The rule of 1,440

Any photographer will tell you that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. For example:
There are 24 hours in a day. We have learned to measure the day in hours and there is a comfortable feeling associated with this practice. There are also 1,440 minutes in a day, but this knowledge sounds difficult to manage or even useless, at first.
1,440 minutes… feels like a lot of time and that’s probably why most minutes in our lives go by without us even realizing it… we feel that they don’t mean a lot and then they end up meaning nothing.
But if you think about it, our most powerful emotions are connected with single moments, not hours or days. That’s how long it takes to create a lasting impression. Memories are imprinted in seconds and last for a lifetime. So every minute counts. Enjoy the low times. But be ready to recognize the moments that make a difference.

Guns don’t kill people. But -powerpoint- bullets kill plenty

This is the sequel to my recent post “if you want to test a man’s character give him power*point", that created a lot of conversation. Here is some additional practical advice, in less than 1 minute:

1. One slide-One Idea: Ideally don’t use bullet points.
2. If you have to use bullets at all, use them sparingly and think of them as newspaper headlines (or twitter posts). “Just do it” is better than “it’s about time that you start doing it because it’s important”
3. Help people SEE what you are SAYING: Communicate your Ideas with strong visual grammar. Engage peoples’ senses, but practice Design, not decoration
4. Take ownership of your content: What would happen if your presentation file got lost just before the meeting? Challenge yourself to Go Powerpoint-less.
5. The number of slides is irrelevant (as long as you do #4): Check Garr Reynolds presentation on SlideShare: its 184 slides but you can read it in 6 minutes.
6. Use Drama: Press B when in slide show and your screen will turn Black, forcing your audience to focus on you. (or W for white)

Last but not least, follow the Golden rule from Slide:ology:
Never deliver a presentation that you wouldn’t want to sit through.

ANYONE can be Creative.

"Anyone but me” you might say. Wrong. ANYONE can "cook". (To paraphrase Chef Gusteau from Ratatuille). But there are different roles in a kitchen. Here is some advice to get started:
1.Be wrong: The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all.
2.Work hard: Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.
3.Know your "data": First process the experience you have collecting data (“in your head”) and then the data itself (“heavy lifting”) – Repeat.
4. Experiment: Try something new. You don’t know what you don’t know until you do what you usually don’t do.
5. Come up with bad ideas: If you are looking for “black” go to the opposite (which is “NOT black” and not necessarily white) and then jump back.
6. Redefine creativity: if nothing else works, stick to what you do best. Everyone “creates” something so in that sense creativity is not just about pretty pictures and vision. It’s also about execution. If this is what you do best, so be it. After all, the idea is the execution.


If you want to test a man’s character, give him power*point

If you work in corporate America you have been conditioned to have very low expectations from powerpoint presentations. It doesn't have to be that way.

Here is a list of insights from Slide:ology, an interesting book about “the art and science of creating great presentations” :
  1. Presentation software is the first application broadly adopted by professionals that requires people to think visually.
  2. It’s laziness on the presenter’s part to put everything on one slide.
  3. To succeed as a presenter you must think as a designer. Designers focus on experience and every decision they make is intentional. It’s a good rule to try to remove everything on a slide that doesn’t bring emphasis to your point.
  4. Removing means empty space. But empty space is not nothing. It’s a powerful something and we have to learn to see it that way. Equally, a pause during a presentation is a tool. It creates drama and reinforces the story.
  5. “The three second rule”: the audience should be able to quickly ascertain the meaning of a slide before turning their attention back to the presenter. If a slide contains more than 75 words it’s a document. The audience reads ahead and has to wait for you to catch up (eventually they stop paying attention to you and you also look slow)
  6. Data slides are not about data. They are about the meaning of the data.
  7. People’s retention of data increases when they can “see” the numbers. (Example: 100 drops of water represent 100% of water on earth; animation of one water drop dissolving reveals that only 1% is fresh water)

Slide:ology is available from O'Reilly Media.

*one of the opening lines of the book (paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln)

RevisedFinal Presentationv8.1… and the story is still not tight enough.

Time is running out, so you start cutting the fat. You simplify some key charts. Then you decide that an entire section is not needed so you take it out. And finally you have another look and you decide to really cut to the bone.

There. All these cluttered charts and cool visuals are now gone. What’s left?
The idea and the story, if there was one. If not, well, you didn’t have much to begin with.

But then again, you felt safer with a longer deck. We all do. We can still fail with 50 slides, but then no one can blame us for being “unprofessional” (just for being uninspiring, I wonder what’s worse). That’s why it’s really worth taking the time to make our stories shorter.
Find ways to surprise our audience. Provoke questions, or they may take place in our absence.

And finally it's always a good idea to push it. Cut, cut and then cut some more.
There, your deck is lean and mean. Good luck.

Three+ one (3+1) observations about Innovation today.

This is not based on extensive research. It’s just common sense. Three + one observations about the current state of innovation:

1) Improved? Yes. New? Not really:

In case you haven’t noticed, most of the new ideas and products that we experience today aren’t really new. They are improved versions of existing products. Their marginal utility is sometimes noticeable, but usually not meaningful.

2) Corporations are like humans
Having worked in the innovation space for about a decade now, I can attest to the fact that both clients and creative professionals
tend to gravitate around existing ideas. It’s how the human brain works. There is a so called anchoring effect that makes it extremely hard to erase what we already know. But it’s also how corporations work: after all they are only made by humans. Most decision makers choose a safe idea that will move the bottom line this year, regardless of long term potential. It’s easier, it looks better on your resume when you move to a new job next year and you get to feel useful for moving the bottom line. “Win-Win, right?”

3) An Entire vocabulary has been developed to support boring ideas.

There is a negative correlation (approaching -1) between sexy terms and innovation. In simple words, this means that the less we understand how something works the more time we spend describing how cool it is. New media, new gurus, new self proclaimed mavens and evangelists: Armed with cool Powerpoint charts they get everybody excited about innovation, until the critical point in time where they need to present their (real) ideas.

4 (3+1) Despite all this, there is real innovation

Despite corporations and gurus, real innovation is in fact taking place, but it’s harder to notice. Probably because we are not looking in the right place. Maybe it’s also the fact that we are slowly redefining our perception of “normal” everyday, so it’s harder to notice incremental change. But when you combine all these small changes, the result is something bigger, meaningful and real. Take computer gaming for instance: For at least two decades the focus has been on graphics until web enabled massive multiplayer games and Wii drastically challenged the experience. Gaming (and for that matter innovation) in general is in fact changing in three ways: It’s becoming broader, deeper and faster.

By broader I mean that innovation (gaming) reaches new groups of people in a life changing, meaningful way. Think of mom gamers, older gamers, mobile gaming.

By deeper I mean that new generations are born and raised with new cultural and technological codes. You just know how to use a multi touch screen or a Wii controller, because, well you know.

By Faster I mean, well faster, much faster. Open collaboration allows ideas to flow and grow at a different pace because of increased communication and lateral thinking.


There is an interesting paradox about the state of innovation today:

  • never before we had so many experts, people actively carrying the title innovation in their job description.
  • never before there was so much potential for radical innovation.
  • Never before was that potential so clearly linked to something else than the experts.

the future of advertising

From broadcasting to narrow casting, to social listening, to engagement, the list of empty terms is endless. As online advertising becomes mainstream and new media become old and challenged, the struggle to find the new thing becomes excruciating, almost ridiculous.

In situations like this it's always a good idea to keep it simple. Don't think tomorrow or next year. Instead, think 5 or 10 years from now. What do you see?

Well, you can choose to see a world where advertising is everywhere, a linear extension of today:

-Dominating all the media.
-Watching our every movement.
-Sending us highly targeted, even subliminal messages to create Pavlovian conditioned reflexes.
-Making us do things against our better judgment.

In this world all of us gradually sell out, using our own social networks to advertise to our friends, getting benefits and freebies in return.

It's a world where everything is free, but (alas) we still have to "pay" for everything.

And then again we can choose to imagine a different future:

1) A world where bad products have already gone the way of the dodo due to efficient, highly targeted advertising; nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.

2) A time where agencies and brands have come to the conclusion that in order to survive and meet consumer needs they need to innovate and change their business models; forget retainers and create products and platforms with common ownership and shared equity.

3) A future where advertising stops being a separate layer only created to promote a product; instead it becomes an organic part of the DNA of the product. It adds meaning.

I like that idea. It's not linear and it makes me feel better about the future.

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Awesome Storytelling

There is story telling. And then there is story telling. Compelling. Fresh. Surprising. Experiential.
As a father of a 5 year old, I have come to appreciate the fine art of telling stories. Sometimes it’s hard to even get started. Where do I begin to tell a story? And then how do I gradually seduce someone to a story that I am making up as I go? And finally, how do I wrap it up without betraying their expectations?
Not an easy task. Even more difficult when the audience has doubts about your skills or your creds. Imagine being a parent telling a story to a bunch of teenagers. Or even worse, imagine being a teacher. Or how about being a policeman.

Hopeless right?

But then story telling is an art and it can even make policemen look good if used right. Which is probably what happens with the Metropolitan Police of London.

Choose your own ending is a fine example of story telling. Interactive. Experiential. Fresh. Immediate. Contextually relevant. Powerful. I might change the ending of some of the endings, but I still dig the idea, especially when I think about the countless hours that I have spent convincing my clients to take smaller initiatives. Awesome.

The innovation Shark

I had to give a presentation about innovation yesterday.

Innovation is a tricky subject: you run the risk of talking a lot without really saying anything. I mean, besides wowing the audience with cool examples of what’s coming, or what’s cool today, the REAL challenge of the speaker is to help the audience use the information. Rethink their problems. Find new applications and solutions.

And this is where it gets interesting, because it implies that the speaker adds some value besides bringing examples and recycling information.

Sometimes a SIMPLE Framework is a good idea. People create frameworks to organize and understand information. However, often times frameworks become too complicated and defeat the purpose of their existence (i.e. the problem becomes understanding the framework and not the underlying issue). Here is an example of a simple strategic framework for innovation. (It works better when you use examples that are customized to the audience).

1) Existing technology today defines the potential for commercial applications tomorrow. Example: Augmented reality and the whole idea of 6th sense. As technology makes physical environment clickable, the potential for commercial applications goes to infinity. Practical applications today are still limited. Hundreds of new startups will emerge and disappear because their solutions were either too strange, too complicated or just too early. But new business models will appear and some applications will make it to the next level.

2) The intersection of technology and culture helps us understand which applications will gain momentum.

Example: We live in times of change where consumers tend to rethink conventional wisdom. Services that offer immediate solutions/gratification are hot. Think for example: conventional wisdom suggests that managing your finances is complicated and boring. But it takes Mint 2 minutes to gather ALL your information from ALL your banks/cards/loands/etc ALL in one place. The results are really impressive.

We didn’t have the technology to do that 10 years ago. But more importantly, we weren’t ready, culturally or socially to accept something like this. We are now, and the fact that technology enables it is a huge inertia breaker.

3) Addressing real needs in simple, intuitive ways is the final step before something becomes mainstream. Often times, the service that will introduce a technology will die before the market is created. Then another product will be launched in a way and timing that is culturally relevant. But then, maybe, yet another product will come and optimize the solution in a way that better addresses consumer needs.

I have been blessed to work on all the stages of this journey: from the early, pre revenue startups, to the hot product that takes off and creates a new market, to the large established brand that comes late in the game, but still takes a leadership position by optimizing an existing solution. The interesting thing is that the journey never ends. A new cycle begins almost immediately after the previous one, making existing solutions obsolete. Businesses run the same risk. Which is why people like me give presentations about innovation. There. I came full circle.

How the hell did he do that?

"I've exploited the efficiencies of your mind." said the magician.

Wired magazine posted an interesting article about the neuroscience of illusion. The main premise is that our Brains don't see everything (although our eyes do). The world is too big and full of stimuli, so the brain takes shortcuts, constructing a picture of reality (gestalt) for what things are, supposed, to look like. In other words, the eye can see the moves, but the mind can not comprehend them.

How many times a day does this happen? How many times do we make decisions based on our brain's perception of reality? All the time. And that's fine for the most part, after all, societies have been built on the ability of our brain to take shortcuts: stop at the red sign, avoid touching the hot stove, make the" right, safe choice.

But this is also where the gap between perception and reality leave room for... magic. Things that we see and we don't understand. A burning question "how the hell did he do that?". Or even worse, "why the hell did I do that?"

According to Thaler and Sustein, authors of nudge, choice architecture, in other words the way that we present choices to people, has a huge impact on their decision making. People are more likely to choose the default option vs other options... they are more likely to opt-in vs opt out... more likely to make no choice if there are too many options... So in a way, if we can influence the way that options are presented we can influence choice. In a way, it's like creating a different perception of reality. And that's... magic. For better or worse.

Reading Best Selling Business Books is overrated!

Or maybe not.

The truth is that like most things in life, it depends on our expectations. But what do we really expect from the experience of reading non fiction books? Without oversimplifying it, there are three thing that we are usually looking for:

a) Tools

b) Ideas

c) Life Solutions

Our expectations and the value that we will get from the book vary across these three broad categories. Let’s see how:

Tools: Buying a book to learn a skill is probably a good investment provided that you are determined to learn this new skill. It also implies that you have real needs and real questions that you are trying to address, so chances are that you will manage to pull some tools and insights that you will be able to use. So this is usually a good investment of time and money, unless the skills you are trying to acquire are unrealistic considering your starting point.

Ideas: This can be trickier. It can be as broad as staying up to speed with latest thinking…finding conversation starters to look smart at the next cocktail party, or just getting a nice coffee table book. A lot of us do that. You are at the airport killing time. Or you walk into a Barnes and Nobles between meetings. Or you just stop by a friend’s house and you see the latest books on the coffee table. Nudge. Tipping Point. The world is Flat. There is a n unlimited production of books on trends and “new thinking”. Inviting covers. Catchy phrases. And who knows? The promise of an insight or two that can provide a return on our “investment”. But research suggests that we don’t read most the books that we buy. We read a few pages and “get the idea”. Then something happens and we lose momentum. (It’s like going to the gym. It only takes one day to throw you off schedule). Then, another interesting book comes along and the cycle starts all over again.

Life Solutions: this is probably were expectations are much higher and consequently, less likely to be met. Granted it’s a very tall order for a book, any book, to change your life. But then again, this is a real need… a cry for help among a large share of the population. Numerous studies suggest that happiness is a U-shaped curve and usually dips when people reach their 30’s and 40’s. This is where people need to come to terms with who they are and who they are becoming. Not an easy thing.

So this is where books come to “save the day”: Change your career. Find happiness. Start your own business. Become a millionaire. This is where people expect a defining moment or an epiphany to come from the experience of reading a book. And how often does this really happen? After all, there are a lot of untalented people with no real insight writing books for this audience, so what are the chances, really? Best case scenario, people will be inspired and live the dream for a week. Talk to their wife and friends about their new plans and ideas. And then go back to normal. But then there is this other group of people that will do something about it. Quit their job, make a big leap and change their life. For better or for worse.

So here is the surprise. Maybe it’s not about the type of book after all that defines the result. Maybe it’s more about the type of person that drives the same result again and again. Behavioral studies in health care have proved that the single most important predictor of medication adherence is past behavior. The same probably holds true for books:

As we are trying to reinvent ourselves, we constantly repeat ourselves.

So next time you are about to buy a book take a deep breath and ask yourself: how did you use the last book that you bought? Did you read it? Did you change anything in your life because of the book. (even the smallest thing) Regardless of the answer you can still buy the book. But this time you maybe a little cleared about the expectations.

Pete & Diesel - additional comments

Based on my (limited) sample of 19, Pete the Meat Puppet seems to alienate 7 out of 10 people exposed to it, but interestingly most of them where indifferent to begin with. On the contrary, the share of Diesel fans seem to remain loyal even after the receive the "Pete treat". I believe that a brand needs to stand for something very distinct. If Pete encapsulates the spirit for Diesel, so be it.

Pete the Meat Puppet, grinding Diesel.

I love Diesel clothes. It's a clever brand that has managed to evolve and redefine itself through the years. I can still remember Diesel being overshadowed by Levi's when I was a teenager and see the two brands now: you can get a 501 pair of jeans for less than $40 but you probably need to pay close to $400 for a Diesel.

So I love this brand. From the first time that I walked into a Diesel store in London in '94 until last week that I stopped by the store in Union Square in NYC, I am always thrilled by the experience that surrounds their clothes: music, style, people working in the stores, almost everything.

Which brings me to Pete, the meat puppet, a recent addition that I wish I hadn't seen. (and you may not want to see either, although I have provided the link).

I get the sarcasm and the humor. I also get the desire to be alternative and different, it has served a good purpose for Diesel so far. I may even get the gory details about Pete's drug adventure and demise, including the eating his leg part. I get all that. What I can't get over is the very bad taste (literally) that this ad leaves in your mouth.

Diesel is a lifestyle brand and this is about taste, good taste. Unfortunately, every time I think about Diesel I will now see Pete's face and that sucks. The other problem is that the jingle is really catchy and I can't get it out of my head.

So that's it. A very sticky ad yes, but not in a good way. 50% successful, but a total disaster if you ask me. But you may have a different opinion. Please check the mini poll I created and let me know what you think

LightWeeds and our Virtual Self.

Lightweeds is a project by Simon Heijdens that was exhibited last year at the MoMA - part of the Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition.

Think of virtual organisms (plants, weeds, trees) that existed as a light-projection on the walls of the MoMA building. Their behaviour (growth, movement, pollentation or plant generation) was influenced by actual circumstances, like weather and human movement outside, measured by sensors.

How real is this?

Now think of your online avatar. Research suggests that your online avatar can influence your personality. Let me repeat that: if your online avatar is more successful than you, then you feel better about yourself and you carry some of the qualities of the avatar in your “real” of line life.

As our digital and real worlds are blending in, our behavior and inspiration will change. We may live in an environment that adjusts to movements in a virtual world. Or we may adjust our personality to align with our online persona.

How do you explain that? Maybe you don’t, but you just welcome it and use it.


Indeed, it took a little more than a few days. After 4 months of black out, I will be returning to action with a new, less frequent but more focused structure. See you soon.