Monthly Archives: August 2011

Rules are important, even when there aren’t any

I wrote about rules a while back and how I find they can offer a wee window into a subculture, and give us some insight into the people who follow them (and make them and break them.)

My esteemed associate Sidepipe brought this Rapha article about rules to my attention.  It takes a stand against rules, suggesting that having a long list of rules indicates a lack of confidence more than anything else, and then suggests 3 pretty cute alternative rules for cycling involving sandwiches and friends.

I think this observation about confidence is very important.  Rules help you fit in, in the beginning, and then later when you feel like you’re part of something you can play about, push the boundaries.  In the same way as artists learn techniques before they can really effectively express themselves on paper, the moment you stop saying you follow the rules is as important as the rules themselves.

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Brackets, and going up the Tak Me Doon

I was going to write about a really interesting conversation with a strategist I’m having across the pond but it’s a bank holiday and I am chilling out so I’m going to write about bikes instead.

On Saturday we did this ride, although we did it the other way round, and started near Kilsyth rather than Torrance.  It was the hardest ride I have been on.  There were two big hills, one called Tak Me Doon and the other one called the Crow Road.  They are quite famous in these parts, and popular routes for cyclists and lycra perverts alike.

Here we are after getting to the top of Tak Me Doon Hill.

I was trying to show the full pain of it there.  My chain fell off on the way up, my gears wanted to give up the ghost.  As you will see from the map, however, that was very early on.  After that, we went through beautiful scenery, mist and sunshine and rain.  Got so much fresh air we thought our lungs were going to collapse.  Felt amazing and dead at the same time.

It was ace.  We came home and spent a shitload on stuff from Wiggle and Rapha.  I’m getting another jersey with ARMWARMERS and some SPDS.  I’m turning roadie!

In other news, yesterday we (I say ‘we’ but in reality ‘he’) replaced the bottom bracket on the Bike Of Joy.

Replacing the bottom bracket is a total faff.  Taking the cranks off was OK.

But even that was quite difficult.  When it came to taking the bracket out we had a nightmare.  All the water gets into the bracket and it gets a bit rusty and really tightly stuck in.  The bracket removing tool got bent in the process, so we ran down to Gear to see if they could help.  The guy there was amazingly helpful and we got the bracket out.

Big thanks to everyone involved, the Bike of Joy is back!

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Where do good ideas come from? Slides from last night’s She Says event

Last night was the first ever She Says event in Scotland.  Very exciting to be part of such an auspicious occasion, and in the lovely venue offered by the Leith barge, the Mary of Guise.  We even got to taste their new beverage, Maid In Leith.

The selection of speakers was terrific because we were from quite different skillsets and backgrounds – Carolyn Peacock of BigMouthMedia is an Account Director, specialising in Paid Search, Eilidh McDonald is an illustrator and designer and I’m planning/strategy so although we were all speaking around similar themes our approaches were all quite different.

After the talks there was a lively discussion (involving more beer and wine) about ideas and our experiences.  We also vowed to have another She Says event soon, hopefully in Glasgow.

Anyway, here are my slides and an outline of what I was talking about.

Title slide:

Where do good ideas come from is a good question.  To begin to answer it I did what many people do and googled it, and came across various videos of Steven Johnson talking about his book of the same name.  I jotted down some of my thoughts about what he says…

  1. Good ideas need time.  This is obviously essential.  Thinking time, time to muck about, time to talk, even procrastinate.  It doesn’t really matter what you do with the time, as you are probably processing your thoughts somehow.
  2. Space is also important.  You can’t come up with good ideas if you’re tied to your desk.  Get away, look at things differently.
  3. Johnson doesn’t mention creative people – but I think that the people involved are very important.  They’ve got to be totally prepared to say silly things or make a fool of themselves.  It helps if they’re into new stuff, always trying the latest gadget, going to see films and theatre and new restaurants and so on.  New experiences are important to keep you thinking forwards.
  4. Networks also v important.  TED and twitter are my favourites.  Creative people (except maybe authors) don’t work well for long periods alone.  Virtual networks are fine but you can’t beat being in the same room together speaking like humans.
  5. Johnson thinks environments are important.  Here are some nice creative environments.  Mother has a big concrete table.  St Luke’s was very unusual, we had brand rooms and ball pools and a terrific canteen.  We hotdesked and it worked really well.
  6. This is where I work now – Equator.  The environment is lovely – got a great buzz, we’re all on the same floor, we have glass meeting rooms.  It doesn’t feel ‘closed’.  However, I don’t think environment is that important.  You could just as easily be at the pub.
  7. Or in the shower.  or riding your bike or swimming lengths of your local pool.  Sometimes you need to do something boring and repetitive to think deeply.
  8. But hang on.  Asking where good ideas come from is a bit like asking for the answer without knowing what the question is.
  9. if you’re going to ask where good ideas come from, you need to ask other questions, like what is a good idea, how do you create good ideas, and then how do you know you’ve got a good idea, and is it a good idea if you don’t execute it/well?
  10. Here are some good ideas that I like.  What have they got in common?  First is piano stairs.
  11. A hunter shoots a bear.
  12. Skittles facebook updates
  13. Subservient chicken
  14. Skateistan
  15. Big bean bag
  16. Charity snooze
  17. Playmobil Apple Store
  18. Nike +
  19. Google
  20. HTC
  21. All these ideas, platforms, tactics and campaigns have insight in common.  Many will also have been developed using a strategic process like this.  What’s the point of strategy?
  22. Yogi Bear – if you don’t know where you are going how will you know when you get there?
  23. Little Prince – a goal without a plan is just a wish
  24. So in this strategic process your ideas come from knowing your market, client, brand, and audience inside out, and then playing around with what you know until you find some routes to develop some insights.
  25. Then there’s the steps you take to define your idea further and make it ‘good’.  What’s crucial here is to understand what an insight is, because even though it is fairly old-fashioned, I wholeheartedly believe that it is this that takes you where you want to be.  I am indebted to Simon Law, Phil Teer, Charlie Robertson and a whole lot of other planners for my understanding of this process.
  26. definition
  27. definition
  28. definition
  29. what it’s all about
  30. I like to adapt this, given that we’re not just selling stuff anymore
  31. This is a great way to remember the difference between research and doing something with it.
  32. Revelation is a good wayof thinking about it.  Also the cause and effect-ness of it.
  33. testing it
  34. testing it
  35. testing it
  36. knowing if it’s more than an observation – does it answer ‘why’?
  37. then if it’s a great insight you can create your platform/write your creative brief/create your hero executions
  38. check you have the ecosystem in place to support it
  39. engagement strategy is more than a +1 or a ‘like’
  40. get all that right and you have awesomeness!
  41. remember this is digital – for a quick win you can always stick cats in it (or sex)
  42. thanks for listening



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Bust bottom bracket (or Why I’m learning lots about bikes these days)

Sounds rude, doesn’t it?

My beautiful bike of joy has been making a rattly clicky noise for some time, down at the bottom.  I knew it was related to the bracket holding the cranks on, or the pedals, but pedals seemed easier so I bought some new ones from Brick Lane Bikes.

These pedals are fantastic, they look totally pretty and are also nice to put your feet on.  I have MKS track pedals on the other bike and they are not nearly so comfy as the BLB ones are a nice neat flat platform, whereas the MKS’s don’t have a platform arrangement.

Anyway, I thought that changing the pedals had made a difference to the noise, but it hadn’t, I was just too deliriously happy with my new pedals to notice for a few rides.

The bottom bracket apparently has bearings in it.  The better the bearings, the better your bike works, and the less likely you are to have any kind of rattly noise.  There are also bearings in pedals and axels.  I’m learning lots about bikes these days

So then I went to Dales and asked them if they had a new bottom bracket for my bike.  They didn’t know what kind I needed, so said that I could either put the bike in for service or go home, take the bracket out and then order one once I knew what kind it was.  I chose the latter.  Apparently Sugino do the best ones.  They are quite pretty


Of course, you don’t see the bracket once it’s in place but it’s nice to know it’s a neat wee thing.

They are quite hard to find yourself.  I looked on all the usual suspects (e.g. Evans and Wiggle) to no avail.  Then I found it on Tokyo Fixed Gear. This is a cool wee shop with lots of nice bike stuff.  I also bought a water bottle.

I can’t wait for it to arrive so riding the BOJ can be a sheer and silent joy (instead of a rattly one) again.

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Procrastinators Anonymous 2

I’m not procrastinating (honest – really I am not – as if I ever would) but I just came across this wee film which I thought summed up procrastination beautifully.

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Tickets for Thursday are going to run out, so be quick!

I might have mentioned that the inaugural She Says Scotland event, ‘Where do good ideas come from?‘ will be taking place on the Leith Barge this Thursday. I’m up early this morning writing my presentation.

It will be much better than anything you’ll see at the Fringe or the Edinburgh International Marketing Festival (depends what you see I guess…)  Not only am I going to be speaking but my pal Eilidh McDonald will be too!  And some other talented creative people I haven’t met yet.  It’s going to be fab.

There are apparently only a few tickets left so if you’re planning on coming, get booking now.

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Some great sources about ideas, insights, and so forth

Browsing around, here are some articles about ideas, insight and planning that I’ve found very helpful, interesting, challenging, useful, thought-provoking and so on…

Seth Godin: Where do ideas come from?

This is a list of 20 places ideas come from.  I like the way he makes ideas sound like living things, with lives of their own.  Reminds me that we have to knock ideas into shape if we want them to help us achieve what we want them to.

Dave Trott: The difference between an insight and an idea

Useful thinking around the important difference between insight and ideas, that the latter really can’t exist without the former.

Little Scraps of Paper is a Posterous blog…

…which has lots of videos of creative people talking about their creative practices, where they get their ideas from.

Martin Weigel’s provocative article, Stop fetishising the insight

Great article, reminds us that even astonishing insights stop being ‘Aha’ revelations once they are expressed and become common knowledge/received wisdom. I hope I have understood his argument in that it leads me to think that although every idea needs  insight, we shouldn’t waste time on perfecting the insight itself, gilding lilies, flogging dead horses, making silk purses etc etc.  Our challenge is to not stop at the insight but to push for better ideas, make sure whatever we do is useful and true.

Tom Wagner’s Approaches to ideas and a proposed metaphor

Superb metaphor: ‘creative hedging’ = fits well with the current trend for no-process, no-formal brief protocol agile planningness…

Bobulate is…

…chock full of common sense and genius

Ideas are awesome

…is full of lovely ideas, unsurprisingly


Great stuff.

But the She Says sub-question (do women and men have different approaches to creativity) has got me thinking.  Where are all the women blogging about ideas?  Why am I looking for them separately now?  Why aren’t they being referenced as much as men?

Here are some women blogging about good ideas and their thinking:

Heather LeFevre – a planning director in Amsterdam who runs an annual planner survey

The Made by Many blog features interesting women

Uberblond (although she is taking a break.)

Farrah Bostic – who curates a list of women to watch, which rather thrillingly includes my friend Nicki Sprinz

Now I’m starting to explore her blogroll and the blogs from there.  There’s a world of new untapped stuff to read – how exciting!


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