Now is Not the Time to be Sensible

Being cautious is what causes slowdowns which lead to a run on the bank. The time when everyone wants to cling on to what they’ve got, to not take risks and bury heads in sand is exactly the time when you should get up and get out there.

We call the area around us where we feel safe our ‘comfort zone’. This is where we retreat to when we feel under threat. But the answers to our problems are not to be found in our comfort zones. We have to step out and that means taking risks.

Creativity is all about taking risks. What happens if it doesn’t work? What happens if I look foolish? The creative individual doesn’t even ask those questions. Only a risk-averse, self-judging, low confidence loser even bothers to waste time worrying about such things.

Why? Because the creative winner knows that if the same path is followed, it will get the same results. And if the economic landscape is shifting, those results aren’t even going to be as good as before. So doing the same (or less) is very, very bad.

“Oh, the phones aren’t ringing”. Why not try calling someone? Doing something different – actually trying to ‘sell’ for once (see quote at top of page) – actually doing some targeted measurable marketing – actually defining what your key problems are and working on solutions – improving service and quality. These are the things we need to be doing.

After all – if no-one else is doing it (including your competition probably) you’ll have the playing field to yourself.

Being sensible is dangerous and deadly. It’s boring. Being boring will destroy your business. No-one cares about you – they’re too busy thinking about their own problems. Why should they look up from their own wonderfully delicious doom and gloom to see what you’ve got? They won’t want to risk good money and time on boring and sensible – they won’t even notice you.

But if you took the risk and stood out from the crowd and stopped talking about what you’ve got and what you do and started talking about other people and their pain and how you can solve their problems. What would happen then?

Perhaps you’ll not only survive – but thrive. What a silly thing to do.

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The Genius of Oliver Postgate

Oliver Postage died this month. His voice, instantly recognisable to millions of British children, harks back to a fairer, more generous, more innocent time. A time of wonder, of looking up to the nights sky and wondering about life on a small blue planet in space and the strange whistling knitted creatures that live there. His animated stories of ‘The Clangers’ gave us a sense of politeness and calm. A world of soup dragons and copper trees, of magic froglets and music that grew on trees that you could use to power a flying boat (or to eat). “It’s nice to have visitors” said Oliver’s narration, “but sometimes it’s even nicer to see them go”.

‘Ivor the Engine‘ told us the stories of a Welsh steam engine who sang in the choir. The stillness and warmth of the tales gave children a sense of peace and friendship not found in modern television storytelling with its crashes, bangs and rushing around. My three year old son loves Ivor. He has a tiny toy train and imagines his own adventures, making the sound, “Sher-ta-coo, sher-ta-coo” as his plays.

The same alternative energy was found in the most loved children’s programme of all time, ‘Bagpuss’. The story of the most important, the most beautiful, the most magical, saggy old cloth cat in the whole wide world. He lived in the window of a junk shop who came to life with all his friends, to mend whatever item Emily brought to the shop.

As you may remember, the Clangers spoke only in whistles. This is what Oliver Postgate said about that challenge:

“They spoke a language of very articulate whistling squeak, which needed to be translated from its natural medium of nuclear magnetic resonance (there being no air to carry sound) into audible terms. The nearest I could get to that was to write out the script in full and then persuade Stephen Sylvester to help me record the dialogue…by reading it, or rather playing the inflections of it, on a selection of Swannee whistles. In this way I was hoping to make a sort of wild-life film in which, by listening carefully, the viewer would be able to understand what was being said and work out what was going on … I made a separate voice-over tape, a sort of intermittent running-commentary on what was going on. It worked quite well but I have always wondered how the films would go in their original form.

I did try it once, I took an episode of The Clangers to the 1984 E.B.U. conference in Germany and showed it to the participants without my voice-over. Afterwards I asked them whether they had been able to understand what the Clangers were saying. ‘But of course.’ they replied. “They are speaking perfect German.’ ‘But no.’ said Gerd, ‘That is not so. They spoke only Swedish.'”

See the remarkable and creative story of the making of the films here. on creativity, design and branding.

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