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CREATIVITY

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‘Special Projects’ is a London based design and invention consultancy.

It was founded by Industrial Designer, Clara Gaggero Westaway.

And Experience Designer (and magician) Adrian Westaway.

I met Clara at TEDx Newcastle this month.

Unboxing.

Clara showcased a 9 year old project.

(The age of the project is significant).

And how she and her team tackled a problem that older Samsung customers had.

With the unboxing of Samsung phones.

Backstory.

The backstory with the unboxing.

Specifically in the context off the customer’s age.

Is this.

Younger.

Younger customers tear open boxes.

Throw packaging to their right.

Throw instruction manuals to their left.

Frantically press buttons.

Slide fingers over screens.

And away they go.

Their ‘unboxing experience’ manifests as a slight dip in happiness.

But they get there in the end.

Older.

Older customers unbox slowly.

They lay things out.

They begin to thumb through the manual.

From page 1.

To page whatever.

And their ‘unboxing experience’ plummets.

They hate it!

And this is the issue that the Special Projects team were asked to address.

Oldschool. 

The proposed ‘concept solution’ to this problem was really lovely.

And there are three lessons for businesses.

Firstly, know your customers.

And more specifically, know your different kinds of customers.

And be special for all of them.

Secondly, sometimes.

To achieve more.

You must do less.

Or to move forwards.

You must think backwards.

And thirdly, here is a great quote from Clara:

In every moment of frustration there is a fuzzy moment waiting to be freed.

Clara is right.

This 150 seconds explains all: https://www.50odd.co.uk/oldschool/.

 

I went to TEDx Newcastle last week.

And I heard some really clever people.

Talking about some really clever things.

Really simply.

Simplicity.

I have worked with brands that create Mission Statements and Value Statements and similar for years.

And they are always too complex.

So I always distil them down.

To scarily few words.

Maybe six words.

This is because people are more likely to remember simple things.

And if they are more likely to remember them.

They are more likely to do them.

The PCI Rule.

So.

Using this approach.

I’ve distilled a day long TEDx Newcastle event.

And event with 1,000 people milling about.

And 12 or so excellent speakers.

Into 3 letters.

They are PCI.

And I’ve turned these three letters into a rule.

A rule for me

Capacity.

I have done this because I’m quite tired at the moment.

I am allowing myself to be pulled from pillar to post with my work.

Which is taking me towards the edge of the cliff called ‘capacity’.

And that’s not a good place to be.

Not because I will fall of the cliff.

(That won’t happen).

But I will lose something as I approach the edge.

Focus.

Quality.

Reliability.

Clarity of thought.

Something will weaken.

So I have to be careful.

And my new rule is helping me.

The PCI Rule.

PCI stands for:

  • Positivity.
  • Creativity.
  • Imagination.

It was the chap from Twitter that mentioned these words.

He suggested that when we all get trapped in The Loop.

Doing  too much work.

Forgetting to be positive, creative and imaginative.

We are worse off.

We don’t grow.

And I totally agree.

So, my new rule.

Whenever I am feeling a bit shitty.

Or that I am not doing my work as well as I could.

I move into positive, creative and imaginative mode.

And it works!

I feel better.

And I do better.

Try it.

It might work for you too.

Little old you.

Sat hunched in the corner.

Waiting.

Ignored.

Silent.

Small.

Unimportant.

Unable to reach people.

Therefore unable to make a difference.

To anyone.

Or anything.

Opinions.

And because of all this there is little point in you developing ideas.

Opinions.

Or unique notions.

Don’t bother being creative either.

Because no one is looking.

And no one is listening.

So the creativity and passion and drive that you have had inside you since birth.

(And it is in there).

It may as well stay inside.

Because what’s the point of expressing yourself?

In a vacuum.

Little old you.

Sat hunched in the corner.

Waiting.

Billion.

In your lifetime.

No matter how old you are right now.

You will easily connect with 1,000 people.

Easily.

There’s social media.

There’s just getting off your arse and getting out there.

Helping people.

Being generous.

Initiating meaningful conversations.

1,000 people is not hard.

And neither should it be hard to encourage your 1,000 people to connect with their 1,000 people in the same way.

Why?

Because if you do.

You are one step away.

One click away.

One conversation away.

From one million people.

And you are two steps or two clicks or two conversations away from.

One.

Billion.

Other.

Human.

Beings.

Something to Say.

If you have something to say.

Or if there is something you want to do.

Or if there is something you want to change.

Fucking say it.

Or do it.

Or change it.

Say it or do it over and over and over.

And if you don’t have something to say or do.

Or if there is nothing you want to change.

Have a word with yourself.

Get off your arse.

And find something to say.

Find something important to do.

Find something to change.

Then fucking make it happen.

Because if you are two steps away from 1 billion people.

You are just three steps away from everybody.

Little Old You.

Little old you.

Sat hunched in a corner.

Waiting.

One morning.

When I ran my Creative Agency.

A polite and well presented young chap wandered into the office.

Up to reception.

And introduced himself to our Office Manager, Samantha.

Under his arm.

He carried a large, multicoloured Pinjata.

Pinjata.

Samantha came over to me.

Mike

She said.

This chap is wondering whether you have five minutes for him?

Right now.

I did.

So I invited him in.

Handshake.

The young chap shook me by the hand.

Introduced himself.

Sat opposite me at the board table.

Popped his pinjata down next to him.

And explained to me that he was looking for a new role.

In New Business Development.

OK.

I said

Pop your cv through please.

And links to anything anything amazing you’ve been involved with.

And I’ll take a look.

He answered:

Oh, I have my cv with me today.

And with that, he slowly pushed his pinjata towards me.

It’s in there.

Creativity. 

If you want people to be interested in you.

Be interesting.

One of my biggest problems with Colleges and Universities.

Is that they push young people out into the world.

Very often with a great degree of talent, knowledge, skills and potential.

But with no clue of how to communicate or position themselves compellingly or memorably in the minds of the new people they meet.

It’s hard.

But it’s meant to be hard.

Because the best jobs, of course, should go to the best people.

The most conscientious people.

The most capable people.

The most interesting people.

CV.

Samantha and the team hung and battered the pinjata.

Ate the sweets that fell from it.

Handed me the cv that fell from it.

And I offered him a job the following day.

He started the following week.

And what was his cv like?

I don’t know.

I didn’t read it.

I noticed something this weekend.

I noticed that loads of children’s programmes.

Are themed around one thing.

Treasure!

The Plot.

You know the plot.

First, there’s the discovery.

The discovery of a Treasure Map.

This is SUCH an amazing feeling.

Can you remember that feeling?

Izobel could feel it as we watched the television together.

And I could feel it, too.

The excited realisation that something really, really special is out there.

Hidden.

Yet findable.

By you.

The Search.

Then there’s the journey.

The search.

The search zigs.

And it zags.

Because one minute there is hope.

And the next there is hopelessness.

And then just when it looks like all is lost.

If we just.

Keep.

Going.

We find it!

Treasure.

Treasure Maps.

When we are children.

Treasure Maps are found.

By Scooby Do.

And by Captain Pugwash.

And we.

The viewer.

Shares the feeling.

The excitement is tangible.

The excited realisation that something really, really special is out there.

Hidden.

Yet findable.

By you.

Adults.

And I just wanted to point out that.

As adults.

You can get that very same amazing feeling again if you like.

And you don’t even have to find a Treasure Map.

Because you can make a Treasure Map.

In your mind.

Imagine.

Give it a go.

Close your eyes.

And imagine.

It may take a little time.

And it may take a few goes.

But the realisation will happen.

The excited realisation that something really, really special is out there.

Hidden.

Yet findable.

By you.

Gemma from Extract Coffee is great.

She’s a fine person and a fine marketer.

Gemma really knows coffee and she really knows marketing.

And she is great to chat and listen to as well.

The Do Lectures.

I met Gemma in West Wales at The Do Lectures.

And she chatted to me about her son Leo.

Keep in mind that.

At The Do Lectures.

One meets some of the most important, impressive, unique and advanced minds in the world.

And as a consequence I remember lots that these people say because it’s so resonant and profound.

But I also remember what Gemma’s son Leo said.

Leo is 6.

Monkeymind.

Gemma is a busy and bright young mum.

And as happens with lots of busy young mums.

Sometimes, Gemma’s head gets full.

Gemma told me this.

About how it’s so often really hard to choose between ‘this’.

Or ‘that’.

Or ‘the other’.

Gemma told me how, sometimes, life really can be tricky.

Leo.

Anyhow, one day, a 6 year old Leo told his mum to to worry too much about this trickiness.

Because ‘Monkeymind’ is just one of those things that busy people have to deal with.

Gemma felt better.

Because her son cared enough to try to help.

And to empathise.

And because he was clever enough to come up with a great word to share with his mum.

So thanks Leo.

Because I can now say to anyone reading this.

If you too sometimes have so much going on that you just don’t know where to start.

Don’t worry.

We all feel a little bit like that sometimes.

It’s just Monkeymind.

Give this a try.

Don’t watch TV for 4 to 8 weeks.

Or even longer.

Then go back and take a look at TV with fresh eyes.

Accident.

I did this almost by accident recently.

Because of being busy.

And because of being with Izobel.

What I mean is that I didn’t do it on purpose.

I just didn’t happen to watch TV for 8 weeks or so.

At all.

Return.

My return to TV was interesting.

I noticed something new about TV.

(I noticed this because I was looking at the whole ‘TV experience’ with fresh eyes).

What I noticed was that.

Almost every part of the TV experience.

Is crap.

TV.

Adverts that we are learning to shut out completely.

Because they are lazy and interruptive.

(Younger people are not tolerating these crappy interruptions.

And neither am I).

I also saw new programmes made from old programmes.

And just plain old, old programmes.

I saw documentaries about police.

Documentaries about ambulances.

Documentaries about factories.

And documentaries about documentaries.

I saw game shows where pickled celebrities patronise members of the general public so the contestants themselves start to dumb themselves down to fit in.

(They can’t be that stupid in real life can they?)

And I saw lots of people famous for nothing worthwhile, doing nothing worthwhile.

And that was about it really.

That was my TV experience.

Creativity.

I’d like to see more creativity.

I love different.

I love brave.

I love weird.

I love challenging.

It’s nice to be challenged.

It really is.

Challenge is what we as humans are built for.

It brings us to life.

KFC.

TV still turns me on sometimes, I suppose.

But – for me – TV has become the intellectual equivalent of a massive KFC Bucket of chicken.

And I like KFC actually.

Occasionally.

But if I sat on the settee.

Every single night.

With a massive bucket (how the hell did we ever get to serving food in bloody buckets?!) of KFC.

Gorging.

Gorging.

Gorging.

On the same samey, bland, greasy mouthfuls.

I’d feel sick.

In just the same way as, after 8 weeks TV-free.

I felt little bit queasy watching Stephen Mulhern bent in two and laughing at yet another part-exposed animation on Catchphrase.

That looked a little bit like two cartoon characters shagging.

It was funny when it happened once, Stephen.

To Roy Walker.

In 1990.

But not now.

It’s been done.

Like I’m done.

With TV.

I have two pairs of glasses.

One for reading.

One for seeing more clearly at distance.

Copenhagen.

When I was on my way to Copenhagen earlier this month.

I felt around in my bag for my two glasses boxes.

And my hand found just one.

Glasses.

As my hand rested on the unopened box.

I wondered which pair I had with me.

Do I want my distance glasses so I can see this lovely country that I am visiting for the first time clearly?

I thought.

Or do I want my reading glasses?

So that I can see my phone better?

FaceTime better.

Read better.

It almost felt like I was choosing the future versus the past.

The Box. 

I just found this tiny, momentary conundrum interesting.

I do wrestle with an over-reliance on my phone.

But I am reading more than ever.

I love visiting new places and discovering new things, though.

And the real magic – especially when I am in new places – is often tucked away around corners and in the shadows.

I need to be able to see clearly to find those.

I like meeting new people, too.

But entering rooms full of new people is also better when I can scan the whole room clearly.

So I wasn’t sure which glasses I wanted to find in the box.

Reading Glasses.

When I opened the box.

And discovered my reading glasses.

I felt happy.

So then I started to wonder if feeling happy about seeing my phone, and feeling happy about sacrificing my ability to explore this new land at maximum clarity was a good thing for my little brain to feel.

Then I stopped over analysing.

And sat in a corner of Heathrow.

Smiling.

Reading my book.

Here’s an interview.

In full.

That I gave last week to New Digital Age.

REBELS, MISFITS & INNOVATORS. 50 Over 50. MICHAEL OWEN.

50 Over 50 is a series of interviews with our most influential and inspiring industry leaders aged 50 and over. 

We think it’s time to recognise and celebrate the true talent in our industry, the creatives, technologists, founders and leaders that are really driving our industry and shaping society.

Michael Owen is a creative force of nature.

Winner of 70 awards since 1989, he ran a number of design and digital agencies before switching path to launch fashion brand Always Wear Red and concentrate on brand communication collective ANGELFYSH.

What one thing are you proudest of in your career?

FINDING & DOING WHAT I WAS BORN TO DO.

I ran creative, marketing and brand communication agencies for 15 years. As award-laden, as fußball table-laden and as leather-and-chrome-settee-laden as any agency could possibly be.

But was I myself being creative? No. I wasn’t. Did I actually know why I was doing any of this? No. I didn’t. So, at the age of 46 – I closed them.

Within four years I was running my own fashion brand called Always Wear Red, writing a daily blog for an expanding audience of thousands called 50odd.co.uk and leading a rejuvenated Brand Communication Collective called ANGELFYSH – that works with contributive brands, only.

At 51 years old I have less money, less stuff and more contentedness and connectedness than ever before.

What creative heights are you now capable of that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve at the early or mid-point of your career? 

AUTHENTIC STORYTELLING.

50odd.co.uk is me writing about me. 3,650 stories. One story each day. For 10 years. The blog named itself, really. Because I started it on my 50th birthday. And because I’m odd.

I’ve committed – every day – to creating something that people actually want to read. And one year in, a few thousand do read. I wouldn’t have had the confidence, capability or content to do this earlier in my career.

Also, I’m a better listener these days. Meaning that, in my role as a Brand Communications Consultant I find answers more easily. As a younger man, my insecurities (which I have to say have not gone away completely) would lead to me interrupting. Pontificating. Showing off. I do that (slightly) less now.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your role today?

I KNOW WHAT I AM FOR.

And this is far more important than what I do.

Every brand I own has a clear and relevant purpose. For example, the much smaller Brand Communication Collective that I run only works with contributive businesses. So, what we are doing is helping brands to contribute to the greater good. Or to develop that side of their brand personality.

That way, they matter more, make more profit and last longer. It’s better for the planet too – and for the soul!

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?

FRAGILITY IS A CONSTANT.

What we have today can be gone tomorrow. But that’s OK. Because that’s life’s law. We’re all the same.

Take nothing for granted. Be genuinely grateful for each day. And do the right thing. And no matter what bullshit people come up with, we all know what ‘doing the right thing’ means. So do it.

Choose wisely because, whether we choose the right way, or the wrong way – we generally get what’s coming to us.

What advice would you give your 25-year old self?

BUILD.

Be patient. Start now. Be braver. Be calmer. Be endlessly creative. Stop trying to fit in in a world where the best people adore those that stand out.

Celebrate your weirdness. Understand that apparently contradictory ideas, ricocheting around your head, are what your 20s are for. To explore. To win. To fail. To love. To lose. To seek-out that one thing you have always been looking for that will possess you and that will overwhelm you for ever. Only to change your mind tomorrow.

Love yourself more. Understand that you have to go through good to get to great. And enjoy the gift of the journey that you have the privilege to be on.

What is the biggest mistake companies are making in their attitude to age today?

LAZY THINKING.

I really fucking hate lazy people. And I hate lazy thinking even more. Especially in the creative industries. It is our job to understand and amplify the beauty of an offer so that it is aligned, clear (clarity over creativity always), ownable, compelling, motivating and so that it resonates with our client’s audience.

First principles are – jointly – to understand the ‘why me, why now’ of the offer, plus the finest of detail about the audience itself. And it is the audience understanding that fails over and over and over with regards to age.

Lazy creatives look for typical 50-year olds. And typical 60-year olds. When there are no typical 50- or 60-year olds. Their approach is at best deeply, deeply dumb. And at best, disrespectful.

The required understanding of an ageing marketplace must be absolutely forensic. Person-by-person. Not age-band by age-band or sector by sector. And this takes care and effort.

What are you most excited about in your industry over the next 10 years?

CONTRIBUTION.

The accelerating realisation that self-actualisation in branding is vacuous, selfish, momentary and – in the longer term – of little value.

Brands with a higher purpose, a commitment to contribute – authentically and not as some transient veneer – will win. And I welcome this. I want to see those with the skills and knowledge to influence, using their power and their privilege increasingly responsibly. And I believe that the communicators that take this stance sooner rather than later will thrive.

What is your biggest regret about the industry today? 

A LACK OF WEIRDNESS.

My God the world is a weird, wonderful and diverse place. But my God we should be celebrating and exploring this so much more than we do.

By boosting storytelling with our imagination and our ideas. By stopping hiding within the safety of formulaic approaches.

One of the reasons it is hard for brands to stand out is, of course, because of the proliferation of choice. But there is another more easily changed reason. It is because we play safe.

Business is boring. And creatives are boring. We all still remember Phileas Fogg. Launched almost 40 years ago (40 years!) in 1982. Because they were playful. Daring. Pioneering. Brave enough to fantasise about made-up airports and airlines, made up global explorers and cartoon factories on Medomsley Road, Consett.

Weird! But likeable and memorable and compelling and absolutely perfect for the category they had created.