Thursday, 14 November 2013

5 Tips to boost creativity.

Creativity and innovation are terms that often get confused so here is my own personal take on what the difference is and some ways to help boost your own creative thinking to help you innovate with focus!

Creativity vs. Innovation

The difference as I see it between creativity and innovation is the focus.  

Innovation is about ‘how’ we unlock and apply our creative potential to come up with new ideas. It’s all about focussing our creativity to solve a problem, develop new concepts, products or services. It a process to help us apply creativity for commercial impact and should therefore be measurable, systematic and outcome focused.

Creativity on the other hand is subjective it’s difficult to measure and appears to exist and manifest itself differently in everyone’s very individual mind. Just take a look at how the Art world divides itself around the work of people like Damien Hirst to see how subjective creativity really is.

Theodore Levitt  sums it up nicely when he said
“What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e. putting ideas to work.”

 While many organisations now have systems, approaches and processes to help aid the Innovation capability what is appears to be lacking is the individual’s ability to think creatively at work. Hence many organisations still come up with quite traditional ‘me too’ ideas.

We are all too often constrained by behavioural norms that somehow prevents us from being truly creative between 9 & 5!

Here are a few ways which may help:

 FIVE Top Tips to boost creativity:

Keep your eyes peeled and your ear open!
Being curious, staying connected to the world and what is going on around you is a great starting point for creativity. Seeking out inspiration in what you see is the spark for creative thinking. Likewise read stuff that is outside your comfort zone. For me that’s picking up a magazine about Kite surfing or reading a Financial Times article!

To illustrate the importance of staying connected I will points to fashion designer Paul Smith’s inspiring experience in the Milan airport. Smith had some time to kill as his flight was delayed, but instead of retreating to a quiet seating area, he took a stroll around. A lone bracelet charm which had fallen to the ground caught his eye. He picked it up and decided it would make a beautiful button for a shirt. Smith went on to make 30,000 shirts with that button detail.

Meet new and different people
We often surround ourselves with ‘people like us’ which is great but can also lead us to think along similar wave lengths. Instead seek out people with different opinions, attitudes and experiences. It will open new channels of thinking that you never considered.

Find a new place to let your mind wander:
Find a new place to seek out creativity and inspiration. Open your curtains and stare out into the world and explore somewhere you’ve never been. If you can’t leave your home – surf the internet, read a book or try a different routine for a few days and see what sparks fly.

Allow yourself to have some FUN
Somewhere along the way we adults become serious grown ups. Or like me spend time pretending to be a grown up! We sometimes forget how to play like a child and dont let our sense of fun shine out, especially at work. Creativity isn’t always about discipline, in fact letting your mind forget “the rules” may help you spark creative ideas. Assess your work lifestyle, your home and office and any place where it could use some more whimsy and just get playful.

Don’t allow yourself to get “bullied” into the social norm
You know those voices in your head that say “What would people think if I said that out loud?” Creativity shouldn’t have a limit and often we as people let ourselves get bullied around by our own sub-conscience and feel we have to adhere to the status quo. Instead give yourself permission to be different and to seek creativity in any outlet that feels right for you!
Want to read more

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

10 Business Buzz words we love to hate.

If you’re working in the corporate world right now it’s highly likely that you will be all too familiar with many of the following phases. I’m sure like me we are all guilty of using any one of these at some time.
Maybe we think it makes us sound terribly clever or it’s a rouse to make people think we actually know what we are talking about or indeed as a way of convincing your boss you should get promoted.
However, all these do is aid miscommunication as everyone reads something different into the ‘real message it conveys’.

I’ve taken a conscious decision to avoid all of these hackneyed phrases and find a more original way of talking/thinking. Its easier said than done! ‘Old habits die hard’.  I hope you have better luck!

 So here we have my 10 most hated clichés along with how I think they really translate. Don't forget to scroll to the bottom for some great clips including my personal favourite  'The Teleconference'.

Credit to Forbes here for some great explanations

Buy in
Agreement on a course of action, if the most disingenuous kind. Notes David Logan, professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business: “Asking for someone’s ‘buy-in’ says, ‘I have an idea. I didn’t involve you because I didn’t value you enough to discuss it with you. I want you to embrace it as if you were in on it from the beginning, because that would make me feel really good.’”

Best Practice
Refers to a method or technique that delivers superior results compared with other methods and techniques. It is also perhaps the single most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up.

Think Outside the Box
To approach a business problem in an unconventional fashion. Kudos to a reader who suggested: "Forget the box, just think." 

This word has infiltrated nearly every cube and conference room in the country. Blame Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. (No. 6 is Synergize.) Of this habit, Covey writes, "To put it simply, synergy means two heads are better than one." The same advice was preached several decades earlier on the hit show Sesame Street. Big Bird called it "cooperation."


Like most educated people, Michael Travis, an executive search consultant, knows how to conjugate a verb. That's why he cringes when his colleagues use the word "learning" as a noun. As in: "I had a critical learning from that project," or "We documented the team's learnings." Whatever happened to simply saying: "I learned a lesson from that project?" Says Travis: "Aspiring managers would do well to remember that if you can't express your idea without buzzwords, there may not be an idea there at all."

Reach Out
Jargon for “let’s set up a meeting” or “let’s contact this person.” Just say that---and unless you want the Human Relations department breathing down your neck, please don’t reach out unless clearly invited.

Window of Opportunity
This breezy expression refers to the amount of time, usually brief, in which to take action; when the window shuts, dreams of freedom die. Better scramble through that sucker. Or at least “take action.”

Low-Hanging Fruit
You’d rather not have to climb the tree to get your apple, so you curb your hunger by picking the low-hanging ones. Same goes for business tasks and opportunities. Except that no one knows which tasks and opportunities you’re talking about, or whether ticking them off, easy as that sounds, is a good idea in the first place.

Take Offline

An equally absurd variation of ‘let’s put this on the backburner.’ This means to postpone addressing an issue---one that may have nothing to do with the Internet. Unless you’re talking about removing your company’s Facebook page, you’re probably not taking anything offline. 

The granddaddy of nouns converted to verbs. ‘Leverage’ is mercilessly used to describe how a situation or environment can be manipulated or controlled. Leverage should remain a noun, as in “to apply leverage,” not as a pseudo-verb, as in “we are leveraging our assets.” 


How to start a buzz word revolution?
A quick round of Buzzword Bingo soon raises everyone’s awareness of the issue and an embargo on some common clichés actually forces people to find real words to explain it in plain English.

Watch this video to see what one Tech company has done to ban buzz words.

And finally... just because I love this scarily accurate video about Teleconferences.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

TV adverts - The hidden insight

Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT one of those people who only watch TV for the adverts but I do count some of them among my friends. You know who you are….

Having said that I’ve started to watch the ad breaks with more interest and play a game I call ‘spot the insight’. It’s a game I’ve kept to myself for fear that the family will likely think I’ve finally and completely lost the plot!

I’m sure the occasional breakthrough squeal of delight when I’ve spotted a new only serves to alert them that Mum is well on her way there anyway.

However I digress….

I’m struck by the way many TV adverts today convey the deep insight they have about consumer behaviour.

It’s something every industry can learn from and is based on a simple principle and that is

‘Get to know your consumer better than they know themselves’.

How many times do you watch an advert and think ‘I do that’ or ‘That’s so true’.

 It’s a bit like watching a stand-up comedian. You know the ones who specialise in observational humour (finding the humour in aspects of our everyday life). We sit there and can relate it to our Mum’s, Kids, Husband’s even ourselves as we cringe with the hidden truth!

 Herein lies the essence of a great insight. Its usually based on a collection of connected observations which help to reveal a behaviour that once addressed by a brand can change the consumer behaviour.

So here are the fruits of my spot the Insight game to share and enjoy:

My Top 5

 1.    Andrex

Their Master Stroke has been to give a title to their consumer Insight. They all it ‘Rollerphobia’. You can even take the test on their website to see if your household is suffering from it.

Here's a link to their TV ad.


2.     Boots – Christmas brought to you by the girls. 2011

An old advert but still a favourite. How true is this ad? Women want every Christmas to be better than the last, The pressure is on to make every detail the best it can be. While, sorry guys’, you hardly notice it even Christmas.

 3.    Thompson Holiday

Reminding us all to take time, for a holiday, for family. Even more moving as its spoken by a child. It could be our children speaking to each one of us.

4.    Carex

Because we’ve all done this at some point in a public loo.

5.    MacDonalds

Dave TV ad

The insight started with how many separated Dads end up taking their kids to MacDonald's on a Sunday and ended up with this happy story. Touching but not sure how many more burgers they sold off the back of this.


Whats an Insight?

A great insight reveals a deep understanding of attitudes, beliefs or behaviours that connect at an emotional level. It provokes a clear response with a consumer and when leveraged by a brand can provoke a change in said consumer behaviour.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Simple ideas are the best!

Thanks to a friend of mine in Turkey who recently shared this with me.

This little story from South Korea really proves the point that even the simplest of ideas can have an impact.
When we think about Innovation the usual suspects spring to mind, Google, Apple  and the like. However not all innovation has to be BIG and disruptive.

This clip tells the story and is well worth a watch.

The Problem?
South Korea a country devoid of oil with one of the worlds highest gasoline consumptions. Car use is increasing, fuel costs are rising, parking spaces are scarce and people are getting frustrated. Its estimated that an average car driver living in Seoul will drive on average 15KM per month to find a parking space!

The solution & Impact?
S-Oil one of four oil companies in South Korea came up with the 'Here Campaign' to save oil. Yes, I know what you are thinking - is it all a PR stunt?

However the facts (whatever the motivation) speak for themselves. In one day trialling this simple idea (its all about signalling free parking spaces with a balloon) saved 23 litres of fuel. Just imagine what this idea, implemented on a large scale could achieve across Europe.

The company gave a its customers the impression that they are actually saving them oil, time & money.  Nice simple solution, nice little marketing spin too!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Life Hacks - Creative ways people find to simplify their life.

Life hacks are the little ways people invent to make life just a bit easier.

I love the way these often re purpose stuff we probably all have lying around the house. All it takes is your creativity and imagination to see the new and different uses.

Most of these came from a great post on tumblr. More tips and tricks can be found at reddit. 
Here are my favourites:


Thursday, 15 August 2013

To boldly go - beyond your own frontiers

Many of my 'Pond buddies' are leading Innovation in big organisations. One of the struggles I hear them talk about is the difficulty in encouraging people to get out of the office and look for inspiration in the outside world.

They know that by spending just a bit of time seeking out fresh inspiration and maybe even exploring how other industries approach similar challenges can and does pay dividends.

While many companies talk about ‘external focus’ many in practice still spend most of their time with heads down looking inwards. We can learn so much from both related and non-related worlds but alas it isn’t always the priority it should be.

Barriers to making this a reality are many and numerous ‘I don’t’ have time’, ‘Why bother’ and ‘Maybe next year’ and all responses regularly heard. However the sign of a healthy business or industry is one that constantly looks outside of its own sphere for new ideas.

 Here are just a few real life stories to act as stimulus along with a couple of ways you can stay fresh with new experiences to get yourself sparking with new ideas.

 Deliberate Focus

GSK/McClaren are a great example of where a couple of companies who are collaborating to share their knowledge with a very deliberate focus.

In September 2011, GSK and the McLaren Group joined forces to share knowledge and expertise with the aim of improving their business performance and driving a more dynamic business culture.

“There are four core pillars to our relationship - business performance analysis, sports nutrition science, employee engagement and the creation of a new McLaren-GSK Centre for Applied Performance”.

Having a focus for the topic you want some new thinking or learning about is a great way to start.

Random inspiration

This is all about being tuned in and receptive to making new connections from what you see and hear as you go about living life. If you routinely meet the same or similar people, go to the same places, read the same magazines you will generally expose yourself to the same stimulus over and over again. To increase your chances of getting new inspiration try….

a.    Taking a different route to work.

b.    Reading a different newspaper/ magazine, genre of Book.

c.    Learning a new skill

d.    Eating at a different restaurant and trying foods you’ve never tried before.


It’s amazing where we can get inspiration and ideas and here are a couple of examples

Shell –  ‘Getting inspiration in the most unlikely places’.

 The bendy straw drill - A nice you tube video (based on true events) that shows how a simple drinking straw led to a new methods of accessing oil more cleanly.


Virgin Galactic –

Burt Rutan designed the record-breaking Voyager, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the sub-orbital spaceplane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004 for becoming the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice within a two week period.

His inspiration for the plane came from observing how a shuttlecock fell to the ground!

 Virgin Galactic contracted aerospace Burt  to build the Virgin Galactic mothership and spacecraft.

Air New Zealand – How ‘Aerobics’ stimulated a very different pre-flight safety movie.

Let Richard Simmons get you fit to fly. Lose the baggage, fasten your safety belt, take a breather and let's GO! 

None of these examples would have been possible if someone hadn’t either first stepped out and reached into another industry sector or got inspired by something they saw out of the office!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

5 Good reasons to re think your office environment

One of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had from ex colleague since leaving the corporate world is ‘Are you renting an office space’. It’s strange that many people consider the need for some sort of defined space we call an office, for serious work to be done!

It led me to think about our working environments and gather some stimulus and inspiration for you to either start a conversation at work or indeed a revolution!

Let me begin by telling you a story close to home.

Since leaving my job to start my own Innovation business I’m now working from a ‘home office’. I’d certainly had the option of working from home previously but never seemed to be able to actually do productive work there. Too many distractions seemed far more important priorities at home ‘maybe I should put the washing on, fill the dishwasher, clear those weeds’ etc. My mindset was stuck in ‘I’m at home I do home stuff’.

However once faced with the prospect of actually having to work from home I decided to focus on making an environment that encouraged me to work.

My first mistake was to try to create an ‘Office’ just like at work! The desk arrived along with a docking station, monitor, office chair and the rest of the paraphernalia I needed to re-create my corporate office here at home.

After a couple of weeks surprise, surprise I was resisting using the space in preference for the kitchen table, garden or even my bed!

My aha moment came when I realized that I needed to change my office into a place I actually wanted to spend time in and stopped thinking that I should only work in a place we call an office. In fact my best ideas came to me in moments when I wasn’t actually doing what people call work!

My work space is now much more like a ‘hang out’ space yes its got a desk but it doesn’t dominate the room and yell ‘You can only do productive work while sitting HERE’. My room now includes my sewing machine, Art supplies, favourite books/pictures, my collection of cameras and various other vintage nick naks Ive picked up over the years. It’s now a place that ‘works’ FOR me. I’m sure others would find the space a little ‘strange’ but that’s the thing is we all work differently.


5 Good reasons why rethinking your office environment can boost creativity & culture.

 1.    Bring your whole self to work:  When individual personalities are subdued at work and everyone interacts on a safe, ‘inside-the-box level’, you won’t see a lot of energy or passion and you won’t get ‘out-of-the-box ideas’. People are generally more creative and innovative when they can be themselves at work and a stuffy, stifling work environment also stands in the way of collaboration.  Ultimately everybody including the business will benefit by being able to be more comfortable in their own skin at work. Creating a strong culture of ‘personality’ that aims to give explicit permission to be themselves is a great recruiting tool and you will find people will actually want to work in a place like this.

Examples: Going beyond the family pictures and your favourite mug or pot plant brought in from home, why not as one company does, provide each employee with a voucher to buy something for their workspace they simply love and would want at home.

2.    It’s got to be fun. Our best ideas come when we are relaxed, laughing, socialising and having fun. Connections with other people from diverse functions, backgrounds etc is crucial to real creativity. An element of play can help establish social bonds as get you know people on a different level. Making it ‘acceptable’ to have fun is a must.

Examples: At Google different teams personalise their spaces and competitions are run for the most creative team space. In addition to cubicles, some staffers share white fabric "yurts," tent like spaces that resemble igloos. The average time for moving desks is every 6 months.

 3.    Behaviours trump Culture: An Innovation buddy of mine recently said “Culture is a by-product of behaviour”. Every company has two cultures – the one they aspire to creating and the reality of the one they have created. In truth it’s the sum of every employees’ behaviour that make up the culture dynamic business backed by a passionate, energetic, and engaged workforce is evident from your first interaction at the reception desk.

Examples: Behaviours typically associated with young students are important to Google – idealism, curiosity, creativity and fresh thinking.  To encourage these behaviours and create a focus on learning and problem solving, the Google offices are uncannily like a university campus with a large cafeteria, chill-out games rooms, and lots of informal meeting spaces.

4.    Mix it up. If people generally come to the office, go to their spot, mix with the same people and go home, the organization is not capturing the benefits that come from spontaneous interactions among its ‘thinkers’. “When there are no water cooler chats or meetings popping up in the middle of the space, it’s a sign of a poor culture.

To prevent the establishment of silos employees at Innocent Smoothie Company don’t sit with their teams but with a random selection of people from across the business. Every six months the company have what they call the ‘Big Shuffle’ at which people are encouraged to move desks and sit next to different colleagues

There is a very sensible business rationale behind even the foozball table at Google - getting people together and talking. Free food in cafes follows the same idea – if you are sitting with people from different parts of the business ideas will emerge.

5.    Design the space: There’s a key consideration that we should not overlook when thinking about the design of our workspaces and that’s our overall health and wellbeing. We generally spend 8-12 hours in our workspace and that’s a chunk of time we could be improving our overall health. We are not designed to sit for long periods of time so keeping mobile is critical. We need to stop thinking of ‘our chair and my desk’ in preference from a variety of spaces that we can move between.


·         ?What If! knows that its employees communicate and work in a variety of ways, and that their needs change from day to day—or even hour to hour. The open plan supports a variety of needs, including the need for quiet. The “Library” features wing back chairs and a large work table, and wallpaper with photographic images of books helps set the tone for this quiet space. There are also several phone rooms for private conversations, as well as a variety of meeting rooms (all of which are managed with iPad signs outside the doors to indicate if the room is occupied and the meeting is not to be disturbed). Conversely, the Extrovert room is furnished with a sectional sofa and custom wallcovering made with a photo of a bustling East Village street scene. It is also equipped with DJ equipment, so making noise here is encouraged.


And Finally: Go to Business Insider for a selection of office tour pictures and videos of some of the chicest, cololest and weirdest, even a sneak peak into Warren Buffett’s office!