Monthly Archives: October 2012

Next Time, Let’s Replace Black Box Debates — Four Out-of-the- Box Ideas

Volume 2, Issue 29

The presidential debates may give us some further insight into the individuals but they tell us nothing really about any plans the candidates and their parties might have. The possibility exists that there might exist only the most superficially developed plans. In this scientific age of computer models — intensive research potential including controlled experimentation, enhancement processes to creativity — our supreme governance techniques appear to be stuck several centuries behind. Would that our government be run the way our best companies and military think tanks are run, making use of the most in-depth plan testing, scenario generation, simulations, wargames, and psychological interventions to strip away mental and emotional blockages. Instead our highest power center still plays out like a student debate in a high school gym. Not only here but around the world.

Whether or not it was right, and regardless of what you may think of Al Gore, at least his An Inconvenient Truth presentation reached a level of comprehensiveness that is lacking in the current debates about solutions for the economy. Shouldn’t each side present its plan in writing to the public, with a full defense against the other side’s criticisms, citing evidence? In the small arena of media research companies, throughout my career I’ve always strived to present the case for my own methodologies using industry evidence and analytics of my own data. Why can’t candidates present the case for their own plans that way?

We are left with the feeling that each side’s plan for the future is a black box reflecting in the end only the original assumptions of each party, i.e. meritocracy (in its worst expressions degenerating into aristocracy) vs. democracy (in its worst expressions degenerating into communism). The only other factor being “Whom do you trust?” This is likely to be answered internally by one’s own bias along party lines, rendering the whole debate process a waste of time. The current candidates exude such reasonability that one is tempted to trust any of them, but how much of that reasonability is simply well-practiced and well-rehearsed good acting? Ultimately the decisions we make as a nation and as a world should be based on the well-defended plans we are choosing among, not merely on the personalities of the front men and front women. We need a plan.

There are still a couple of weeks left in which the candidates should really dig into the details of why they intend to do X, Y and Z. They should show what has worked before, what has not worked, how the contexts have changed since those evidentiary cases, and what their contingency plans are should results deviate from targets by specified dates. Whereas military plans cannot be exposed that way, economic plans can be. That’s Out-of-the-Box Idea #1. Not just debates, but debates after plan presentations. Yes, the plans are on the candidates’ websites, but push would be more effective than pull when the quality of our lives is at stake.

Our Plan For America presented last century focused on individualized education as the key to training Americans to be able to gain and keep jobs in which they could be fulfilled and happy, setting new records for innovation and productivity. Instead of handouts of fish we must train people to fish for themselves, as Charles Kennedy reminded me the other night. Systemic changes are automating jobs into extinction, and so we must all reinvent ourselves at personal and group levels, right up to nations and the planet as a whole. This is a long-range problem with a long-term solution — what do we do to relieve pain right now?

In the Creativity training Richard Zackon and I gave on October 3 at ARF we pointed out that wild ideas are worth throwing out there because they can lead to sounder ideas. So here are three more wild ideas that can be pummeled into realistic ones.

The private sector is the most efficient, so let’s focus on government tax changes and incentives that drive innovations in the private sector and speed up retraining of people out of work. People who have the most money (the top 0.1% or 0.01% for example*) could be offered a choice of higher taxes or the equivalent amount of money invested in the unemployed as entrepreneurs — kind of a pro-social Shark Tank. Before such a plan would start there would be intensive research into who the unemployed are, what talents and defeated aspirations they have had, either through Facebook or something like it. This web-based system would function as a dating service between out-of-work people and rich people. Rich people would help individuals rather than dole out faceless tax dollars. The business plans of the would-be entrepreneurs would be critiqued and improved by the benefactors. If not invested away the same money would simply be taxed away — again, only for the richest 0.1% or 0.01%.

Another process would be incentivizing internships on a massive scale, where the unemployed work for very little in a company where they can learn new skills and maybe get a foot in the door.

We need to consider making it mandatory in our school systems for students to learn a third language — writing computer code.

Let’s encourage the candidates to drop the rote going-through-the-ancient-motions and get on with detailed specific plans that respect our intelligence.

Best to all,


*As reported in the New Yorker:

  1. The top 0.1% received 7.8% of all U.S. income in 2009, according to the IRS;
  2.  Economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty find that:
    a. The top 1% received 93% of the gains of the 2009-2010 recovery;
    b. The top 0.01% received 37% of the gains of that recovery.

Fun Was Had at the ARF Creativity Playshop

Volume 2, Issue 28

Of course I had fun. I always have fun presenting and this was so experimental — imagine media researchers, at least one copywriter, and other marketing people meditating together as part of an industry event — I felt like a kid again. Co-presenter and Playshop co-creator Richard Zackon and I alternated in sharing research findings on the creative process and suggesting best practices as well as offering various experiential exercises. Professional coach Jane Harris supported the fun as well, at one point pulling a rabbit out of a hat and at another getting everybody to wear clown noses. The ARF was generous with its refreshments and support as well as participation by Don Gloeckler, Don Sexton, Horst Stipp, and interns Danielle Hemsley and Raphaela Hodgdon. The feedback sheet Richard passed around was responded to by 16 of the 18 participants, with high ratings for presenters, content, and fun, which got the highest rating.

Did we make a difference in terms of their creativity? Time will tell. There are free follow-up sessions and a post-questionnaire yet to come, which may give us some early indication of any increase in creativity, performance, and/or satisfaction. We’re also sending out, free, the book + DVD kit the Human Effectiveness Institute offers as a 60-day course in Creative Effectiveness.

We were happy to see that important companies sent their people to a creativity intensive, one of the largest media companies sending four people. A top car company sent someone whose nametag I hadn’t noticed — I was happily surprised to find this out the next day in a meeting with that company.

I’m also happily surprised to see that the ANA is now offering a creativity workshop. This is a terrific sign. As Richard pointed out early in the four-hour session on October 3, IBM in a 2010 global survey of CEOs, found that creativity was selected as the most crucial factor for future success.

Xyte, a self-administered online questionnaire that sheds intense clarifying light into the way one thinks — which of 16 types of thinker one is — was made available free, courtesy of Gerry Klodt and Linda McIsaac of Xyte. One participant who found it revealed her to herself in a way that was “spot on” asked for and received the two extra free passes we had been given to access Xyte, for members of her team.

The participants were given many methods to stimulate their own creativity and to look at old problems in new ways. Someone asked how to retain singlepointed focus while necessarily multitasking and was given the method of staying focused through complexity, rotating the concentration among the incoming data streams. This is described in greater detail in Chapter 7 of our book Freeing Creative Effectiveness. A few heads nodded knowingly (Don Sexton’s was one of them) at another point when I mentioned using a notepad to take down side ideas that arise while you are focused on one specific task, so the mind does not feel these ideas tugging one.

During the final exercise the participants generated many creative ideas of their own around social media, including a fascinating schematic by Don Gloeckler that could become the framework for studying the diffusion of memes through the population.

Don Sexton objected at one point when I was characterizing stress as being the enemy of the Zone (Flow State), the state of highest creativity that we were aiming at by route of the Observer State. He and I agreed that stress could produce the phenomenon of “little old ladies” suddenly able to carry large heavy men out of burning buildings. It was a moment to remind ourselves that the principles being passed along in the training were none of them black-and-white absolute rules but needed to be balanced against each other customized for every situation. At an earlier point I had cautioned that anything we said should not be applied so absolutely as to become the next block to creativity.

After the session it occurred to me that I should have said we would never have burned down the building just to get the “little old lady” into the Zone for a few minutes, although the experience might lead her to more constant Flow state capability — the cost of the building and perhaps other lives would have been grotesquely too high. So there has to always be a tradeoff between the good of the Flow state and the cost involved — courses like these being a better way to approach Flow maximization than artificially creating stress situations. (For the record, the OSS and many contemporary military and paramilitary organizations did/do in fact purposely create stress in order to gain expected benefits in the performance of individuals.)

Hopefully HR leaders at major companies will take us up on our offer to take this Playshop on the road. The Playshop could be used as part of a management offsite, extending the current Playshop into a fully customized wargame focused on the future of the specific company involved. Having created and led one such wargame recently with high-level U.S. military officers focused on long-range planning, and conducted scenario stimulation with top managements of many advertisers, media and agencies, this is the part that could afford participants and their companies the most benefit. The Playshop at ARF by its nature of having many companies in one room could not delve into confidential matters pertaining to one company. Skills could be sharpened but the focus of these skills on close-to-home opportunities and challenges could not happen in such an event. Companies that take us up on the offer to go in for more customized Playshops can begin creating their company’s future with the shackles taken off of thinking.

Best to all,


Digital Integration of Media, Advertising, Gaming, and Philanthropy

Volume 2, Issue 27

Sharing with you our contribution to the Wharton Advertising 2020 Project

Today a new company, Thinaire, is placing low-cost links to digital content in physical objects such as shelf-talkers and magazines. People can just tap their mobile phone to the object and the content appears on their screen and can be shared in the usual ways — plus by tapping a friend’s phone whereupon the content leaps phone to phone. This is only one small part of the continuing evolution of all (including in-store) media into digital media. All print media, to the extent that they continue to involve printed copies, will utilize links like Thinaire’s to become woven seamlessly into the one digital mediasphere that is forming. Radio is migrating into digital, and cellphone+stereo earpods will be the next stage both by radio receivers in phones and by all-digital stations springing up, led by Pandora.

The advertising industry is gradually becoming aware that sponsorship of good content (including fun/social games) and of good causes has far greater power to win hearts and minds than interruptive pitch/offer messages no matter how clever. In his book Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at The World’s Greatest Companies, Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble, says “If you’re willing to align your business with a fundamental human ideal, you too can achieve extraordinary growth.” In his study of 50,000 brands, Jim found that those who grew the fastest 2000-2010 — on average three times faster than the overall group — had one thing in common. They were explicitly linked in people’s minds with fundamental human values such as joy, connection to other people, adventurousness, pride, and the desire to improve society (see the excellent issue of strategy + business published by Booz & Company, Autumn 2012, page 81). To yours truly, who has been saying similar things to advertisers and agencies since 1976, this is the most important insight of business and marketing in the last 100 years now that Jim has brilliantly put a sharp point on it. The brands that are winning are the idealists who bind themselves to enduring human values. Advertising would do well to “get” this learning and apply it in a sweeping redefinition of what advertising is. In this scenario we assume the industry will “get it”.

The Upside Future Scenario for Advertising

Today Cause Marketing is still only a billion-dollar slice of the advertising pie but in the future, with the precise media/creative ROI measurement now available, things that work will quickly balloon to the level justified by their economic efficacy. As Bob DeSena says, you can’t optimize it until you measure it. And once you measure something, it is highly likely that soon after that, the measurements will start to show improvements. CMOs and bright agencies will devise mixtures of Cause, Game, and Social aspects to make advertising and even promotion far more intriguing, fun, and self-satisfying for media audiences.

New forms of web-based testing, brain and psychographic research will develop that will help us understand how people tick so much better than today, equipping creatives with powerful insights to help shape effective messages. Sophistication and creativity will merge into advertising that is not only rational, emotive, perceptual and intuitive but also appeals to whole human beings instead of to one small layer of their most mundane purchasing interests. Share of ROI Uplift will become a way that media and agencies are compensated, with trusted third-party research companies led by the ARF, ANA and 4As ensuring that the ROI report cards are scientific and objective. The media business will become more fun for all with fewer doomsday scenarios and a never-ending game of day-to-day surprises enabled by technology and human ingenuity. Resistance to advertising, which had always been futile, will now also become nearly extinct due to the enjoyability of the new formats.  

What should we do NOW to achieve it

Probably the best organization to make this scenario come true is the Ad Council. This estimable organization is in touch with the Philanthropy “industry” (an oxymoron since they are all by definition nonprofits) and is always discoursing with them about advertising as a force for social good. Upping their game, they would bring in companies who have the ability to read sales effects of advertising, and would engage the cable industry to use cable zones for A/B testing of equal allocations of media dollars to BAU (Business As Usual) vs. new formulations of crossmedia Cause marketing gamified and made into Social media. Besides the Ad Council, there are heroes amongst us who are recruiting celebrities to help power creative innovation to serve social needs — people such as Bill Rouhana, Ed Martin, James Colmenares, and Rabbi Irwin Katsof, to name only a few of the veritable Army of Light that is self-forming around us in response to historical necessity.

The true investment required would be media costs — which are low in cable zones — and creative costs, which would be the major part in this case. The advertisers willing to lead this charge would be those who agree with Jim Stengel’s analysis of what makes companies successful today: caring about social good — which Jim has analyzed in relation to financial data to prove his case conclusively. Stengel’s article has not been widely quoted yet but is actually the shot heard round the world for the future of the advertising business. When Jim’s findings have been doubly verified by extensive A/B testing across many product categories, the seismic shift toward tying one’s messages to the larger concerns of humanity will be fully underway.

Best to all,


Mr. P was given six months to live

Volume 2, Issue 27

When he heard this, his mind immediately accelerated. In the space of a breath before saying anything to the doctor, he experienced:

  1. A seemingly irrelevant thought about his rival at work;
  2. Realization that he no longer cared a whit about that rivalry, in light of his new fate;
  3. Insight that the rivalry was always at least equally his own fault for placing too much ego-driven emphasis on petty things;
  4. Insight that he did not want to be petty, and yet had let himself be petty at least several times daily over such concerns as rivalries, feuds, fears, envies, saving face, and the panoply of vanities;
  5. Realization that it was this new perspective on Time that had geared up his inner concentration to a level he had never experienced before, which instantly made ego things easily dispensed with.

The good news was that he would be strong right up until the last few weeks. That meant he could accomplish whatever he had always wanted to do in the last months of his life, or, as he laughed wryly to himself, “Die tryin’.”

He was alone in his car driving back from the doctor. He marveled at how fast and clearly his mind seemed to be working. So many trivial things that seemed important before had dropped away without an argument. His mind was sharply focused on his highest priorities. Realizing this, he thanked the Upper Light for doing it this way to him. He had lived a fun life up to now and if it was his time to be taken, he felt strongly there would be an afterlife and life eternal. He flashed on how seeing the way he faced death would help his family and those who knew him to open their minds about death.

He saw that it would not be compassionate to spend his last days doing a bucket list, or anything selfish like that. What should he do — what did he want to do — with his last days?

What he wound up doing was having a lot of one-on-one conversations and fun parties. The conversations would be the last so they never devolved into trivia. He said what he had always wanted to say to that person. After the tears, his family listened without boredom, first out of respect and then out of love and finally because they were getting good ideas for themselves from what he was saying, despite his occasional ramblings, from which he always brought himself back.

He envisioned the ways his industry could evolve in positive directions in the years ahead and he gave unsolicited advice to many of the leaders in the field. If it all came out the way he saw it, there would be more counterspecialization across competing companies in a major sector, which would lead to a consolidation of complementary entities later on.

He took up painting again and did other things compassionate to himself. When his wife found him and saw that he had passed away, he was sitting up, his eyes open, and a smile on his face as if seeing something awesome.

Best to all,