APG Noisy Thinking: Drinking from the well of inspiration

A stellar cast of planning brains lined up for the last APG event of the year at Google on Monday night.


The theme for the event was ‘inspiration’, as each of the five speakers talked about what inspired them as we all looked on hoping to pick up a few top tips along the way…

1. Craig Mawdsley; His inspiration was The Beatles – who he argued drove huge social change through the creative process, identifying several key principles along the way:

  • Working together – the great Lennon-McCartney axis at the heart of the band shows the value of collaboration, with openness allowing them to challenge each other, debate, argue, even fight, but ultimately strive to be the best they could
  • Trusting your instinct – we can sometimes over-think things, when our instincts are right (System 1 vs System 2)…apparently the tune to Yesterday came to McCartney in a park, and he thought he’d overheard it at first, but he followed his instinct and headed for the closest piano to capture his thoughts
  • Be competitive – knowing their competition is what drove them to success, Dylan and The Beach Boys were setting the bar and that drove them to raise it further
  • Innovate form and contentRevolution and I am The Walrus sound like they could be from different bands in different genres but were both recorded within 10 months of each other, showing how they strove to find new ways to deliver results
  • Work hard – as much as they were inspired and gifted individuals they also had sessions as long as 35 hours straight in the recording studios, that was how they would hone and perfect things
  • Don’t believe the hype – ultimately this would be their downfall, as success reached a point where they could release anything and it would sell, as they drifted in their later years…

2. Richard Huntington; Chose three heroes who inspired three lessons in life for him

  • Julian Cope; a British rock musician, author, antiquary, musicologist, poet and cultural commentator. Originally from Liverpool post-punk band The Teardrop Explodes, he also had a solo career since 1983 working on musical side projects such as Queen Elizabeth, Brain Donor and Black Sheep. Everything he did was anti-establishment, describing himself as a forward thinking m@ther-f#*ker – something we could all aspire to!
  • George Orwell; Hugely influential author, who was a self-taught writer, created an entire lexicon of tyranny (Big Bro, Room 101 etc), who ultimately had a huge dislike of orthodoxy; conforming to the orthodox was seen as simply not thinking in Orwell’s view of life
  • James Dyson; the perseverance to explore over 5,000 designs to create the vacuum cleaner of the future, with perfect functionality yet a beauty to behold. To do this he engaged in radical thinking and problem solving at the root cause, not simply chipping away at the edges of existing thinking

3. Rachel Hatton; Walking enthusiast, regaled us with the virtues of going for a ramble

  • Walking helps you have more ideas – tests carried out show going for a walk increases idea generation by 25%, and uncovered more radical response to briefs
  • Walking helps you see the world differently – it raises your consciousness; unlike in a car or on a bike you do not need to expend thought or effort into working a machine, so all your energy can be put into engaging in the world around you
  • Walking keeps you real – it connects you with the real world, as shown by the famous writer Wordsworth who was able to capture the voice of the people, walking the streets everyday
  • Walking is a radical act – as seen by the peasants revolt in the C14th, or Ian Sinclair walking round the M25…it is a way of exploring the liminal (where things collide)
  • Walking helps you collaborate – Aristotle and his contemporaries used to have their philosophical debate not seated but rambling through ancient Greece
  • Rachel then challenged us all to go on a #planningramble for 20 mins a day with our colleagues…

4. Russell Davies; talked a bit more randomly about random things and people that inspire him

  • Piers Plowright – a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature who is a fantastic storyteller – rather than present, he simply regales fascinating stories
  • Robert Gaskins – the man who invented Powerpoint, who enabled Russell to make great strides in his career simply be being able to paste images into his strategy documents before others could
  • Tim Page – the music critic who has chronicled his life experiences growing up with Asperger’s syndrome
  • Marjorie Allen – who studied at Reading University and wrote a number of books exploring British culture in Memoirs of an Uneducated Lady

5. Malcolm White; talked passionately about the virtues of not looking at new experiences for inspiration, but to mine the riches of old

  • Malcolm has a self-confessed love of classic things, whether that be books, paintings, people or poetry – a condition called Paleophilia (do not believe the Urban Dictionary definition)
  • Consuming old work can be trusted, because like Darwin’s Survival of the fittest, works from the past have survived by being adaptable and remaining relevant
  • Looking at how the world we currently live in is shaped by current behaviours / work / content, but looking at things from the past offers a different take on events from a fresh / different perspective
  • Old words are quite often more powerful than modern lexicon, look to the works of John Milton, who alone contributed over 630 words to the English dictionary
  • The paintings of John Constable were a great example of how a ‘challenger brand’ can come along and shake up the category – his works showed a clear change of direction in terms of painting styles from the ones en vogue.

Posted by Richard Desforges, Comms Director


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