conferencing, innovating, insighting, learning

Because basics are brilliant: Dispatches from Straterday part one – the mind map


so I had the pleasure of spending a torrentially rainy morning last Saturday in the pleasure of Mark Pollard and a bunch of people interested in strategy.  no, really.  we learned through Priscilla (thanks Priscilla) that Pollard, of this Parish but soon to move to New York, was planning 'an analogue workout for the mind' called Straterday for anyone who was interested.  and so it was that Priscilla, Lauren, Mimi and I joined a host of other plannery media marketing creative types for a morning of stimulation and exercise, all curated by Pollard and friends.

before I type another word I wanted to extend my gratitude to Mark who organised, planned, curated and delivered the session.  you can find Mark via his blog or profile or linked in or twitter or facebook – he is as generous with his energy, ideas, time and content as he is with his online footprint.

I couldn't wouldn't and shouldn't write here a digest of the session.  instead I wanted to capture some of the clarity and inspiration it gave me.  this post is titled 'basics are brilliant' not because Straterday was basic … far from it.  rather it's because as our industry fragments and diversifies and converges and competes and commoditises the ever-diminishing precious asset that is attention, it's all too easy to forget the basics.

the brilliant basics.  the skills and considerations upon which our thinking and work is based.  the foundation of our craft.  that fact that so many of us don't see it as a craft is a debate for another day.  the truth is basics are brilliant.  but there's a danger that we forget to exercise them.  there's a danger that we get lazy.  that we forget just how energising curiosity, observation and innovation are.  Straterday existed to remind us of this.  and it succeeded.

for example …

who mind-maps once a week?

…was one question Mark put to us.  I don't.  but perhaps I should.  we were challenged to see, identify and understand – through mind mapping – the nuances in the stuff we're presented with every day.  I hope Mark doesn't mind me sharing this exercise here, as much as a hope that I find time to do this exercise (perhaps even on these pages) every week.


write down 20 things in a picture similar to the one above.  them mind map them…  then take any ten of the words you've mapped and list them.  then next to each those words write words that you associate with them.  make leaps.  don't be obvious … this is not Wack-a-Day.

this, as Mark pointed out, is alpha zoning, and you can train this.  by doing the above you keep your associative muscles fighting fit.  you keep you eyes trained to spot the detail that will prove pivotal.  you're ready for the insights that you may otherwise miss.  and you can get going on the 99% of perspiration that you'll need for every 1% of inspiration you allow yourself to generate.

basics.  they're brilliant.

insighting, marketing, planning, researching, understanding

Yeah Yeah but what’s the Insight?: a lesson in reverse-engineering from Contagious Magazine


a couple of weeks ago I found myself in the fortunate position of being one of the delegates on Contagious Magazine's Crash Course, a one-day workshop in the company of @JessGreenwood and @gual_contagious in how to understand the changing landscape of communications, but more specifically on how to apply Contagious' observations of this landscape to my own strategy and thinking.

there was huge value in the day, but one particular exercise has stayed with me.  one particular exercise that forced me to stop just admiring and enjoying other people's strategies and execution, and really think about them.  as an exercise its elegance itself, and one that I've certainly forgotten to do of late.

the exercise consists of a simple question; on seeing or observing a case study or piece of creative communications, ask yourself a single question…

what was the insight?

what was the crystallised observation of humanity that led to the solution?  what was the observation that sparked the execution, or experience, or application or movie or competition or retail space or book or course or race or tech or social media monitoring desk?

it's beautifully simple, and forces you to not just passively admire the work your looking at, but intellectually interrogate the work to understand how and why it was developed…

try it with these … for each example of work, ask yourself what the insight was?  the answers – as suggested by Contagious, are beneath…


OK … now for the insights that led to the above:


you may think that some of the insights are obvious, but everything so gloriously is in retrospect.  and in many ways the best insights are obvious; and whilst that doesn't make them any easier to spot, it makes it all the more enlightening – and for that matter fun – when to try to guess…