Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Just Add Mindfulness: The Right Way to Multitask

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Just Add Mindfulness: The Right Way to Multitaks Productivity Sebouh Gemdjian BurrellesLuce Fresh IdeasThe problem: The phone keeps ringing, projects pile up, we try to multitask, but all we keep thinking about is the project we’re not doing, so we sacrifice quality and blame it all on limited time and resources.

The cause: “We’re saddled with a Stone Age mind in a digital world,” Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn told Google employees as he introduced them to meditation in 2007. A pioneer of blending Western medicine with mindfulness meditation, Kabat-Zinn is a molecular biologist, a trained Zen teacher, and founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In that talk at the “Googleplex” in Mountain View, Calif., Kabat-Zinn defined the Stone Age mind as the tendency to fall into obsession with doing (as in the next thing to survive) and ignore the doer (as in the one active right now).

In her book The One Who is Not Busy—Connecting with Work in a Deeply Satisfying Way, Zen teacher Darlene Cohen writes that we fail at multitasking when we stay in the perception of the whole (our schedule), and don’t settle on anything because we keep shifting focus. When we’ve taken the time to settle on the doer, who only exists when we’re actually doing something, our schedule is a balanced interconnectedness of tasks, and when we haven’t done that our schedule appears chaotic.

The solution: According to Cohen we can find relief by “matching focused awareness to whatever motions our hands and bodies are actually doing at the moment.” It is much more satisfying than paying attention to something we’re not doing. I’ve found it useful to include sensations in the body as part of the activities to be aware of. Once our feet are firmly planted in our current activity, we can look at the rest of our schedule for perspective and then go back to the task at hand. She calls this type of focus “simultaneous inclusion.” Dr. Zinn presents his version of this point in this short, guided meditation taken from his 2007 Google talk.

Here is an exercise from Cohen’s book that is strikingly useful in the workplace, called “Talking Meditation”:

“In any conversation, short or long, tune in to your own breath at least three times while (1) listening to another person speak, and (2) while you yourself are talking… This is true simultaneous inclusion. You are thinking and feeling your breath at the same time… Your breath gives you the distance you need from the conversation in order to participate in it from real interest rather than from habitual conditioning.”

Maintenance: Zoketsu Norman Fischer, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center and frequent speaker at the Brooklyn Zen Center, teaches a course called “Mindfulness in Legal Education.” The group has a mission statement outlining examples of specific perspectives connected to meditation that foster productivity and inspiration.

One perspective includes wisdom and creativity. Meditating on awareness of the breath and letting thoughts come and go without grasping brings more self-honesty, less distortion, and a unity of mind and heart. As anyone looking for inspiration for a new project will attest, passion and logic in the right ratio rev up the creative engine, and meditation can be a means of ignition accessible anywhere.

Compassion is beneficial to productivity, as it inspires empathy, connectedness and teamwork. It is a meditative perspective that happens when we fail at balancing focus on our current tasks with mindfulness of their context. Once we realize that what we’re doing at that moment is failing, the way everyone does sometimes, we can go back to a clear, inspired perspective of our priorities. Insight meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg calls it “exercising the letting-go muscle” in her talks. When we remember it’s all about starting again fresh, motivation and inspiration usually follow.

Further reading:

Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement and Peace by Sharon Salzberg

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind By Shunryu Suzuki

To Meet the Real Dragon by Gudo Nishijima

Sailing Home by Norman Fischer

Arriving at Your Own Door by Jon Kabat-Zinn

The Sound of Silence by Ajahn Sumedho

The Vision: Creating Content That Others Want to Share

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Washington-20120731-00089Visionaries define creativity in many different ways and how they motivate others to share their ideas often takes additional creativity. This was the topic of the D.C. chapter of She Says, an award-winning mentoring and networking organization for women in creative industries, during its kick-off event at Edelman DC.

The visionary panel included, Caryn Alagno, SVP, Edelman, Rachel Cothran, director of public relations, Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design, Laura McDaniel, director of strategy, AKQA, Amy Sherman, director of digital marketing, Lifestyle Brands, Marriott International, and Holly Thomas, editor, Refinery 29. Most of the panel blog both professionally and personally and they have found a creative community around blogging. Thomas is also a visual artist who taught herself to draw by watching tutorials on YouTube.

Creativity ideas and insights:

  • Creativity is subjective, but sometimes you need to self-define. Find a niche and fill it.
  • Having a second passion can help you be more creative.
  • Creativity is a moment of grace.
  • Accept that your first attempt may not work and give yourself the freedom to revise and try again.
  • Creativity is about connecting the dots in a non-linear way.
  • Keeping yourself busy keeps the creative juices flowing. Having different creative projects helps to create momentum.
  • There is a big difference between having a creative idea and having an idea with a plan.
  • Not all creative ideas break through the politics of decision making, so you need to share ideas with the right people. Then, get buy-in from the decision maker.
  • Put on your thespian hat. Not every pitch works on everyone, so sometimes you need to act differently with different stakeholders.
  • Say what you think, not what you think you are supposed to say.

Sometimes you have to take the pressure off and try something different. McDaniel suggested yoga. The panel touted the shower as a great place to do creative thinking.

How do you capture your creative ideas? Paper, online, apps, and documents were all mentioned. There didn’t seem to be a limit to the ideas. A favorite of BurrellesLuce’s Johna Burke is Evernote because she can use it from any of her many electronic devices, along with these 12 Mobile Apps to Boost Productivity.

What gets your creative juices flowing? How do you sell your creative ideas to others?

K.I.S.S. Unplugged

Friday, November 12th, 2010

by Rich Gallitelli*

Although it would be interesting to hear songs from the album “Destroyer” acoustically, I am talking about the acronym, not the band:  K.I.S.S., “Keep It Simple Stupid” or “Keep It Short and Simple.” My BurrellesLuce colleague, Cathy Del Colle recommends this principal to our team and clients each day. However, K.I.S.S. hasn’t quite effectively crept into all parts of our everyday lives…

Flickr Image Source: ryantron

Flickr Image Source: ryantron

I attended a luncheon, this past September, hosted by the Publicity Club of New York. The panel consisted of five senior TV producers/reporters who cover business news, all providing insight for PR professionals on effectively pitching their ideas.  All five panelists essentially preached the same mantra “You have to get your pitch across within the first three sentences of your email; otherwise, the email is deleted.”  Yes, three sentences. For a novice like me, that was an eye opener.

Afterwards, I began to realize that the essence of that statement has pretty much defined how we now interact as a society. Real time news – or more precisely, “today’s news yesterday” – TV shows with 45 second scenes, initialisms and acronyms, and our inner most thoughts in 140 characters or less are just a few of many examples. We also have a host of devices and websites such as Twitter, Facebook, video games, Droids, iPods, and iPad all designed to help keep connecting simple. When was the last time you went to a conference or even a coffee shop without seeing people typing away on their BlackBerries? Even the world of sports, once the cradle for colorful nicknames, has also fallen victim to our need for “simplicity.” The Yankee Clipper, Earl the Pearl, Larry Legend, and Magic, have given way to the mundane A-Rod¸ D-Wade, and T.O.  And we won’t even begin to discuss what our teachers have to deal with, while grading papers in the advent of the texting era.

Has our appetite for instant access and gratification been borne out of a lack of creativity or are we so plugged into technology that we simply do not have the time to use our creativity? In other words, has our need to “Keep it Simple” gone to the extreme and become counter-intuitive? (If you need any more evidence, I have two words: Speed Dating!) So where is the balance?

A group of researchers from the University of Stanford performed a study that found “People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.”

After putting about 100 students through a series of three tests, the researchers realized the heavy multitaskers are paying a big mental price.

“’They’re suckers for irrelevancy, said communication Professor Clifford Nass, one of the researchers whose findings are published in the Aug. 24 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ‘Everything distracts them.’” 

In each test, the light multitaskers out performed the heavy multitaskers. “’When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,’ said Anthony Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. ‘That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.’”

In short, the human brain is not designed to multitask and hold all that information. When interviewed for this BurrellesLuce newsletter, Carol Schiro Greenwald of Greenwald Consulting, who was not involved in the study, explained: “We can’t multitask because the brain isn’t set up that way. It is set up to think in logical order, from general to specific. If you stop doing something in the middle — Think about when you start doing it again. You have to go back to the beginning.”

So while I am not advocating we become inefficient while on the job, I am advocating a re-evaluation of “Simple.” Perhaps it is a matter of unplugging from the world and our “need for now” while at home. In essence, apply the K.I.S.S. method at times when we are not on vacation, even if it is only for just an evening or a weekend. This Saturday, do not tweet that you are brushing your teeth, even if your dentist is following you on Twitter. Take a drive or a walk. Visit your parents, or a relative you haven’t seen in awhile. They will thank you for it and so will your eyes and brain. (Just don’t use the word decompress, it sounds so decompressing.) After all, life goes by in a blink and it’s much sadder if you haven’t noticed a tree until you are 65.

We may need information now and have the technology to get it; but, let’s face it, sometimes what we think will simplify things only makes it more complicated. But don’t worry. Monday morning, it’ll all come flooding back to you – the LOLing, the the multitasking, real-time news, etc – the moment you walk out the front door, or more precisely when you begin your morning commute. 


*Bio: Richard Gallitelli brought a wealth of sales and customer-service experience when he came to BurrellesLuce in 2007. His outstanding performance as a sales associate and personalized shopper for Neiman Marcus (he also has worked for Nordstrom) earned him a nomination by Boston magazine as “Best of Boston” sales associate for high-end retail fashion stores. Rich’s talents also won him praise and a profile in the book, “What Customers Like About You: Adding Emotional Value for Service Excellence and Competitive Advantage,” written by best-selling business author Dr. David Freemantle. Rich majored in English Literature at William Paterson University, and is a published poet and short-story writer. Facebook: BurrellesLuce Twitter: BurrellesLuce LinkedIn: BurrellesLuce

Required Reading for PR Professionals

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Valerie Simon

Required Reading for PR ProfessionalsAs interns head into the office for the first time this fall, eager to make a good impression and begin a successful career, wouldn’t it be nice to be given a reading list…a list of books that hold the secrets and lessons to give you that extra advantage? I decided to ask a few leaders in the PR industry, “Is there a book you’d consider ‘required reading’? Something you wish every new hire read prior to their first day on the job?” Here are their responses:

Beyond How-to and PR 2.0
“I think better than any how-to or PR 2.0 book are business bios that inspire,(e.g., Howard Schulz, J. Dyson), books re: creativity, and Mad Men,” says Dorothy Crenshaw, CEO and creative director Crenshaw Communications. Personally, I love reading the biographies of successful business leaders; in fact, Howard Schulz’s “Pour Your Heart Into It” has a special place on my bookshelf.

Good for All Levels
Stephanie Smirnov, president, Devries PR suggests “Making News in the Digital Era” by David Henderson.

Global Clientele and Mega Trends
Alex Aizenberg , group manager, Weber Shandwick: “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” and “The World Is Flat” both by Tom Friedman.

Must Reads
Richard Laermer, founder and CEO, RLM Public Relations: “Elements of Style” by E.B. White and “On Writing Well” by Wiliam Zinsser.

Start Your Career Right
Christine Barney, CEO Rbb Public Relations: “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” by Robert Sutton.

The World Around You
As Stefan Pollack, president of The Pollack PR Marketing Group points out, “With today’s explosion of information, to me, required reading is to read everything one can get their hands on.  Books, eBooks, white papers, blogs, etc..Today’s entry level pro needs to up their level of intellectual curiosity and their life experiences. They need to know more about everything and as important link it to their pursuit for a career in PR.” Pollack’s recommendation: “the Book of Life, the life that is around you both near and far. By upping one’s intellectual curiosity, new hires, run the greater chance of understanding the contextual relevance of what they read when applying it to what they do. ”

As for my suggestions? Attempting to choose a single book to offer up as required reading is certainly not easy. My friends at BurrellesLuce and I frequently pass around books and a few of my favorite books, among those that have circulated, include:

But I think that if I could mandate a single book as required reading for new hires, I’d just stick to an old favorite: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. While Carnegie may have written the book in 1936, the simple lessons are timeless and perhaps more important today than ever before.

What book would you suggest a new employee reads before coming on board at your organization?

Can the Average Net-User Rationalize Paying for News Content?

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Steve Shannon
Copyright The May 11th edition of the Wall Street Journal contained a very interesting op-ed by author Mark Helprin, “Copyright Critics Rationalize Theft.” In the piece, he discusses how opponents of copyright make various specious arguments that copyright stifles creativity, commerce, freedom and then he deftly points out how they are, of course, wrong.

Without copyright protections, creators of original works would have little financial incentive to create them; thus, there would be less of the very things challengers claim copyright inhibits. Think about how many books, articles, websites, songs, software, and movies wouldn’t exist if their creators weren’t able to make their living doing so.

Helprin’s points also collide with an emerging issue affecting the news media, newspapers in particular:  How will they profit from their creative works published online, which they currently give away for free, when they are not earning enough revenue from a failed ad-supported model? Publishers may look to a system of micropayments and/or “passes” (read: subscriptions) that will charge users to view articles. So, to riff on the title of Helprin’s piece, can the average net-user rationalize paying for news content?

My prediction is that we’ll see a many folks adopt this model right away. The first group is the same “influentials” and “heavy news consumers” who now read the paper version of publications. This group includes me, and I pay $40 a month to have The New York Times chucked in my driveway every day. I’d gladly pay the same to access its great content online, especially if the print edition went away. 

Then there is a second group consisting of “media snackers,” who only consume content from outlets such as The Washington Post, online.  The Washington Post has a print circulation of 665,000 but draws 9.4 million unique visitors to its site each month. Those 9.4 million don’t all live in the D.C. area, and their browsing clearly shows they value something about the original content. (I’m a D.C. area native and I keep up on the region everyday on, so I certainly see the appeal.)

Assuming a print subscription to The Washington Post also costs $40 per month, those 9.4 million unique visitors would each need to pay $2.83 per month to equal the subscription revenues the paper gets for its print edition. That’s less than 10 cents per day in any given month. Of course, not all 9.4 million will pony up, but you get my point.

That’s where the micropayment model would work. Want to read one article on a newspaper site that you found through search?  Pay 99 cents.  Prefer to get a pass to let you read as many articles as you wish for a month? Pay six bucks. Want a pass to a consortium of sites? I’m sure that will exist as well.

If you think about it, the vast majority of creative journalism these days is still being driven by traditional media for their ad-supported print edition, and posted online, mostly for free. As revenues associated with the print mode of delivery decline, publishers will need to make up that revenue or go out of business. Like it or not, net-users will have to rationalize paying for content. It may be a micropayment model I’ve outlined above, or some other model, but they will have to pay. There is no such thing as a free lunch (or journalism).

Would you pay for online content? Share your thoughts with us here at BurrellesLuce.