April 4, 2014
Downing five a day got a lot more do-able since half a can of Heinz came out as healthy, and while I don’t really believe them, it does mean I say yes more often to chips with my fish pie, as long as I have beans on the side.
And I’m not alone. Five a day goes deep with lots of people. It works as a concept, and it should: it began life as a marketing campaign for a consortium of US food companies intent on getting American people to eat more. It worked.
Now everyone understands Five a Day as a simple and motivating message to shop and eat healthier; it’s an excellent shorthand that’s neither patronising nor preaching, entirely general and somehow deeply personal.
But now absolved of guilt / indecision / can’t be arsed today about Five a Day demands on my diet thanks to Beanz, I’ve wondered where else the successful sauce code could be replicated, and I’d like to suggest for your creative consideration, the Livity Creativity Five a Day Diet for your mind.
Coming up with ideas, freeing your mind to think, daydreaming, doodling, noodling and allowing enough breathing space in your brain for the occasional almost-a-eureka-moment, requires effort and exercise, just like avoiding a third chin.
Following a Five a Day dietary discipline reduces risk of a variety of medical conditions that range from Cancer of nearly everything to a nasty case of acute Lardychops, as well as increasing well being, life expectancy, emotional, mental and physical strength. What if we could mirror the effects on our imagination, our power of innovation and our freedom of thought?
We know bridge, backgammon, crosswords and the pools kept Granny so sharp she haunted us until well beyond last orders at the Pearly Gates, but in an economy where intellectual property – a.k.a. having good ideas – is increasingly the most valuable asset any of us can have, being able to conceive, articulate and shape a good idea isn’t just competitive advantage; it’s essential currency, and there must be similar exercises to help that part of our mind.
According to our esteemed clients, colleagues, outside observers, journalists and an independent survey of our own team, it seems Livity is far and away one of the most creative, stimulating and inspiring working environments in the UK: our methodology of sharing our space with the same young people we we aim to serve, every day, creates genuine diversity of experience and in turn, genuine different thinking and innovation. It was Chief Planet Brain Charles Leadbeater who said ‘diversity breeds innovation’ and Livity’s multi award winning way of working proves just that to be true.
So, to stay in shape, I’ve been trying to bottle and share the Livity Creativity Five a Day Diet for your inspirational imbibing. To give away a little bit of what makes Livity the MAA’s ‘Marketing Agency of the Year’, One of The Observer’s 50 New Radicals, a favourite of Prime Ministers, an agency to some of the world’s biggest brands, from Tesco to Barclays to Google as well as the Queen – her very self’s Award winner for Innovation in business – not to mention all the other wonderful accolades we’ve received in recognition of our creativity, I thought I’d share a little bit of what we’ve learned when it comes to having ideas.
It’s by no means the list that will work for everyone, and that’s sort of the point. But I’m more interested in a conversation about the concept of applying the Five a Day discipline – to exercising creative thinking – than I am in dictating a daily routine. So this is five of my best thoughts on what makes thinking more interesting, I’d love to hear yours.
For what it’s worth, stick to this simple Five a Day diet, and just as your belly, blood sugar and bum benefit from those five fruit or Baked Beans portions a day, so too will your creative juice get loose, your ideas get inspired and your creativity will get some Livity…
To quote the real Five a Day website, “A few small changes can help you and your family get the recommended five portions a day, here’s a handy guideline for you to follow”:
1. Read a small amount of something unusual.
It doesn’t have to be the works of Proust, and half a chapter of Potter would probably do, as long as it’s not your usual business / self help / parenting manual or holiday reading. It should be something you have to focus on, think about, read a paragraph twice, the sort of thing you catch yourself mouthing the words to. It could be an analytical blog, a critical column, a profound poem, a shamelessly avant garde screenplay, a mindbendingly complex recipe, anything that’s not the Metro, Buzzfeed or the Sidebar of Shame: just something that you can feel engage the gears of your brain, that makes you think (and sound) more interesting. As short as it is, it has to be something that you have to chew on before you swallow.
2. Hang out with a young person.
Ideally someone anywhere between the ages of 12 and 20ish, preferably that you don’t know, and definitely someone from a different background and set of experiences than you. It doesn’t have to be a mentoring thing, it doesn’t have to be worthy in the slightest, in fact go the other way, ask them to help you with something really tough. Talk to a teenager about a challenge you’re facing at work, try to hold their attention about it and show you a solution you’re set way of thinking would never have reached. But whatever you do, do spend more time listening than talking.
3. Argue a point you don’t agree with
There are less annoying (for others) ways of achieving this one. The point is just to get good at seeing things from an opposite perspective to the one you think is right. But trying to understand the point of view of someone you think is really wrong is really incredibly hard, so a shorthand way of achieving it is to argue hard against your own point of view for half an hour, until you’ve nearly won, then just as you’re winning yourself over, revert to your original opinion, or change your mind: either way it’s as annoying as f*ck for everyone else, but brilliant for your brain. It’s an even better exercise done in teams. It’s even better for your teams if you just do it in your head.
Don’t Run. Not that people who run are annoying at all. Lycra geeks. And of course any exercise is good for creativity, but if you want the catalysts to spark in your brain, you don’t need to give your calves all that pain: make time for a stroll, mooch between a meetings, leisurely loll to lunch, walk to work, or hustle home, something’s better than nothing, even getting off a few stops early. Set your feet in motion, free yourself of distractions and let your mind go into neutral. Which is where most minds start to work for themselves, and that’s how you engage the 90% you don’t use most days. It sounds easy, and rightly so, but from Mozart to Moliere, by their own word, a daily constitutional did more for their marvellous minds than all the Opium in the Orient.
5. Play with yourself
We humans do the most accelerated learning of our entire lives when all we do is play: even Einstein strongly held the view that the most powerful tool in any form of research was play. And you can do it anywhere, anytime and in any setting. There aren’t many meetings that couldn’t do with being a bit more playful, or offices that couldn’t do with a bit of a game that helps the day along. You don’t need anyone or anything to invent a game and the fewer ‘toys’ the better. And play doesn’t have to be a mission – it can just be a bit of a laugh. I’m very suspicious that any meeting with no laughter in it is similarly short on ideas. It’s not necessarily the content, but beware boring meetings: they rarely lead anywhere good.
And that, I propose as the first incarnation of the Livity Creativity Five a Day Diet. For your peace of mind, there’s a cast iron guarantee, if you follow the Livity Creativity Five A Day Diet, for a minimum of thirty days, I personally guarantee your open minded, objective, creative and inspired thinking will reach new levels, or your money back.
I shall be putting my money where my mouth is. I’m off on holiday today but on return I shall return with the promise that I will spend a minimum of 30 days myself ensuring I get my five a day every working day, and I’ll post an update, hopefully with some measurable results of the immeasurable genius world saving multi-million pound earning piece of innovation I’ve come up with as a result. Or not. TBC. Terms and Conditions apply.
In the spirit of inspiring creativity, I’d be really interested to hear what makes your ideas flow, if you think there’s anything in the ‘creativity diet’ concept, and your suggestions on what to include from your own experience or get rid of from my ramblings. Either way, it’s a concept I’d like to explore and expand. Please post a comment, or drop me a line direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.