Late last century, Guinness Beer in Africa contributed 17% of the parent company’s global sales. It was perceived as an aphrodisiac, particularly amongst its main target – young males – who had started calling it Black Power and Viagra. So what happened to wipe out 6% of its sales by the millennium?
It wasn’t another beer competitor nor even another alcohol competitor. Instead the threat came from mobile phones, which had become a sexier purchase than beer. Sales of mobile phones were exploding. They were even available in the same stores that sold beer – and revenue was transferring. Guinness didn’t even see it coming.
This story illustrates the importance of war games – war games done well, anyway. In a market in flux, understanding the basic human truth which underlies behaviour highlights the real competitor and ensures that you don’t have a blind spot like Guinness did. It also shows the importance of thinking outside the box in traditional war game models. (In the 1930's, American Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was able to predict virtually all the World War II battles of the Pacific. After the war, he often said that the only tactic Japan employed that was not foreseen in those games was the use of kamikazes. Clearly the Admiral didn’t do enough blue sky thinking!)
There are a wide variety of war game approaches, including computer generated, statistical as well as role playing models. Generally they follow similar principles, which are to:
ENSURE YOU ACTUALLY NEED A WARGAME!
War games have a broad range of applications including new launches, competitor action, a brand revival or a dramatic change in key marketing mix elements such as pricing.
War games are best employed when the competitive environment is undergoing a period of change, and development of a managing tactic or strategy is required because failure will be costly.
There should also be varying potential outcomes for a war game to be effective versus traditional linear strategic planning, but not so much uncertainty that game players can’t offer any real hypotheses on how the future might play out.
RUBBISH IN RUBBISH OUT.
Good preparation is critical. A good brief is key to determine the scope of the game, and also the specific desired outcomes. It is also worthwhile to set in place indicators and warnings which signal that an identified threat is occurring in the market, or measurable indicators of success.
At the heart of the preparation will be a competitive intelligence deck, pulling together all the primary and secondary research that can be found about the competitors, the marketplace and also broader consumer trends. A rough brand positioning can also be of use. But how do you ensure that each team really gets in the headspace of the competitor? We recommend that pre work should include:
HAVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN THE ROOM
The primary objective determines the best people to include in the game - most particularly whether the session should have tactical or strategic outcomes. If it is tactical then the obvious contenders are teams with deep expertise who will be responsible for decision making. Strategic teams are more difficult to decide and will probably need a wider net and a bigger group. Generally a variety of functions is important to ensure that there isn’t a functional blind spot within the plans.
People usually need to be quite senior to be able to debate at the levels required, but team dynamics also should to be considered – for example, how open is the debate in the team which contains the CEO? The truly senior members of the organisation should contribute to the day, but might be better as part of an adjudication panel rather than a core team.
The personalities of the people chosen are very important for an effective workshop – teams need people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind, take action, and challenge the urban myths and current thinking.
It is also worth thinking about the level of understanding that each individual will have. Creating two teams of the main competitor – with different base levels of understanding – could create two different sets of plans at a macro and micro level.
And of course a skilled facilitator is essential to ensure that the game doesn’t fall into an all-out war!
IT SHOULDN’T ACTUALLY BE A WARGAME!
In the end, we at Bedrock Insight don’t even think it should be called a war game. After all, the end game isn’t to knock off your competitor but to best meet the needs of your consumer! For food manufacturers, perhaps The Hunger Games is a more apt description or those in transportation could have The Great Australian Race! Remember to keep one eye on your competitor and the other on your consumer and that in the end will give you the edge.
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Creative development is not an easy process. Anyone involved in it would have, at some point, experienced the sense of frustration at not being able to “crack” the brief, or the despair at watching beloved ideas being shredded to pieces by focus groups.
But there are things you can do to unleash the creativity needed to develop breakthrough advertising that engages with consumers and enhances your brand.
Embrace the Iterative Nature of Creative Development
The act of creativity is an iterative process, one which requires space and freedom for exploration. It is not a linear process. It is far more chaotic and disorganised than many left-brain thinkers are comfortable with.
But the backwards and forwards approach is central to creative development. Ideas are not birthed fully formed. They need to be explored, tried, developed, reformed. New directions emerge from the ashes of old ideas.
Ideation requires sources of inspiration – lights come on from seeing things in action. Strong ideas are built through trial and error – taking learnings aboard and trying out a different expression or taking them in a new direction.
Understanding and accepting this natural creative process will help you engage with creative agencies better and give you a much better chance at developing meaningful communication with your consumers.
Develop a team mentality
It has been my observation over the past 20 years that quite often there is a sense of us and them between clients and agencies. Agencies are given a brief and expected to go away and deliver something that clients will like.
Agencies are seemingly held to account through the research process, as though the people who suggested the advertising, and not only the executions themselves, are being judged. And it is the agencies themselves who are blamed when advertising “fails” the research test.
However, the process would be better served with a team mentality. Firstly, everyone has a role to play in delivering a successful outcome. The quality of the advertising developed is a direct result of the quality of the brief and the level of understanding of the target market. Secondly, being able to access knowledge holders to ask questions and share thoughts (without it being judged) means that agencies have another source of inspiration for their ideas.
Having a partnership mentality means everyone - clients, agencies and researchers too – can pool their skills and knowledge appropriately so that creative ideas are built upon. Instead of the engagement being continually evaluative, it becomes a journey of discovery and shared development.
Single minded focus (in a human-centric voice)
Good advertising is developed from good briefs. And good briefs have sharp clarity and a single minded, consumer orientated, focus around the job the advertising is required to do.
Resist the temptation to put in everything you hope the advertising will do into your brief. Focus on the one thing you are trying to change or get people to do as a result of seeing the advertising.
And write it in a human centric voice. This is not about saying you want people to buy more of your brand. Of course you do. This is about addressing the underlying issue which is stopping people buying your brand.
It is about understanding what drives people to value the particular widgets you are selling, and tapping into this deep human truth.
At its heart, the single minded focus is the distillation of a deep understanding of your target market, brand and competitive context and the threats and opportunities on your horizon. It might seem like a one liner – but it is a lot of work to get there. And it needs to be done before you even think about briefing a creative execution. Consider engaging your ad agency to develop the brief with you, so that you are partners in the process from the start.
Let go of the constraints
Okay, so you very concisely distilled everything you know into a single minded issue. But if you want creative advertising, you now need to scratch out the 27 bullet points that you’ve amended to the brief, laying out the rules and restrictions for the ad. If you really want the advertising to solve your problem, then you have to give your creative team the space to think and explore without continually tripping over “should-haves” and “better-nots”.
You may well come back later on and review the advertising through the prism of your corporate or brand constraints but asking them to be part of the creative development process will only hinder it.
Creative thinking requires air. Let it out of the box and you may just find, that in letting go of the constant restrictions, you end up in a far more energetic and rewarding space than you could have imagined.
Rethink your research process
One of the biggest issues I’ve experienced working client side is trying to force fit a linear evaluation process onto what is ultimately an iterative and very non-linear development process.
While there are clear stages that the creation of an execution will naturally pass though, using qualitative research as a gate-keeper from one stage to the next doesn’t reflect the way creative ideas are developed. Not only is it not helpful, it can quite often be destructive.
The traditional use of focus groups are often not used dynamically enough to explore and build ideas. In effect, they become testing regimes – an engagement with consumers at a static point in time , where ideas are passed or failed, rather than developed and further explored.
While having check points along the way is sensible (and we recommend quantitatively testing executions at the end of the process), if qualitative research is approached attitudinally as a transition stage rather than a developmental one, the risk is high that after a great deal of work, you can walk away from the research with nowhere to go and nothing to show for it.
Engaging with consumers creatively
Consumers can be employed more responsively, flexibly and dynamically in a way where research is not seen as judge and jury, but rather as a partner in the creative development process.
Using consumers as springboards for insight and idea development, utilising conversations with them to see what is working and how adaptations change their perceptions can all be done without the use of traditional focus groups. Immersions, consumer conversations, mini-groups, panel work, co-creation workshops, digital diaries and so on are all ways in which consumers can be employed more gainfully, and cost effectively, in the development process.
Key is building on these learnings by applying imagination techniques and the knowledge and skills we have as planners, advertisers, marketers to extend, improve and develop ideas. Through this process, poor ideas will naturally fall away while good ideas will be honed and developed giving you a better chance of achieving a successful outcome.
This philosophy (which we call Sharp Eyes) is a much more intuitive fit with the natural creative process than the traditional linear advertising research approach. But it requires rethinking what you believe about how advertising is best developed and trying something new. After all, if you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same outcome.
- Sharlene Zeederberg
Our local school just loves a theme day. Whilst it strikes fear into the heart of this very un-crafty mum, somehow this year alone I have produced a great number of costumes - and handed over the requisite gold coin for a very average sausage sandwich/luke warm croissant/second hand book/<insert your item here>…
But why not? It gets the kids engaged, it gets everyone to stop and focus on the theme, everybody reaches into their pocket, (and is probably a great way to get rid of the unused stock from the last theme day.)
Retailers have already cottoned onto this idea. Why, Aldi has a theme day twice a week! Catalogues and emails and huge posters announce their current theme of the bi-week. You have to rustle through pallets full of stuff but you know in advance what you are looking for so it feels more akin to digging for treasure rather than a jumble sale. And better get in quick because goodness me all the good gardening/home entertainment/care car gear will go fast! (But not as fast as the blink and you’ll miss it – were there people queuing for those from dawn? - Elsa from Disney’s Frozen costumes.)
The larger supermarkets love a theme too. Woolworths has currently gone to town with Halloween: Squishy lolly eyeball anyone? And do you want a costume, a drink bottle and a carry bag to go with that whilst you are there?
Even our local council has bought into a theme, encouraging businesses on the high strip to offer lollies to avid trick or treaters (and stay for dinner or buy some snags whilst you are at it).
There’s a lot to be learnt here for brands.
Shoppers can be paralysed by choice in their local supermarket and without reason to change their habits, will fill their trolley as usual, perhaps pausing by the odd special. There are lots of products on the shelf, all doing their usual bit to entice themselves into a shopping basket. Which is all good if you are the dominant brand or the growing brand or the brand with the massive advertising budget, but what if you need to stand out from the crowd and make a bit of noise?
Think themes! How can your brand stop the consumer in its tracks, become the focus for a moment in time, and hence encourage the consumer to reach into their pocket? There is a raft of occasions out there which your consumers are enjoying (coming right up – Halloween, Melbourne Cup, end of school, Summer Holidays Christmas, New Year, Start of school, Australia Day…the list goes on.) Or you could just make one up, as I would swear Ikea does (what are all those Swedish holidays anyway and do we really need pickled fish to celebrate? But it certainly reinforces the core brand essence of Ikea.)
Building a promotion, activation or a limited edition product around a theme gives it standout, a role for the product in the consumer’s life which drives not just purchase but also consumption, and might just transfer a bit of ‘happy by association’ back to your brand if it is experienced in a positive setting. Obviously the better ideas are ones which can also reinforce core brand values or highlight brand attributes which are currently recessive. Think creatively and you can find a way.*
And by the way, if you are in the mood to begin, Aldi currently has $10 Halloween costumes but get in fast or you’ll miss them!
*Or Bedrock Insight is happy to help you think creatively in an idea generation workshop!
In my world, dinner time is becoming increasingly fraught. Not only do my two children suffer reactions that make peanut brittle and egg sandwiches somewhat deadly, my husband has recently developed an allergy to prawns and I, on the advice of a Chinese acupuncturist, no longer eat gluten, dairy or corn. We are turning the clock back 25 years and becoming a household of meat and three veg. But without the pudding.
Anecdotally it seems every where I go, people are avoiding certain foods. There must be a joke that begins – a Coeliac, a Paleo and a Vegan walked into a restaurant…
But, is this heightened awareness merely a hothouse effect brought about by my own situation or the company I keep? Are active food avoidance behaviours actually that common in the wider community?
The news is often full of stories about our burgeoning obesity crisis, and how taste and the need for convenience drives unhealthy choices. (Did you know that one in four adults eat no vegetables on an average day?)
But, what about at the other end of the market – where matters of health, image, religion or moral positions lead people to make certain food choices outside of the norm?
According to the Australian Health Survey, around 17% of Australians aged 2 and over report avoiding food for medical reasons (allergies or intolerances) and 7% make choices based on their religion. The prevalence is higher amongst women across both of these groups. Certainly, the prevalence of allergy and diagnosed intolerances have sky-rocketed over the past decade.
But beyond these two core reasons for food choices, what else is driving the trial (and adaption) of unusual diets and food plans?
With 13% of Australians apparently on a diet at anyone time, weight loss remains a core driver of food fads. Who can forget living through the Atkins Diet phase, which saw my best-friends (smart people, both) equating fruit and veggies with potato chips and eating KFC without the skin on as a “healthy choice”.
But it is not just about weight loss anymore. There also seems to be a growing interest in overall health and an increasing desire to take control of one's health. This no doubt extends into food choices as well.
The Paleo Diet, primarily about avoiding grains, is having its time in the sun. Last year it was the most popular diet Googled, and there are over 5000 books related to the Paleo Diet on Amazon. And, while sugar free is not a new concept, the idea of quitting sugar altogether seems to be enjoying popularity. Both of these promise more holistic health benefits - increased energy, longevity, anti-cancer properties… and a reduction in earwax (seriously).
Food fads are largely driven by successful book launches, and The Akins Diet Revolution, The Paleo Diet and I Quit Sugar for Life are no exceptions.
What is interesting, however, is how often these food choices seem to go against the collective wisdom of experts. All these plans mentioned exclude things that seem naturally part of a healthy diet. No fruit if you’re quitting sugar, apparently. And the list of problems nutritionists have with the Paleo Diet is pretty extensive.
So why do people flock to these theories in such large numbers? Is it just about a quick fix? Or is there something more? What role does the lack of trust in food manufacturers play? Or the underlying fear that the health messages we are being told by our government might be for sale to the highest bidder?
Trust is a big issue here for brands. Building that trust and not squandering it with spurious (even if legally defendable) claims about what your product can do for people is a lesson more corporates could learn. And don't try and pretend your product is healthy when it is not. Consumers are not stupid.
What they are, however, is willing and eager to compromise. While it is clear that food choices will always have a role to play in the effort to feel healthier, the desire for balance remains a prevalent position many consumers appear to take. I, for one, cannot resist chocolate, no matter who tells me it is bad for me or how much pain it causes me. Reduced, yes. Cut out completely? No. Balance and compromise remain central decision making criteria.
Because of this, there will always be a role for brands in more indulgent food spaces. Overtly owning what you stand for (like Magnum is doing) or highlighting the emotional space your brand can occupy (like Nutella has done with their lovely Rise and Shine campaign) represent ways for sugar rich brands to still connect meaningfully with consumers, even those with a eye on the health-o-meter.
by Sharlene Zeederberg
As I was walking through my local shops the other day, I noticed a ‘going out of business’ sign on the solarium. Apparently, in ground breaking legislation, the NSW government has banned solariums – the second place this has happened in the world, behind only Brazil.
This is obviously good news. For one, I will be glad to no longer have to view the posters of glistening bikini clad ladies whilst on the school run. And of course we know skin cancer is a nasty entity (ranked #16 on the mortality charts for Australians), so why offer people an extra opportunity to get a little cancer if they are just popping to the shop for milk and bread?
This made me stop (away from aforementioned bikini clad ladies) and consider all the other things that are banned, ostensibly for our own best interests. We can’t take a bottle of water on a plane now, as someone once tried to use one in a bomb. We always have to remove our shoes before getting on a plane too, as someone once again almost blew one up. We can’t buy alcohol after 10pm because every weekend it seems another youth is being fatally punched to the ground in Kings Cross. Gun laws were tightened after the Port Arthur massacre and hallelujah perhaps this has saved us from the fate of the US who seem to report a new gunman reign of terror each week. Oh and let’s not forget the WA government making sure we are not eaten alive by great white sharks. (Or not, as it seems the case may be, because they haven’t actually caught any yet)
However, the government will let me stand outside the solarium, soak up a few rays, smoke a cigarette and eat a greasy burger with fries and a Coke– if this is my habit, my chances of dying are far higher than the equivalent time inside. Because top Australian killers are heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases (things like haemorrhages and strokes) and in fourth place is trachea, bronchus and lung cancer (third is dementia, in case you were wondering about my mathematical abilities).
We also know that the vast majority of these illnesses are caused by lifestyle factors:
1. Australia’s obesity rates having grown 81% in the last 33 years - with 29% of our adult population now classified as obese.
2. “ Professor of health policy at Curtin University Mike Daube said "incredibly low" vegetable consumption reveals that fast food has eclipsed vegetables as a dietary staple”
3. A recent report found that 80% of Australian kids are not getting daily exercise and are amongst the least active in the world – only Scottish kids came in worse in a study of 15 nations and hey, it’s really really cold there for a lot of the year, so that seems fair enough.
4. And 20.4% of adult males and 16.3% of adult females still smoke, despite regular horrible visual reminders of how unlikely it is to end well for them.
So the government is busy protecting us against plane hijacking, skin cancer (from solariums – they don’t seem to care about you too much on Bondi beach), one punch knockouts, bitey hungry sharks and gunman massacres. There is no doubt that these are all horrible, shocking things and it would be great to be without them - by my count this probably keeps about 800 Australians alive per year. Even if you add total skin cancers into the equation, it is still coming in around 3000 maximum.
But heart disease, cerebrovascular disease and lung cancer kill 38000 Australians per year. 38000! Let’s not knock my maths - surely it’s the government who needs a new calculator here? Talk about security theatre!
So do we feel safer, knowing the government is keeping our toes from the sharks and checking our shoes for the terrorists? So we can sit comfortably with those safe feet up, on our large-ish behinds, happily scoffing our junk food whilst watching someone else get active on the tv? If all else fails, perhaps they can look for inspiration in their own policies and at very least consider a 10pm McDonalds lockout? Force you to take your shoes off to get to the shop to buy junk food? Or perhaps big trawlers can start shooting obese swimmers at the beach - actually, let’s give them a break because at least they are trying to exercise which is more than can be said for the bulk of Australians…
I always find it difficult when we have overseas visitors who ask to have an “Australian experience”. Apart from trotting out to the Opera House and giving them a bit of Vegemite toast for breakfast, I struggle to immerse them in real
Australiana. This struggle is of course much harder for brands who are trying define themselves through their
Australianness or adapt their global persona to an Australian perspective.
Ask any Australian to characterise an Australian and you are likely to get a picture of an old guy in stubbies holding a Fosters in the dusty outback, beside a ute, with his dog - or maybe that’s a kangaroo. He’s perpetually sunburnt and wrestles crocodiles in his spare time when he is not watching sport.
The Australian stereotype is so firmly linked to our limited history, harking back to our convict days. And whilst this bloke isn’t extinct, he certainly doesn’t represent the average Australian (except for the sport bit which is still highly archetypal). How does a brand which wants to represent Australia do so in a modern
way? What does characterise the modern Australian identity?
Who is the average Australian?
According to the 2011 census, "the average Australian is a 37 year old woman, born in Australia … She has English, Australian, Irish, or Scottish ancestry. She speaks only English at home and belongs to a Christian religion, most likely Catholic...She is married, and lives with her husband and two children...in a separate house with three bedrooms and two cars in a suburb of one of
Australia's capital cities…"
Despite the “average” Australian pictured above, the ABS states that NO SINGLE PERSON on census night could have actually been described in this manner. Our diversity is huge and whilst this melting pot has begun to characterise us as a nation, we couldn’t say that acceptance is an Aussie trait – racial violence and the so called tall poppy syndrome are still very present.
So how do we show the average Australian on a tv ad
To characterise Australia is difficult if we try to describe a person, a national dish or costume – things that can be so easy for other countries. We can’t whip out the indigenous archetype because our Aboriginal population is now only at 3%. We are very proud of “our country” – although most of us haven’t seen much of it outside of the beaches (where we bake ourselves despite having the world’s highest rate of skin cancer. But we blame that on the British backpackers).
We CAN show you the large array of toothy, fangy, stingy creatures that could kill you (and we are perversely proud of them) but that’s probably not a fertile area for many brands. To characterise the young nation of Australia we need to personify our values.
So what are Australian values and are they unique?
Mateship is an interesting area that is touted as the very key to Australianness. But ahem, doesn’t everyone love a beer & pie /red wine & brie/ saki & sushi with their friends, not just Australians? As Hugh Mackay once said, we celebrated the Beaconsfield miner rescue as a celebration of Australianness – but wouldn’t every nation want to rescue their kin trapped
We are proud of our fighting spirit which we inherited from our ancestors although we also fancy ourselves to be laid back (although our European friends will tell us otherwise, as will the stats on the number of
hours we work).
We don’t have a strong class system and we are proud of that, which tends to show up in our self mocking humour and our abuse of the English language through our wide adoption of slang. That said, class exists
and the gap grows wider. And whilst we don’t always give everyone a fair go (let’s not even discuss The Boats here), we still hold it up as a something to be proud of.
Hence it is difficult for brands who want to be Australian
because we are a population who has a unique identity, but it is difficult to define given we share many values with the countries of origin of our diverse population. To show “Australian” means understanding the correct nuance of these values. It is an area which is easy to cliché and to get horribly wrong ('where the bloody hell are ya?') but if done right will resonate for years to come…and will go straight to the pool room.
It may seem a little strange, given it is part of our business name, but we are not overly fond of the word insight. Now, this doesn’t mean we are not passionate consumer insight advocates – of course we are! But, “insight” is such an over-used and misunderstood word, that we fear the value and meaning of “insight” may have been lost.
So, what do we mean when we say insight? And why do we think it is so important?
Conventionally insight is often defined as seeing what everyone else sees, but thinking something different. The Oxford dictionary talks about insight as the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something.
This is a very important part of insight, an essential part, but it is not the whole picture, especially not for marketers.
For insight to be useful in a business sense, it must be about a penetrating new understanding that leads to opportunity. This is about more than just important learnings and facts that come out of research and other sources of information. Insight lies in determining how that information provides an opportunity for your business and brands going forwards.
We believe insight plays a pivotal role in brand strategy. These foundational insights (or, if you like, bedrock insights), are the intersection between consumer need and brand capacity. That is, a penetrating understanding of a consumer truth, that opens up an opportunity which is answered by the brand. If the brand is the how, then the insight is the why. Foundational insight is the brand’s reason for being. It is the flash of understanding about a real consumer need that the brand then fulfils, through its products, presence and communication.
Insights should play a role of paramount importance in the development of creative ideas. It is easy to get caught up in a cool creative concept, but without a strong insight that links an understanding of the customer to the core values and identity of the brand, then that is all it is – a cool creative idea. And while perhaps it might win you awards, it’s unlikely to add strategic value to the brand (or long term dollars to the bottom line).
Getting the insight right gives brands formidable opportunities to win in the market place. Insights that “zing” with energy and opportunity become potent springboards for creative development.
Insights are not just interesting facts, they are “aha” moments that paint a path towards a robust and sustainable future.
Finding sharp insights like that is not easy. It takes open minds, open eyes and a willingness to let go of preconceived notions. It takes a mixture of information, inspiration and imagination.
Ask us about our Sharp Eyes Process if you want to know more about getting the right insights for your business.
In high school I had a teacher called Mrs Howard. She was a fantastic teacher, who I followed like a moth to a flame. Every subject she taught, I excelled at. Even geography, a subject which I previously and subsequently have shown very little passion for. The following year I had a geography teacher so timid that she wept when the class clicked their pens in unison in a (successful) attempt to unhinge her. This year I was bottom of the class, even despite a half-hearted
attempt to cheat on the tests. (Note to all – don’t include me on your trivia teams if geography is a
likely question as I won’t be an asset).
Possibly this was when the USSR caused havoc with map makers the world over, but it is more likely that nothing particularly significant occurred on the geographical front year to year. The difference was obviously a great teacher. A great teacher captures your attention, inspires you to learn, and keeps you engaged along the process. A great facilitator does well to steal from the teacher’s toolbox:
“Good Moooooorning Mrs Cordeiro”: We start the day by sitting in front of the group, gently establishing who leads the discussion. Interaction is welcome and in fact essential but the teacher / facilitator is in charge of moderating the process and helping to guide the
“You – in the corner!” : A bully can throw everybody off in both a classroom and a workshop environment. Obviously the power of a facilitator to send someone to the principal is limited, but we can try to keep their effect under control by limiting their airtime, partnering them with strong people in group work, and directing discussions away from their line of thinking.
“Everybody on the mat now please!”: One which the timid geography teacher had yet to learn but crowd control is a key element of both roles. For a group to do their best work, a facilitator must keep people focused, manage their energy, rotate them through group exercise, keep the activities well paced and engaging, tell them where to be and when.
Show and Tell: Using stimulus is a great facilitator trick. Getting people to bring items from home starts the brain on course before the workshop and provides a great icebreaker. Using stimulus during the workshop helps to engage, break monotony and tap into different channels.
“Now I know my ABCs, Won't You Come and Play with Me?”: It’s no coincidence that the alphabet is learnt in a song. Getting participants to sing, to draw or to move helps to tap into those different channels to find new perspectives on a problem or activate memory in a different way and also keeps energy levels raised.
So as you can see, facilitators do well to peer into children’s classrooms and see what they can learn. Mrs Howard also understood the versatility of the teacher’s toolbox – she used the tools in her toolkit all the way to the local council, where she became mayor. Clearly I wasn't the only person who she inspired!
I like to think of myself as creative. But it occurs to me that we are often tempted to limit our understanding of creativity to those wonderful artists that transport us from this world into a magical place of wonder through their writing, acting, directing, dancing, painting… And while that is most certainly a very real expression of what creativity is, it is not all it is.
In our marketing world, we often refer to “creatives”. Those designers and art directors, for instance, who are able to tell stories with our brands and bring them to life in exciting ways. "Creatives" are often people whose dress sense or style of communication might be a little less conformist. “He’s a creative type,” we say, to explain why someone doesn’t quite fit into our conventional organisational structure.
The thing is, creativity is primarily a way of thinking. It is the art of seeing things differently. As such, it is a central part of problem solving and idea generation. And since ideas, quite possibly, are the most valuable competitive edge you have, creativity must surely be a central part of brand management? An essential tool in strategy development. If so, shouldn’t we all be a little “creative”?
The joy about this sort of creativity is that it is not limited to inherent talents or personality or preferential ways of thinking. And it certainly has nothing to do with being more left- or right-brained. (In fact, the idea of people processing things based on “left” or “right” brain preferences has recently been shown to be nothing more than a myth).
While some people are naturally more capable in this area, creative thinking is a skill which can be taught and fostered in the right environment. The type of creativity that is responsible for ideas and solutions can be accessed through a variety of tools and techniques. And they are available to everyone, regardless of how “uncreative” you may think you are. All you need is a willingness to go there and a little time.
While many companies and jobs are not necessarily structured to harness the innate creativity that drives productivity and innovation, just choosing to “think differently” about a problem or opportunity may be enough to spark some ideas into life. And taking some structured time out to look at the problem creatively, will open a world of new possibilities to you.
- Sharlene Zeederberg
I have a friend who is a property stylist. She makes her living creating dream houses for people to sell. She’s the one we always call when fancy dress is required, and her children’s parties look like something out of Vogue Living. But I have become her
unofficial personal assistant: I make sure she gets her forms back on time, that she knows when key events are happening, that she buys her tickets early to get good seats.
Why have I taken on this role? Because I am ruthlessly organized. For me, there is a certain thrill in getting something DONE. Crossing it off the list. (Tick!) I am so organized that it disturbs me that others might not be same.
So this pretty much rules out my chances of a career in a creative endeavour. Why? Because efficiency is the death of creativity. The brain is like a series of filing cabinets. We learn, over time, what is in each drawer and the best way to find
it. The more we follow these behaviours, the more hard coded they become. Don’t believe me? Try the following exercise by Michael Michalko
Read aloud the following colours as fast as you can. Not the words themselves, but the colour that you see within each word.
It is really difficult isn’t it? Because your brain keeps accessing the filing cabinet with which it associates the written word.
Efficient people have well worn brain pathways that allow them to do things quickly and efficiently. They literally “barely have to think” to do some tasks. Creative folks are usually less efficient as they let their brains wander a bit more, which gives them access to all sorts of interesting ideas - but means they forget their banking
password from time to time.
But all is not lost for us filing cabinet types. Although it may not be our natural state, there are plenty of ways to fire up those new neurons. Here are a few:
1. Do it differently:
Drive a different way to work or God forbid, get the bus! Change your morning routine, sit in a different place at work every day (surprise and delight your colleagues!), or just wear a different scent. It can be disturbing for those of us who find comfort in the familiar but it shakes the brain out of those grooves for a little
2. Access a different “channel”:
We all have a certain preference for how we process information. Some are visual people who need to see something to understand it; some are auditory people who need to have information told to them, and some are kinetic/feeling people who need to physically or emotionally sense something to comprehend it.
Using the channel that you aren’t comfortable with can unlock ideas. You could try shutting your eyes during meetings to access a latent auditory channel (and perhaps much derision from your colleagues). Drown your office cubicle in art, to see what happens for those who aren’t very visual. And non kinetic people should whip out a hula hoop at lunchtime (or just a stress ball for the less extroverted.)
3. Try to find a different perspective:
A great way to trick the brain is to pretend it belongs to someone else. If you force it to think about a problem from the perspective of a child, a famous person or a great brand, you are jumping past those hard wired pathways onto new ones.
So best of luck with your new creative endeavours, and I hope you find satisfaction in your choice of career, property styling or not. But just don’t blame me if you are late to