Creativity in Business

This, from The Book of Life:

"...business creativity is a little different from artistic creativity. A company is a group of individuals gathered together to solve a problem for other people. This helps to define what the true focus of business creativity should be: intense and lateral thinking about what could be missing from the lives of customers. Business creativity means skill at identifying and profitably meeting the needs (many of them unspoken and vague) of customers. Everything else – the factories, the technology, the logistics, the spreadsheets – is in a sense secondary to this aim; whatever efforts are subsequently lavished on execution, a business cannot succeed if it hasn’t zeroed in on a real, that is, sufficiently urgent, human requirement."


Visual Cues, Habits and Motivation

Progress

My first job after University (which was actually a Polytechnic if you can remember back when there were such things) was selling space in recruitment directories. There was a recession on at the time (hence very few jobs for graduates with non-vocational degrees) and I kind of fell into it. But in many ways I think it was the best start I could have had. It was a telesales job, cold-calling businesses, selling them advertising space. I had to make at least 80 calls a day in order to reach a daily target minimum of 20 effective phone calls (ones that reached a decision-maker). I learned about how to persuade. I learned about persistence, I learned about the importance of listening. About matching benefits to needs. I learned how to sell. It's a skill that I think is fantastically useful.

One of the things that stuck with me from that time was how we always had visual representations of bookings and targets up on the wall. You could see, as every booking was made, the target coming ever closer and closer. It was hugely motivating. And I was reminded of this when I read this short piece on the power of visual cues in building and maintaining good habits. It's so true. And it makes me wonder why, when we have access to so much data now, companies don't use this more (beyond obvious vertical functions) in the service of creating simple visualisations to enable staff to see progress toward a specific objectives. Such a simple thing, and yet so powerful.


On To-Do Lists

To-do-list

I rather liked this approach to doing a To-Do list from Peter Bregman, taken from this write up (found via Fraggl) of his 18 Minute plan to managing your day and finding focus. What I particularly like about it is the more comprehensive way in which it is inclusive of elements that sit outside of work tasks. It's easy (particularly when running your own business I find) for the time for these non-work related tasks to get squeezed, and this is a good way of allocating them at least equal prominence and so being more disciplined about making them happen. It's a point made well by Paul Graham in this short post about changing the defaults in life to make sure you don't forget about the really important stuff.


Google Firestarters Comes to Australia

FirestartersNYC

I'm really excited to announce that, on the heels of our events in New York and our recent one in Austin at SXSW, Google Firestarters is coming to Australia. We'll be running two events in one week - one in Melbourne on the 21st April, and one in Sydney on the 22nd April - both on the theme of 'Adapting Strategy for the Adaptive Age'. We want to delve into how strategy and planning is changing in response to the impact of digital technologies on the practice of marketing and advertising.

It's a broad subject, that will no doubt touch on themes that have arisen at previous Firestarters - the intersection of technologically-native practices like user experience, service and product design with planning, impact on agency remuneration and the way agencies work with clients, iterative strategy, and how agencies innovate. But it's also a defined enough topic for us to have some wide-ranging but cohesive debate and it will be fascinating to gain a new and potentially different perspective.

As always with Firestarters we have some excellent speakers. Google's Head of Strategic Planning out of New York, Abigail Posner, will be in Australia and on the roster for both events. And I will be there to moderate both events. Our full line up is:

Melbourne 21stApril, 6pm, Clemenger Auditorium:

Dave King, Director of Strategy at The Royals

Eaon Pritchard, Head of Strategy, Red Jelly

Roger Box, Director of Digital, Clemenger BBDO

Abigail Posner, Google

Sydney 22nd April, 6pm, Google HQ:

Simon Small, Exec Strategy Director, Isobar Australia

Sudeep Gohil, CEO, Droga 5

Jason Lonsdale, Exec Planning Director, Saatchi & Saatchi

Abigail Posner, Google

As always with Firestarters, I have some guest passes to give away to readers of this blog, so if you'd like one, please leave a comment below or contact me direct (stating whether you'd like the Sydney or Melbourne event). 

I'm so pleased that Firestarters is coming to Australia and expanding globally in the way that it is. It's a hugely exciting and positive thing. 


Two Great Quotes on Strategy

This from Good Strategy/Bad Strategy (via @amayfield):

"The first natural advantage of good strategy arises because other organisations often don't have one. And because they don't expect you to have one either. A good strategy has coherence, coordinating actions, policies and resources so as to accomplish an important end. Many organisations, most of the time, don't have this. Instead, they have multiple goals and initiatives that symbolise progress but no coherent approach to accomplishing that progress, other than 'spend more and try harder'."

...and this, from Russell's extract from an interview with Roger Martin which also makes a good point about not confusing planning with strategy:

"The very essence of strategy is explicit, purposeful choice. Strategy is saying explicitly, proactively: 'We're going to do these things and not those things for these reasons.' The problem with a lot of strategies is that they are full of non-choices. Probably most of us have read more than a few so-called strategies that say something like, "Our strategy is to be customer centric." But is that really a choice?"

Martin goes on to say that you only really know that you've made a real strategic choice if you can 'say the opposite of what that choice is, and it's not stupid'. And how, in a similar vein to the first quote, developing strategy so often becomes 'an exercise in agglomerating initiatives, assigning responsibilities without a coherent set of choices that help bind them', meaning that most strategic plans are more accurately described as 'budgets with prose'.

So true.