The Brand

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The Harley Davidson motorcycle hummed past me with that deep-throated gnarly musical sound. Perched aloft the seat was a rather tubby leather clad middle-aged man with a long matted grey beard. Branded across his back was a large replica of his bike’s logo to which a massive “smile” complemented his daredevil face.

A cold gust on the winter wind was thwarted in leaving in imprint on the young woman’s face by her strategically wrapped Burberry scarf. But not to be outdone by this singular and fashionable item, additional clothing with the well-known motif soon appeared to encapsulate her from any other unwanted cold forays of gust. A similar “smile” to her bike riding unknown friend also appeared across her face.

The chanting increased in volume from the crowd all fashionably mimicking each other in their blue and white horizontal striped football jumpers as they took delight in tormenting their brown and gold vertically striped opposition supporters. That “smile” was once again evident.

On walking into one particular corporate office, that “smile” of belonging was most noticeably absent. It appeared to be an office comprised of a large number of individuals all supporting their own “smile” or brand, not one of a unified and cohesive organization.

If we consider the Harley Davidson rider, the Burberry wearer, the football supporter, they all derived some “smile” benefit from their association with these brands. Some corporate organizations, such as Google, McKinsey & Co, Virgin (and many others), do instil brand loyalty and a strong desire of wanting to work there. No, an organization doesn’t need to be a well-known brand to achieve such employee motivation and commitment; similar results can also be attained from a small family business, a school or a local club. The key is in believing that you make a contribution to the progress of that organization and that you also derive some associated personal benefit in return (eg the “smile”, career, financial, friendship, etc).

If you are a CEO in your corporate office, is that “smile” evident in your employees? No, I’m not talking about that polite and courteous smile that employees always make in your presence, but that real “smile” of wanting to belong, as they believe in the organization. If it exists, fantastic! If it doesn’t, then you now have a very important New Year’s resolution for 2015?

Yes, it’s all in the Brand….

The Suit Trouser Length Creativity Index

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Does the length of your suit trouser leg influence your creativity in the corporate office?

Yes, this is rather an unusual question! Personally, I must admit that the thought of it had never really crossed my mind until I had to kill two hours in the Virgin Lounge at Melbourne airport this morning as my plane was delayed owing to fog. When you have two hours to ponder the “real meaning” of corporate life, your mind does indeed explore the more important innovation correlations and the length, or lack thereof, of one gentleman’s suit trouser initiated this serious thesis of study.

As I slowly swallowed the remaining remnants of my long black coffee, I noticed a man in his late fifties sojourn past me. My stare was not focused on his slow walking style, nor his olive tweed suit, nor his impressive bald head (of which I am a fellow supporter), no, the deciding attribute was that the bottom of his trousers were about one inch above the top of his black shoes thereby making his distinctive green socks rather prevalent to the eye. My gaze then started to methodically search the Virgin Lounge looking to see if this was a one off, or the start of a common dress code with which I was not partaking.

To my amusement, I noticed a variety of trouser lengths prevailing. Some were too long and were gently kissing the carpet on which they walked. There was a range of trouser lengths that just touched the bottom of the heel, but the majority were about half an inch above the accepted level as deemed by corporate fashion correctness.

So how does this all relate to creativity? Well, I believe that there is a direct correlation! Let’s consider the following “facts”.

If the trouser length is too high, the wearer of the trouser has the option to display their socks to the passing world. These socks can be brightly coloured, patterned or even non-existent. Alternatively, the wearer could also go with the full naked ankle look (commonly termed the “commando ankle”).

If the trouser length is too low, those observers that the trouser wearer is walking past don’t have the opportunity to wonder at the endless array of potential sock possibilities. In this instance, it is quite common for the black boring nondescript sock to be worn. Yes, these people are your typical non-creative types.

The other and less known benefit with high trouser length is the “health improvement” derived from air current woft up the trouser leg that facilitates a perceived freedom of thought. Those that frequent the wearing of a kilt on a breezy day would know exactly what I’m talking about!

So my hypothesis, which I would be honoured if some bright PhD student elects to explore further in the not too distant future (that I’m sure would also be written up in the Harvard Business Review), is that your trouser length is a simple and direct measure of your creativity in the corporate office. So, make sure you wear your trouser cuffs high and maximise the derived benefit of creativity!

That Virgin Airline Safety Announcement

Things You Notice

As I was sitting in my allocated seat in my now rather too frequent weekly Virgin flight from Melbourne to Sydney, I vaguely heard the all too familiar safety demonstration which was telling me what to do in an emergency. I, like many other frequent flyers had become rather blasé to this important message. The announcement was one that I should pay attention to, but when you have heard it so many times, the competing options of sleeping, reading a book, or examining the lipstick colour being worn by the air hostess just seems to take precedence! (By the way, yes the lipstick colour does change, the wearer apparently has the option to tailor their own lip colouring depending on what mood they are in on that day…just in case you were wondering…and yes, I did ask!)

This got me thinking. Most of us in the corporate office have a daily routine that changes quite infrequently, if at all. We tend to arrive at work at the same time, park our cars in the same allocated spot, start the day with that all too familiar long black, take a banana from the corporate fruit basket to be eaten later, and then arc up our computers as we take a big sigh in preparation as we work our way through the torrent of new emails in our inbox. Sound familiar?

So why not utilize the safety announcement protocols that are used by the airlines to deliver a message to motivate all employees at the start of the day with the right mind set? Well, with a few tailored variations of course!!

No, I’m not suggesting that the leadership team wear red lipstick, just like the Virgin air hostesses and parade around the office in an attempt to rev up the employees, but it would certainly be a unique and different spectacle that would indeed be noticed.

Instead, like on the plane, let’s focus on the office PA systems that are typically only used for practice emergency drills where that all too familiar ‘whoop, whoop’ sounds permeates through the building just when you are about to skull that freshly purchased coffee, or start that all important phone call.

So why can’t we use that corporate PA system slightly differently? Why couldn’t the CEO deliver a morning motivational message that is full of wit, anecdotes and other words of perceived cleverness? This would of course test the inspirational personality characteristics of the CEO, but this is a simple, yet creative task, that they should be able to do without even having to blink!

Other thoughts for the PA message could include; some boppy dance music (maybe The Eurythmics ‘Sweet Dreams are made of this’), a chapter read from a thought provoking book, some karaoke that all employees join in with, some voice impressions…the key is to have something different. Why not use the PA system at random times of the day to minimize employee complacency? Instead of the PA system, why not utilize the corporate spruiker concept where the CEO walks around the office corridors with a megaphone blasting out innovative words of motivation? I’m sure that you can think of many more ideas that break the boring corporate mold of minimal motivation!

So maybe next time you are sitting on the plane you might now listen to the safety announcement with a slightly different perspective? If not, well, make sure you have a good sleep instead!