Up and Out of Poverty: The Social Marketing Solution
Philip R Kotler
Marketing for good.
Most people who don’t know much about marketing, and some who do know, think of marketing as promotion, not recognizing that, instead, it is a process that usually ends up with promotion. This is exactly what makes this book very helpful for nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and businesses - it focuses on how all elements of marketing can be used for social good, not just the promotion aspect.
Imagine: How Creativity Works
While many of us have wondered about the origins, processes and secrets of creativity, Jonah Lehrer has turned this old inquiry into the topic of his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works.
Lehrer shatters the myths of muses and divine powers. He challenges our perceptions of creativity and “creative types” and demonstrates that everyone can be creative because “creativity is a catchall term for a variety of distinct thought processes” that involves a phase of research, a phase of experimentation and frustration, a moment of insight and an execution phase. A finished product is a result of multiple forms of creativity, not just a single “a-ha” moment.
“Creativity shouldn’t be seen as something otherworldly. It shouldn’t be thought of as a process reserved for artists and inventors and other ‘creative types.’ The human mind, after all, has the creative impulse built into its operating system, hard-wired into its most essential programming code. At any given moment, the brain is automatically forming new associations, continually connecting an everyday x to an unexpected y.”
Finding the right connection is what we call an insight, the term with which most strategists have a love/hate relationship. But even insights don’t occur in 0.003 seconds as we think because the brain needs to investigate all possible connections to find the one that solves the problem. I can’t think of a more appropriate scenario to use the needle in a haystack metaphor.
When we talk about our projects we tend to focus on the insight phase of the creative process and leave out the phases of research, experimentation, thinking, despair and frustration. We forget to mention the days when our projects seemed impossible to solve, when we wanted to quit, when we wanted to go to the bar and start drinking at 10 a.m. Instead we focus on the breakthrough moments because they are exciting and reaffirm the idea of the creative genius.
The irony is that most of our insights come when we stop searching for them, when we step out of the elevator or when we order a drink. These “a-ha” moments don’t solve only part of the problem. They present a complete and elegant solution to a problem that until just seconds ago seemed impossible.
“When you look at where insights come from, they come from where we least expect them. They only arrive after we stop looking at them. If you’re an engineer working on a problem and you’re stumped by your technical problem, chugging caffeine at your desk and chaining yourself to your computer, you’re going to be really frustrated. You’re going to waste lots of time. You may look productive, but you’re actually wasting time. Instead, at that moment, you should go for a walk. You should play some ping-pong. You should find a way to relax.”
The last phase of the creative process is execution, which requires a different thought process. This phase involves great attention to details, focus for a long time and commitment to create the perfect combination of different elements. The selection of the right colors, sizes, images, fonts isn’t the result of a-ha moments but of patience and attention to details. The execution process is very different from the insight moments. The creative thoughts in this phase tend to be minor and incremental — “one can efficiently edit a poem but probably won’t invent a new poetic form.”
After identifying the different thought processes and elements of creativity, Lehrer reveals the importance of embracing childlike curiosity, adopting an outsider’s perspective, collaborating with different people, daydreaming productively and learning when to wander and wonder and when to apply concentration. He unveils the secrets behind building great teams, productive companies, vibrant neighborhoods and effective schools.
Lehrer introduces us to the writing habits of Bob Dylan, the drug addictions of poets, the infusion of chemistry thinking behind the invention of new cocktails and the thinking behind Nike’s famous slogan. He explains the creative explosion in Elizabethan England and the creative processes and culture of Pixar and 3M. And this is exactly what makes Imagine an outstanding book - connecting seemingly unrelated stories and experiences, culture and human insights, people with various backgrounds and groundbreaking science, it is an epitome of creativity.
Other components being equal, bigger and denser cities are the most productive and most innovative because they make communication and the exchange of ideas, services and goods easier. Denser cities bring people closer together, facilitate interaction, serve as processors of information, provide a climate in which innovation can flourish and encourage entrepreneurship.
Why I love this book.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable in the USA: the fear of silence and the chit chat that’s associated with it, the need to always talk in meetings so you are not considered disengaged or not contributing, all the “You spend too much time in your head” comments, etc. This preference for extroversion was probably one of the biggest contributors to my culture shock when I moved here 5.5 years ago. However, I never considered myself an introvert because for me introversion meant being shy and antisocial and that’s not me. I enjoy being around and with people, but I also enjoy quiet time to think, read, write, wonder and wander. And this book was great at helping me realize that introversion and shyness aren’t the same thing. As explained by Susan Cain, shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful, while introversion is not. Not all shy people are introverts and not all introverts are shy.
Anywhere between 30% to 50% of people are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening and thinking to speaking before thinking, reading to partying. They are the ones who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion. Often labeled as “quiet,” it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society—from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer. Although a bit biased, Cain claims that “thinker” is a label that can more accurately describe introverts than “quiet” does.
Cain shares her personal story and the stories of Asian American students, prominent professors and ordinary couples, charts the rise of the Extroverted Ideal in the USA, introduces us to many successful introverts and questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. She draws on research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the differences between extroverts and introverts. Introverts recharge by being alone, while extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough. The biggest difference between introverts and extroverts, however, is the level of outside stimulation they need to function well.
Passionately argued, thoroughly researched and filled with indelible stories of real people, “Quiet” shows how undervalued introverts are in a society that cherishes extroverts, explains how much we lose because of this bias and gives advice for both introverts and extroverts on how to communicate better with each other, how to raise introverted children, how to balance the need for quiet time with the need to engage in overstimulating and exhausting activities. And I think this is what makes the book incredible: it’s a great read for both introverts, as a tool to learn more about our strengths and become more confident in ourselves, and for extroverts, as a tool to help them understand us. It has the power to change how society sees introverts and, equally important, how introverts see ourselves.