Thursday, December 18, 2014

Work Different, Think Different

"Creativity" has become a buzzword. When paired with its mates ‘unleash’ and ‘unlock’, they suggest that a great swell of inherent potential is about to swamp us.  I’ve been an advocate for creative thinking and leadership for decades. It’s how I butter my bread. But a recent article by Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker raised an interesting question: how did we come to care so much about creativity?

Polish media dragon Stefan Wozniak to become an Aussie

Creative Quotes

Those of us who can remember life before the internet and smartphones might associate brain training with crossword puzzles or Sudoku (which have long been purported to have positive impacts on the brain in terms of reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s).
Nowadays, there are around 1,500 different apps that help you train your brain, whether to test your memory, improve your language skills or tackle a mathematical problem if you’re that way inclined, or want to be.
A new app just out, called Peak, takes a slightly different approach to the brain training game. The point of difference is that it takes the game to the next level by turning it into a competition, allowing you to compare your scores to those of others in your age group. What’s a game without a little competition?
Another point of difference is that it allows users to compare their mental abilities with others in the same line of work. This provides useful feedback for users who want to find out how they stack up against their colleagues. It also has the potential to be used as a tool for recruiting.  For example, the data available so far shows that some professions are more likely to excel on some skills than others. Police need rock solid memory. Software engineers need focus.
This begs the question, are there certain ‘top’ skills that employers should be focusing on when choosing employees? Or to flip it around, are our jobs doing some degree of their own subliminal brain training so that we excel in certain skills over others? I’d say there’s a bit of both.

Irishman Benny Lewis, 29, has been on the road for 416 weeks, almost 3,000 days, travelling to dozens of countries with few possessions and fewer funds in his back pocket. He has written 29 Life Lessons I Learned While Traveling The World For Eight Years Straight. I connect with him on most though not all of them; his #1 point is a killer app: “Everyone everywhere basically wants the same thing.” Benny writes that “Vastly different as the world’s cultures are, if you speak to Italian millionaires, homeless Brazilians, Dutch fishermen and Filipino computer programmers, in their own languages, you start to see that we are all incredibly alike where it matters. Everyone just wants validation, love, security, enjoyment and hopes for a better future. The way they verbalise this and work towards it is where things branch off, but we all have the same basic desires. You can relate to everyone in the world if you look past the superficial things that separate you.

Kitchen Confidential’s fourth season has started, and Anthony Bourdain gave a lengthy interview to the Wall St Journal, in which he notes: “I assumed humans were basically bad people and if you stumbled…you would be devoured. I don’t believe that anymore.”

I was once told by Bob Seelert that to run Saatchi & Saatchi effectively you need, every morning, to “strap on a waterproof back and a bulletproof vest.”  I took that advice and never looked back.  I’m passionate about what I do, I want to be the best and I’ve been determined to enjoy a life well lived and not get distracted or brought down by stress, a gift that keeps on giving if it lets you.
Perhaps this is why I have been given the opening chapter in a new book Stress in the Spotlight, a book by Brian Claridge, UK journalist and Cary Cooper, Pro Vice Chancellor of Lancaster University. The book features individuals in high pressure positions from all walks of life.  Take Major Chris Hunter, a former bomb disposal expert, or leading children’s surgeon Dr. David Dunaway. They operated in life and death situations. Then there are others like co-founder and senior executive of Specsavers Dame Mary Perkins DBE, international fashion designer Jeff Banks CBE and celebrity chef, TV presenter and author Ken Hom OBE. Unique insights from unique people.