Get a demo Do I subscribe? News sign-up
Print

An 'Ode to Noticing'

Opinion, 24 August 2010
Lately I've been thinking about Fast Strategy and whether I really think Fast Strategy is Strategy at all. Well it might deliver strategy but does it deliver original, inventive, fundamentally differentiating strategy. Yes. Or, No...? If was a betting man (and I'm not, I'm a betting woman) I'd ultimately, and somewhat reluctantly, have to come down on the side that says 'no'. 

A couple of recent meanderings through 'The Chief Culture Officer' by Grant McCracken and various chats with creative types has got me re-thinking fast strategy, and wanting to write the "Ode to Noticing'. 

Grant talks about this in his book. In particular he mentions Morgan Friedman (yes, I know, disappointingly not Morgan Freeman) who runs round the city not only eavesdropping on people's conversations but stopping people and asking questions, investigating all that is going on around him - the sights, sounds, text and subtext of his environment. There's a great quote that brings this to life: 'Old people are waiting for you. they spend their days on stoops and cafes doing nothing but remembering. They're the ones at the edge between different worlds connecting them together. Ask them what has changed in their everyday life the most since their childhood. Press them for details: 'The ice-cream man use to bring us ice once a week' or 'My husband couldn't afford my dowry!'... It pays to be interested in the banal and unattractive, as he puts it. 

This in turn reminded me of one of Ed Morris's talks on what drives his creativity, whilst at Lowe. The way he put it was to describe what he does as 'Thinking in Slow Motion'. That captures it brilliantly: I guess I would interpret that as not only seeing, but actually 'noticing'; not only hearing but actually 'listening'; and not only touching but also 'feeling'. That sense, that hynotherapists often talk about,  of noticing you're noticing. 

It's interesting that divergent thinkers tend to wander around their own minds looking for links whereas convergent thinkers look for the one correct answer. In the feature 'Can everyone be an Einstein' in the Sunday Times back in 2008, the author talks about "dissociated patterns'" in the brain, that seem a necessary first step in developing new and loose connections between ideas which may seem at first odd and quite implausible. Only later do some ideas collide and are eventually ordered into a creative product. 

The article goes on to suggest that investigating lots of different areas of interest, perhaps choosing 30 minutes a day in order to develop an in depth knowledge of a hereunto unknown subject, or just practicing observing, noticing, describing things, or just imagining - is nothing short of training for eventual creativity in the brain. These things make your brain deal with the unfamiliar as opposed to getting locked into old familiar thought patterns. 

So what has this to do with Fast Strategy? Well, convergent thinkers will tend to be the ones that get to the answer quicker, but may well get to the same answer as everyone else. Not what we needs to hear. And divergent thinkers who (either by accident or design) can notice more than others and can process, slowly, and accurately, all of those details, have more ammunition when it comes to searching for new connections and unfamiliar combinations. And therefore create original solutions even if it may take slightly longer for those connections to show themselves.

The author sums it up nicely when he goes onto to say 'The best advice I ever heard came from a Spanish neurologist, Damaso Crespo. he said I should do 100 yards a day, not sprinting but walking. But I had to walk with a friend and talk all the time. It's the walking, the talking and the friendship that feed the brain; the sprint just feeds dumb muscles"

The strategy sprint may well do just the same. 


About the author

Tracey is Planning Partner at VCCP, and leads the planning across the O2 account.

Before this she was Strategy Director at Lowe, working with John Lewis, Innocent and J&J, as well as leading the Digital Strategy for the agency.

Previous to that she spent 7 years as a client both UK and internationally, predominantly in telecomms at One2One, T-Mobile, and BT and was responsible for everything from ATL to Online, taking in Direct, PR, and even NPD on the way.

You can contact her at traceyf@vccp.com, or on twitter @tracey_lou