always a bit interested, then, when new stuff from Apple is coming along.

Fellow addicts can jump to the link below to checkout some informed speculation on the new Apple iPhone, rumoured to look like as above with its 4.7″ screen – although the OS is also rumoured to have five apps across the screen not four as shown here – and which is estimated will be out (at least in America) in September.

http://news.yahoo.com/completely-redesigned-iphone-6-fully-detailed-huge-leak-140038639.html

Which is good, because we have just about worked our poor iPhone 4 into the ground, with a smashed case and now it won’t play sound either. It is dying manfully. Let’s just hope it makes it to September, or whenever Apple deign to release the new device in Australia, too.

Meanwhile we note that Apples new “phablet” – a larger phone with a 5.5″ screen that doubles as a mini tablet – might not be here till 2015, due to supply constraints. In layman’s language, that means “we cant make enough of our products fast enough”. Nice problem to have, so long as customers don’t get pissed off, or drift to Android kit.

More news as it comes to hand.

Meanwhile, we really rather like the current joke doing the rounds on the Apple iBra. Apparently this will play music, video and deliver news broadcasts, so at least there is some point to men looking obsessively at women’s chests.

I defy you to watch this without ending up in tears.

Utterly beautiful. Brilliant branding.

They deserve all the good that’s coming to them. If only – if ONLY – all marketing managers, and their ad agencies, understood why this is so powerful.

This is my “Ad of the Year” so far. What do you think?

earsTo become an effective communicator, with all the ease and success that phrase implies, you need to learn to listen just as much as you need to learn to speak.

This article, which is largely from reproduced from an article by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. at Psychology Today with a few additions from the Wellthisiswhatithink team, is excellent advice on how to achieve that.

Unfortunately, most people focus more on the speaking than they do on the listening.

Whether in a one-on-one conversation or a group meeting or classroom, focusing on what others are saying allows you to present yourself more effectively. And when you listen correctly, you also learn more, and make better decisions.

Look around the room during a lecture, presentation, or lunchroom. The tell-tale signs of people not actually listening are everywhere.

Some individuals put on a blank stare that can only be described as their “screen-saver face”. You know what that screen-saver face looks like: it’s that blank stare in which the eyes are dull and looking blankly into nowhere and the face has absolutely no expression on it at all.

You’ll also notice people in a group or audience who don’t look at the speaker at all. In fact, they look everywhere else.They fiddle with their pencil or longingly gaze at their cellphone or even try to sneak a peek at its screen. If there’s a window in the room they stare at the sky, even if the view is just that of the neighbouring office building. A great speaker may captivate even the most recalcitrant audience member. The average speaker, colleague, friend, or family member may have a hard time grabbing the gaze of the assembled listeners who don’t know how to practice basic listening skills.

If we are speaking, we want others to listen. So why can’t many of us perform the favour in reverse?

It’s possible that social media are causing many people to lose their focusing ability. Traditionally, the average listener requires a shift in stimulation after about 20 minutes. However, with rapid-fire messages coming everywhere from Facebook to Twitter to push notifications from online games, many people require a shift in stimulation after perhaps as short as 20 seconds. Unless you’ve got that charismatic touch, you’re going to have a hard time fighting the attention deficits of your audience.

The problem with poor listeners is not only that they are perceived as rude but that they miss out on important knowledge.

Studies of the harmful effect of multi-tasking on student learning show that students who texted on their mobile phones, emailed, updated their Facebook status, and sent instant messages had poorer grades than those who listened to lectures without distraction. According to the “cognitive bottleneck theory,” proposed by psychologist Alan Welford in 1967, you can only process so much information at once before your learning starts to suffer. Indeed, evidence continues to mount that this is the case.

Returning to the rudeness angle of poor listening, people who don’t listen also seem to have poorer social skills in general. In a study of over 300 undergraduates, Louisiana State communication experts Christopher Gearhart and Graham Bodie found that students low in the quality they identified as “active empathic listening” had lower scores on a social skills inventory. Being a poor listener is associated with poorer social and emotional sensitivity.  There may also be a third (or more) factor affecting both listening and social skills, but that qualification aside, the results are intriguing.

Another qualification is the fact that this was a college student sample, and admittedly not representative of the whole population.  Still, one could argue that it’s particularly detrimental for people to learn listening skills when they are in the emerging adulthood phase of development.

The social skills you learn in your late teens and early 20s stay with you throughout life and can influence the quality of your life. If you don’t develop your social skills in your early adult years, you’ll have a harder time finding a job, a romantic partner, and a support network you’ll need as you progress through adulthood. You might even be a more effective salesperson, if that’s the line of work you decide to pursue.

The Active Empathic Listening (AEL) measure that Gearhart and Bodie used in their study actually came from a model developed by Drollinger et al. (2006) as a way to help salespeople listen, and hence, sell more products.

The AEL has 11 key items that indicate how well you sense, process, and respond when you listen to a communication partner.  The 11 items break down into 3 scales representing the three stages you need to go through in order to be an effective empathic listener.

Active listening isn't an accident. It's a learned skill.

Active listening isn’t an accident. It’s a learned skill.

Active listening is only part of the skills. Active empathic listening shows that you also understand what’s going on inside the mind of the speaker as if you were that person. It’s a concept that traces back to the client-centered approach of the well-known psychologist Carl Rogers. When you’re empathically listening, you do more than hear, you show (verbally, physically) that you know how the other person feels.

The three stages of AEL involve sensing, processing, and responding in empathic ways.

In the sensing stage, you indicate that you are taking in all of the outward and inward features of another person’s communication.

Empathically sensing means that you understand not only what is said but how it is said.

In the processing stage, you put the pieces of the conversation together to construct a “narrative whole” that provides you with the essence of what’s being communicated.

Finally, in the responding stage, you ask questions to make sure you understand what the person is saying. You also show, verbally and nonverbally, that you are paying attention to the speaker.

With this background, see how you rate – honestly – on the AEL’s three subscales. Better still, why not ask your colleagues and family how they think you rate.

Sensing:

1. How sensitive are you to what others are saying?

2. Are you aware of what others imply but do not say?

3.  Do you understand how others feel?

4.  Do you listen for more than the spoken words?

Processing:

5.  Do you assure the person talking to you that you’ll remember what they say?

6.  Do you summarise points of agreement and disagreement when appropriate?

7.  Do you keep track of the points that others make?

Responding:

8.  Do you assure others that you’re listening by verbal acknowledgements?

9.  Do you assure others that you’re receptive to their ideas?

10. Do you ask questions that show you understand others’ positions?

11. Do you show others that you’re listening by your body language?

These items all are scored positively so that a “yes” gives you a score of plus 1.  A quick check of the number of plusses you received out of 11 will show you how you stand on the AEL overall.

Being an actively empathic listener means, then, that you not only make sure you’re actively paying attention but that you let the speaker you know you are. You ask questions when you’re not clear on what the other person is communicating, you try to infer what the person is feeling, and you let the person know that you remember what he or she actually said. You never drift off into la-la land, and your face doesn’t assume that of a computer in sleep mode.

To these excellent points, add that a good listener not only uses active empathic skills but also takes a cue from good actors.  You can see these qualities in actors on TV or in the movies, but the experience is most impressive in live theatre.

Actors involved in intense conversations with each other look directly at each other’s eyes. If they want to show that they’re involved in these conversations, they don’t look out at the audience, nor do they look blankly into space. You could practically draw a laser beam line between their eyes.

Actors avert their gazes from each other when they want to show that they’re bored or don’t care about the other person. Occasionally, for comic effect, they may break the “frame” and look at the audience or even at a person sitting in a particular seat.  However, the norm is for actors to show their emotions and their emotional reactions to each other through direct eye contact and focused body language. In fact, some actors learn to develop their listening skills through workshops that help them learn to life “in the moment,” such as Esalen Workshops.

If your active empathic listening skills need help, try taking a page from the playbook of great actors as you work through the three stages of sensing, processing, and responding.

Look directly at the people you’re listening to and turn toward them in a way that shows you’re open to what they’re saying.  Put away your cellphone, stop doodling, and sit calmly while you look at them.

Don’t think about where you need to be or the fact that you’d like the conversation or lecture to be over because you’re bored. Really focus on what and how the speaker is communicating. and why.

Chances are that when you clear your mind and truly show that you’re listening, you will find it much easier to become engaged. Active empathic listening may require effort at first, but once you’ve mastered the technique, you’ll find that it more than pays off in the emotional benefits you get out of your interactions and, incidentally, romantic relationships.

Active listening plays a key role in creating the type of mutually rewarding relationships we all desire – both in terms of just getting along together well, with minimal conflict, and in enjoying a successful intimate sexual life. Active listening validates both our partner’s wants and needs as well as those things that annoy or unsettle them. The result is deeper and more meaningful relationships that are more satisfying for both people.

That seems a good enough reason to practice our active listening techniques, right there.

One: do not put your ads where people can reach them.

Two: Never underestimate the genius of the common man.

20140330-121233.jpg

britair.jpgAs you will know, Dear Reader, our day job is, as often as not, in the advertising business, hence our abnormal, (some would say mildly obsessional), fascination with the egregious mistakes that pepper our industry.

You can find umpteen examples, some very funny, by searching for “F***” in the search box top left of this page.

This latest example, which greeted commuters at Euston Station in London yesterday, takes the cake. It is funny, in a sort of gut-wrenching embarrassing way.

 

20140328-123721.jpg

 

We think we’ll stick with the commute, thanks. OK, the ad has been withdrawn by British Airways with apologies that it “was not appropriate at this time”. But let’s be clear here, these things don’t take place overnight. The media is booked weeks in advance. The artwork (this is a video installation) is created weeks in advance

At no time until the public started complaining via social media did anyone in the ad agency or the client’s media buyers or the client’s marketing department or, for that matter, the station owners who were selling the ad space, suggest that this ad was just the teensy-weeniest bit stupid, not to say breathtakingly insensitive, given that the Indian Ocean is the widely expected graveyard for the recent disappeared Malaysian Airlines flight that has led every news bulletin in the world for two weeks.

Two words. Sack. Someone.

Who would have thought an airline could make Qantas look competent? Wonders never cease.

Put brain in here. Scrub thoroughly.

Put brain in here. Scrub thoroughly.

For years, I have been wracking my brains to tell people about a TV ad for whitegoods in the UK which I thought was utterly brilliant, in the way it used the brand name to drive home it’s core promise – which was durability.

But while I could remember the brand name and the kicker 25 years or so later … Ariston … and on-and-on-and-on … I could never find the ad. Now, thanks to http://www.headington.org.uk/adverts/index.htm I have finally tracked down the lyrics.

Released on New Years Eve, 1985 …

When you buy an Ariston Its guarantee is five years long, Last well past nineteen ninety-one … Ariston! And-on-and-on-and-on-and-on.

One million French think they’re très bon, Half million Germans can’t be wrong, From Italia to Bri-ton, Ariston … And-on-and-on-and-on-and-on.

Tune: Da-Da-Da by Trio

But wait, there’s more! To prove (if proof were needed) what a deeply obsessional person I am, I then found it on YouTube as well, although someone thinks it was a couple of years later. Anyhow:

Pure advertising genius. Enjoy. Better still, ask me to write you an ad as good as this.

Better still, ask me to write you a CAMPAIGN, instead of a just a one off ad. Like this:

(That’s enough washing machines – Ed.)

This Target swimsuit model has been the victim of some shoddy airbrushing. Photo: Jezebel

Ah, it’s been a while since we had a “F*** Up” column, so we gellefully (and rather irritatedly) report that American retailer Target has come under fire for digitally altering an image of a swimsuit model to make it appear she has a ‘thigh gap’.

A young model wearing the Target ‘Xhilaration® Junior’s Midkini 2-Piece Swimsuit -Leopard Print’ swimsuit has been the victim of some over-zealous and very clumsy Photoshopping.

Shoddy airbrushing crudely removed a chunk of the model’s crotch area to create the ‘thigh gap’, a supposedly desirable – but evidently very difficult to attain – physical feature for young girls to have.

The model also lost part of her right hip and the area under her armpit on the same side.

The eagle eyes of “Ethical Adman” spotted the retailer’s attempts to slim down its swimsuit model.

Critics have questioned the need to digitally slim down the perfectly attractive model in the first place.

And it’s no surprise that the image has been taken down from Target’s website.

It isn’t the first Photoshop controversy to hit the headlines this year. In January the decision by US Vogue to airbrush Girls creator Lena Dunham’s physique had everyone discussing the merits of digitally altering images that are published in the media.

While the jury is out on that one, Target’s poor treatment of its young swimsuit model is a clear Photoshop fail.

We say? Sack the agency. Sack the marketing manager. Well … at least chastise them thoroughly with whips of blazing fire. Both for the dreadfully incompetent work, and also for yet another silly and unnecessary attempt to create a world that doesn’t really exist – an effort which, across the fashion industry and retailers worldwide – creates body-image problems in girls everywhere.

Just for God’s sake stop doing it.

(From Yahoo and others)

Over here at the Wellthisiswhatithink dungeon we have made a living from writing for more than 25 years now, so we were fascinated by this excellent article from Carolyn Gregoire of Huff Post on the things that creative people do differently. Indeed, the Wellthisiswhatithink household comprises a writer, voiceover artist and speechmaker (er, that’d be yours truly), a leading glass artist, and an aspiring young actor with her own improv troupe. Close relatives have included an accomplished drawer of portraits, a member of the Royal Academy of Art, one of Australia’s leading watercolourists, and an amateur sculptor … so anything that explains the quirks of creative people is very helpful in surviving our somewhat unusual family!

When you work in advertising and marketing (areas where creativity, applied to a purpose, is supposed to reign supreme) people often ask us, frequently in a despairing tone, “what can I do to make my organisation more creative?”

In response, the Wellthisiswhatithink gurus always reply “Give your people room to fail.”

To be allowed to experiment and fail, even when that creates cost, is the critical pre-requisite of thinking (and acting) creatively. Thomas Edison, history’s most creative inventor and genesis of one of the world’s most powerful and profitable companies, tried over 1,000 filaments for the electric lightbulb before he found the right material to sustain light, and in doing so, made the world a brighter and safer place for millions of people.

He called them his “One thousand magnificent failures.”

egg crushed

So often, not always, but often, we observe the creativity being battered out of new joiners or junior staff by the (usually) older and more cynical bean counters that head up organisations. Creative people are not risk averse – bean counters and lawyers are.

When we let bean counters and lawyers run organisations they become increasingly stifled and fail to act with entrepreneurial flair.

People who create brilliant businesses are always creative thinkers. Sadly, as those businesses grow, as a result of the very risk-taking creativity that sets them on the path for success in the first place, they become riddled with ‘creativity cut outs” and increasingly bureaucratic, and much more prone to worried introspection than creative flair.

If you want to unleash creativity in your organisation, read this article and make a note of how creative people need to behave. And remember, they are the very lifeblood of your organisation, not a distraction.

Great article. Really. Read it. Specially if you run a company or anything else bigger than a knitting circle. Article begins:

Main Entry Image

 

Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context. Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and then fail to show up when we most need them, and creative thinking requires complex cognition yet is completely distinct from the thinking process.

Neuro-science paints a complicated picture of creativity. As scientists now understand it, creativity is far more complex than the right-left brain distinction would have us think (the theory being that left brain = rational and analytical, right brain = creative and emotional). In fact, creativity is thought to involve a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions, and we still don’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works.

And psychologically speaking, creative personality types are difficult to pin down, largely because they’re complex, paradoxical and tend to avoid habit or routine. And it’s not just a stereotype of the “tortured artist” — artists really may be more complicated people. Research has suggested that creativity involves the coming together of a multitude of traits, behaviors and social influences in a single person.

“It’s actually hard for creative people to know themselves because the creative self is more complex than the non-creative self,” Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity, told The Huffington Post. “The things that stand out the most are the paradoxes of the creative self … Imaginative people have messier minds.”

While there’s no “typical” creative type, there are some tell-tale characteristics and behaviors of highly creative people. Here are 18 things they do differently.

They daydream.

daydreaming child

 

Creative types know, despite what their third-grade teachers may have said, that daydreaming is anything but a waste of time.

According to Kaufman and psychologist Rebecca L. McMillan, who co-authored a paper titled “Ode To Positive Constructive Daydreaming,” mind-wandering can aid in the process of “creative incubation.” And of course, many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Although daydreaming may seem mindless, a 2012 study suggested it could actually involve a highly engaged brain state — daydreaming can lead to sudden connections and insights because it’s related to our ability to recall information in the face of distractions. Neuroscientists have also found that daydreaming involves the same brain processes associated with imagination and creativity.

They observe everything.

The world is a creative person’s oyster – they see possibilities everywhere and are constantly taking in information that becomes fodder for creative expression. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom “nothing is lost.”

The writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times, and said that she wrote down observations about people and events as, ultimately, a way to better understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind:

“However dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I,'” Didion wrote in her essay On Keeping A Notebook. “We are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its marker.”

They work the hours that work for them.

Many great artists have said that they do their best work either very early in the morning or late at night. Vladimir Nabokov started writing immediately after he woke up at 6 or 7 a.m., and Frank Lloyd Wright made a practice of waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. and working for several hours before heading back to bed. No matter when it is, individuals with high creative output will often figure out what time it is that their minds start firing up, and structure their days accordingly.

They take time for solitude.

solitude

 

“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone,” wrote the American existential psychologist Rollo May.

Artists and creatives are often stereotyped as being loners, and while this may not actually be the case, solitude can be the key to producing their best work. For Kaufman, this links back to daydreaming – we need to give ourselves the time alone to simply allow our minds to wander.

“You need to get in touch with that inner monologue to be able to express it,” he says. “It’s hard to find that inner creative voice if you’re not getting in touch with yourself and reflecting on yourself.”

They turn life’s obstacles around.

Many of the most iconic stories and songs of all time have been inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak – and the silver lining of these challenges is that they may have been the catalyst to create great art. An emerging field of psychology called post-traumatic growth is suggesting that many people are able to use their hardships and early-life trauma for substantial creative growth. Specifically,researchers have found that trauma can help people to grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and – most importantly for creativity – seeing new possibilities in life.

“A lot of people are able to use that as the fuel they need to come up with a different perspective on reality,” says Kaufman. “What’s happened is that their view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered at some point in their life, causing them to go on the periphery and see things in a new, fresh light, and that’s very conducive to creativity.”

They seek out new experiences.

solo traveler

 

Creative people love to expose themselves to new experiences, sensations and states of mind – and this openness is a significant predictor of creative output.

“Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Kaufman. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.”

They “fail up.”

resilience

 

Resilience is practically a prerequisite for creative success, says Kaufman. Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives – at least the successful ones – learn not to take failure so personally.

“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.

(Or as a Creative Director once appositely remarked to us, “Always remember, our job is to say “Imagine if you will …” to people with no imagination.” – Ed.)

They ask the big questions.

Creative people are insatiably curious – they generally opt to live the examined life, and even as they get older, maintain a sense of curiosity about life. Whether through intense conversation or solitary mind-wandering, creatives look at the world around them and want to know why, and how, it is the way it is.

They people-watch.

people watching

 

Observant by nature and curious about the lives of others, creative types often love to people-watch – and they may generate some of their best ideas from it.

“[Marcel] Proust spent almost his whole life people-watching, and he wrote down his observations, and it eventually came out in his books,” says Kaufman. “For a lot of writers, people-watching is very important. They’re keen observers of human nature.”

(And as John Cleese once remarked, “If you are calling the author of “A la recherche du temps perdu” a looney, I shall have to ask you to step oputside.” – Ed)

They take risks.

Part of doing creative work is taking risks, and many creative types thrive off of taking risks in various aspects of their lives.

“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk taking and creativity and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” contributor Steven Kotler wrote in Forbes. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent — these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”

They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.

self expression

 

Nietzsche believed that one’s life and the world should be viewed as a work of art. Creative types may be more likely to see the world this way, and to constantly seek opportunities for self-expression in everyday life.

“Creative expression is self-expression,” says Kaufman. “Creativity is nothing more than an individual expression of your needs, desires and uniqueness.”

They follow their true passions.

Creative people tend to be intrinsically motivated — meaning that they’re motivated to act from some internal desire, rather than a desire for external reward or recognition. Psychologists have shown that creative people are energized by challenging activities, a sign of intrinsic motivation, and the research suggests that simply thinking of intrinsic reasons to perform an activity may be enough to boost creativity.

“Eminent creators choose and become passionately involved in challenging, risky problems that provide a powerful sense of power from the ability to use their talents,” write M.A. Collins and T.M. Amabile in The Handbook of Creativity.

They get out of their own heads.

creative writing

 

Kaufman argues that another purpose of daydreaming is to help us to get out of our own limited perspective and explore other ways of thinking, which can be an important asset to creative work.

“Daydreaming has evolved to allow us to let go of the present,” says Kaufman. “The same brain network associated with daydreaming is the brain network associated with theory of mind — I like calling it the ‘imagination brain network’ — it allows you to imagine your future self, but it also allows you to imagine what someone else is thinking.”

Research has also suggested that inducing “psychological distance” — that is, taking another person’s perspective or thinking about a question as if it was unreal or unfamiliar — can boost creative thinking.

They lose track of the time.

Creative types may find that when they’re writing, dancing, painting or expressing themselves in another way, they get “in the zone,” or what’s known as a flow state, which can help them to create at their highest level. Flow is a mental state when an individual transcends conscious thought to reach a heightened state of effortless concentration and calmness. When someone is in this state, they’re practically immune to any internal or external pressures and distractions that could hinder their performance.

You get into the flow state when you’re performing an activity you enjoy that you’re good at, but that also challenges you — as any good creative project does.

“[Creative people] have found the thing they love, but they’ve also built up the skill in it to be able to get into the flow state,” says Kaufman. “The flow state requires a match between your skill set and the task or activity you’re engaging in.”

They surround themselves with beauty.

Creatives tend to have excellent taste, and as a result, they enjoy being surrounded by beauty.

study recently published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts showed that musicians — including orchestra musicians, music teachers, and soloists — exhibit a high sensitivity and responsiveness to artistic beauty.

They connect the dots.

doodle

 

If there’s one thing that distinguishes highly creative people from others, it’s the ability to see possibilities where other don’t — or, in other words, vision. Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect.

In the words of Steve Jobs:

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”

They constantly shake things up.

Diversity of experience, more than anything else, is critical to creativity, says Kaufman. Creatives like to shake things up, experience new things, and avoid anything that makes life more monotonous or mundane.

“Creative people have more diversity of experiences, and habit is the killer of diversity of experience,” says Kaufman.

They make time for mindfulness.

Creative types understand the value of a clear and focused mind — because their work depends on it. Many artists, entrepreneurs, writers and other creative workers, such as David Lynch, have turned to meditation as a tool for tapping into their most creative state of mind.

And science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. A 2012 Dutch study suggested that certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. And mindfulness practices have been linked with improved memory and focusbetter emotional well-being, reducedstress and anxiety, and improved mental clarity — all of which can lead to better creative thought.

customersYears ago … deep in the last millennium … the Managing Director of the ad agency I worked for stuck a photocopied note on the wall outside the door of his office.

It read “If there’s anything a customer loves more than a reactive agency, it’s a pro-active agency”.

Time and again in the last 25 years we have had cause to reflect on those words, and to consider how right he was. Customers stay with agencies that don’t wait to be asked to help. Customers move to agencies that demonstrate initiative.

Then again, there was an interesting counter-intuitive moment in the Wellthisiswhatithink household over breakfast this morning.

Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink’s cellphone rang, and it was our local estate agent. About a year ago we asked them in to give us an idea of what the house might be worth, in case we decided to sell. (We didn’t.) Since then we have received Christmas cards, Easter cards, birthday greetings, and even once, chocolates.

After politely informing the realtor that we weren’t selling anytime soon, he obviously chanced his arm a bit and kept talking. “Look, we’re really not interested.” Mrs W warmed to her task. “Would you please take us off your list? Yes, off your list altogether. Thank you.”

customer puzzleSo much for “Customer Relationship Management” systems.

I can’t really fault the professionalism and interest shown in us by the poor chap.

We just popped up on his computer screen once too often and he tried a bit hard.

I have often wondered how much pro-active contact from companies is too much. It’s a fine balancing act, to be sure.

Anyhow, coincidentally, later in the morning, (when you’re pregnant all you see is babies, right?) at the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we wandered across these comments in a business2community.com discussion on the topic:

“As companies adjust to the emergence and convergence of both new and more customer service channels, reactive customer service remains the day-to-day norm for most organisations. But taking steps to move from predominantly reactive service and support delivery, to reactively proactive, to proactive can make all the difference in increased customer satisfaction and retention, establishing a differentiator for the brands that can (even at times) delight in this manner.”

Interesting. The article continued:

“According to a recent Harris Interactive survey of more than 2,000 consumers, 87% of U.S. adults are receptive to being proactively contacted by an organisation when it comes to service and support. Nearly three-quarters (73%) who have had a pleasant surprise or positive experience with proactive communication from a brand report they had a also positive change in their perception of that organisation; 62% said they took action as a result of that positive experience.”

Yet the same article reported that only 29% of enterprises are investing in proactive outbound communications, even though customer expectations for real-time updates and information may be steadily increasing, and new service channels such as social and mobile are making it easier than ever to reach out proactively at scale.”

The article went on to make these suggestions for making a move to more proactive customer service:

social media

1. Provide Alerts and Updates.

Use channels such as mobile, social, IVR messaging and Knowledgebase/FAQ updates to provide reactively proactive (great) or proactive (even better) information and updates about service and product statuses.

For example, utilities companies could use the above-mentioned channels to proactively alert and update customers on outages and estimated service restoration times. Retailers could alert customers as to shipping specials, price reductions, product availability or recalls, and airlines can proactively update passengers regarding delays, cancellations or weather announcements. In the USA Delta Airline’s mobile app, for example, proactively delivers flight notifications and allows customers to re-book without having to call or wait in line at the airport. All of these proactive communications can reduce high call or email volumes as well as social media complaints.

2. Make Money or Time-Saving Suggestions.

While predictive analytics have been a topic of conversation for many years now in customer service, the technology to make full use of them is now catching up. A great example of this anticipatory service is Google Now, which combines information that Google knows about you from the devices you use, your location and your online searches to suggest information you might need before you even need it, whether that’s weather, traffic information or the nearest metro station. Brands can apply the same analytics to dramatically improve the customer experience.

Historic analytics can also be used to save customers money, which typically results in delight. Whether it’s an adjustment in utilities usage based on the customer history, or notifying a customer who has placed and then removed a pricey electronics device from their online shopping cart three times that it is now on sale, this proactive customer communication can foster enhanced customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Reach Out with a Random Act of Kindness.

Where brands can impact the individual customer experience and deliver delight is through random acts of kindness. Provide customer service representatives with a 15 to 30 minute window each day to reach out to at least one customer whether that’s by phone, email, social media or what have you, just to say thanks for being a customer, happy birthday, hope your day’s going well, or to even present them with a discount or small thank you.

The brands that make this extra effort to deliver small unexpected kindnesses with no expectations will master what customers are craving from today’s big brands: authenticity, care and delight created by a small human kindness.”

Well, we’re not so sure. We can’t fault the logic. We can’t fault the intent. And we’re sure pro-active marketing is going to employ a lot of people in coming years.

But we are tempted to also wonder whether marketeers risk merely adding to the information overload that we all suffer from, and producing the exactly opposite result to that which they intended.

Maybe it’s just that pro-active marketing is a bit like salt in the marketing stew. Just the right amount brings out all the great flavours of everything else. Too much, and the whole thing becomes inedible. And ensure the pro-activity suits the character, likes and dislikes of your audience.

Leave chocolates on my doorstep whenever you like. Don’t ring over breakfast.

(In his “day job”, the author of Wellthisiswhatithink is a marketing and advertising consultant working for one of Melbourne’s leading ad agencies, Magnum Opus, see:magnumopus.com.au. To chat to Steve Yolland about proper grown-up paid advertising advice or to sample his communications knowledge, or maybe to get an opinion on your organisation’s current public profile, just email him on yolly@magnumopus.com.au.)

One of the lesser known and more interesting features of the social media Leviathan that is Facebook is that every year they release some country specific data allowing us to see what different parts of the world are talking about.

They have just released their Australian data today, along with about 20 other major countries.

Most talked about topics (by Australian Facebook users):

1. Vote
2. Kate Middleton
3. Cricket
4. Kevin Rudd
5. Grand Final
6. Election
7. GST
8. Lions
9. Tony Abbott
10. Big Brother

Most talked about Global Topics:

1. Pope Francis
2. Election
3. Royal Baby
4. Typhoon
5. Harlem Shake
6. Flood
7. Miley Cyrus
8. Boston Marathon
9. Tour De France
10. Nelson Mandela

Most talked about Entertainment Topics:

1. Big Brother
2. The Voice
3. One Direction
4. Breaking Bad

Most popular Check-in Location in Australia:

1. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

What does this tell us about ourselves?

Well, we’re sport obsessed. Duh.

We have an active and abiding interest in politics – read, in expressing our opinion – and social media is increasingly where we do it.

We seem surprisingly to still be very interested in “the Royals”.

And Miley Cyrus is, well, Miley Cyrus. We live in terror that the twerking popette will be chosen as Time Person of the Year.

Reviewing the full Facebook 2013 year in review is a fascinating glimpse into what “real people” are interested in.

Worldwide, our most commonly posted life event is a relationship. Getting married, engaged, or being “in a relationship”. How we perceive ourselves in a social sense is clearly an important part of our self-awareness that we wish to broadcast. And interestingly, sport in general seems markedly less important in Asia than it is in Europe or countries that “grew out of” old Europe.

Anyhow, you can checkout the Facebook annual report, including data from many other countries, here: http://www.facebookstories.com/2013/en-en

One of the quirks of this year’s results is the persistent success of “The Harlem Shake”. This silly internet meme was essentially tens of thousands of thirty second dance videos uploaded to YouTube worldwide. Always following the same format, the massive success of the videos was in part attributed to the anticipation of the breakout moment about halfway through the videos, and their universally short length, making them very accessible to watch.

The Washington Post opined that the meme’s instant virality by referring to the jump cuts, hypnotic beat, quick setups, and half minute routines. At Wellthisiswhatithink we were a little more cynical: the success is largely attributable to people having too much time on their hands and too little to do. Bah, humbug.

The Harlem Shake is technically very easy for fans to reproduce, as it consists of a single locked camera shot and one jump cut. Nonetheless, the simplicity of the concept allows fans considerable scope in creating their own distinctive variant and making their mark, while retaining the basic elements. In its simplest form, it could be made with just one person; a more sophisticated version might even involve a crowded stadium. Moreover, there is a level playing field for celebrities and fans alike, with no guarantee of success for either group. There is a strong vein of humour running through each video that is not dependent on language, further increasing its potential to spread virally.

Sample the best of the worst here. And a warning, this is four and half minutes you’ll never get back.

 

 

(In his “day job”, the author of Wellthisiswhatithink is a marketing and advertising consultant working for one of Melbourne’s leading ad agencies, Magnum Opus, see: magnumopus.com.au. To chat to Steve Yolland about proper grown-up paid advertising advice or to sample his communications knowledge, or maybe to get an opinion on your organisation’s current public profile, just email him on yolly@magnumopus.com.au …)

qantas

Dear Qantas

So …

I am not an airline expert. I am just your average common-or-garden passenger. But the man on the tele says your share price has halved since current management took over. And in that time, presumably, your Directors and Management, have become seriously wealthier. If that’s not the case, please tell me, but, you know, I’m just guessing.

Meanwhile, another man on the tele says, just as one example of the coverage of your company tonight, that your investment in your subsidiary Jetstar’s Asian business currently runs at about a billion dollars. And the return? Not one cent. Hmmm.

Remember when, at the end of 2011, we had to watch, stupified, while your CEO Alan Joyce finished his year on a high note, being granted nearly $600,000 of the airline’s shares?

Two months after Mr Joyce grounded the airline, stranding 70,000 people worldwide for days, your board awarded him 375,014 shares bought for him by the company’s share plan trustee at $1.58 each, the result of him “meeting performance targets”.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reported, this brought his annual remuneration package to about $5 million.

So today, less than two years later, your basic response to your apparently dire lack of business and marketing nous is, as ever, to cut the jobs of your long-suffering staff and to stick out your well manicured mitts for a handout. Dressed up with some pay cuts for senior management. Whoop-di-doo. We suspect you can afford it.

joyceWell, Qantas, yesterday you charged me $30 PER PERSON for the privilege of booking four tickets I needed by credit card online – the only payment option on offer, of course – with me doing you the favour of not bothering your staff with having to sell me tickets.

That’s money I can’t afford. Today, you want me to subsidise you with my money, via the Government?

Well, Alan Joyce and your colleagues, I politely decline your kind offer to prop you up any longer.

You do what the rest of us would have to do. Raise the money you need from would-be shareholders on the open market. And if that means your existing shareholders end up with their value reduced, well, serve you right for running the business the way you have, serve them right for letting you, and you can wear the resulting approbrium.

You know what? I actually believe in a national  carrier. I might have even subscribed for $120 myself, but you just robbed me of that chance.

Chickens. Roost. Geddit ?

Yours sincerely
Pissed Off of Melbourne