Brilliant talk on creativity by John Cleese

A quite wonderful lecture from John Cleese on creativity that really ought to be seen and shared.

It validates and articulates pretty much everything that I have stumbled on after 20 years of working and I wish I’d seen it earlier.

The greatest benefit to me is that it endorses being playful and shoots down pressure and solemnity as a means to being more productive. It’s not just OK, it’s a good thing to laugh, ponder and be silly.

My notes whilst watching it:

  • Creatives are people who can get into a playful, child-like mode more easily
  • Creativity is not possible in the closed mode (anxious, got to get stuff done, purposeful)
  • Open, creative mode is more relaxed, but less purposeful, more inclined to humour. This is playful. Curiosity for its own sake can happen. That allows our lateral creativity to happen.
  • Hitchcock would say when faced with a block, he would tell an unrelated story. “We’re pressing, we’re pressing. We’re working too hard. Relax and it will come.”
  • Once you’ve had the idea, you need to switch to closed mode to implement.
  • Space is important for getting into play. Where you won’t be disturbed. For Steve Jobs this was a walk.
  • A •fixed• period of time is useful too. Maybe in 90 min chunks.
  • Creatives play with the problem for longer before trying to solve it. They’re happier to tolerate the uncomfortableness of uncertainty. More pondering is better.
  • Decisiveness and confidence strangles creativity at birth.
  • Maximise your pondering and leave the decision late. It is too easy and suboptimal to chicken out and decide early.
  •  Next importance thing is to not be fearful about what is possible. Embrace the silly and the what if. “You can’t be spontaneous within reason”
  • Humour gets us from closed mode to open mode more quickly
  • Po-facedness around humour being inappropriate comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between serious and solemn.
  • Solemnity is self-important and serves nothing.
  • Rewards come out of the blue later. It might be in the shower.
  • It’s easier to be creative with other people unless there is anyone involved that stops you feeling playful or defensive.
  • The funniest part of a joke is connecting two things that are seemingly unrelated to generate •new meaning•
  • “Intermediate impossibles” can be stepping stones to  breakthrough ideas
  • Very funny section at the end about how to stamp out creativity. Stamp out all humour otherwise people might start having new ideas and scaring the people at the top. Praise makes people uppity! Don’t let anyone ponder!! Demand urgency and create anxiety to keep everyone closed.

Should you buy an iPad? My experience so far…

I’ve been lucky enough to have an iPad for about three weeks (a rarity in the UK), and if you’re thinking about getting one, here are my thoughts so far.

Woo!

  1. It’s a great sofa computer. It looks fabulous of course, and it storms for browsing, looking stuff up and casual email.
  2. It’s also a great work netbook. It’s small and light enough to have in every meeting, and fits in smaller rucksacks. No more ugly corporate laptop bags. It’s excellent for presentations (and not just as a novelty)
  3. It’s a terrific media player. Both for wandering around the house playing WiFi radio (5 Live Sports Extra and Indie 103.1), and also as a temporary kitchen TV (for iTunes purchases)
  4. Apps are the key. The early ones aren’t perfect – developers are feeling around for what works – but it’s surely where this machine will fly. And not just games – I can’t wait for Remember the Milk HD.
  5. Great for reading. MyTimes is an elegant feed reader and InstapaperPro looks fantastic.I’ve used the iPad to read some lengthy PDFs (thanks to Goodreader) and it’s preferable to having 50 sheets of A4 to carry around

Hmmm…

  1. It’s not so much a mobile device as a portable device. it is the wrong shape to use whilst actually moving. To type on it, you need to get yourself comfortable. The biggest accessory sale is going to be something that lets you prop it up at a nice angle to type on. Meanwhile, I hear rubber doorstops work well(!)
  2. Correcting typos feels more awkward than on an iPhone and often knocks me off my train of thought. It is possible to type up notes and actions during a meeting, but it’s certainly slower than a keyboard. In fact, I think I can type faster on an iPhone as its narrower screen allows double thumbs action!
  3. It’s not a primary workhorse. Numbers has poor Excel compatibility, Google Docs editing seems limited and of course Photoshop and the like aren’t (yet) available.

Overall

I love it, but it’s not essential in the way my iPhone is. And I can’t see it replacing my laptop anytime soon (indeed, it’s telling that it didn’t even occur to me to type this post on it).

But if you like shiny new mac stuff, and you can afford it, you know you’ll get one anyway.

And btw – it’s not going to save the newspaper/magazine industry. But that’s for another post…

Hey you, get off of my cloud

A friend of mine who works at a respectable FMCG company was recently trying to find a solution for collaborative working on an international project. He’d heard that Basecamp was perfect for the job – web based, secure, trackable, low cost and fast to get up and running.

His IT department declined and offered their preferred large-scale business apps solution – which would be ready in 15 months. He patiently stated that the project was due by Xmas and he’d like to try Basecamp.

The IT guy played his joker: “we don’t support it”.

It seems that line can be pulled out by IT departments anytime. It’s the desktop guy’s Get Out of Jail Free card. Along with “It introduces risk”, it’s a no-comebacks special designed to end the conversation.

But not being supported by IT departments is the very point of cloud applications. The hosting, maintenance and developments are handled remotely and cost-effectively.

The opportunities created by web apps is too great to pass up. Certainly start-up competitors will have no issue using newer, low-cost alternatives to organise themselves. But it’s no surprise there is fear and protective behaviour at work – IT departments are getting disrupted too.

As Nicholas Carr explains in the excellent Big Switch, continuing to deploy and support big desktop systems feels like running your own generators rather than plugging into the national grid.

How about a cloud apps pack?

Microsoft often comes across as unlovable, but back in the early 90s they were a much more likeable company. In particular, Office bundled together a suite of applications that actually worked well together. This was a big deal, as before then you might have used Lotus 1-2-3 for spreadsheeting, Wordperfect for writing documents and Harvard for graphics – none of which were easily compatible.

Flash-forward to 2009 and there’s a new bundling need – this time in the Cloud. I’m a big fan of web-based services and have become a heavy user of:

I love these services. Recently, my five year old Powerbook appeared to die (it came back eventually) but restoring my data life was a hassle-free experience involving setting up a new profile on my wife’s machine and simply logging in to each of those services. Hey presto, everything’s there.

I like these services so much I feel I ought to pay (and I’d like the extra functionality). $10 a month or whatever is a good price, but $10 per month per service starts to add up. I wonder if there’s an opportunity for these services to get together and offer a Cloud Pack?

clinginess is the new spam

Quite rightly, forward-thinking brands are connecting with their audiences via facebook fan pages. It’s a readymade network of peer groups and allows saliency and reputation to be built. It’s a social database that can be accessed for commercial means – to announce a promotion, drive traffic to a site or augment another brand experience.

ITV’s X-Factor are doing this especially well. By crafting provocative, open-ended questions and posting them while the programme is on air, they are tapping into increasingly popular TV+laptop behaviour and creating real-time water cooler moments. I saw one thread about the twins have over 10,000 comments in it. That sort of engagement has never been possible until now.

Picture 1

Unlike email newsletters, publishing content onto fan pages can and should be done quite regularly – certainly at least once a day.

And this is where brands need to spot the danger. All new media bring new communication opportunities. You can speak to your fan base whenever you like. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just as no-one wants to receive too many (any?) emails from you, over-communicating on facebook risks flipping the consumer’s mindset from “I love your brand!” to “hmmm… stop talking all the time. You are so needy.

Clinginess is the new spam

Is best practice good enough?

This provocative Tweet from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh made me stop and think. Should we aim instead to communicate minimum standards of practice within our businesses?

best practice

Eat my feeds

If you’re a regular reader of RSS feeds, you’ll know they’re the easiest way to enjoy a sumptuous spread of blogs. And though I rarely visit my favourite websites, I never miss an article.

I use Google Reader and it’s the first (and often only) page I check on the web. There are good offline readers (eg, Vienna for the mac) but Reader is web-based and thus syncs across all your home/work computers. There are also a growing number of iPhone apps (Byline being the best to date) which let you continue reading on the move or when offline (eg, on the tube).

It takes a while to find the right feeds for you, but I’ve put together a selection of my favourites in the tech/marketing/thinky space. Right-click here and save this file. You can then easily import this ‘opml’ file into Reader (settings>import>).

Do let me know your suggestions for great sites/feeds I’m missing. Thanks.

Stop, collaborate and listen

It really wasn’t so long ago (mid 1990s?) that marketing managers had notes typed up by secretaries as memos,  then signed and dropped them into the internal post to be delivered the following day. To another part of the same building.

That seems faintly comic from the perspective of today’s laptop, wi-fi and email culture, where documents can be sent at any time to anywhere and everyone works hard to keep up to date with their reading.

And therein lies the problem: emails are just memos with go-faster stripes. They encourage pass-the-parcel decision making and one-way broadcasting of part-finished thinking. Rather than facilitating working together, they atomise people and activity.

It doesn’t need to be like this. Collaborative tools have come of age and it is simple and low-cost  to work together in real-time, always staying in sync and enjoying the benefits of iterative improvements.

Here are five of my favourites:

  1. Slideshare
    This web-based app seems to be really taking off. It’s a fabulous way to share presentations and continues to add new features. There’s now a plug-in for PowerPoint 2007 and support for Apple’s Keynote files.
  2. Google Docs
    A free service from the Big G that allows groups to edit documents/spreadsheets at their convenience. Revisions are fully trackable, access control is simple (but sophisticated) and there is never any confusion about having the latest version – there is only ever one.
  3. Skype (for IM)
    As well as enabling free conference calls, Skype is an excellent instant messaging client. It’s especially useful for ongoing conversations – for example, members of a project team can keep a chat window open titled “project ideas” for several weeks and contribute only when they have something to say. And the entire discussion can be saved for reference.
  4. Basecamp
    Part of the challenge of project management is keeping everyone on the same page. The advent of simple “in the cloud” tools such as Basecamp gives everyone access to the latest status and working documents.
  5. Wikis
    Most large businesses have intranets now, but they tend to be one-way publishing tools. Wikis are now easy to set up (try Zoho or Confluence) and allow ideas to be continuously improved and built upon.

Discuss.