Category Archives: A bit of fun

Test your creativity – No 1

creativityaHenry Ford once said “if you think you’re not creative, you’re not”.   Creativity isn’t natural born or God-given.  It’s not in the exclusive gift of painters, writers, graphic designers and those in the performing arts.   It’s in us all (yes, even you).   The bad news is that school and work suppress creativity, so as we get older we lose the opportunity and encouragement to be creative and we begin to feel we (i) can’t do it and (ii) shouldn’t do it.  The good news however is that creativity can easily be reawakened.  And the start point is to change how you see the world.

Creative people seek difference.  They look for the things that others don’t see.  Our brain – when faced with a stimulus – will always take the path of least resistance.  Have I faced this situation before?  If so, what did I do last time?   What connections already exist?   This obsession with familiarity enables our brain to cope with some ambiguity.  It’s why we can easily read the famous passage below, even with the letters mixed up (incidentally, the research referred to is made-up).


So our brain will do its best to use its existing database rather than seek new data.   The trick therefore, as creative people know, is to break the pattern and establish new connections.   That may mean deliberately changing your normal behaviour – physically sitting in a different seat to see things from a new perspective, changing your normal routines (a different route to work?) or thinking laterally.    Take a look at word below.  What word do you see – flip, or is it flop?    Your brain will jump to a conclusion but is it the only conclusion?


Now look at the FedEx logo below – a very familiar brand to all of us.  But most us look at the image (the stimulus) and just say “oh yeah, it’s the FedEx logo”.   How many of us see the ‘hidden’ brand icon – the image that defines FedEx’s business – within the logo?   Yes, you’ve got it – the white arrow between the E and the X.   That’s because we instinctively look at the letters not what’s within the letters.


Study the picture below and find the hidden tiger.   Give yourself 60 seconds.


We can all see an image of a tiger in a jungle, right?   But I said look for the hidden tiger.  Instinctively, most of us will look for another image of a tiger hidden in the bushes – some of us will even insist we can see one in the leaves.   The answer, if you look closely, is in the stripes of the tiger.   I didn’t say look for a picture of a hidden tiger.  I just said find the hidden tiger.   It’s that pesky brain again, making us do what we’ve always done.

We’re not always in control of our brain, it does most of its work without us (so to speak) so sometimes we need to train ourselves to open our eyes and seek those new patterns, those new stimuli.   Try it next time you’re out and about.  I guarantee you won’t look at the FedEx logo in the same way again.

More next week.

Ten great quotes, re-written for the corporate world!

KingIt’s Friday and I’m feeling a bit mischievous.  I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by business-speak in the last few days working on some big projects and my mind has gone a bit hazy.   I found myself wondering what some of life’s most memorable quotations would have looked like if they had been spoken in a corporate environment by true hardcore jargon jockeys.   What if Churchill had an MBA?  What if Gandhi had come from a career in IT?  What if Schwarzenegger’s cyborg assassin had been programmed by a middle manager?  What if the language of the office was the language of the world?   Here then, ladies and gentlemen, is my top ten:

Winston Churchill – “we shall fight on the beaches”

“We shall compete in a multi-platform environment but prioritise investments towards coastal deployment”

Martin Luther King – “I have a dream”

“I possess a fully costed business plan.  On PowerPoint”

Muhammad Ali – “I am the greatest”

“Adjusting for negative influxes and variable uplifts, I have achieved a level of superior and sustainable performance across a broad range of key scorecard indicators to become best of breed.”

Gandhi – “you must be the change you wish to see”

“Your strategic imperative is to implement mission-critical transformation with rigour and focus to optimise benefits realisation”

Arnie in The Terminator – “I’ll be back”

“I intend to exploit opportunities for further re-investment in existing operational activities at a later date … probably in Q3”

Mark Antony – “friends, Romans, countrymen – lend me your ears”

“Stakeholders, Romans, headcount – enter into a collaborative sourcing alliance to facilitate the supply of audio-enabling services”

Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws – “we’re gonna need a bigger boat”

“Given the suboptimal nature of the existing marine vessel, we require an investment proposal to reengineer the current-state solution for improved scalability to meet future operational requirements”

Jack Nicolson in A Few Good Men – “you can’t handle the truth”

“Your assurance and compliance deficiencies present unacceptable risks in relation to your truth-management capability”

Neil Armstrong – “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

“Whilst the output per capita is minimal, the aggregated production totality offers significant scope for strategic long term return on investment”

JFK – “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”

“Ask not how you can leverage career development opportunities but consider your personal contribution to developing the future-state competency framework required to deliver sustained shareholder value”

If you have some of your own, please leave a reply.   Go on.  Think outside the box, go for the low hanging fruit, blah blah blah.

15 songs on my iPod about internal comms

CrowsI had some time to kill the other day while sitting in the car, so I did something only a man would do.  I made a list.   I decided to go though my iPod and make a list of songs about communication.   So, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, beyond self-indulgence, here it is …

1. A Matter of Trust – Billy Joel (for the engagement purist)

2. Pass it on – The Coral (for the Team Briefer)

3. Right down the line – Gerry Rafferty (for the cascade believer)

4. I can see clearly now – Hothouse Flowers (for the audience!)

5. One to One – Joe Jackson (for those difficult conversations)

6. Messages – OMD (for obvious reasons)

7. Before and After – Rush (for the change planner)

8. My Vision – Seal (for the CEO)

9. To cut a long story short- Spandau Ballet (for the editor)

10. Wondrous Stories – Yes (for the storyteller)

11. Round Here – Counting Crows, pictured (for the culture changer)

12. The Other Side – David Gray (for the consultant)

13. Praise You – Fat Boy Slim (for the recognition scheme)

14. Psychobabble – Alan Parsons Project (for the jargon jock)

15. Follow you Follow me – Genesis (for the Twitter lover)

And finally, a warning for communicators everywhere from Talking to Clarry by The Bluetones:

“Communication is blurred

I can’t understand a word

So there’s nothing to be heard

It’s all gone quite absurd!”

Am I weird to not use Facebook?

I don’t have a Facebook account and I’ve never used Twitter.   Does that make me unemployable and socially inept?  A bit weird even?   And as a communications professional, am I wrong to not embrace the social networking tools that will increasingly dominate the internal corporate communications environment?   Should I be worried?   Apparently, employers are increasingly using Facebook to check on the ‘back story’ of job applicants … to see what they are ‘really like’.  In the US, some employers have made staff hand over their passwords or ‘friend’ their bosses so they can be snooped on.   Some commentators are even suggesting that people without Facebook accounts are loners and potentially dangerous, based on the apparent fact that a number of recent serial killers, including the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, didn’t use Facebook.   Oh, how lovely.    In my defence, I am a big user of LinkedIn for professional networking purposes, and as you can see, I do blog … so I’m not a complete Luddite (actually the English Luddite movement of the 19th century is misunderstood.  The Luddites weren’t anti-machinery for the sake of it, they were protesting against the exploitation of workers and the lowering of standards caused by the introduction of textile machinery).    It’s just that Facebook has never been an attraction to me*.    I really value friendship and so maybe there’s a part of me that worries that having lots of virtual ‘friends’ will devalue the currency of my ‘proper’ friends.   I dunno, I’m no psychiatrist.   So is there something wrong with me?   A recent study in Australia examined the personalities of people with and without Facebook accounts.   People with an account were found to be more extraverted and narcissistic, whereas those without an account were found to be more conscientious and shyer.   They found that those without an account experienced more social loneliness, but those with an account experienced more family loneliness.   I can see the logic there actually.   So what are we to deduce from this?   If you use Facebook, chances are you’re more outgoing and sociable – probably quite confident and maybe even a little egotistical.   For some employers, that’s a good set of characteristics.   On the other hand, if you don’t use Facebook, you may be more hard working and more focused on the job – equally attractive qualities.    So should us non-users be stigmatised or celebrated?   Personally I don’t care, but as social networking increases its profile in the workplace, I do think we need to remind ourselves that organisations, like communities, are made up of many different personality types.   The integration and mix of channels will be just as important in the future as it’s been in the past.

* Mind you, if I did use Facebook I’ll be telling my ‘friends’ that I went to see the brilliant movie Argo yesterday and I’d be urging them to go see it.   I’d try to resist telling them what I had for dinner, how cool I must be for having so many friends and sharing my views on the election of police commissioners zzzzzzzzzzzzz.   

Why you should have a kitten on your desk

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia.  Researchers in Japan have discovered that people who have pictures of kittens and puppies on their desks are 10% more productive.  Oh yes. Researchers at Hiroshima University split volunteers into three groups:  the first group was given a picture of a kitten or puppy to put on their desks; the second group had a picture of an adult animal and the third group were given a photo of some tasty food.   The work rate of the first group increased by 10%, the second group by 5% and the food group stayed the same.  The researchers believe the emotion triggered by looking at a cuddly animal transfers into a more positive approach to work.   Personally, I’d be interested to know whether pictures of family and loved ones on your desk makes you more productive.   I wonder if anyone has studied the emotional wellbeing and productivity effects of having images of ‘life outside of work’ on your desk.   Of course, office life has changed dramatically since I was a wet-behind-the-ears admin assistant in an insurance company in the eighties.   When I started out, we had mainframe computer terminals, strip lighting, duplicated memo pads and smoking in the office.   Now we have these incredible open plan layouts, coffee-shop collaboration spaces, optimised lighting and recycling bins on every corner.   And we’re finding out more about office productivity every year, such as the wellbeing impact of pot plants!   The kitten revelation may be trivial but it demonstrates the very fragile and malleable nature of human engagement and productivity.   I love cats so I might try it out for a week.

Flash mobs in the office?

I took my daughter to the Cheltenham Literature Festival this weekend (hey, I’m not saying its middle class but I heard someone say “stay here Blossom, Mummy’s gone to find Hector”).  I love the festival atmosphere –  listening to authors talk about their books, learning about new subjects and having the chance to meet great writers face to face (especially inspiring for children).    I myself came face to face with a world famous philosopher in the hotel, whose talk on ‘wonder’ I had been to the day before.  Here was one of the great thinkers of our time – just me and him in a corridor, my chance to ask a profound question about existentialist rationality or wave theory … so what do I say?   “I don’t think the lift is working Professor Tallis”.  Doh!  Anyway, the reason I mention the festival is because this year they had ‘Flash Poets’ popping up when you least expected.   They would just unroll a stand-up banner next to a queue or alongside a path and just start reciting poetry.   I love this idea.   Not because I’m particularly fond of poetry (I can only recite one poem and that’s a limerick I learned when I was about six*) but because the ‘flash mob’ concept is such a great way to get a message across.   It speaks to the point made in the book Made to Stick about the element of surprise in communication.   The best way to capture someone’s attention is to break a pattern.   When you’re quietly standing in a queue of sitting on a park bench you don’t expect someone to start belting out poetry.   It’s unexpected and therefore memorable (and possibly a little irritating).   Bring the concept into the workplace and it’s a creative option for communicating a message.    If you want to spread a message about a project or initiative, why not do unscheduled flash appearances where crowds are gathered (restaurant, car park?) to give a quick 3-minute presentation and distribute some handouts, then move on.   It has to be brief, fast-moving and ideally light hearted, and if it is I bet people remember what you’re saying.   In our sanitised and highly managed internal comms environments nowadays, a little bit of flashing might be welcome change.

*There was an old man from Leeds
Who swallowed a packet of seeds
In less than an hour
His face was in flower
And his head was all covered in weeds


How many internal communicators does it take to change a light bulb?

Apologies to my fellow professionals, but I’m feeling a bit cheeky …

– Four to draw up the strategy (and remain firmly at strategic level throughout)

– Two to do the stakeholder mapping

– One to put the change into the wider context of improved enterprise illumination

– One to define the impact of the change

– One to define the future vision of enlightenment

– Six to be ‘kept in the loop’ for no apparent reason

– One to brief senior leaders

– One to rebrief the senior leaders who couldn’t be bothered to turn up the first time

– One to craft the message

– A committee of 28 to review, edit and approve the message

– One to research bulb-changing good practice

– Two to devise the channel framework

– One to create the PowerPoint deck

– Three to comment on the font

– One to search Google Images for a suitable graphic

– Four to train the middle managers on managing change

– Two to organise the cascade

– One to remember that cascades never work

– One to ‘just do publishing’

– Two to develop a convoluted measurement process that won’t reveal anything

– One to check the distribution lists

– One to prepare the awards entry

– Two to obsess about ROI

– None to actually sit on the project team