Good Ideas Need a Little Help From Their Friends

>> Thursday, September 30, 2010

I recently came across this UPS-guy-on-steroids promotional video for a new book by Steven Johnson titled “Where Good Ideas Come From.” Aside from the super engaging way it tells the story, I think the basic premise is fascinating and familiar.

Mr. Johnson’s theory is that big ideas don’t leap from the minds of solitary geniuses. They actually start as hunches that evolve slowly, over time, as a result of colliding with the hunches of other people who are thinking about the same area. As examples, he talks about how the coffee houses during the Age of Enlightenment served as an environment for colliding ideas, which is why we had such a rich explosion of creativity during that period.

The natural leap to today – and the one he makes – is that the proliferation of social technologies is opening the door for another Enlightenment-type explosion of creativity. We are connected with more people more regularly than anyone thought possible, which should set the stage for some fast and furious colliding of hunches.

The great thing about collaboration is that any of us in any setting working on any problem can do it. We here at Wellness have been moving more and more towards collaborative systems for doing our work. Different functional groups, working together hand-in-hand with our customers, is the ideal environment for some great colliding to generate better ideas than any one of us could have thought up on our own.

One important caveat: this does not mean that good ideas come out of group sessions. We find that often these ideas can occur in solitary settings: in the shower, walking the dog, nodding off to sleep. Although these ideas often emerge when we’re alone, if you trace the genealogy of the idea, you will find the genetic material of many other peoples’ ideas built in.

Hope this finds you well,

Jacob Braude


Learning How To Learn

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

We have a new junior planner here at SSW, and one of the perks of having young minds around is that their enthusiasm propels them to discover things we more mature folks might not.

Last week, one of the things he discovered was this article in the New York Times on what recent research has taught us about how people learn – one of our favorite topics here at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

Wellness is quite often difficult. For most of us – and our audiences – it includes making some fairly ambitious long-term changes to their behavior. A lot goes into behavior change, but one key ingredient is learning and mastering new information.

Thus I was fascinated by some of the “learning myths” the Times article debunked. Here is my quick-and-dirty synopsis of their three rules for better learning:

1. Say good bye to your favorite study spot
. Researchers have discovered that people retain new information better if they vary up the places where they consume this info. They theorize that we store new information by its relation to other data in our brains. When you are learning, your brain is also consuming the sensory data from the environment around you. So, if you change up where you are learning, your brain has more info associated with what you learn, and thus you retain it better.

2. One thing at a time – not so much.
Related information gets remembered better than like information. Researchers have demonstrated that students who studied mixed sets of four types of equations retained the whole lesson much better than other students who studied one type of equation at a time.

3. Testing is good!
In another experiment, researchers showed that being immediately tested on material you just learned helps you retain that information long term. The effort your brain exerts for the test helps cement the new information into your neurons.

Learning is equal parts important and difficult. It’s comforting that – through the magic of science and research – we can still get better at it.

Hope this finds you well.

Jacob Braude

VP, Planner


Can you ever treat yourself too well?

>> Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Every self-respecting self-help book has a chapter on how to treat yourself better. Well, it seems we’ve taken that a little too much to heart. It turns out that one of the biggest barriers preventing Americans from eating healthfully is that ... we like our treats.

Nielsen's latest global survey on healthy eating shows that for most of the world, the US included, a perceived lack of time, money and availability of healthy choices remain key barriers to a more nutritious diet. But here at home, "the desire to treat myself" trumped such practical considerations.

I don't know if this number is higher than in past years, but I do know that the urge for treats increases with stress, our national disease. So how are marketers answering the call?

A new post on WARC offers some insight into how some of the world's leading food manufacturers are approaching the conundrum of helping us eat more healthfully.

Pepsi is betting on convenience. In a strategy they call the Power of One, favorite snacks will be made with healthier ingredients.

Heinz CEO Bill Johnson sensibly puts the discussion in business terms, and investing in areas that will show a good return.

But of all the smart and successful companies mentioned in the WARC article, it was NestlĂ© CEO Paul Bulcke who pinned his company's strategy to the one thing Americans seem to want most: pleasure. NestlĂ©, Bulcke said, is "offering … pleasure, balanced and healthy nutrition to people, to our consumers everywhere in the world."

Ah, healthy pleasures.
Just make mine chocolate.

Hope this finds you well,