Most people are wrong

CrowdMost people don’t like creativity. They say they do, but they don’t. They say they’re creative, but they’re not. They say, “we need more creativity around here” but they do nothing to allow that to happen. They say “we value creativity around here” but they actively seek to stamp it out.

Most people tell me that “you’re either creative or you’re not” and “genius is born, not made”, despite the massive evidence and research done to prove the opposite.

Most people have very good reasons why they can’t pursue their dreams, use their talents in their work, do work they enjoy, set up their own business, write their book, make a difference. Most people are very eloquent when it comes to telling me why it can’t be done. (They must have really thought it through.)

What I’ve found is that most people appear arrogant and certain but are in reality dramatically lacking in confidence in their abilities and self worth. Most people appear to be confident and optimistic about the future but in reality they’re panicking that they can clearly see the end of the line zooming up ahead of them and their money is running out. Most people lash out and blame. Most people say “It’s not fair”.

Most people secretly feel they could do more with their lives. Most people have told me they’d be massively philanthropic if they could just keep the wolf from the door in the rat race of their run-of-the-mill clichéd employment.

Most people think they have liberal, enlightened views, but subscribe to dogma and prejudice. Most people think they might be an idealist with passions but are trapped by routine and conservative risk-averse thinking.

Most people think I’m wacky, eccentric, bohemian, odd, nuts, crazy, colourful, even dangerous. I like dangerous. I’ve been compare to Willy Wonka and Doctor Who. I’ve been called inspirational. But I’ve also been called rubbish. I’ve been told “I don’t like your suit”.

I’ve been told, “you need to tone it down a bit” and that I need to “look more business-like”. and “there are too many photos on your website”. I’ve been told, “we don’t want you around here again, you incite people to rebel”.

I’ve been told, “we don’t want you to speak at our event, everyone will want to leave the company.”

Really? What could I possibly say that could achieve that? If that statement is true, that company is already walking on thin ice. Can a stranger come onto the stage and in 45 minutes incite everyone to totally change their lives? They give me more credit than I deserve. I wish I had that sort of power. But I don’t. All I can do is describe how things could be better, perhaps should be better, perhaps can be better.

Some people are born mediocre, some people achieve mediocrity, and some people have mediocrity thrust upon them (thanks to Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22).

I’ve been told I need to be more like most people. Most people want us all to be like most people. Most people are wrong.

When we’re driving somewhere and can’t get there because there are too many cars on the road, we tend to say, “I’m stuck in traffic”. The truth is that we’re not stuck in traffic, we ARE the traffic. The responsibility for not being part of the traffic is about taking personal responsibility. Most people hide in the crowd and yet imagine they’re different from crowd and yet make up the crowd. The decision not to be like most people is a tough personal one. It comes with risks and dangers. But it also comes with rewards, satisfaction and joy.

Perhaps Steve Jobs and Apple put it best:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”*

Let’s all make the decision today.

Let’s not be most people.

* Did you know that text is written on the icon for “All my files” (in Lion) and TextEdit (In Snow Leopard) in Mac OSX?

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Education is all wrong: Training doesn’t work. Teaching doesn’t exist

education is wrongAre teaching and training not quite what we thought?

What if we’ve got it all wrong?

We believe that a teacher or trainer imparts information which is digested and ‘learnt’ by the student.

What if that’s not what’s happening at all. What if the ‘learning’ is a by-product of another phenomenon, a side effect of something else? What if all the theory of ‘learning styles’ is wrong?

Could we be looking at it from the wrong angle? When it comes to teaching and training we focus on the information and the delivery style. We collate masses of information that needs to be transferred from our notes and brains to the student’s notes and brains. Yet we all know that people retain only tiny amounts of information just a few hours after the teaching session. We spend ages working out the best way to get the information across and all believe we’ve found the right mix of audio, visual, kinaesthetic, interaction, jumping up and down, shouting, playing, flipchart, group work, powerpoint, dictating and so on. We find what we think is our ‘sweet spot’ of a mix of methods and assume learning will happen.

But what if it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with all that?

What if, instead, whatever we say, whatever information we impart, whatever delivery style we use, all that is happening in a teaching session is that we are training the students to think like us? What if that is ALL it is?

The more the audience adjust their neural pathways to be like us, the more bits of our information stick. The more the student likes the teacher, the more they think like them, the more they want to be respected by them, the more they want to be like them, the more they want to BE them.

If our teaching or training fails, is is really because the audience didn’t like us and didn’t want to be like us?

Take two of the greatest ‘teachers’ that come to mind, let’s choose Jesus and Gandhi. Both were actually information content poor. There are no bullet points in The Sermon on the Mount. All of Jesus’ recorded works that we have access to are contained in a short historical narrative in one book’s worth, from a teaching career of just three years.

Gandhi was equally un-prolific in content creation. He run few lectures, gave just a handful of speeches, none of which were turned into home-study courses and information-products in his lifetime. So how can these two be such great teachers when they taught so little?

The answers is that what they taught was not information. Information is a new toy and one that is overrated. Some might say, ‘they taught a message’. No they didn’t. That too is a side effect of us focusing on the wrong thing. We’re so geared to the trees of ‘information’ that we fail to see the wood.

What the great teachers taught was how to think like them, and therefore how to be like them. It’s not that they walked the talk (that’s being information focused yet again). It’s that they walked the walk and showed their audiences that walk, by walking it. Everything else was secondary. Everything else was hundreds and thousands (information) on the icing (so-called message) on the cake (the teacher himself).

In the school classroom, children learn more about who to live, how to think and how to grow from teachers they like, who inspire them. Children who respect and inspired by a  parent want to ‘follow in their footsteps’ – to be like their parent, to be that parent when they grow up. Children look to the role-models of sportspeople, pop stars and celebrities: they want to be like them, they want to be them. Role models give a mould, a model example to follow (whether they actively know it or not). They have the power to inspire (for good or ill) by modifying how the child thinks, therefore how they act as the child uses the one and only, genetic, built-in, human method of true learning: imitation.

It doesn’t matter how good the message is if the messenger is uninspiring and unlovable. If the audience don’t want to be like, to think like, to live like the messenger, there is no message.

Tony Robbins is an inspiring teacher. He delivers his near-messianic message of personal success to audiences of tens of thousands at a time. He has a cult following that has grown up around him that borders on being a religion, i.e. it has a model for living your life. When people go to Robbins’ events, they may make notes of some of his rhetoric and catchphrases, certainly, but the main things is that they have an overwhelming desire to either be his friend (they feel a close affinity with him and that if they could only meet, they’d be the best of friends) or they want to BE him. That’s why his audience is made up from coaches, trainers and speakers. Those people are attracted to him in the first place but after attending, most people find that their destiny is to BE a coach, trainer or speaker (just like Tony).

If a teacher is exceptionally successful we call them a ‘guru’. Originally that term applied to just religious figures but now is linked to people like Tony Robins and others who are exceptionally good at making people think like them.

This is why people listen to wealthy people. They want to be wealthy like them. It may be a sad inditement but it’s true. Gurus can be good, bad and neutral.

Let’s take The Beatles as being one of the best examples of individuals who attracted unusual levels of adulation. They weren’t teachers in the traditional sense, but with our definition of ‘guru’ their success can be explained in a similar way. Girls wanted to marry them, boys wanted to be them (so that the girls would be attracted to them). It wasn’t just about the music. Many people love Beethoven with a passion. But he doesn’t make them scream.

What if teaching is a con? What if it doesn’t actually exist? What if, instead we have gurus who show us how to think and how to be like them?

Information will soon become irrelevant. We don’t need to store information in our heads. What we store in our heads is how to get the information we need. Within a generation, people will have a totally different view of information than us and our predecessors in history. Information will be even more easily available than it is now and will be grabbed as and when it’s needed. Personal memory will be used to remember context instead of facts.

The question is, will our education systems and our training operations be able to grasp this idea? Will they become an outdated and irrelevant waste of time?

If we want to educate people, to improve people, to get them to take the action we think will serve them, to improve society. If we want to give our children the best way to succeed in their lives – we can’t teach them what to do. We can’t train them what to do.

We have to capture their imagination and their attention. Then we have to SHOW them who we are so that they think like us.

The most important think we can ‘teach’ a child is HOW TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES. Ask yourself the question: is that happening to the children you know?

If we are in the so-called information business, the education arena, the training world, we may have to question our approach, our methods, our very existence.

Perhaps we need a new paradigm. My conclusion is that we have to be the guru that our students want to follow. We have to be the guru they can believe in. We have to be the guru that they want to become. Otherwise we’re just creating more white noise that wastes time and dulls potential.

IF this is true – are we up for the task?

Can you ‘walk the walk’?

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Think Different

Today I gave a talk on creativity and branding, as I so often do.

I arrived at the venue early, it was 6.15am. As usual in waiting situations, I picked up my iPhone and looked on Twitter. This is what I read:

“There have been three apples that have changed the world: the one that Eve ate, the one that fell on Newton’s head and the one that Steve Jobs created.”

I don’t know who originated that quote, but I had to open my talk with it as soon as more tweets confirmed the sad news. I had to change the direction and tone of my talk too as it sank in. The vision of a man who had died that morning, a man whom, I had never met, had, in fact changed the way I live and work by providing the tools that made my business possible and enjoyable.

Apple is now the most valuable business in the world. It has more cash in the bank than  the USA (around $76 billion). It was Steve Job’s vision and creativity that got it there.

Certainly there were and are thousands of brilliant people involved in invention, in design, in engineering, in production and in marketing that all contributed to that success. But the fact that we know who Steve Job is shows how important he was. It’s rare that an industry leader gains so much respect, both from within their company and their industry and from their customer base.

To the dissenters, dismissers and envious critics out there: you don’t get it do you? Millions upon millions of people gave their hard earned cash to a company that provided tools that they love to use. It really is that simple. Steve Jobs wanted to change technological tools and gadgets from things that got in the way of enjoyment, expression and lifestyle to things that enhanced them.

Not only was his vision of customer satisfaction unique, his marketing powers were second to none. But perhaps his greatest talent was as a showman and raconteur. If you ever saw the unveiling of a new Apple product by him, live on stage, you come close to seeing why so many admire him to the point of cult status.

Steve Jobs’ lifetime contribution to our civilisation matters. It has impacted you if you’ve ever used a computer post 1976. It matters if you’ve ever used a mobile phone post 2007. It matters if you’ve ever listened to music that didn’t come off a spinning disc or magnetic tape. Whether you own or have used Apple products is irrelevant, the technology industry has been transformed by their influence like no other. Just look at how many me-too iPhone like devices are on offer now. The iPhone raised the game. What mobile phones offered before was just no longer good enough.

Although they didn’t invent them, we have Apple to thank for computers that have graphics  on the screen to operate them instead of just text. Desktop publishing, graphic design, printing and music production have Apple to thank for the methods of their use in business. For many years, Apple equipment was the domain of ‘creatives’ because they provided tools that did the job without dictating a way of using them that interfered with your creativity. Now, the products are for all, making the complex easy, allowing more and more people to be creative in ways unimagined just a few years ago. And doing it all in such a cool way.

As readily as Apple incorporated new techniques and invention, they weren’t afraid of dropping them for something better. We call that innovation. Other companies were scared to do it and missed the boat. The first iMac in 1998 shocked the industry by daring not to have a floppy disc drive. The MacBookAir doesn’t have a CD drive. The iPad doesn’t need a mouse or stylus. Our children’s children will find the idea of a ‘mouse’ unusual and quaint thanks to Steve Jobs taking the concept of ‘multitouch’ and making it work, making it easy and making it intuitive.

Steve Jobs personified the idea of the modern creative genius in a way few others do. It’s not too outrageous to say, as some have, that he represents a modern Leonardo Da Vinci by the way he, like Leonardo, recognised that true and powerful creativity is about bringing many disciplines together and getting them to work together.

Will Apple survive and thrive without Jobs? I think the answer is ‘yes’ and the reason is, something that Steve Jobs said a few months ago when asked, what was his greatest product? Was it the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, the iPad or something else? He reply was that the greatest product was in fact Apple itself. I believe he was right.

If Steve Jobs was Apple then the innovation and creativity died with him. But because Apple is Steve Jobs, his vision lives on in the company and we can, as Steve said a few weeks ago, look forward to its greatest moments that are yet to come…

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” 

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

– Steve Jobs

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