Something Wonderful

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The amble back from the post office today was like no other hugging this beauty.

Oh Seth, you’ve done it again. Shipped something wonderful. A waft of fresh ink, a weight of wise words (all 17 pounds), an abundance of powerful visuals, a heart thumping with delight… I shall begin to devour this magnificent titan of a book.

Thank you Seth Godin.

What Was Different About Tuesday?

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Imagine spending eight hours mingling with an eclectic bunch of pioneering speakers, coffee-buzzed wisdom seekers, immersed in ‘thoughtful provocations’, ‘dancing with paradox’, debating life’s big questions and how to ‘pioneer meaningful progress’… while sipping craft whisky, absorbing live jazz and pondering what’s next for humans on earth, and Mars.

Welcome to The Cleverness and Percolate: A Precursor to Progress.

“A space to harness our unwillingness to settle” for “pioneers and the quietly dissatisfied”.

Hallelujah!… a space (Fitzroy Social) with air, light, art, music, buzz, booze, nibbles, chit-chat, curious people, questions, and more questions than answers. A thoroughly thought-provoking ‘event-full’ experience, delivering beyond expectation. You don’t get to say that too often do you?

And here I am gathering my scribbles and highlights to spread the goodness of a well curated Tuesday afternoon that flowed into an evening of exceptional taste and unedited banter.

Everything was done a little differently at Percolate. The speakers were unusually framed by the audience (seated on four sides, not framed as in ‘set-up’). You actually got to see other people’s faces and expressions. Imagine… other humans! The ‘gift envelopes’ had tasteful, meaningful content (newly launched magazine The Cleverness Biannual Issue O) and even the bathrooms featured ‘thoughtful provocations’ for pondering while you pee. Everything was considered, crafted and conversational. And not wishing to overdo the ‘c’ words here, but the theme and trail of messages throughout was both creative and consistent, even down to the branded whisky glasses and custom branded The Cleverness/Moleskine notebook.

Okay, enough of the gushing flattery, so what of this unconventional event? I believe in thoughtful sharing of people doing good things, so I’ve put thought to gathering some snippets for those ‘quietly dissatisfied’ people curious enough to want to discover more (my brain clearly likes ‘c’ words today, yesterday it was ‘i’ words).

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Enter the inimitable Host, Dr Jason Fox (Head of The Cleverness), charming, engaging and provocative, questioning and conversational, poses a thoughtful opener “What will be different for you in 2017?”. The audience is encouraged to think and exchange thoughts with their neighbour – yep, really meaningful conversations with other humans, imagine! And then, another provocative question comes flying “What is the most popular misconception people have of you?”. There’s no dancing around the matter here, we’re already in deep thought exploring pretty serious questions with strangers. Only slightly awkward.

The first speaker, Oscar Trimboli (Executive Coach & Author), silenced the audience with every carefully chosen, calmly spoken word, and the breathing space in between. The topic was ‘Deeper Listening’. This one particularly struck a chord for me… “Listen to silence as deeply as any word”. Indeed, we often desperately scramble to plug the awkward gaps. “Silence is a gift”. There’s so much beauty and meaning in silence, stillness and space – and it’s so valuable for encouraging creativity (my space of specialty). Another thought provoking line was “Explore the unsaid”. Which could morph into separate conversation on the mystery and delights of the subconscious and its significant value to creative thinking. For another time.

We then heard from Helen Souness (Managing Director of Etsy Australia & Asia) who stated that Our purpose in life is to fulfil our potential” and posed the question “How can you enrich the lives of others?”. Helen also encouraged us to consider exploring a “multi-dimensional life” rather than seeking the ‘one calling’ that we spend years trying to discover. This note transitioned smoothly onto the next speaker, Natasha Pincus (Director & Filmmaker) with the big question “What is genius?”, a theme inspired by her own creative productions. Natasha believes that “Your genius comes from within you” and is “The practice of being who you are”.  An visually engaging talk, concluded with Natasha’s parting belief that “The genius is inspired”, and “curious”, “a productionist”, and “empathetic”. All of this was delivered with a stream of visual whit and boundless energy, definitely not your average keynote, thankfully.

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Up next, Rohan Gunatillake (Creator of Buddhify & Author) encouraged us to “Be aware of what’s happening while it’s happening” which really got me thinking. We’re often so fixated on the future and ‘what’s next’ for us, while the good happenings of today pass by unnoticed. Rohan talked about the concept of “Relaxation as identification” (not taking your work too personally) and stated that “The more personally you take your work, the more you’ll have difficulty”. This provoked some interesting conversations during and after the talk, especially from those of us who head their own businesses. Another useful tip “Don’t mortgage your whole being on a metric you have no control over” and another “Indulge yourself at the level of feeling”. Rohan’s secrets to mindfulness were: A Loving Letting Go; Neutral Observation; You Are On Your Side. Which will need a little more explanation beyond this post. A great parting thought and one that I’m still reflecting on was “Get interested in the difficult”. Ooh… that’s a corker.

One big challenge we all face as humans is complexity, which was the theme for Dr Sean Fabri (Improvisor & Doctor), who discussed the shift in medicine from complex to complicated and the insightful differences between the two. Some stimulating thoughts were “The world is complex, people are complex” with an intriguing conversation around “Grappling with complexity and why this is such a struggle” and the provocative statement “It’s our responsibility to understand the complexity we face”. Dr Sean shared his perspective on the importance of complex understanding in creating pathways to outcomes. Another thought provoker was “The closer your mental model is to the real world, the better it will work”. I often see people and companies creating things that are so far removed from reality and what’s really needed, it’s quite astonishing. But we also need to challenge the real world. Blimey, there’s so much work to do! Here’s another one of my favourites “When you imagine others complexly, you humanise them” flowing into “When you acknowledge this, it comes across as kindness”. Without question we need more understanding and kindness in the world, more walking in the shoes of others, demonstrating human compassion. Dr Sean Fabri concluded by sharing some tools for reaching deeper into complexity through the themes of doubt, disagreement and failure. He writes about this more in his newsletter if you’re curious.

The coffee buzz was provided by Proud Mary and the whisky buzz by Starward, both companies with knowledgable representatives sharing some wonderful insights… “It’s more than coffee… every time you have a coffee there’s a family, person and process behind it” and “Indulge in the feeling” and a whole conversation around overcoming “The irrational obstacles”. Thanks to both for providing great tasting fuel for lively conversations.

We are in “A new era of co-creation” claimed Josi Heyerdahl (Partnerships Manager, World Wildlife Fund) who talked about complex systems, the actions of the whole and the challenge we’re facing as the more connected we become the more complex things become…“We face complex problems with no simple solutions” Jodi stated. And then shared some hard facts from The Living Planet Report relating to the growing population, the demand this places on food resources and the impact this has on the planet. As a subject close to my heart, this talk left me with a big ‘to-do’ list. One statement that I will be exploring further is that we need to “Work with the industry to make the changes we want to see”. The WWF have a tagline “Together Possible” which clearly communicates that they’re embracing this already. Jodi talked about the value of “Unlikely Collaborators” and believes this is where the magic happens. We were left with the thought provoking question “Who would be your unlikely collaborator?”. I have a few of those.

And finally, enter ‘The Wild Card’ Will Dayble (Founder of Squareweave & Fitzroy Academy) who shocked us into disbelief when he shared a life-changing choice he faced with his wife “Do we have children or go to Mars?”. Image that conversation over morning coffee! I don’t think I was in the minority in wondering if this guy was for real. But yes, he was. And refreshingly so. It was fascinating, confronting and a little uncomfortable to wrap my head around this ‘choice’ and the conversations that he was having with himself, his wife, family and friends. I can’t imagine. But this is the reality we are facing now. People will be going to Mars soon. The evolution of human existence has transitioned from no people on the planet, to people on the planet, and now people on Mars. What will be next? Will playfully and provocatively reflected deeply on what this means for him and how we exist as humans. He describes this life adventure as a “Once in a civilisation opportunity” and “the most exciting thing that has happened to humans ever”. Plenty of polarising views around this one, which ended with a question I’ve never heard before. Something for everyone to consider when producing things… “Will this work on Mars?”. That’s the reality of the future.

Time to Percolate and conclude, as the panel rotated to answer questions with questions in a lively banter of provocations like “Do you gain wisdom from experiences or do you have to do something else” and “How will you bring what’s next” and “What are the rare conversations we have as humans” and a great line “Great questions will always outlive the answers”. I was too engaged in the pace to capture everything here and didn’t want to miss the moment and opportunity to participate.

After a few more drinks cheerfully babbling away with some interesting folk, I sloped out the door and into the streets of Fitzroy with my head bursting with questions, things to do, the sound of jazz and maybe one too many whisky’s.

There’s so much work to do in the world! If this was helpful, please share thoughtfully. I hope this gets you thinking today, more than you were yesterday, and as much as I was on Tuesday, and the days thereafter.

Big thank you to Dr Jason Fox, Kim Lam and The Cleverness. See you at “Rituals”.

Bye for now…

Rochelle Martyn

rochellemartyn.com @RoxMartyn

Making Ideas Happen

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” – Thomas Edison.

99U Local Melbourne www.fedsquare.com

99U Local Melbourne http://www.fedsquare.com

September may be over, but the insights and ideas gathered will be ongoing inspiration for people interested in making ideas happen.

For the first time (which is always a wonderful phrase to write), Behance brings the world 99U Local. “It’s not a conference. It’s a casual, intimate, local 99U-style experience in your city” they write on their site. The event was sponsored by The Centre for Workplace Leadership and The University of Melbourne.

“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” is the idea behind the 99U events.

For one week in September, select cities around the world host a one night event consisting of three curated talks that “share road-tested insights on making ideas happen…” I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the 99U Local Melbourne event, with curated talks and tips for making ideas happen from local experts:

Gavin Aung Than, Cartoonist, Creator of Zen Pencils @zenpencils

Be the first (like, making cartoons from quotes); be consistent (do something that means you won’t get bored); be honest (share a bit of yourself, make yourself human).

Amantha Imber, Innovation Psychologist, Founder of Inventium @amantha

Share generously (and a bit of yourself); be clear on your values (and make decisions against these); don’t over think things (“analysis paralysis”); never make big decisions after lunch.

Dr Jason Fox, Author, 99U Ambassador @drjasonfox

Doubt makes ideas stronger; doubt makes leaders better; doubt makes life more wonderful. Plus some tips to leverage doubt: build a meta-morning ritual; cast projects into the future; choose one word to live by for your year (i.e. Jason’s is Pirate).

As with most intimate events focused on ideas, there was quite a lively Q&A afterwards around schools and creativity, getting people comfortable with ambiguity, where to find inspiration and ideas, how to get clear on your values, the connection between doubt and intellect…

My tip is to start by getting out and about… go to events about ideas, network, observe, talk, share… it’s a big world out there and there’s plenty to discover.

Ideas Are Not Enough

Many designers will tell you they’ve come up with heaps of fantastic ideas that have gone nowhere. But the ideas aren’t the hardest part.

The biggest challenge is the communication around your ideas. You have to be able to share your seamless thinking before, during and after; to convince and excite about the possibilities.

It’s not good enough to just have an idea. It’s not acceptable to groan about a client ‘not getting it’ if you haven’t done your job to explain your thought process.

A truly great designer comes up with brilliant ideas along with their story.

A truly great client is brave enough to join you in bringing them to life.

A match made to lead change.

Do You Value What You Do?

Gaining new clients can be tough. When you get them, you want to do your best to keep them happy. But when there’s no pleasing a client, the smartest companies let them go. To put it bluntly, fire them.

It’s tough to fire a client when the competition is fierce and snapping at your heels, and there are steep targets to meet. Just remember, it only takes one bad client to negatively impact your entire business, pretty fast.

To minimize the chances of this happening in the first place, research any potential relationship before getting involved. Ask about their vision and values, work ethics and what’s important to them. You need to know. Find out who they’ve worked with before and ask them about their experience too. Do your homework. Are you really a good match?

The client-agency selection process should be a two-way dialogue, whereby both equally do their checks to find the right partnership. This kicks things off with a mutual respect, bringing out the best in all talent, motivating the teams and encouraging everyone to do their best work.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen enough as the client is perceived to hold the power (the purse strings) and the agency is perceived to be vulnerable (needs the business), with the latter bending over backwards to be a pleaser. This is a no win situation for either party.

You may enter into a relationship that seems like a good match at the time, but somewhere along the way it takes a turn and becomes a living nightmare. Day and night. Knowing when to say “that’s enough” is a tough call, but any self-respecting company needs to take the stance.

How do you know when to do ‘the deed’? Start here:

1. Are they respectful (towards you, your team and your business)?

2. Do they value creativity (what you do, at your best)?

3. Is there a mutual trust?

If your client isn’t respectful towards you and your people, doesn’t value what you do and get out of bed for every day, and there’s a lack of trust between you… it’s a no brainer.

Fire them. Gracefully. And willingly refer them to the competition.

If you value what you do, don’t work with people that don’t.

Getting Over New Business

Many companies, and designers, are excellent at their craft, but struggle to communicate what they do in a way that entices people to buy. Whether you’re an individual or group, your existence depends on being able to do this.

There is a stimga around ‘selling’, but everyone has to do it these days. On the other side, nobody likes to be aggressively sold to either. It’s the way you ‘sell’ that makes a big difference. Whether you’re an independent designer or a company, you can create the best looking stuff in the world, but you’re invisible unless you get your work noticed. Everyone has a role to play in championing their best work, contributing towards building a powerful profile and enviable reputation in the industry.

Before anything else, you need the right attitude towards ‘selling’ (or new business, business development…). You need to begin by defining and articulating your story and point of difference. Don’t waste anyone’s time until you’ve grasped this yourself.

Then connect with potential clients that have demonstrated a history of buying world class creativity. Look for companies that are struggling with real problems and demonstrate how you’ve solved similar problems before.

If you’re new and haven’t yet gathered case studies, provide them with a perspective on their problem (without solving it for free). Look for potential clients that respect what you do enough to pay a good fee for solving their problem, with your remarkable creativity.

If you value what you do, never seek to just be the cheapest. It’s a spiraling downward journey for you and your competition. Aim to deliver something valuable through ideas that spark interest, challenge and change the game.

Because that’s the stuff we need and is worth paying for.

Make yourself and your ideas visible and valuable and get over the stigma of ‘selling’ – redefine it yourself, make it work, and lead the way.

The Power of Cultural Icons

The iconic Stokehouse restaurant in St. Kilda, Melbourne, burned to the ground in January. It caused an outpouring of public grief. The popular summer location with its stunning views and buzzing atmosphere immediately picked itself and opened a pop up version just weeks later in time for Valentine’s Day. The public is now being invited to input on the future of this local icon by participating in the selection of one of three architectural designs for the new building.

BLOG-ICONS.001The Stokehouse has become such a popular local brand and cultural icon. When struck by disaster, the local community felt the pain too. The business responded fast and got back on its feet with a temporary solution that enabled everyone to continue enjoying what they had grown to love.

How many brands matter this much to people? Would they be missed if they disappeared tomorrow? Would they instantly bounce back, and with so much public support?

When we are bombarded by endless products, that have very little difference, brands that matter most to people are the ones that form the cultural fabric of life. They have the people behind them to support them through adversity.

That’s a cultural following worth creating.