Archive | August, 2011

Turn Off the GPS

22 Aug

Some years ago I was driving through Picardy in Northern France with my mate Danny.

We were in an old MG with no GPS.

By the time we realized it, the moment of getting lost, had passed.

We’d missed a turn somewhere and before we knew it we had no idea where we were.

We were good and lost.

The map wasn’t much help because we couldn’t fix our location.

We reached a fork in the road and had to make a decision.

We tossed a coin.

Then we were turning left and climbing the brow of a gentle hill.

As we crested the hill, spread out before us bathed in the golden evening sunlight lay the picturesque town of St-Valéry-sur-Somme.

As its name suggests the town sits on the southern side of the wide Somme estuary.

Coasting down the road into town we were met by the tang of salt on the breeze.

And the sun had just begun to turn the water the colour of flame.

The MG seemed to steer itself, right into the gravel car park of the Relais de Guillame, a splendidly ramshackle fin de siècle château, turned hotel.

We decided to spend the night there before we even got out of the car.

The bar and restaurant were spacious and high ceilinged lined art with Art Nouveau wallpaper faded by sunlight and time.

But the meal we enjoyed was light and contemporary.

We stuck around, and over the next couple of days we explored the small town with its medieval walls and gatehouses.

We ate lunch at charming and inexpensive quayside restaurants bursting with fresh fish.

We strolled along the boardwalk past substantial Edwardian seaside villas built by prosperous bourgeoisie, to the point with the light house.

It was the best part of our trip.

And if we hadn’t got lost we wouldn’t have found it.

But getting lost is usually viewed with frustration.

It’s the antithesis of our rigid compartmentalized time-starved lives.

So it’s usually seen as a failure to arrive.

Instead of an opportunity to discover something new.

Getting lost is wrong; it denotes a lack of planning or navigational nous.

Like wasting time it’s seen as non-productive, almost sacrilegious.

But what is creativity, if it isn’t getting lost?

Staring at a blank piece of paper, thinking what if I can’t think of anything?

If you don’t feel a little afraid you’re just going through the motions.

Using the tricks and techniques you know and staying in your comfort zone.

Relying on what has worked in the past.

After a point, that’s repetitive not creative.

Creative means throw away the compass.

Get in the un-comfort zone.

Put some random back in the mix.

Turn off the GPS.

Get lost.

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Blogagon Smack Down

8 Aug

Before the UFC wherever beer and testosterone intersected in sufficient quantities, a question was likely to be asked.

Ali or Lee?

Meaning of course, who would win in a rumble between the GOAT Muhammad Ali and Bruce “The Dragon” Lee.

The beauty was the issue could never be settled.

It lent itself to the most hyperbolic hyperbole and much hilarity all round.

Today, maybe the question would be phrased in terms of Couture or Liddell?

Somehow, it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Then again, the UFC doesn’t really do it for me.

I’m up for it when they’re on their feet but I lose interest as soon as they hit the floor.

I know they’re skillful athletes, but when they’re rolling around the Octagon, it reminds me of so much dodgy wrestling

An equally intriguing question is who comes out on top in the Blogagon?

Because when marketing or advertising folk and beer intersect in sufficient quantities the question is likely to be asked.

Godin or Trott?

Meaning, if you were marooned on a desert island and had to choose one, who would you choose?

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Blogagon Smack Down.

In the red corner blogging out of Hastings on the Hudson, New York – Internet entrepreneur, author and speaker Seth”Godinzilla” Godin

{My brain's gone nuclear}

In the blue corner blogging out of Poplar, London – author and advertising legend Dave “The Trottinator” Trott

{I'll be back with another great blog}

And remember, two men enter one man leaves

At first glance the case for Godin seems overwhelming, with over 4100 posts, 12 books and 103,560* Twitter  followers against Trott’s unknown (by me) number of posts 1 book and 5536* Twitter followers .

However, popularity bears little relation to merit, hence: Kim Kardashian – 8,715,859* Twitter followers.

Stats aside, these blogging behemoths bang out brilliant blogs by the book load.

Godin, following some rhythm detectable only to him, alternates between short and long posts.

The short posts are pretty accessible with a nod towards pop culture.

The longer posts can be more academic.

Sometimes he short posts twice daily, as if to say I’m thrice as smart as you’ll ever be.

And he probably is.

To paraphrase Voltaire, if Godin didn’t exist mankind would have to invent him.

Trott, on the other hand favours a more classic long-form approach.

His references are widely drawn, history, formula one racing, boxing, football, science, travel…

But everything this magpie mind writes about is accessible.

Actually, it’s the epitome of accessibility.

You’d have to be very dumb indeed to not get Dave.

While Seth is a bit of a smartass:

“Give up control and give it away… The more you give your idea away, the more your company is going to be worth.”

Or: “If you can’t state your position in eight words, you don’t have a position.”

He gets away with it because he’s such a mind-bogglingly smart smartass; smarter than a paint store.

His best insights are uber geek chic.

As befits a man with a degree in computer science and an MBA from Stanford, he really gets digital, both the scale of change the digital economy has wrought and the hows and whys of a new way of doing business.

Trott, in contrast is more of an everyman, if every man has a record of building a string of successful agencies; from seminal 80s agency Gold Greenlees Trott to CST The Gate and a career that illuminates advertising history.

He’s up to speed digitally, but believes the idea takes precedent over the delivery system.

And if some people think this makes him a bit of a dinosaur, he doesn’t give a monkey’s.

His writing has a haiku like quality and sometimes verges on the metaphysical:

“For me, the best writing takes complicated things and makes them simple.

So everyone can understand them.

If it’s really great, it also takes simple things and makes them powerful.

So everyone can feel them.”

The infuriating thing about his writing is it’s so deceptively simple, sooner or later you think, why can’t I write like Dave Trott?

Well it’s best not to try, because you almost certainly can’t.

Whereas Godin tends to make you think, why can’t I think like that?

And again, you almost certainly can’t.

Especially when he’s on:

It’s impossible to have a coin with only one side. You can’t have heads without tails.

Innovation is like that. Initiative is like that. Art is like that.

You can’t have success unless you’re prepared to have failure.

As soon as you say, “failure is not an option,” you’ve just said, “Innovation is not an option.”

But he also excels at more complex analysis, like this insightful piece on:

The game theory of discovery and the birth of the free-gap

Trott tends to stories that illustrate ideas, whereas Godin is drawn more to pure ideas.

Here’s one of Trott’s best, it’s structured like a classic short story with a wicked twist at the end: The Train is Leaving the Station.

At his best Godin dazzles with the breadth and speed of his thinking and a head that’s not wired like yours or mine.

Although sometimes he comes over as an overbearing headmaster, it’s hard to dislike him when he acknowledges the fault so honestly.

“This attitude gets me in trouble sometimes. Perhaps I shouldn’t be pushing people who want something but have been taught not to push themselves. Somewhere along the way, it seems, I forgot that it’s none of my business..”

Trott is more of a humanist.

As such, he understands not only that he’s not always going to be right, but as the title of a recent post of his puts it:

There’s Not Always a Right Answer.

He may possess awareness and compassion, but he’s definitely no mug:

See, I don’t think my mate lost his visa for taking drugs.

I think he lost it for being stupid.

Did he really think that if he admitted taking drugs they’d admire his honesty and give him a visa?

Well, knee-deep in sweat and adjectives it’s crunch time here at the Blogagon.

My money’s on the Trottinator.

Of course your verdict may differ.

But isn’t that the beauty of it?

Or perhaps the real beauty is we get to read both.

* All Twitter stats as of August 3rd