a love or knowledge around the celebration of life

February 6, 2013
by admin

AKQA | San Francisco – growth driven by client requirements

We met with Neil Robinson – Executive Creative Director  & Adam Creeger – Director of Product Development 
Both Neil and Adam are very down to earth and ex England lads(well one Irish) and approachable and while they show some standard projects they have been doing they are very open and interactive when questions are asked.
AKQA’s growth has always been driven by client requirements. Offices for example just opened in Atlanta servicing Delta (Client). They have offices als in São Paulo and Berlin. Interestingly this appears to be a close mirror to RG/A offices worldwide too.
Their culture is very much about doing the right sort of work for their clients and the services they utilise to do this are not just what they have in house. Having said that they tend to do a lot of work in house….this allows them to maintain quality and control in their creative outcomes.
How do AKQA work together.
Each team starts off more holistically as a unit then based on final ideas and scope teams are created. A product owner then either volunteers or is selected and owns the project vision. Could be tech, design or an account person as long as they are passionate and have a clear driving vision about the project… these Product owners are called ‘The Maestro’ coined by Neil…They do not have to be senior people as long as they care. AKQA is about nuturing the right people..

How do AKQA work with clients

Their core vision guides how they work with their clients. A lot of the job is about managing the level of technology for the clients or creating the right fit. Not simply developing a project for the sake of it.
A sentiment I to aspire to!

February 4, 2013
by admin

The Innovation Genome Project

The Innovation Genome Project. 7 Essential Steps to Innovation

The Innovation Genome Project.

Innovation is something new or different that creates a positive impact on the world. This was Bill O’Conner’s opening statement. Very positive words and a clear ethical description of innovation. I’m not exactly sure how long Bill O’Conner was speaking to us for but it felt like about 20 minutes. And in that time wow what a powerhouse. His energy alone was enough to convince you of the research he has been doing but with that came a logical sensible layered framework to innovation in any business. And what a treasure it is! I was utterly humbled and very thankful that this man would so easily release years of research under the  innovation genome project for the greater good.
Not only is this research a brilliant framework for innovation but it is also a proven method and shows us clearly that 95% of us even interested in this field are only producing 5% of what could be created with 7 simple questions.

What could we….








Find out more at The Innovation Genome Project.

February 1, 2013
by admin

The art of successful negotiation

Seth Freeman is an enigmatic and engaging teacher and I was gripped from the moment the class started. No real course outline prior to the class was specified,  simply a rollercoaster of concepts on how to be a great negotiator – but what really tied it all together and provided the key learnings were the workshops exercises we did as the class progressed.. As with many things we learn many of the concepts are common sense and intuited in our professional environments but it really crystallises the subject matter when you hear it all in one place as a series of skillsets.

As a general rule negotiation is not something people enjoy doing as it requires practise, research and actively hard work while undergoing it. However with some conscious thinking and consideration of the person on the other side of the table and remaining flexible and open to creative solutions we can all become exceptional negotiators using some of the key fundamentals below.

Key Points of being a good negotiator are:

1. Putting yourself in the other persons shoes and trying to understand ahead of time why and what this person may desire as an outcome.Understanding who you are speaking too and being flexible within the context of all negotations is key.

2. Always have a good arsenal of tools and information most negotations are creative in nature and what works for one does not work for the next one.

3. Intraspace bargaining…or reframing the key characteristics behind each negotiation. i.e. look at all elements of a possible outcome and be flexaible dependant in which elements are more important to you.

4. Do your homework – know who you are negotiating with and as much about what they are negotiating with as you possibly can. Also research around the market that you are negotiating in.

5. Information sharing is a key part of any good negotiation and the more you share with each other the more flexible and likley it is you will come to an agreeable outcome. This is not to say you should divulge eveything from the outset but you need to share information step by step as it mitigates trust in each other.

6. Active listening  – Showing that you are hearing what the other person(s) are saying. Repeating back what the person is saying to you is a skill that is used in many professions however people generally used in negotation. This skill quickly builds rapport and trust. UA technique used by aircraft controllers among other things.

7. The aim is to achieve and outcome if things are becoming to polarised or fixed then get out of there, take a break and regroup, then approach things from a different angle.

By far the biggest takeaway for me however is that negotiation isn’t about trying to simply win against your opponent  –  and this actually needs to be carefully considered. Yes you may be able to negotitat a great outcome for yourself or your company but if the person on the other end of that conversation feels like they have lost or been swindled then it is unlikely the relationship will continue. It is about working out creative solutions where both parties walk away happy. This is the key to great negotiation.
For further information and some great technique’s visit Seth’s website:

January 30, 2013
by Nikolais

R/GA New York, evolutionary anthropology and the Dunbar number

BOB GreenbergBob Greenberg is the mastermind behind R/GA one of the foremost digital agency in the world. R/GA started as a video effects production company back in 1977 and has steadily grown into the digital juggernaut it is today! Now undergoing it’s 4th restructure and just having opening it’s 10th Office in Austin Texas totalling around 1300 employees there seems to be no stopping them. But the question has to be asked! Just how big can an agency get and where do you go to from here?

Bob is a wonderful gentle insightful man and no doubt this too is something on his mind. Having split the way R/GA people work together into units of 150 people ( research shows that this is the largest number of people you can have a relationship with involving trust and obligation) and created the R/GA university  sharing knowledge internally and externally via creative thought leaders from these units have daily information sessions talking about various projects they have going on where anyone can listen.

Some of R/GA’s latest projects have been about building on the work they did with Nike in launching evolving Nike+ into a functional product ecosystem and working with new business partners utilising this model building a series of integrated products one of the latest of which is google wallet release. One of the most interesting and encouraging aspects of this ideology was that it is no longer about creating an app, a technology product, using social or building a website because you can. It is a about listening to customers ‘real’ needs and using your agency knowledge to create the best digital strategy possible and folding in congruent technologies based on those needs. An ideology that I passionately and wholeheartedly agree with.

The biggest question for me is where do they go next? Knowing Bob they are probably riding the wave of a new phase in digital marketing it’s just the rest of us don’t know it yet! Only time will tell.

Background R/GA NYC: 

In 1984, Bob and Richard Greenberg began construction on the Bauhaus complex of R/GA, located in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. At the time, many people thought it was a crazy place to set up shop, because of the neighborhood’s rough-and-tumble reputation. (Many of the iconic night scenes of Taxi Driver were shot there.) Today, although changed, Hell’s Kitchen retains its quintessentially New York grit and personality. Just a few blocks away from transit hubs and Times Square, R/GA world headquarters is situated at the heart of one of the busiest, most vibrant areas of New York City. Organised around a group structure of 150 people across 8 departments including design/technology/strategy and planning …for a creatively driven organisation you shouldn’t be more than 150 people.

January 30, 2013
by Nikolais

Nike Town NYC – Not as I remember it

When I was in New York around 10 years ago I remember being entranced by the theatre that is Nike town. I remember asking to try on some shoes and upon giving them my size they magically appeared in a shoe elevator. I was so impressed by this process that I told all of my friends how cool Nike town is!

Since that time it appears this theatre and style of customer service has not moved on. If anything it is marked contrast to the experience you get at Nike Town London. To quantify this There were some cool campaign led displays showing the latest gear which looked great but it is more about the way the rest of the store looked behind these impactful setups. It looked tired and old and still like it hadn’t been redone since the 70’s. Also on the day they had an elevator team in there fixing the elevators during business hours which is something we would never see in the UK!?

January 29, 2013
by Nikolais

Entrepreneurial marketing – preparing for battle

Jeff Carr’s Entrepreneurial marketing or to coin a phrase: How to prepare for battle, is an interesting and relevant topic for me as currently our agency is in growth and the challenge we have is in implementing new structures to the business while at the same time maintaining the flexibility of a start up. In doing so we also need to ensure the work we are doing continues at the same levels of quality and output as it is now. A number of aspects brought up in Jeff’s course touch on things that currently we do not do enough of. These are checking in on where we sit in terms of our market share vs our competitors. Particularly in areas of market innovation that we have previously established. 

Some interesting learnings:

What is the Cost of Market share

Of particular interest is the cost of market share in that it is directly affected by company investments in product development, sales efforts, price discounts, and communication activities. However we were not give us any indication on what weighting each of these activities has and what balance we should be expending on these activities which would have been valuable input. Businesses naturally  invest in these activities but more commonly in lower profit areas of the business trying to increase profitability to balance out expenditure. This approach however is flawed and the area a company should be investing it’s profits in are the profitable ares of the business to maintain and increase profitability. Another interesting point which some would say is common sense is that increased risk is not directly connected to higher rewards however human instinct does tend to get us thinking that the Higher the risk the higher the reward!

Knowing that the cost of Market share is effected directly by the quality and quantity of company investments as well as effected by the quality and quantity of competitors investments in these areas it shows we need to further analyse our competitors and decide to act and invest as necessary to maintain our market share or not as is decided.T

Kenichi Ohmae’s Model of 3 C’s

The 3C’s Model is a strategical look at the factors needed for success. It was developed by Kenichi Ohmae, a business and corporate strategist. The 3C’s model points out that a strategist should focus on three key factors for success.In the construction of a business strategy, three main players must be taken into account:

1. The Corporation
2. The Customer
3. The Competitors

Only by integrating these three C’s (Corporation, Customer,Competitors) in a strategic triangle, a sustained competitiveadvantage can exist. Ohmae refers to these key factors as the three C’s or strategic triangle.


A favorite phrase of Japanese business planners is hito-kanemono, standing for people, money and things (fixed assets). They believe that streamlined corporate management is
achieved when these three critical resources are in balance
without surplus or waste.

For example: Cash over and beyond what competent people can intelligently expend is wasted. Of the three critical resources, funds should be allocated last. The corporation should firstly allocate management talent, based on the available mono (things): plant, machinery, technology, process know-how and functional strength. Once these hito (people) have developed creative and imaginative ideas to capture the business’s upward potential, the kane (money) should be given to the specific ideas and programs generated  by the individual managers.

In synopsis planning is indispensible when considering entrepreneurial ventures and in reviewing existing core services, a thorough business plan and contingency plans need to be in place for all eventualities. I leave you with the words of General Eisenhower and a some further insight I gleaned from a TED talk by Ernesto Sirolli:-

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible”
– General Dwight D. Eisenhower 

“There is only one thing that all the most successful companies in the world have in common: None of them was started by one person” – Ernesto Sirolli

January 29, 2013
by Nikolais

Power and Influence in Groups and teams

12 Angry Men - Power and Influence in groups and teams

Peter Fonda 12 Angry Men – Power and Influence in groups and teams,

Doug Guthrie kicked off the session today with some passionate thought provoking ‘Myths’ of leadership then some key takeaways of leadership.

Position: It’s not about the position you’re in;

it’s about how you act in that position

Everyday Action and introspection: It’s less about vision and charisma than you think

and more about introspection, practical action and everyday-decision-making

Organisational Interests: It’s about making responsible decisions

that align with the best interests of the organisation

Empowerment: It’s about creating a culture that fosters creativity

and empowers workers to make decisions

Complexity and Analysis: Effective leadership

is closely tied to organisational analysis and understanding the complexity of organisational circumstances

Empathy: Listening, caring, understanding

On from there a bit of Charles Day then after lunch a fascinating insight into complex agendas and human interaction! I gloss over the first 6 hours of the day as although the discussion was interesting and some good analysis had of Taran Swan and the Nickelodeon team in South America…lets be honest a lot of this stuff we have already heard before on formal and informal organisations, alignment and interpretation of what was next or a bit of  ‘what would you have done in their position’. However after lunch we had a change of tact and believe me I  am so glad we did (yes I have ready through Doug’s 106 page slide presentation) instead we watched 12 Angry men… this ‘idea’ behind 12 angry men and watching it unfold in the context of creative leadership was a revelation. There were so many facets to the movie that drives home the points above but more importantly it showed that compassion, sensitivity, listening (more than you speak), giving space for people to act and in some cases manipulation for the good of all and above all empathy for your fellow man under in all circumstances.

Top Takeaways

1. Important to have a strategy and know what it is ( what outcome are your trying to achieve) this is not a linear process.

2. Listen more than you speak. You need to be able to gather data.and then work out how to act on this data..and possibly what the politics are within the situation. Don’t just jump in.

3. Create space for disenfranchised voices…draw out the people who are not speaking…

4. Important to take risks when necessary…if you are safe then nothing will change

5. Build norms and organise around them. If you all seem normal people are more likely to support you

6.  Facilitation..let it unfold and prod and poke as needed..allow to believe they are building the argument for and against.

7. Sometimes it’s necessary to be angry but use it carefully.

8. Give credit and empower as much as possible

9.  Always use healing and nurturing in group dynamics. Try to achieve a sensitive and positive outcome for all in the end no matter what their position was at the start.

January 27, 2013
by Nikolais

Harlem Shuffle – lessons in what it means to be in a real community

Chatting with one of the Locals in HarlemGroup 5 are going to Harlem! A quiet hush befalls the room and looks quickly flicked our way. It’s interesting how people build up preconceptions about a place based on here-say and information you  heard many years ago. In todays business world you would never make use this sort of information as you know it is very likely to be out of date, so why do we allow ourselves to think like this!

Initially I too found myself apprehensive but then quickly dismissed these preconceptions and decided to see what I find and build my opinion from there. And so glad I did.

Initial observations started even before arriving on the Subway. The carriage we were on had some interesting advertising. Advertising asking if you had a Cocaine problem and how to seek help, a second about learning a trade that pays for plumbing and electrician careers and a third about training for a career as office admin and or medical assistants. I filed this away until after our journey to Harlem was complete and made and interesting comparison on the subway heading back into New York central which was the advertising in this direction was advertising for Macy’s shopping and Budweiser beer adverts and advertising for a DiscoverIT card. Now I accept that this may be coincidence but it was quite a contrast in style.

Upon arrival the streets were strangely empty! We wandered around the wondering if the population had been abducted by Aliens when we came across some passionate shouting and singing emanating from a nondescript building. They were all in church! And I mean ‘all’. This set the scene for the rest of the trip. Already here is a community that were all together and celebrating their belief in A higher being. There was a secondary observation however that I made when we found and approached the front of the church and that was one of privacy. We were quickly told that the church was full and we could not enter.

Amy Ruths Menu

Lunch was at Amy Ruths to get some real  homestyle Harlem cooking and we were not disappointed ! This is where I formed my second impression of Harlem. There was a sense of wanting to ensure you were well looked after and a feeling that the restaurant was a safe haven. Again interestingly a secondary observation I made while being seated was that they would not allow us to seat in a certain part of the restaurant. While this was not obvious I saw the look on the waitresses face when we suggested we sit in this area. She quickly moved us on and Sat us in the front. Later I wanted to see why she had acted in this way so  I walked through this area and found that it was obviously members of the community that always came here and that this was ‘their’ area. A theme was starting to develop.


After lunch we all split up and wandered around parts of Harlem. A lot of restoration was going on and there were some very affluent areas and people around. In contrast on the next block you would come across some very dilapidated buildings as well. This was fascinating and upon analysis led me to the conclusion that this is such is such a close knit community that when people in the community start to earn good money and create good careers that rather then move to a more affluent area as most people do they would prefer to invest in their community and improve their living situation where they grew up! This is a wonderful and humbling sentiment.

Contrasting Housing in Harlem