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CREATIVITY

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My daughter is still quite young.

Very young, actually.

Izobel is five years old.

I avoided the inevitable with Izobel for the first four years of her life.

And I impressed myself!

But recently, the inevitable happened.

Izobel, somehow, became aware of their existence.

And whilst her awareness of them has not transformed her life or mine, it has impacted the narrative – just a little bit – each time she and I leave the house.

This includes buzzing to the shops, longer trips to local towns or any family holiday at all. None of these will ever be the same.

It was McDonald’s first.

Then Burger King.

Probably because McDonald’s outnumbers Burger King by almost three-to-one in the UK.

But today, at five years old, Izobel is aware of both.

McDonald’s and Burger King.

All things in moderation, and all that.

The occasional trip to one or other of these two fast food giants is probably OK for Izobel, and indeed any five-year-old.

And it was something Izobel said and did whilst at one of these restaurants that has inspired this little tale.

Wrestlemania.

One Saturday, just before a very expensively ticketed trip to see ‘Wrestlemania’ in Newcastle, five-year-old and I Izobel had an hour to kill in Newcastle city centre.

Izobel was hungry.

And what I allowed to happen next was very unusual in that I had never allowed it to happen before.

Basically, Izobel and I did not visit McDonald’s or Burger King.

We visited both.

The Two Burger Bar Strategy.

Hungry, five year old Izobel had her usual plain cheeseburger.

First in McDonald’s.

Then another in Burger King.

I’ll explain my strategy.

The Two Burger Bar Strategy as I now to call it.

(Now.

Imagine me leaning-in to you as I let you in on my thinking.

Imagine me checking left, then right, before saying a word.

Then imagine me eventually looking you straight in the eye, speaking in hushed tones, and confiding in you…)

“Look…”

I’d whisper.

“These two burgers.

99p each.

One hotdog at the stadium.

Eight quid.

Yeah?

Yeah?”

(Then imagine me tapping the right side of my nose with my right forefinger, as I slowly lean back and raise my eyebrows as if I’d just explained how I’d closed the best business deal of my life).

Anyhow, this Two Burger Bar Strategy raised a spontaneous question for me.

Which did Izobel prefer?

McDonald’s?

Or Burger King?

McDonald’s or Burger King?

Izobel, up until then, always preferred McDonald’s.

Better toys, apparently.

And a nicer looking bun.

But something happened on that particular day that swung things the other way.

Something happened at Burger King that made Izobel light up, and defect.

From McDonald’s.

To Burger King.

Seeds.

As Izobel sat in Burger King, she looked down at her cheeseburger.

Staring.

After thinking for a while, between her carefully pincered thumb and forefinger, she plucked one of the seeds from the top of the burger bun.

This is something Izobel could never do in McDonald’s of course, as McDonald’s buns don’t have seeds.

Izobel then held the single seed up to my gaze, and said this,

“Daddy…’

Izobel began.

“I would like to grow a burger.

So when we get home, I would like to plant this seed please.

And I will water it.

I know what to do because we’re doing it at school.

I like this burger.

And I would like to grow another.

OK?”

Izobel’s eyes didn’t move from mine as she waited for a response.

I had a decision to make.

And after a few seconds, not wanting her to be disappointed, I spoke,

“Ah.

Izobel.

It doesn’t quite work like that.”

I said.

“I am not sure that this or any seed will grow into a burger.

It’s just not the way it works.”

Izobel blinked.

Slowly.

Her eyes staying fixed on mine.

And she blinked again.

Slowly.

“That’s OK,”

Said Izobel eventually,

“I’ll plant it anyway.”

The Other Side of Crazy.

Most of our lives.

Most of the people we meet will, with closed eyes, a snigger and a slow shake of the head, tell us that the seeds we want to plant won’t grow into what we want them to.

And that’s a shame.

Because to get to the truly great ideas, we almost always have to take a clear and stubborn route through the crazy ideas.

Because that’s where I think great is.

On the other side of crazy.

‘Crazy’ being free-flowing thinking, judgement-free blurting and boundaryless, adventurous concept creation.

The main reason that people close their eyes, snigger, slow-shake their head and tell us that the seeds we want to plant won’t grow into what we want them to, is because most people live in the world of the probable.

Rather than the world of the possible.

They are basing likely outcomes on what has gone before.

And where is the adventure in that?

Life Is An Adventure

Do something. Get something.

Do something. Get something.

Do something. Get something.

That’s the way so many people live their lives.

“If I probably do this.

I’ll probably get that.”

Little loops of investment and return.

And it’s oh so very, very boring.

Sometimes…

Just ‘DO something’.

To see what happens.

Enjoy the journey.

Enjoy the adventure.

The journey and the adventure teach us so much more than a boring input/output approach to life.

Life is an adventure!

So treat it as such.

But Then Again. What Can A Five Year Old Teach Us?

The counter to this?

Well, the counter of course is, what can a five-year-old teach us about any of this?

What can a five-year-old teach us about how to live our lives?

And what the heck does a five-year-old know about how burgers are made?

Burger King burgers are butchered from cows!

Except of course – as a lovely couple’s conversation as they were entering Burger King and Izobel and I were leaving Burger King remind me – they’re not.

“Ah there they are Claire.

Up there on the menu.

I’ve heard about those.

Let’s try one.

The Impossible Whopper.

They’re made from plants, you know.”

Plant the Seed.

It looks like Izobel was right, then.

About two things.

First, you can grow burgers from seeds.

And she got another thing right too.

For herself, for me, and for everybody.

What five year old Izobel said to me on that day really is worth remembering.

No matter what anybody says to you.

“I’ll plant it anyway”.

Good chefs.

Cook good food that lots of people might like.

Great chefs.

Cook food that they themselves like.

That a select few then get to taste and fully appreciate.

Cook For Yourself.

In a recent story I wrote.

I made the comment that ‘technique’ always second plays second fiddle to ‘attitude’.

And this is a great example of how that works.

In real life.

Filip Fasten.

Filip Fasten is Sweden’s most famous chef.

Filip won Swedish Chef of The Year in 2014.

And here’s something I heard Filip say in an interview.

Something that stayed with me:

I am cooking for myself.

And the guests get to taste my food.

Filip said this in passing.

Didn’t bat an eyelid.

And carried right on chatting.

Filip’s Food. 

So there you go.

Technique.

I think.

Always second plays second fiddle to ‘attitude’.

Do I want to taste Filip’s food?

That he is cooking for himself?

Over the cook that cooks good food that lots of people might like?

Too bloody right.

Here’s a simple story.

Of a simple conversation.

About simplicity.

Simplicity.

HIM:

That thing you came up with for that client.

It looks so simple.

It looks like you haven’t even thought about it.

ME:

There’s a really simple reason.

Why it looks so simple.

So simple that it looks like I haven’t even thought about it.

It’s because I have.

The End.

I’ve spent a lot of time at home recently.

Funny that.

Choices.

I’ve spent a lot of time at home and I’ve found myself making a whole load of new choices.

Lots of ‘what will I do today’ choices.

It’s because I get much less pressure from external sources, these days.

So I have more time.

And more freedom.

To choose.

Music. 

One rather mundane sounding choice that I make each day.

Is what music to listen to.

Or indeed, whether to listen to any music at all.

And that means I very often experience much more of something that I’ve not considered too much in the past.

Silence.

Silence. 

Silence is such a nice thing.

And I realised just this week.

That experiencing more silence than usual has taught me three things.

Three Things.

First, it has taught me to be grateful for the space that silence gives me.

The space to think.

To breathe more slowly.

And.

Sometimes.

To just wait.

Wait for the right thought.

The right idea.

Or the right resolution.

To appear.

The second thing that experiencing more silence has taught me.

Is to be grateful for the sounds in my life.

The crackle of the fire.

The comforting, far-off hum of the radio in the kitchen.

And even Izobel’s often incessant chatter.

As well as Colin’s spontaneous and purposeless barking.

I have grown folder of them all.

I have grown fonder of the contrast.

And finally.

The third thing that a new focus on.

And a new love of silence has taught me.

Is that if I chose to break this rather beautiful thing called silence in the future.

With some words or another.

They’d better be words worth listening to.

For the other person I mean.

Because silence really is a very lovely thing.

And the last thing anyone needs.

Is for it to be broken and ruined by the likes of me.

Without a bloody good reason for doing so.

There is another world.

If you choose to visit.

And it is amazing.

Accident. 

I visited quite recently.

By accident.

I hadn’t planned to go.

It just happened.

And you could visit too.

You could visit as soon as tomorrow.

3.45am. 

I awoke at 3.45am.

I don’t know why.

I just did.

Izobel was clinging onto my arm.

And it is of course amazing when your children do that.

But after a few moments I got up.

And that’s when I discovered it.

Another world.

Just Me.

Silent.

Dark.

Cool.

Slow.

I broke the silence with the click…hiss of a kettle.

The rustle of some packaging or other.

And the snap-snap of the toaster.

Then.

It was silent again.

With heavy butter melting on sourdough toast.

With a huge mug of tea and its curling steam tail.

With the opportunity to think.

Without my computer.

Without my phone.

Just me.

Another World.

There is another world.

If you choose to visit.

And it is amazing.

When an artist starts repeating themselves.

Because they think that’s what people want.

It’s all over.

That’s what Thom says about art.

And it’s what I say about business.

Thom.

Here’s Thom Yorke on Desert Island Discs.

Extended version.

It is early morning.

Or lunchtime.

Coffee.

Pottering.

Background listening.

https://www.50odd.co.uk/thom/.

 

Two weeks ago.

A friend of mine.

Ian.

Helped me to answer a question.

Even though it’s a question I didn’t actually ask him.

Even though Ian was relaying something to me that Geoff said to him.

And even though I myself wasn’t aware that this exact question resided in my head.

The Question.

Anyhow.

Here’s the question that Ian helped me to answer:

Why are most people’s LinkedIn updates so bloody boring?

Subconscious. 

This question must have been hiding in my unconscious.

Sleeping.

Snoring.

Bubbling away unanswered.

Because when Ian said this to me,

You know what Geoff said to me, Mychael.

And Geoff really is very good at storytelling.

Geoff said this.

“Ian.”

Geoff said.

“Whenever you tell a tale.”

“Never make yourself the hero of your own story.”

And that was that.

That’s what Ian said to me.

That Geoff had said to him.

Boring Bloody LinkedIn.

Most people’s LinkedIn updates are really bloody boring.

And I think that this is why.

They make themselves the hero of their own story.

And when this happens.

The writer is not really writing for you and me.

They are not gifting me anything useful or interesting.

They are chest beating.

They are writing for themselves.

LinkedIn.

So if you want to stop being really bloody boring on Linkedin.

Or at least to make a step in the right direction.

Do this.

Never make yourself the hero of your own story.

Thank you to Big Ian Donaghy, and Geoff Ramm.

I help six business a year.

As a brand consultant.

I like working with businesses I like.

Businesses that are focussed on making change that they.

And I.

Believe in.

And about six businesses each year does me just fine.

Brand Consultant.

I’m very good at being a brand consultant, actually.

I’ve been helping businesses for 25 years.

I’ve built ten meaningful brands of my own.

I’ve worked with some of the greatest brand brains around.

But that doesn’t mean I’m great for everyone, of course.

Because just like there’s more than one way for a football team to win a football match.

There’s more than one way for a business leader to win at business.

Taking a brand-driven approach is just one way.

And narrower still.

Taking my brand-driven approach is different again.

Brand Consultants and Football Teams. 

I’ll always tell you what I think you should do.

And why.

But whether you do it or not.

And exactly how you do it.

That’s up to you.

Klopp’s Liverpool.

Fergusson’s Manchester United.

Mourinho’s Chelsea.

They all played football.

They all won the Premiership.

But they all won it in their own way.

Bravely.

The way that I choose to build brand is clear.

In a word, it’s:

Bravely.

Because braver brands are much more likely to be noticed.

They are much more likely to be remembered.

And they are much more likely to be chosen.

Boring, Boring Business.

Business is largely boring, to me.

Businesses colour their logos in the same way as the businesses around them.

Businesses name themselves in the same way as the businesses around them.

Businesses speak in the same way as the businesses around them.

Then they wonder why they’re neither noticed.

Remembered.

Or chosen.

Hmmm.

Building Braver Brands.

Of course, if you are going to be different.

(And you should be different.

That’s not negotiable).

You need to know how to be different.

And that’s where I come in.

But just like there’s more than one way for a football team to win a football match.

There’s more than one way for a business leader to win at business.

Taking a brand-driven approach is just one way.

And narrower still.

Taking my brand-driven approach is different again.

Anyhow.

Whether you work with me or just listen to me and take my advice.

Be braver.

Build a braver brand.

Plan from tomorrow.

And start soon.

You’ll be glad you did.

When I made music in my 20’s and 30’s.

It was fun.

Pete and I wrote songs with great care.

Influenced by The Gin Blossoms.

Oasis.

And Iggy Pop.

Careless.

Sometimes, however.

We cared less than that.

Sometimes.

We relaxed.

And that’s when we wrote songs for Buff Carradine.

And lead guitarist Tommy ‘Salt & Vinegar’ Timpson.

(We never addressed or explained the ‘Salt & Vinegar’ part).

Buff Carradine.

Buff Carradine is.

(In his own mind).

Errol Flynn.

Buff wears smart shirts.

Cuban heels.

Lots of aftershave.

Cufflinks.

And he winks at people.

Sleazy.

Buff sings about magicians.

Pink and yellow balloons.

Black bow ties.

Chandeliers.

And his sleaziness creeps unapologetically into the lyrics of every song.

It’s just the way Buff is.

Up In A Balloon.

Anyhow.

Have a listen.

(Pete (Tommy) sings the first two verses.

I (Buff) sing from the first chorus to the end).

Up in a balloon (original).

Creative is good.

Bravery is good.

But Creative Bravery.

Wow!

Now that’s something else.

1+1=3

Creative Bravery is classic ‘1+1=3″.

The whole being far greater than the sum of the two parts.

If creativity is using our imagination and ideas to create something inventive and (at least in part) new.

Imagine doing that whilst being brave!

Imagine doing that whilst being courageous enough and ready enough to face and endure – or if you want to, ignore – anything that anybody said, thought or did to potentially derail you and that which you were creating.

You’d be unstoppable!

Creative Bravery.

Be Creative.

That’s brilliant.

Be Brave.

That’s brilliant.

But true Creative Bravery.

That is so rare.

And so special.

That is where the magic happens.