Thursday, December 22, 2011

Life's A Happy Song



It’s hard to be down on the world when you’ve got muppets and music, brought together by the genius of Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame. McKenzie’s ‘Life’s A Happy Song’ is three minutes of pure happiness and is widely tipped for an Oscar nomination. Check out this rendition where he sings with Kermit.

Merry Christmas and keep on singing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kiwi Love

Here’s one to warm the cockles of every Kiwi’s heart, a festive message from USA Rugby Vice-Chairman, Bob Latham, full of generosity and good cheer. KR.

Ah, New Zealand, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
  1. I love that your motto for the Rugby World Cup, which you hosted (and where I spent time in September and October), was “a stadium of 4 million” – and that it was actually true. There is no another country where the DNA of one sport is so ingrained in the culture. And during the RWC, in remote fishing villages or the tiniest hillside vineyards, every single citizen was conversant in the match results from the tournament.
  2. I love that your national team, the All Blacks, facing the enormous pressure of a stadium of 4 million people, won the World Cup with a tight, physical 8-7 victory over France. And – due to injuries – they did it with their fourth-string flyhalf, showing the incredible talent they have. That is akin to an NFL team winning the Super Bowl with a fourth-string quarterback. Your citizenry deserved the pride that comes with that crown.
  3. I love that your political leaders are true fans like the people they serve. Your Prime Minister, John Key, attended two of the four United States Eagles’ pool matches and we were not even playing New Zealand. The fact that your public officials consider themselves part of the throng was evidenced by my encounter with Harry Duynhoven, the mayor of New Plymouth, where the U.S. played two of its matches. Mayoral status brings with it the title of “Your Worship.” When I addressed Duynhoven as “Your Worship” he stared me in the face and said, “‘Harry’ would be fine.”
  4. I love that you were able to overcome tragedy and disaster earlier this year, specifically the earthquake in Christchurch – a city that could no longer host seven of the RWC matches. Many in your country consider the Christchurch area to be the spiritual home of New Zealand rugby, and it is fitting that the All Blacks paraded the championship trophy through the streets of Christchurch (as well as Auckland and Wellington).
  5. I love that your national team players are part of your local and national communities, and are known by everyone as simply “Richie” or “Dan” or “Sonny Bill” (yes, the latter is from New Zealand and not from Texas).
  6. I love that the people of New Plymouth held a memorial service for the U.S. team on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 where townspeople spoke from the hearts in their church, and where the reverend revealed that he long had an eagle tattoo on his bicep, to the delight of our Eagles.
  7. I love that your 4 million people seemed to follow every team and every player. I traveled with U.S. team captain Todd Clever from new Plymouth to Auckland for a disciplinary proceeding after the U.S. victory over Russia. On the plane back to New Plymouth, the flight attendant came to our seats and said the pilot would like to know if Clever was going to be eligible to play in the Eagles’ next match against Australia, New Zealand’s archrival. We were as pleased as the pilot as we reported that he was.
  8. I love that small towns on the South Island adopted teams from countries such as Georgia and Romania, studied their history and their players, and attended matches in those teams’ colors.
  9. I love that the president of the New Zealand Rugby Union and former All Blacks great, Bryan Williams, following the awards banquet the night after the final, led an impromptu sing-along with his guitar in the host hotel bar, up to and beyond last call. We could not picture our own Bud Selig doing the same thing in a hotel bar in St. Louis after the Cardinals won Game 7 of the “World” Series.
  10. Finally, I love that your spirit is so infectious that it causes reciprocal sportsmanship. In the final – the All Blacks versus “Les Bleus” – only one team would be able to wear their preferred color. The other would have to wear a lighter alternative jersey. French team manager Joe Maso won the coin toss and the right to select France’s color. Remarkably, he deferred to New Zealand, thereby allowing the All Blacks to wear their iconic color as a show of respect and appreciation for their hosting of the event – a magnanimous gesture. But it was no more that what you deserved.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Can't Beat Moscow

I’ve just been to Russia for the first time in 6 years. After my first visit I wasn’t in a huge hurry to go back. Many travelers to the country take perverse pleasure in trumping each other with stories of difficulty, bleak weather, challenging bureaucracy, bland food and incomprehensible complexity. Three hours of traffic from Moscow’s Domodedovo airport made me feel like I might be in for the same again.

What a difference 6 years makes!

Moscow is now alive with a youthful spirit, and truly impressive people. Recent events show idealism on the streets, bars and cafes around the city are full of the best food (check out the Ginza Project restaurants), and busy cosmopolitan people from all over the former Soviet Union, and the world.

That same spirit was found in abundance at TV Rain, where I did a long interview that covered all bases, and from interviewer to production staff everyone was aspirationally global/local, passionately restless, savvy but genuinely smiling. The station, set in a great warehouse type space, is a perfect SISOMO blend built on fresh ideas and a fast philosophy. It’s on TV and online, mostly live and with some great pre-recorded material! (My interview will screen before the New Year). TV Rain express the new spirit of Moscow and those who share the same dreams further afield in Russia. It’s no surprise that they’re tapped into what’s happening on the street post-elections.

Just a few meters away, a day later, any lingering doubts about Russia were consigned to the history bin. I thoroughly enjoyed my public lecture at Digital October to a young crowd stuffed full of potential. I loved the responsiveness, the brightness in the eyes, intelligence and emotion all rolled up together. Not just interested in jobs, the audience understood the idea of being part of a movement, making the future happen. An inclusive and supportive Russia values all of its precious resources, especially its young. The challenge for the young is to grow in the same inclusive and supportive way, recognizing the work and sacrifices of the past, and celebrating the sustainable future that is theirs to develop and enjoy.

Hats off to everyone who made my visit a special memory – my amazing interpreter (a total pro), good, reliable, on-time (and patient) drivers, the great people of Saatchi & Saatchi Russia (proud of you all), the probing and comprehensive media interviewers, and all those who left me wanting to return.

You can’t beat Moscow. A 2012 Lovemark in the making.

Monday, December 19, 2011

E-tail Mash

eBay has gone physical with a pop-up Christmas boutique in London’s West End. It’s a hands-off, shopper-powered setup – no tills, no queues, just an array of products with QR codes that consumers can scan with their smartphones to buy from the eBay website, delivered in time for Christmas.

The store is experimental, but this feels like a case of surprising with the obvious, possibly the first indicator of a mega-trend in reverse: once the web was an extension of retailers’ physical presence; here the physical presence becomes an extension of the web as the primary “store”.

Is it a sign of things to come? Maybe. But there will always be a place for the full-service shopping trip where grand masters of retail surprise and delight and the shopper is hero. It’s vintage AND AND – it’s more likely that eBay’s sideways shuffle will spark more deeply integrated physical and online offerings, providing richer shopping experiences everywhere. Where you want to shop doesn’t matter – the only thing that matters is that you can, when you want to, how you want to.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kilkenomics

There are plenty of people locking themselves in rooms at the moment to try and sort out the world economy. But not many invite a bunch of comedians to help out with the mess. Such was the inspired thinking behind Kilkenomics, Europe’s first economics festival, held in Kilkenny, Ireland. The idea was to cut through the jargon and have a bit of fun at the same time by getting a sharp bunch of comics to help a bevy of financial gurus explain what the heck is going on in the world, in a way that’s digestible for the average punter.

The economists dressed down. The comedians wore ties to boost their credibility. In true comedic style, the timing was perfect – the festival ran the same week that the Irish Department of Finance discovered the country was 3.6 billion Euro less indebted than previously thought, thanks to an accounting error. Oops. With the bean counters already a laughing stock, people turned up to Kilkenomics in droves.

It may be that not everyone at the festival was looking for answers, but Businessweek’s report suggests there was an honest mix of hard thinking and hard laughing. If nothing else, people left happier than when they arrived...and surely that’s what good economics is all about.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

11 In 11

Year endings are a great time to catalog the good and the great: here’s a download from my son Danis at Red Rose Music in London, on the best 11 albums of 2011. KR.

2011 was a great year for music. There were at least 15-20 albums I loved and I have spent a good few weeks chopping and changing my final 11, then a few more figuring out the order they should go in.

If you don’t have time to read the whole thing I have included hash tag summaries to allow you to skim through and get on with your day.

First off, honourable mentions for Bon Iver, Danger Mouse & Danielle Rossi, Planningtorock, Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx, Forest Fire and James Blake. #nextcabsofftherank

11. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow: Highly controversial pick as it only came out a week or two ago but I immediately loved it. I still don’t really know what the hell it is about but track titles like ‘Snowflake’, ‘Snowed in at Wheeler Street’ and ‘50 Words for Snow’ start to give you an idea. It is only 7 tracks long but clocks in at well over an hour and features some stunning arrangements. #1neige2schnee3sneeuw 4neu…

10. The Antlers – Burst Apart: I have tried to write about these guys before and always struggle to come up with things to say. There doesn’t appear to be anything remotely remarkable or marketable about them. A four-piece indie group from Brooklyn – how many of those are there around? But they continue to put out critically acclaimed records. Words like ‘atmosphere’ and ‘intelligent’ often get used, and I think they would probably appeal to fans of Arcade Fire and Radiohead. #hipsterhospice

9. SBTRKT – SBTRKT: When I first heard this album I must admit to a wave of anticippointment. I guess I wanted it all to sound like the first single ‘Wildfire’ and it didn’t at all. But as the months went by I grew to love it and I think it is the best offering from the post-dub-step/singer songwriter sound that really defined the year for me (in the UK at least). Better than the 3 Jameses – Jamie xx, James Blake and Jamie Woon. #pubstep

8. Action Bronson – Dr Lecter: It is said that you have to know the past to understand the present and Queens-based, Albanian-born rapper Action Bronson would no doubt agree with this. No auto-tune, no pop-star hooks, just throwback 90s East Coast rap. If Ghostface Killah spent 60 minutes rapping about gourmet food this is the album he would end up with. #michelinstarred

7. tUnE-YarDs – w h o k i l l: Tune Yards is Merrill Garbus who makes ‘looped’ music ala Liam Finn. Her music is centred around the ukulele, drums and her very distinctive voice, you will either be completely transfixed or utterly irritated. I am definitely the former #marmite

6. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake: I can’t say I have ever been a huge PJ Harvey fan and it took me a long time to bother with this album even after the near unanimous praise and the Mercury prize – but boy is it good. Throughout the album PJ acts as a sort of English historian and war correspondent telling the tales of World War I while still including catchy hooks and great compositions #greatwargreatalbum

5. David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights – Left by Soft: Disclaimer: anything made by members of the Flying Nun fraternity immediately moves up a few spots on my lists. Even with that this is still a great record. You get the impression that Kilgour could bang out indie-pop hits in his sleep. #tallyho

4. Peaking Lights – 936: This is a very unique album. Part psych, part dub, part woozy haze. It is repetitive but never monotonous. It is expansive but very DIY. It sounds like a sunny San Francisco day but was made in Wisconsin. #analoguealbumdigitalworld

3. Jay Z & Kanye West – Watch the Throne: Definitely not the best hip hop album I have ever heard, it’s not even as good as Yeezy’s 2010 effort ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. But what it does have going for it, is that it is one of the most fun and quotable rap albums in years. #fishfillet

2. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost: Their third release in 3 years and they keep getting better and better. If you don’t know them, here are the Cliff Notes. Lead singer Christopher Owens was a former member of the Children of God cult. His brother was murdered in said cult. He was forced as a child to busk to make money for the cult. As a teenager he escaped, then travelled the world until a Texas millionaire took him under his wing. Now he makes unbelievable music inspired by 50s and 60s pop. To say he wears his heart on his sleeve is an incredible understatement, his lyrics are extremely open and honest and he has a great ear for melody. Girls are my favorite band in the world right now by a long distance. #swoon

1. Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise: If Girls are my favourite band, Nicolas Jaar is my favourite artist (I even dedicated a whole mix to him here). If you don’t know him already he is a 21 year old Chilean living in NY who splits his time between studying comparative literature and making music that is part house, part world, part hip hop. His debut album is unbelievable, his live shows are fantastic and he remixes everyone from Nina Simone to Missy Elliot. Go check him out right now #notenoughsuperlatives

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stand Up The Storytellers

Last week I spoke to the nextMEDIA conference in the beautiful Carlu Center in Toronto. I was asked to speak about creating Lovemarks in the digital age. I showed how the power of stories is the most important element of digital communications, no matter what you are told about search optimization, email fulfillment, discount turnover, price transparency, screen resolution yada yada; these are all technical details.


The more platforms we invent, the more stories we need. Stories are critical to winning in the "Lifestream" we are in. When you're a marketer with an annual sales target to hit, stories are your best friend for connecting with consumers. Here's how:

Great stories are fast workers, outstripping our reason and logic, with their compelling truth. In the Age of Now you have to get your story across quick and clean.

Great stories touch us. They locate our inner fears, hopes and dreams - vampires and werewolves included!

Great stories are contagious. The three things to ask when judging creative work are:

a. Do I want to experience it again?
b. Do I want to share it?
c. Do I want to improve it?

Great stories bring people together for shared experiences. Sport is an innovator. The 2012 London Olympics will bring the next wave of interactive and collaborative television.

Great stories reframe the market. Lady Gaga reframed weird as wonderful. Steve Jobs reframed presence into absence. Facebook and Twitter have reframed Madison Avenue by literally moving into the street.

Great stories introduce us to great characters, people we want to spend time with. And some you don't.

Great stories make us laugh. Humor is the short cut to the heart.

Great stories create a bigger meaning. To do this you must have a consistent equity across screens, across borders, across retail end-to-end. Tactical promotions and micro-digital CRM plays have their place, but all too often brand managers slip into off-message tactical promotions.

Great stories Surprise with the Obvious. They make you think "Why didn't I think of that?" Apple's retail stores are so obvious! The Start button of the Prius is so obvious. To develop a pen that could write in space, NASA spent millions on advanced technology. The Russians used a pencil.

Great stories are crafted. If you want your talent to shine, give people Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, and Joy.

Great stories result from continuous practice. Like ideas, you have to produce lots of small ones all of the time. This is dedicated work, like Gladwell's 10,000 hours. Perfect practice. Big ideas are scarce, strung out over time, investment hungry. Shelve the idea of writing the 'Great Canadian Novel.' Fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Did you hear the one...

Check out this article from the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute. It’s an oldie but a goodie, dissecting the science of a joke – what it is that happens in our brains and bodies when someone says “did you hear the one...” and then rips a great punch line.

There are some insights for business here – especially that joy comes from the incongruous, something we didn’t see coming. Like a good joke, a great consumer experience is about defying convention and expectation, creating happiness by breaking the mould. And – a lesson we knew from the comics – as in much of life, timing is everything. The best jokes are delivered in Lovemarks style – with carefully timed attraction (Intimacy), tension (Mystery) and revelation (the reward that leads to Sensuality, in this case the ring of laughter).

The mind moves the heart when you hear a good joke. Mental process drives chemical reaction, which translates into hilarity. This is alchemy – the conversion of leaden reason into the molten gold of emotion. Not surprisingly, going through this process is good for you.

So here’s the challenge: give the consumer something she’s not expecting, not from you, not from anyone – but will love. Draw her in with the three magic ingredients – Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Do it when she expects it the least...and wants it the most.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Star Gazing

The experts said this photo couldn’t be taken without highly specialized equipment. But a keen New Zealand stargazer has captured the first amateur image of faraway galaxy from his backyard in West Auckland with a 25mm telescope (that’s not big or flashy!). Theory held that stellar glare made it too bright to shoot, but Rolf Olsen took a nothing-is-impossible approach. With a bit of ingenuity (subtracting one image from another) he now has his own personal snapshot of a solar system 60 million light years away.

Some people like Rolf’s result more than the efforts of professional observatories. I like the idea that he saw a challenge in the distant star’s name, Beta Pictoris, which sounds suspiciously like...Better Pictures?

If you like the concept of bringing the cosmos into focus through a tiny lens, check out Tweeting the universe. It’s a bite-sized collaboration that breaks down everything you ever wanted to know about the origin and mechanics of everything, 140 characters at a time. Happy star gazing...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Taking The Low Line

Urban revival has been a routine fascination of mine, from Pop-up Parks in San Francisco, Urban Gardens and deep reflection in Detroit, to Greening the Rubble in Christchurch. I like the spirit of continuous renewal behind these projects, using streets as a re-writable canvas, an opportunity to be creative in a way that improves people’s lives, every day.

Here’s another cool concept to breathe new life into a forgotten corner of New York. Inspired by the transformation of the city’s High Line, the idea is to turn an old trolley terminal, last used in 1948, into a hidden park, a green space under the streets. The park would be lit using fibre-optic technology that channels natural light into the space, a concept suggested by one of the two bright minds behind the project (ex-NASA and Google no less). Trees and vegetation would grow naturally, an underground oasis.

What’s great about this project is that it literally takes urban regeneration to another level. There’s a certain symbolism about greening your city’s foundations, especially in a VUCA world where responses to problems (whether municipal, national or global) often feel skin-deep. We need to let more light in and re-imagine dark places. Fresh thinking like this helps.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eric de Vries

We lost one of our Saatchi & Saatchi family at the weekend. A 26 year veteran. A typographer. A craftsman. A good bloke. Our love runs deep. KR

You wouldn’t call Eric de Vries a loud man.

Unlike so many in our advertising family, he was softly spoken. Gentle. Understated.

Not humble exactly – for there was a quiet, strong pride that he brought to every day and everything he did. It was at the heart of his careful, immaculate work, his natural generosity and easy humour, and most of all in his infinite patience.

He made tough times easier, and good times better. He inspired love, and the greatest respect, every single day of his 26 years as a multi-award winning studio artist and typographer at Saatchi & Saatchi, Wellington.

For those who didn’t know him, this might seem a cliché. One of those nice things people say. But those of us who do, know the truth of someone unique and extraordinary.

Because you wouldn’t call Eric de Vries a quiet man.

He lived powerfully and remarkably. He was full of energy and curiosity and passion – for creativity, for the open road, and for the ocean.

And it was here, as a highly experienced and well-regarded free diver, that he lost his life doing what he loved on December 3rd, 2011.

Eric had achieved an extraordinary peace and a balance to his life that he shared, in a million little ways, with those around him – a peace that ultimately sprung from the joy and devotion he shared with his wife Joanne, and his children Rose, Jules and Alexander.

In the words of his Saatchi & Saatchi family, he was genuine. A gentleman. Genuine. Magnanimous. Genuine. Welcoming. Serene. A champion. Unwavering. Flawless. Immaculate. And genuine.

His legacy is immense, as is our sorrow at his passing – and our joy and gratitude at having known and loved a truly talented and remarkable man.

Tribute by Saatchi & Saatchi New Zealand.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Act Happy

This one from the Huffington Post – a blog on the idea that we sometimes need to act first to change how we feel. It’s the emotion-action lever in reverse, creating good vibes by doing something. The author, psychologist Shawn T. Smith, has the right credentials – he used to work for the Colorado Department of Corrections and the International Commission on Missing Persons in Bosnia, two emotional nerve centers.

As Shawn points out, it’s important to understand the action-leads-to-emotion principle to break out of the mindset that you can’t do something just because you don’t feel happy or confident. Rather the reverse is often true: get out there and do the thing you dread, and you’ll soon feel good about it. It’s a feel the fear and do it anyway deal.

Get it right and a virtuous cycle fires up. Where fear and anxiety can breed inaction, leading to more fear and anxiety, taking charge puts the emotion-action gear back into go-forward mode: take action, feel good, feel good and act again. Soon you’ll be feeling great and you will have done something! So get started today – it’s time to act happy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winning...

“It’s impossible,” said Pride.
“It’s risky,” said Experience.
“It’s pointless,” said Reason.
“Give it a try,” whispered the Heart.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Game On

The gaming industry just seems to be getting bigger and bigger, agglomerating communities with intensely immersive experiences and interactivity that grabs you mind, heart and body. New game releases are blockbuster events, amassing sales in the hundreds of millions overnight – the recently released Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 topped $775 million in five days.

Emotion is behind the movement. Game makers are creating deep bonds with consumers through Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. Story-telling is hugely important too. Many of the most successful games are built on a rich mythology, extreme foreign worlds or basic but compelling fairytales (think of Angry Birds wreaking their vengeance on a group of green pigs that have fried their eggs). This is Lovemarks territory.

To connect in a powerful way you have to know your client, customer or consumer, what his or her dreams and aspirations are, what makes their heart beat faster. The top game makers get it. Check out this inspirational story where Electronic Arts listened to the voice of the consumer: EA had missed a critical element in its NHL game – the fact that it had no female player option even though 65,000 girls now play hockey in the US – and moved to put it right (as the great Wayne Gretzky says, they headed where the puck’s going, not where it is now). Now the game has a new face.

There are plenty of lessons brands can take away from the rise and rise of the gaming industry, but maybe the most important is its focus on creating moments of pure joy. This is the raison detré of games – no joy, no point, and no profit for countless hours and millions invested in research, product development and marketing. So here’s one question for today: How does your brand bring joy to people’s lives? Find the answer, and it’s game on.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Landslide For A Landmark

It’s official. Creativity has won the controversial public vote to choose the sign that will spread across the hillside near Wellington International Airport, welcoming tourists and travelers to the city. The airport is adjacent to the world-changing New Zealand movie studios of Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor. The sign-on-the-hill-by-the-airport started out as a homage and marker for the movie industry, but many locals weren’t chuffed on some of the possibilities, language being a tricky thing to get right. So it got put to a vote. Out of three final contenders, Wellingtonians have chosen the Saatchi & Saatchi creation ‘Wellington Blown Away’, a creative treatment of the capital’s name, with the last few letters whipped about by the city’s often-present wind (reportedly getting up to 100 kmph this week).

Blown Away dominated the shortlist for the final run-off (as posted a few weeks ago), and made short work of the other two options when it came to the crunch. Of the 33,027 votes cast, Wellington Blown Away won 18,862 – 57% of the vote. Congratulations to Matt Sellars and Ray McKay of Saatchi & Saatchi Auckland who got in touch with their inner Wellingtonianesss to create the design. Matt and Ray’s handiwork will be up for all to see from March next year. The beautiful Eye of the Taniwha design by Wellington tattoo artist Stephen Maddock came in second.

Congratulations also to Wellington Airport for embarking on this adventure. The “Wild At Heart” Airport has just won a prestigious architectural award for its new international terminal aka The Rocks, further underlying the city’s reputation as an innovative place to land.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Prison Break

New Zealand’s general election has come and gone and one of the issues that didn’t get airtime was how the country tackles its imprisonment rates. We’re 65th worst out of 216 countries, hardly on the right side of the equation for a country that is pre-destined to be world-changing. This really matters – it’s a challenge for every New Zealander to get engaged – and enraged – about, and which should have leaders sweating creative and committed policy. Every person in prison represents a systemic (and family) failure. It’s an ugly equation for all concerned.

In relative terms a number of New Zealand’s crime statistics are healthier than those of other countries. Nothing in the world beats the murder rate in the US. But imprisonment rates in New Zealand are high – 199 per 100,000 – and ironically for us, a full one third higher than Australia. While undoubtedly prisons have an important role to play in responding to crime, what this approach often fails to recognise is that – in the words of NZ-US leadership psychologist John Wareham: “All prisons are mental prisons. They lock from the inside and you own the key, so only you can let yourself out."

John knows. As well as coaching international executives, he has spent several years working with inmates at New York’s Rikers Island prison, the world’s largest, helping to liberate people from negative mindsets so they can change their lives for the better. His book How to Break Out of Prison concentrates his wisdom on the subject and he’s continuing to do groundbreaking stuff – like holding a retreat with Denis O’Reilly earlier this year for members of gangs in Hawke’s Bay on Fatherhood, Gangs, Drugs and Choices. As a long-time supporter of the Turn Your Life Around (TYLA) Trust, a programme to inspire and re-direct at-risk young people, it’s an approach I believe in, heart and soul.

Recent suggestions of a decline in the level of incarceration in New Zealand and the possibility of a further drop over time are welcome, especially as Corrections has been trending to becoming the biggest government department, a billion-dollar business. This is a classic case of the need for exceptionalism – why be happy with a gradual ascent into “respectable” territory when we could be world leaders? Finland had a remarkable turnaround from 190 people in 100,000 in prison in the 1950s to about 70 in 2006. An academic paper Scandinavian Exceptionalism in an Era of Penal Excess contains a remarkable story that we are miles away from matching with current policies and practices. There is a very high correlation between alcohol, drugs, and illiteracy – and commiting crime again and again. There are few resources in the New Zealand criminal justice system addressing these needs.

It’s time to believe in something better and stage our own escape.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Greening The Rubble

One of the inspirational stories to emerge from the Christchurch earthquake has been how different volunteer groups have come together to help with the recovery. Among the most famous is the University of Christchurch Student Army. After the February quake more than 10,000 people joined the group’s Facebook site in less than 24 hours, and the workforce was mobilised to clear streets of silt and muck, help the elderly to put their homes back in order and so on. It was uplifting to see how the often maligned “youth of today” (I’m thinking of London) stood up in the city’s time of greatest need.

In that vein, here’s another great grassroots, student-powered movement in the Garden City that’s reviving the streets with creativity. Greening the Rubble is making temporary public parks and gardens while master planning for the new Christchurch is underway. Using reconstituted wreckage and debris, Greening the Rubble volunteers are bringing purpose and order to properties around the city that might otherwise lie untouched for months or years, until the owners are ready to re-develop. And so fallen bricks are painted and used to fill gabions, forming colourful garden frames. Plants are rescued from the inner city cordon. Planter walls are made from pallets. Recycled timber planks are used as seat tops. Generous businesses are providing many other things needed for the effort. This is the irrepressible spirit of creative Canterbury people.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who Cares?

Scientists have discovered that we’re engineered for kindness – or not. The caring button is a genetic trait that determines how we respond to oxytocin (aka the “love” hormone); some of us have it, some of us don’t; most people can spot it a mile off.

In an experiment at the University of Oregon nine out of 10 neutral observers correctly identified carriers of the “A” version of the kindness gene, who are less inclined to feel positive, or to feel (say) parental sensitivity. On the other hand six out of 10 could spot those carrying the “GG” genotype – people with this genetic variation are generally seen as more empathetic, trusting and loving.

Perhaps to settle the nerves of the unloving by nature the researchers add that no gene trait can completely predict how we behave. But if you want to prove you’re hardwired to care, go spread some love today. If you want to start a revolution, pick out an “A” type and be kind to them. And next time someone’s mean to you, tell them they’re being … genetic.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Space Savers

The UK is drowning in junk. In seven years there will be nowhere left to put it – check out this story on Packington (which sounds suspiciously like “pack it in”), one of the many landfills surging towards capacity. It covers about 380 acres and contains more than 18.5 million tons of rubbish. The height of a skyscraper where once there was flat land, it is, literally, a waste of space.

Answers to problems this big come in DOT (Do One Thing) form, multiplied by collective action. One good idea to emerge from a conversation with a waste tip supervisor is the world’s first paper wine bottle made by packaging company GreenBottle. It weighs about a tenth of a glass bottle, has a tenth of the carbon footprint, and is compostable, gone in a matter of weeks. More exciting is the inventor’s quiet comment that he can be more radical yet with the bottle’s design – so far he’s stuck to the conventional shape to stop wine shoppers going into shock. I say mix it up – stun me!

This is the unreasonable power of creativity at work, rescuing the world one idea at a time – here are a few more eco-innovations, movements and machines to bend your mind, saving space and resources: e-paper; cardboard vacuum cleaners; lawn couches; virtual water; Boeing’s new Dreamliner.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You’ve Got Mail – Only This Time It’s Cool

Conventional mail went through ultra-commodification years ago. Once the letterbox was a rich emotional reservoir of letters, postcards and parcels, but today it’s often the domain of the bill, brutally rational and loveless.

Which is why I like the sound of notanotherbill.com, a subscription service created by Ned Corbett-Winder after a friend complained of never getting any post at work. Sign up and Ned will guarantee that once a month something surprising and uplifting will turn up in the mail. His gifts are the stuff of attics, vintage fairs and antique shops: rubber stamps, stationery kits, silkscreen prints and other designer curios, beautifully wrapped and labeled “smile, I’m not a bank statement”. It’s Mysterious, Sensual and Intimate, everything mail ought to be.

The beating heart of this business is the charm of the unexpected, and like all generous people Ned has an open source approach – if you make beautiful things or have an idea you’d like to share, he’s keen to hear from you. Nice work, Ned – the world needs more surprises of the good kind.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Come On Mate, Gimme A Hug

Here’s one to rattle the cage of True Blue Aussie Blokes who prefer a handshake to a hug. A study has found that Australian men who love a good hug are happier and healthier than those who don’t, and also tend to bank more. Australian men in households making over $100k per year are huge huggers. Their cobbers in households with incomes less than $30k are much less inclined to hug (and are probably miserable). And hugging seems to be catching on – 37% of the men surveyed enjoyed hugging and did it often, compared to just 29% who preferred to play it cool.

All of this pretty much leaves for dead the case for the laconic Aussie bloke who prefers to leave physical contact on the sportsfield. Plus imagine what a world of healthy hugging men with bigger bank balances would do for the global economy! Here’s the message to the holdouts: hugs = health and happiness. It’s time to embrace change, mate.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Case for Exceptionalism

Coinciding with an abundance of new life in spring throughout New Zealand’s countryside is a refreshed University of Auckland Business Review. I was invited to contribute to the new edition in my capacity as the Auckland Business School’s Honorary Professor of Innovation and Creativity. This particular issue looks at ‘Life at the Edge’, and how this geographical attribute has influenced the mindset and determination of a relatively young nation to create and deliver exceptional stories.

New Zealand is a critical part of my intellectual and operational infrastructure. I believe in Edge theory and I live it to the max – it’s the idea that change happens at the margins, free from the stifling orthodoxy of the centre. As a country of five million on the edge, New Zealand has built a reputation as a hot house for world changing ideas, led by exceptional people – highly capable of making things happen.

Language starts revolution, and the Edge metaphor is an antidote to the “gunna do” attitude that has also seeped through New Zealand culture. Isolation breeds complacency. The conditions in New Zealand are very nice which can promote a “lifestyle island” mentality rather than a “storm the bridge” attitude. My dream is “winning with world from the edge” – not pulling up a deck chair in the sun. We need to get hot under the collar about excellence, about the business of communicating this to the world. In short, we need a culture of exceptionalism. The platform is well-established, what is missing is the mechanisms and drive to build international scale. Support for succeeding overseas still largely consists of waving them off at the airport.

There are many stimulating and provocative stories in this ABR, including the need to leverage the lessons from the 100% Pure brand by creating a national export brand identity; the power of our overseas population as a global force for the national good; leadership NKiwi-style; and how, if and why the country should harvest its mineral resources. The writing cast is a sharp ensemble of Auckland University academics; total reading time a tight 59 minutes; potential value if implemented with abandon: immense.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Breaking News

Extra! Tablet users are reading more in-depth stories, a study by the Pew Research Centre has found. This is a great example of technology creating room for reflection rather than just mercilessly crunching information down to the smallest possible unit (ala the tweet, the text, the status update).

Hopefully this is a trend that stirs a renaissance in real news, reporting with guts that keeps you going. The challenge for journos and content creators – as ever – will be to deliver with depth while the story is still hot. Maybe the answer is more collaboration, teams of writers pulling together to create killer stories at speed. This also calls for old fashioned reporting values – a nose for news and the tenacity to track it down, fast. It’s time to unleash the newshounds.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Siri-ous Stuff

The capabilities of devices like the iPad and iPhone are the kind of thing you could only dream of a few decades a go. And apparently that’s exactly what Apple was doing, light-years ahead as usual. This 1987 concept video for the Apple Knowledge Navigator – an iPad-like device with a built in virtual assistant – is set in an imaginary September 2011, breathtakingly close to last month’s release of the iPhone 4 with built-in PA, Siri (nice spotting Andy Baio).

But now that your phone can speak, should it do so with a male or a female voice? Curiously, the new iPhone’s Siri is female in the US model, male in the UK. Here’s a good blog on some of the conspiracy theories – the suggestion is that there’s still a view that the male voice is inherently more authoritative. Politics of gender aside, maybe Siri’s sex isn’t the most important thing – maybe what matters most is where on earth
(s)he’s from. Siri seems to cope with most accents, but check out this video of a frustrated Scot trying to create a reminder…

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Scribing

Creative expression is a wonderful thing. It makes you feel alive. Small wonder then, that one of the most enduring forms of self-expression, writing, should turn out to be good for our physical and emotional health.

Real stories come from the successes and failures, joys and sorrows of everyday life. And 20 years of research tells us that devoting 15 minutes each day to writing about what we’ve experienced, felt or dwelt on can help improve almost any ailment, body or mind (so says the Sydney Morning Herald).

Psychologists call it “expressive writing” – a kind of healthy expression focused on the release of emotions. But unlike (say) blogging there’s no audience, giving people the complete freedom to unleash their thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. That makes you feel good.

But the feel-good factor is just the start. Regular, deliberate expressive writing can help control cancer-related pain, reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis and increase lung function amongst the asthmatic. Of course you don’t need to be seriously unwell to reap the health benefits. Writing can also improve immunity, blood pressure and memory. So next time you’re feeling down or out of sorts – write it up! Happy scribing...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Course You’re Nuts

Being a sports nut is serious stuff, and there’s nothing like some numbers to back you up when you’re settling into full bragging mode. So to this article from the New York Times directing punters to an intriguing website Greatest Sporting Nation founded by a Brit, an Italian and Kiwi (all nationalities of my family).

It’s an ambitious attempt by and for sports lovers to work out the best nation in the world across all sports. Under the methodology a country scores qualifying points by finishing in the top eight in qualifying events, with qualifying points being weighted to produce points. The current Global Cup holder benefits a lot from its broad range of success in women’s sports.

It seems clear that the project is a work in progress. How to factor motor sports where there are multiple inputs from driver to manufacturer? Where are sports involving animals – who won the race, the man or the horse!? How to factor in top football clubs with multi-national line ups?

Despite room for improvement this is a passionate and worthy attempt at a Global Cup to sort out which is the top nation across all sport. I like how the project has a Per Capita Cup, currently topped by the fastest country on two legs, Jamaica, followed by Norway (Norway?!*#) and then rugby-mad New Zealand. Here’s to the crazy ones and the countries on the Edge.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wellington Blown Away

In the heat of the campaign leading up to New Zealand’s general election another vote-off has gripped the fertile hearts and minds of Wellingtonians. The vote is to decide on an iconic sign to grace the hillside near Wellington airport that greets you as you fly into and out of the capital. This is territory where angels fear to tread – whatever ends up on the cutting will brand the city; get it wrong and the passionate locals will have you for breakfast with a hot latte.

Which is almost what happened. The original idea put forward by the airport (which owns the land) was “Wellywood”, a nod to Wellington’s acclaimed film industry. It was panned by the critics. The city paper, The DominionPost reported that a Facebook page was shut down after plots were put forward to blow up and set fire to the sign. A brewery offered free crates of beer for whoever knocked it down, no questions asked.

To its credit the airport opened the whole thing up for debate, inviting ideas for alternatives. And the team from Saatchi & Saatchi Wellington – creators of the Absolutely Positively Wellington campaign that sold Wellingtonians on Wellington in the 90s – has come up with the goods. The team’s “Wellington Blown Away” design has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to go up against the Wellywood option in a public vote, along with a second creative alternative, the eye of a Taniwha (a mythical monster of Maori legend) staring out of the hillside. The two alternatives were selected through a preliminary vote on ideas from the public, with Wellington Blown Away picking up 46% of votes, the Taniwha 10%. Now it’s time to pick a winner – today’s final vote will be binding.

Anyone who’s ever been to Wellington knows it’s windy as anything. It’s also a vibrant, innovative place, where people make things happen. Poet Lauris Edmond called it the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb. I reckon a moniker that celebrates that creative restlessness and that sense of constant movement you find in any of the world’s great cities is the way to go. Let’s hope Wellington Blown Away is a sign of things to come.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Blackberry Heaven

Over the years I’ve been invited to speak at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and The Royal Albert Hall in London, but never before to a tent in Tennessee. After a week of non-stop meetings in New York and the Midwest, Blackberry Farm near Knoxville, Tennessee was a welcome haven. I had been invited by the Southern 7 Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization to speak about leadership, winning, and being creative in business, to a weekend retreat of company founders, owners and CEOs and their wives. (Don’t worry, I’ve spoken to Women Presidents, they’re riotous as well). YPO is an impressive international organization – founded for the purpose of fostering leadership among US business leaders especially at a regional level. They’re people involved in transport, logistics, capital, distribution, food service, energy efficiency, engineering and a bunch of other complex businesses. Some have built their companies to over 1,000 employees. For me it was an opportunity to get to know a part of the US I had never been to.

This was a case of first time lucky. Blackberry Farm is a 4200 acre farm and lodge set in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in the southern Appalachians, and in Fall about as beautiful as you can get. (If you think Knoxville, population 184,000, is in the sticks, thing again, it is the access point to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the world’s most significant science centers). Fellow speakers were political strategist and pollster Frank Luntz, former Tennessee Governor and current four-time Senior Senator (R) for Tennessee Lamar Alexander (check him out, as well being as a top legislator and new energy advocate, he’s a classical and country pianist), and Chief Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering Bruce Vaughn. The event was chaired by Clay Sifford and his wife Dorothy. Clay is founder and CEO of Ovation, designers and producers of live events based in Nashville. A top man, and a good friend.

I had ridden with the Imagineer in the car on the way in from Knoxville Airport and I was keen to hear the inner secrets of the “illusion of life” that is Walt Disney theme parks, resorts, cruises, retail and restaurants. Bruce is in a business that has been called “fear minus death equals fun” (that’s the rollercoasters). The five lessons of the Imagineers he shared were:
• Create what people didn’t know what they wanted – and cannot live without
• Cast the best talent
• Know who you are, be who you are
• Know your competitors from your disruptors
• Keep moving forward

And the Blackberry Farm team delivered all five. We’ll be back.

Bruce Vaughn, Disney Imagineer

Pictures by Brian Joseph

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Impulse… bye.

Retail alert! Businessweek reports that impulse shopping is on the decline. The screen is displacing the store, more people are doing their research online (the Zero Moment of Truth) before leaving home, rather than browsing the shelves to find what they want. Less time spent browsing means those unplanned purchases are less likely to happen. Shoppers are hitting the stores like laser-guided bombs, trained on their targets, nothing more, nothing less.

It’s time to turn up the heat in retail land. If you haven’t already, it’s time to reshape the shopping experience, making the store a place where consumers want to be, inviting, embracing, alluring - somewhere to linger and maybe make those additional purchases after all. This runs counter to the mindset that says the more difficult you make it for the consumer to find what they really want, the more they’ll buy of the other stuff. Swap distraction for attraction, discount aisles for dreamwalks, pressure for pampering.

This is also a fresh call for brands to make the leap to Lovemarks. Impulse buyers are fair-weather friends, and the forecast is pretty stormy right now. You need to be the one that the consumer is fixed on; fire up the emotion, become irresistible, make love your tractor beam.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Double Fantasy

In June this year I was in Bermuda, celebrating 50 years of AAC Saatchi & Saatchi making waves and shaking things up in the North Atlantic. We’re not the only ones moved by the island – Bermuda was a source of inspiration for John Lennon, who wrote an album called Double Fantasy, after a type of flower he saw in the Bermudian botanical gardens. Lennon thought the name perfectly summed up his marriage to Yoko Ono, and the album is a musical conversation between husband and wife, also featuring songs by Yoko. Three weeks after the album’s release Lennon was tragically killed, making his Bermudian odyssey his last living work and a deep tribute to the couple’s love.

That was in 1980. Now Bermuda’s creative community is preparing to honor Lennon’s this legacy with a special project: A commemorative sculpture they hope will draw Lennon fans the world over to celebrate a music icon and see for themselves a place that inspired him. Yoko was delighted with the design options (she gave the final choice to Bermuda’s Masterworks Museum), which symbolise John, Double Fantasy, the flower and Bermuda. Alongside this, a musical tribute is being put together, featuring artists from the island and others who have performed there, especially from the 40 Thieves where Lennon spent a memorable evening. His long talk with journalists at the club contributed to the song “Watching the Wheels” on Double Fantasy.

I’m a fan of Lennon, Bermuda and the whole idea. The project goes live in June 2012. To listen to the beating heart behind it, check the video here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Job Watch

So who is really happy at work? The General Social Survey by the National Organisation for Research at the University of Chicago found the 10 happiest and 10 most hated jobs. According to the results members of the clergy have the happiest calling, followed by fire-fighters and physical therapists. On the flip side it seems that directors of IT, directors of sales and electronics technicians aren’t skipping to the office every morning.

I tend to take these things with a grain of salt. Any job is what you make of it – attitude, elbow grease and a good measure of chutzpah will get you anywhere. But if you’re in the market for a career change maybe you should avoid positions selling software to grumpy geeks and dodgy circuit board repairmen… just in case. And stay on the lookout for any fire-fighter chaplains who give killer massages – they might just be the happiest person you ever meet!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Absence Defines Presence

The Zen of Steve Jobs from the Wall Street Journal blogger Steve Yang offering insights into the genius Apple co-creator and CEO of the world’s second most valued company (and for some moments #1). The key theme is that much of Jobs’ brilliance, and the beauty of Apple’s creations under his inspired leadership, can be traced back to the influence of Zen Buddhism and in particular an emphasis on absence defining presence.

As well as introducing inspired new features that we never knew we wanted (but found we instantly loved), a hallmark of Apple products is the absence of things we don’t need. For example, Apple was ahead of its time as the first to do away with the floppy disk drive from its computers. The keyboard has since followed, surpassed by the effortlessness of touch. A focus on elegant simplicity is another Zen-related concept revealed powerfully in Apple’s products. Clean lines, smooth surfaces, no distractions, just intuitive interfaces and thoughtful touches.

‘Eliminate’ has been an e-word close to my mind, as a call to make the main thing the main thing. When it came to eliminating the unnecessary to unleash his world-changing devices, Steve Jobs was a Zen Master.

When times are tight, it’s important to realise that elimination is about focus and value, not cutting for cutting’s sake. It’s about defining what you are by what you choose not to be, and creating space for new things to grow. Stop. What needs to go to make your product, your business, your life better?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rookies to Rugby Pros

USA Rugby Vice-Chairman, Bob Latham, author of the forthcoming book "Winners & Losers", accepted the International Rugby Board Development Award for 2011 for the USA Rookie Rugby youth program at the star-studded IRB Awards Ceremony on Sunday October 23 in Auckland. Here’s Bob’s account of the program and a great night out with the world’s rugby community.
In his best-selling and insightful book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell concluded that it takes somewhere around 10,000 hours of training and playing a sport to really have a chance of mastering it. That’s one of the reasons that Americans have found it so difficult historically to be competitive on the world stage in sports such as soccer and rugby – our players arrive late to these sports, sometimes in their teens, many picking up a rugby ball for the first time at university. They may be great athletes but when the real pressure comes, they don’t have 10,000 hours of developing their skills to rely upon. Meanwhile, the All Blacks, France, South Africa, England and others are successful at rugby because their players start playing at six years old. And when they reach the age at which Americans have just started to pick up the sport, they are complete players, ready to compete for positions on World Cup squads. In America, our young kids pick up a basketball, a football or a baseball when they are children and the 10,000 hour clock starts ticking.

The inroads that soccer has made in the last generation, well before Gladwell’s theory, started allowing young players to get their 10,000 hours of work and therefore the U.S. has become increasingly competitive against traditional soccer nations such as Argentina, Brazil, England and Germany, though the men still have a way to go to win the first World Cup and the women are being challenged by the rise of other nations as they were by Japan this year. However, with the institution of USA Rugby’s Rookie Rugby program, a non-contact version of the game that was introduced in 2008, we are starting to give young players a chance to get at least somewhere close to 10,000 hours. The program is an introduction to the game for boys and girls aged 6-10 years; it’s easy to coach, fun to play and promotes not only rugby skills but health, fitness, team spirit, loyalty and respect – the hallmarks of rugby around the world. The timing of the rollout of USA Rugby’s Rookie Rugby program was fortuitous, as it preceded by only one year rugby’s inclusion into the Olympics, which resulted in athletic directors and community sports administrators having a greater interest in rugby. The confluence of these two events means that in 2011, over 500,000 young players will be picking up a rugby ball and running with it for the first time in schools, boys and girls clubs, state-based rugby organizations and YMCA’s across America.

It was therefore an incredible thrill for everyone involved with USA Rugby, and particularly those involved with the Rookie Rugby program, that the program was recognized in a huge way by the International Rugby Board. This last week, the night after the Rugby World Cup final in Auckland, New Zealand, the annual International Rugby Board Awards Gala Dinner was held. The dinner, especially in a World Cup year, draws all of the good and the great in the global game and it features the presentation of twelve awards, including “team of the year” which naturally went to the All Blacks, “player of the year,” which went to France’s valiant Thierry Dusautoir, and “sevens player of the year” which went to South Africa’s dynamic Cecil Afrika. Among such great rugby company, the IRB Development Award went to USA Rugby’s Rookie Rugby program.

IRB Awards Rookie Rugby Video (1:40 mins)

Judging by the reception in the room, it was a popular choice. It is clear that the global rugby family wants USA Rugby to succeed and the reaction after the announcement of the award was supportive and positive.

The night itself provided some exhilarating moments. The first crowd pleaser was when All Blacks’ captain Richie McCaw walked down the center isle of the black tie dinner for 1200, carrying the William Webb Ellis trophy. It might be suggested that he resembled a bride at a wedding with flash bulbs popping in every direction, but he carried himself more like someone bringing in the haggis at a Scottish banquet.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening immediately followed the presentation of the IRB Development Award to USA Rugby when the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service was presented to an ailing Jock Hobbs, former All Blacks captain and former Chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Union, who was largely responsible for getting the World Cup in New Zealand. Seeing Jock at so many of the World Cup matches and events was an inspiration to all. The spirit of the room was carried back to the bar at the Sky City Grand Hotel where current New Zealand Rugby Chairman and All Black great Bryan Williams led a sing-a-long with his guitar up to, and through, last call.

That USA Rugby was recognized by and among such company is a tribute to all the dedicated staff at USA Rugby and the support they have received from coaches, teachers and parents across the country in making the Rookie Rugby program a success. We owe them all a great deal of thanks for their support. Winning the Rugby World Cup may still be a ways away, but at least the 10,000 hour clock is ticking.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

KR Connecting

A nice way to finish the week - Chief Executive magazine from New York has named this missive among its Top 10 CEO blogs. KRConnect has been going for five years now, covering whatever comes to mind, falls across my path, or is close to my heart. A rough count makes this post 1,046.

Also on the list are Forrester Research CEO George Colony “The Counterintuitive CEO”, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer - check Tom’s post ‘English Football, President Sarkozy and the Arab Spring’ - on freedom of expression; you couldn’t want a better go-to on this than the head of a global news agency. Thanks for reading… KR

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lessons From Polak

The role of business is to make the world a better place. And Dr. Paul Polak knows it. For three decades he has devoted his life to improving the lives of people who live on less than $2 a day, but rather than giving stuff away his focus has been on selling groundbreaking equipment to those who need it most.

The New York Times ran a great interview with Polak last month. The story goes that he first got involved with a group of Mennonites providing rower pumps to provide water for irrigation in impoverished areas in Bangladesh. They’d given away 2,000. Polak’s idea was to sell 25,000. Which they did. Then he found the treadle pump, a simple but brilliant step up the technology chain. Polak and co set up manufacturers, distributors, rolled out a marketing campaign, complete with Bollywood movie. Two million units later and the rest is history.

Here are the keys to Polak’s success, both as businessman and social entrepreneur: Empathy – born and raised in peasant Czechoslovakia, he knew poverty and he knew his market;
• “an eye for the obvious” – in 1938 his father saw the signs of coming disaster early, and moved the Jewish family to Canada, escaping the holocaust;
• an entrepreneurial streak – Polak was putting his own money to work long before he turned to the rest of the world;
• and – most important – a conviction that the customer knows best.

In 1981 Polak made a promise to interview 100 $1-a-day families every year and learn from them first. He’s kept this promise for 28 years, personally interviewing over 3,000 families.

He sums up: Any businessman knows this – you’ve got to talk to your customers.

That’s good medicine, doc.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Man Of The Moment

“Cometh the hour, cometh the man” has become a bit of a hackneyed phrase over the last few weeks as a succession of All Black first fives have found themselves unexpectedly taking the pitch at the Rugby World Cup, as the first, then second, then third choice pivots for the men in black succumbed to painful groin and knee injuries. But in the case of Stephen Donald, it’s a statement worth pausing on for a moment. The salient lesson from Donald’s cool slotting of the winning penalty kick in the World Cup final is that when you give people a second chance they so often come back stronger and hungrier than they were before, wiser and better for the experience. Such was the case for Donald, who was widely written-off after he played a key role in the All Blacks’ loss to the Wallabies in Hong Kong last year, but rose to the occasion on Sunday night. Past adversity and experience made him the man for the moment. Graham Henry is another case study in the power of a second chance. The “Great Redeemer” was given a reprieve after the Cardiff disaster four years ago, and has now won the ultimate redemption of his own: The Webb Ellis Cup come home at last.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Black and Blue

Wow. Following my health scare on Thursday, everything turned around on Sunday. The All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup in a titanic struggle against France at Eden Park ending a 24 year drought. And Manchester City went to Old Trafford and smashed Manchester United 6-1. What a day.

Sport is so much part of life and has been for 2,000 years. I’m not a big fan of individual sports but I’m hooked by the drama and passion of team sport. Both these games demonstrated massive commitment, spirit and skills from my lifetime obsessions – the All Blacks and Manchester City. In both cases, terrific individual performances were overshadowed by outstanding team performances. Today was a great day to be alive (especially as I can remember it all!).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Globally Transient


I was with Kevin during his keynote presentation to the Thrive conference in Auckland New Zealand when near the end of his speech he became literally lost for words (ironically on the section “Eliminate” from Blue Oceans). The first sign something was wrong was that he had been sticking straight to the script. He came off stage, speech unfinished, and went to Auckland Hospital for tests and scans. The doctors ruled out anything serious and diagnosed a condition called transient global amnesia – a very short term condition in which the person has no recall of immediate and recent events (he was delighted to be told that the All Blacks were in the Rugby World Cup final, so much so that the news had to be repeated every 10 minutes). The Mayo Clinic describe the condition as “rare, seemingly harmless, and unlikely to happen again." Kevin stayed overnight in hospital, I visited him this morning and his recall is back to peak condition but for the hour or so after the incident. I suspect he will categorize this as on-the-field concussion.

Kevin sends his thanks for best wishes sent. He was able to laugh at an interaction that happened soon after he took ill. Medics had been called and a couple of very competent chaps appeared quickly in the theater green room. One of them got right into it with the “follow my finger with your eyes” and “count 1-10 and then backwards” routine. Something twigged in the other medic who asked “Mate are you medically qualified?” to which medic #1 replied “no but my girlfriend is a nurse and I’ve seen her do this!” Only in multi-tasking give-it-a-go NZ.

Brian Sweeney, Chairman, SweeneyVesty

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SaatchiNOW


Ever wondered what inspires the creative souls at the 140 Saatchi & Saatchi offices around the globe? Now you can find out.

SaatchiNOW is a new online resource that lets you tap the most exciting and new projects from Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide. It’s current and connected, with live feeds, inspirational ideas, tweets, blogs, photos and video.

We’re sharing more of our ideas online now than ever before. SaatchiNOW is the ultimate aggregator, bringing our collective inspiration into a single creative hub. We’re stoked with how interactive the site is and we’re looking forward to sharing a wealth of ideas with you over the coming months.

Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.”
We’ve got the bug.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shape Shifters

SmartMoney magazine has come out with the masters of our destiny, the gods of the U.S. (and global) economy. It’s the annual “Power 30: The World’s Most Influential Players”. On planet VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous), this list of shapers could be considered essential scanning.

With the variation in roles and agendas in the list, it’s small wonder the ground we stand on is always shifting. Here we encounter:

a rookie regulator,a super policy wonk,
a bank captain, America’s hirer-in-chief,
a mutual fund king, a pro-networker,
a money manager, an auto chief,
a stock cop, a whirling governor,
a standard setter,the Gagapreneur,
a commodities guru, an innovator-in-chief,
a hypnotic metal, a mega-broker,
a go-to justice, the Google guy,
currency traders,the transporter,
an economy accelerator, the chancellor,
bond vigilantes,the money chief,
retirement plan raters,the re-constructor,
boomers and their tactician,and the bond amassers.
an insolvency solver,

Welcome to the Kentucky Derby. Bets please!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dream Machine

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is on a crusade to free commerce and leave consumers lighter in the pocket – in a good way. His new company Square is making it easier to do business and almost needless to carry cash with a new device that turns smartphones and iPads into credit card terminals.

It’s a plug and play setup that lets entrepreneurs get started anywhere, without the need to rent credit card processing equipment. Over 750,000 companies in the US already use Square and it’s only been going for a year.

In tough economic times anything that stimulates and liberates commerce has to be a good thing. Need a new challenge? Why not supercharge your iPhone and kick-start your dream business? For inspiration, check out this article on seven mega-companies that started in garages. Then go make something happen.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Winning Matters

We’re coming down to the sharp end of the Rugby World Cup. Semi-Final weekend. Last night we had a wonderful party at my place in Auckland where we hosted friends, Saatchi & Saatchi clients and rugby folk. 100 of us spent the evening together talking about friendship, passion, commitment and winning. A bunch of great winners including Sean Fitzpatrick, Lawrence Dallaglio, Murray Mexted, Andrew Mehrtens, John Kirwan, Inga Tuigamala and Gavin Hastings shared their thoughts on the upcoming weekend, the World Cup so far and what it takes to win. This is really top of mind for me at the moment of course with the Rugby going on and also given the need for all of us to restart the economy through growth, innovation and pushing forward with that great winning attitude so brilliantly captured by America’s Coach of the Century, Vince Lombardi.

A year or so ago, Sean Fitzpatrick and I were talking about this subject and Sean was sharing a number of thoughts he had developed over his career in Rugby as All Black Captain and in business subsequently. He epitomised Winning. A few weeks back, he published a new book called “Winning Matters; Being The Best You Can Be” and it’s been selling truckloads especially during Rugby World Cup. It’s a great book. It’s written for every man (and woman!). It takes all the complexity and mystique out of it. It’s honest, conversational, simple to understand and relevant to life, business and sport. You should take a look.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pop-up Parks

Everybody likes a park. Lots of small parks throughout a city are even better.

In San Francisco’s Mission District a program called Pavement to Parks temporarily reclaims under-utilized roadways and transforms them into pop-up mini parks. The program is designed to inspire creativity and be good for the environment – all mini parks must be inexpensive to create and where possible use recyclable materials.

The latest addition to Pavement to Parks is this installation by artist Erik Otto, who used stuff he found at the city landfill in his park design. The park includes a house on a hillside and beanbags and planters all made from recycled materials.

There’s a bigger idea here too. The mini parks are intended to help people think about what sorts of long-term changes could or should be made to each space. Being able to touch and experience the park in real life lets town planners get valuable feedback from residents on what elements work and what they like. It’s consultation by participation, using revelation rather than information to create better communities.

On top of all that, I just like the idea that someone saw a park for cars and wondered why it couldn’t be the other kind. City planning with imagination. Nice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Winning The Away Game

As we get down to the business end of the Rugby World Cup it feels like the right time to talk commerce – to look past the sight of the rim of the Webb Ellis trophy and ask what’s next for New Zealand. The tournament has been an opportunity for New Zealand businesses to make an impression on the world, show their vitality and grow their connectivity (NZ 4G factor = Grit, Guts, Genius, and Geniality). To achieve long-term success most of our companies will need to make their mark internationally. The global field of commerce is the ultimate “away game” where winning needs to be a national habit.

On Tuesday 18 October – the week before the World Cup final – I’ll be chairing a high-powered forum on all of this at the University of Auckland Business School. We’ll get down to brass tacks on how New Zealand companies can take on the world with seven minute presentations by four outstanding speakers, sharing insights from the worlds of professional sport and business. Here’s the line-up:

Dr Kerry Spackman, neuroscientist and author of “The Winner’s Bible”, mentor to leading Formula One and New Zealand sports teams and winner of the 2010 World Class New Zealand Award for New Thinking
Professor George Foster, Stanford Graduate School of Business, a specialist in high growth global companies, author of “The Business of Sports”, advisor to start-up companies and sports organisations
Murray Mexted is the founder and Managing Director of the International Rugby Academy, a former All Black Number 8 and National Sevens Selector, and a renowned television commentator and rugby analyst for Sky Television
Dr Farah Palmer former captain of the Black Ferns – New Zealand Women’s Rugby Team when they won win three consecutive World Championships (1998, 2002 and 2006), and a lecturer at Massey University specialising in Maori and gender issues in sport.

If you’re in Auckland for the World Cup final (and you should be!) put this one in your diary. Better yet, register here to be sure of a space. If you’re passionate about New Zealand business this is a must. See you there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Winning in Waiohiki

Last Thursday night a group of passionate people in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay settled in for an unforgettable evening of music, song, laughter, food, fine wine and the chance to buy some fantastic art for a great cause. The fifth annual Waiohiki Charity Art Auction kicked into full swing, with proceeds going towards the development of a 21st century marae complex, a vibrant community and cultural center located in Waiohiki. Driving it all behind the scenes and in front was Denis O’Reilly, creative and cultural dynamo.

The marae project has some heavyweight local support and the auction was an all-star event. Power vocalist and personality Frankie Stevens welcomed with a warm rendition of New York, New York (with a good measure of ‘Hawkes Bay, Hawkes Bay’ thrown in). Baritone Wiremu Winetana was a smooth opera-teur as MC for the evening, and Napier MP Chris Tremain was a brilliant auctioneer. Leading lights in attendance included Jenny McIlroy, Chairperson of the Waiohiki Marae Trustees, Mayor of Hastings Lawrence Yule, councillors from near and far, and many local kaumatua (elders), as well as supporting businesses from far afield. I was due to be the guest of honor but business called me to New York and my wife Rowena (above left, with Pauline Tangiora and Denis) attended as my representative. What followed was an unqualified success, with the event raising $95,000 for the marae complex.

I’ve known Denis O’Reilly for a long time. He’s an irresistible force of nature. He makes things happen. Putting a community centre together is a great idea – it will be a source of inspiration for generations to come. The art auction was a great way to lay one of the foundation stones; so again best wishes to Denis and the team behind the Waihoiki marae complex, and good on you to everyone who opened their hearts – and their wallets.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Decisions, decisions

The New York Times ran an interesting essay last month on a phenomenon called ‘decision fatigue’. It centered around a study which showed that a parole board was more likely to grant parole early in the day when the board was fresh or shortly after a break. The reason being that making decisions all day simply wears you out to a point where it’s easier not to make a decision at all or to go with the least risky option – in this case, not granting parole.

Other experiments found that when buying customized suits, computers or expensive cars, after a certain point people would invariably go with the default option when presented with yet another choice. But decision fatigue dissipated or was reversed with a shot of glucose. So maybe you should stock up on chocolate bars next time you have a big call to make.

Sugar-hits aside, decision fatigue reinforces the imperative for brands to engage with hearts rather than minds. And to anticipate, surprise and delight with thoughtful touches rather than customizing to death. Sure I like choice and the chance to personalize a new product. But more than anything I want you to show that you know me and you care.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Power Of A Mistake

When I started my career at Mary Quant in the 60s I was schooled in the fail fast, learn fast, fix fast, mantra. Lines went from conception to launch to discontinuation at lightning speed; it was a great place to discover the power of a mistake as a way of learning and improving.

In a similar vein Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman says he learns more about the human mind when it makes mistakes than he does when everything is working perfectly. Kahneman has been studying intuitive thinking for 40 years, and said this at the start of a recent master class on the science of human nature:

If you want to characterize how something is done, then one of the most powerful ways of characterizing the way the mind does anything is by looking at the errors that the mind produces while it's doing it because the errors tell you what it is doing. Correct performance tells you much less about the procedure than the errors do.

We focused on errors. We became completely identified with the idea that people are generally wrong. We became like prophets of irrationality. We demonstrated that people are not rational.

In psychology and life mistakes are powerful levers for discovery and future success. For Kahneman they are the key to understanding human nature. In business today’s mis-steps are tomorrow’s side-steps, making us more agile, dangerous and competitive. If you’re not making mistakes and learning you’re missing something big. So fail fast, learn fast, fix fast.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Booktrack

Sound transformed movies in the 1920s and sparked a golden age for Hollywood. Now it’s putting the ‘SO’ of SISOMO (Sight, Sound, Motion) into e-books, mashing together the joy of reading with the emotional pulling power of sound. This is thanks to a new venture called Booktrack, the brainchild of New Zealand brothers Mark and Paul Cameron, which adds soundtracks to stories, intensifying the reading experience by multiplying imagination and emotion. Booktrack supplies both moving music and ambient sound, artfully introduced and shifting mood at the right time based on your reading speed.

Great books are already irresistible; this feels like it could take reading to another place, with the right balance of suggestive sound and the power of the mind. I’m interested in the creative response – will authors work more “aural imagery” into their writing? Will favorite e-book composers emerge? Will consumers create their own soundtracks for titles close to their hearts and share them with their friends? Let’s hope Booktrack turns a new leaf for e-books.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Alpha Beta Better?

Back in school I was captain of soccer and cricket, and throughout my career, I’ve assumed the leadership position in any team automatically, whether appointed or not. As you’d expect this can quickly lead to face offs or head butts to decide who’s top monkey.

The scientific question as to whether or not this tendency is a healthy trait is getting answers. Enter this piece Are Alpha Males Healthy? which discusses a new study (on wild baboons, naturally) indicating that betas have one over the alphas health-wise due to less stress. The good news for alphas is that the risks can be managed. Studies also show that being at the bottom of the social hierarchy is more stressful than being at the top.

Take the Masters of the Universe test in the article, and decide where you sit. Two footnotes: 1. ESPN Coach of the Century Vince Lombardi said: “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.” 2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is playing at a theater near you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Now is the Time

Dan Carter, the All Blacks' playmaker and the world's #1 player, is out of the Rugby World Cup. He tore his groin muscle in the Captains training run on Saturday. He was due to captain New Zealand on Sunday; instead he's crocked. The AB's were sailing serenely forwards, playing great rugby and doing most things right. Now it's all up for grabs.

Now's the time for the rest of the team to stand up, to make a difference, and to look adversity in the eye and face it down. Now's the time for Piri Weepu to stamp his name or the world stage.

Now's the time for all the All Black coaches and players to win without Dan.

Now's the time for all of us to believe and back Black.

As Vince Lombardi said, "Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all the time thing. You don't win once in a while; you don't do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit."

We've got into that habit. 4 games, 4 wins. 3 to go.

We live for moments like this.

Kia Kaha.

KR

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ode to the Olfactory

Sight, sound, touch, taste and smell are all hardwired to our brains, but as expert and professional engineer of smell, Steve Pearce, says the power of smell is too often underestimated.

Engaged by organisations throughout the world, Steve has recreated smells from the hair of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra to outer space for NASA’s training programs. His insights on smell are like lyrics for a Lovemarks songbook.

Smell is by definition sensual. It’s the most powerful of our senses because it’s a direct extension of the brain. Its direct contact means we get a very quick, intensive reaction to odors.

Smell is mysterious. No one really understands how it actually works. The nerve receptors are linked directly to the brain, but there is nothing between them and the brain, unlike other senses.

Smell is also intimate. It’s the first sense a newborn uses to identify with its mother, but as we grow older that sense slowly fades.

Sensual, Mysterious and Intimate, the DNA of Lovemarks. Want to make your brand loved in record time? Choose a heavenly scent to associate yourself with, and find a creative way to deploy it in-store, in packaging, in the product itself. Fresh laundry. Cut grass. Sea salt. Wet concrete. Leather. If you can imagine it, Steve can create it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Grown in Detroit – A Food Moment

Last year Time did a great project on Detroit, setting up shop in the city so that it could do run a journalism project focused on people, opportunities, and dreams. I thought it was a great idea, going beyond headlines to tell real stories of an iconic city with depth and credibility.

In the last decade more than 250,000 people have left the city. Hope springs eternal, and some places are irrepressible. Rome went from being the imperial capital to grazing land and back again to become the capital of modern Italy.

Detroit, once the heartland of America’s industrial belt, is discovering a new social and economic model. Almost one third of the city lies empty today, but that is rapidly changing as small community groups, neighbors and entrepreneurs converge on the opportunities this presents for urban agriculture, according to Scientific American.

At the heart of these plans is Recovery Park, designed to become the epicenter of a large scale urban garden and aquaculture project that will create up to 5,000 jobs.

Detroit is having a food moment. Like bringing a family together around the table – this project is from the community, for the community. Green shoots from a city of steel – this is the kind of creativity America needs.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Loyalty Beyond Relevance

A few months back I posted on Google’s new Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT) e-book, featuring a foreword by our own Dina Howell, Global CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X. ZMOT is the principle that more people are doing their research online before heading to the store, home of P&G’s famous First Moment Of Truth, when the shopper stands at the shelf and decides what to buy.

The importance of ZMOT is reinforced by a recent Australian study that also adds fuel to the Lovemarks fire. The study not only found that people are using the web more often to research product purchases - it showed that when going through search results, they were more likely to click on websites from a brand they trusted than links that were relevant to their search terms.

This is loyalty beyond reason, the heart of Lovemarks - where emotional connections and relationships trump information and irritation. Relevance is irrelevant. To win in this moment of truth - as in all others - you need to be irresistible.