Saturday, May 29, 2010

Creativity and Schizophrenia

Fascinating article today at BBC News about the relationship between creativity and schizophrenia.

I worked for ten years as a manager in mental health services. I often found in discussions with those who didn't work in the area, that pre-conceptions and stigma associated with mental health were a massive barrier to understanding the subject .
I would LOVE to think the stigma is less nowadays .... I’m not sure.

Though I haven’t worked in mental health for more than 15 years I remain in touch with many people involved in mental health services and the word stigma still regularly crops up in conversation.

The saddest and most frustrating part of that stigma is that WE ALL walk a very thin dividing line between a state of 'mental health' and 'mental ill-health.'

I suffered serious acute clinical depression about 10 years ago to the extent I needed the sanctuary of hospital treatment.
Through a mixture of; the support of others; developing self-coping mechanisms; most importantly for the last six years the love and support of Annie and God I’ve never returned to that dark place. No pills were needed after the acute phase. By the way I'm not 'anti pills' - they work very well for some and that's great.

Take it from me acute clinical depression is a very scary place to be.

The results of this research don’t surprise me
Some of the most creative people I’ve met suffer dramatic mood swings.

It is refreshing to note the number of high profile people throughout history in all walks of lfe who have experienced mental health problems. The list includes Winston Churchill, Vincent Van Gogh, Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie, Charles Darwin, John Nash and modern day icons Stephen Fry, John Cleese and Robbie Williams. A pretty impressive list I’d say and I’m sure there are many others.

Chartered psychologist Gary Fitzgibbon says an ability to "suspend disbelief" is one way of looking at creativity. "When you suspend disbelief you are prepared to believe anything and this opens up the scope for seeing more possibilities. Creativity is certainly about not being constrained by rules or accepting the restrictions that society places on us. Of course the more people break the rules; the more likely they are to be perceived as 'mentally ill'."

Today I hope you will join me in celebrating those people who are ‘labelled’ with a mental illness tag. It’s an unfair tag because it projects a negative view. Anyone grappling this day with mental health challenges has my understanding, my support, my respect and my love.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"I made a difference for that one"

One of the most frustrating things I hear is when a big organisation says things like;

“We are big so we can’t be as personal as the small company down the road. We just can’t get down into that detail. We have to think big numbers. We are dealing with thousands – not dozens of people. We have to make assumptions. We have to look at trends and aim to please the most we can. We cannot be as individual”

What a load of rubbish!

Caring for your customers is about the individual person in the organisation not about ‘the organisation.’ Every customer is important and you make a difference to every customer. A friend pointed me in the direction of this lovely story that says it all.

The Starfish Story

One day a young was walking along the beach when he noticed an old man picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the old man, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The old man replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. The sun is shining. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The young man said,
“Don’t you realize there are hundreds of miles of beach and thousands of starfish? - You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the old man bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the young man, he said...

“I made a difference for that one.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Do you REALLY trust your employees?

I read one time that Google (the company) allows full time employees 20% of their week (1 day) to do what they like.

I love that concept – it works on an assumption that workers are adults and trusted. Google clearly believes employees will bring new ideas and enthusiasm to the organisation if they are allowed free time to think creatively. Seems to work pretty well for Google.

Most organisations still don’t recruit for attitude and train for skills. We still look at qualifications and experience as the be all and end all and then say – “We’ll work on their attitude once we’ve got them on board”

Speaking from my experience the challenge is this; how do we get hard-nosed, objective, rational managers who are primarily interested in bottom line stuff to buy into such liberated cultures?

In my own 35 years experience in the National Health Service if I suggested anyone on the payroll should be allowed to spend even 30 minutes a week doing what the hell they like that would probably result in me being referred to the mental health service.

Sad to say we still prefer to chain people (metaphorically) to their desks in far too many organisations and get them to fill in forms for permission to go to the little boys/girls room.

OK, OK …. Slight (ever so slight) exaggeration.

We still operate on the basis ‘If we know where they are, we know they are working’ – that has always been factually incorrect and is a crazy rationale in my opinion. Actually if you manage with that belief the only thing you know for certain is where someone is. I’m sorry but you just DON’T KNOW what OUTCOMES they are CAPABLE of producing simply because you know where they are – that make no sense whatsoever – there is just no positive correlation.

Summary: The best measurement of effectiveness is OUTCOME not hours worked – Simplicity isn’t it?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Customer service is about YOU not your title!

I recently asked folks on one of my customer service workshops to tell us some exceptional examples of customer service. Not ‘good’ not ‘great’ but exceptional. I got the usual stories of Hotels, Restaurants and Holidays but one delegate came up with a classic that I just love for so many reasons.

It seems she was at home alone minding her own business and just at the time the dustcart arrived for the fortnightly bin collection she froze solid through fear when she saw “a massive spider” in her kitchen. Being absolutely petrified of spiders her natural reaction was to scream loudly.

One of the binmen burst in through the kitchen door pretty well convinced someone was being murdered. When he saw the problem … Wait for it …. Nope he didn’t laugh. He calmly removed the offending spider. She was so relieved and she said he will always be her ‘customer service hero’.

Moral of the story – It matters not one iota what your job title says – exceptional customer service is simply about you as a person.

Will you go the extra mile for a customer today?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Best Business Speaker?

Who are the best business speakers you've heard and why?

My votes go to Professor Charles Handy, Tom Peters and Professor Gary Hamel.

I've been lucky enough to see all three perform live - they are inspiring in different ways.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Defeat is the best thing ever for Labour!!

From the shambles of yesterday I conclude there has NEVER been a brighter future for the Labour Party.

Having suffered an embarrassing and devastating defeat at the General Election I see the next year or two as a time of great opportunity for Labour. The other two parties, Tories and Liberal Democrats have teamed up to form a government and that’s fantastic news for Labour.

If I were a cynical type I might even suggest it was a deliberate policy of the Labour Party NOT to get into bed with the Liberal Democrats.

Think of the advantages Labour now has:

• Labour can take the moral high ground as the cuts begin to bite in public services. I can hear them now saying; “We would not have done that”

• Labour can now elect a new young inspiring leader following the (very dignified) departure of Gordon Brown yesterday.

• Labour can now re-group and rebuild the Labour Party creating a new refreshing, young, vibrant and positive identity – ala Tony Blair in his early days

• As the inevitable hard times hit us all in the next few months Labour can be the voice of those affected most. When NHS cuts result in hospital ward closures and nurse recruitment cut backs it will be Labour who will be opposing all such policies and saying “We told you so”

We’ve had 13 years of Labour Government and despite what the right wing media wants us to believe the NHS has never had as much investment as in the last 13 years. Critics have very short memories. The NHS has never been so effective in its 62 years existence.

Two examples:

• In 1997 it was VERY common – in fact normal - to wait for 2 years for surgery. Today, people are guaranteed hospital treatment within 18 weeks of referral from GP – usually much quicker.

• For suspected Cancer all patients have a guarantee of an appointment within two weeks with a Consultant wherever you live.

So ……

As disappointed as I am to see a Tory Government – this time supported by a bunch of wobbly, indecisive Liberal Democrats - I see this as a wonderful opportunity for the Labour Party to rise from the ashes and become even stronger in time for the next Election.

I simply cannot see this alleged ‘coalition’ working for long – probably 18 months max. There are so many fundamental differences in the core policies of Tories and Liberals.

Despite the current rose tinted view of the Tory and Liberal media it is simply a fact that politicians from different and usually opposing parties do not agree on things when the chips are really down.

Because I live in a democracy of course I wish the collation well but I predict we will be returning to the polls within 18 months.

Liberals and Tories are on their honeymoon today but rest assured the knives are being sharpened and when the honeymoon is over next week the fun will start with Labour watching for every broken manifesto promise of the Liberals and Tories.

When you have lots of men with lots of power and huge egos all in the same room it’s a recipe for disaster. Talking of men, have you noticed by the way the distinct lack of women at the top in BOTH the Liberal and Tory Parties during the last week? I cannot recall a single female MP from either party being interviewed on prime time news on radio or TV. More men just means more of the same old arguments and power struggles.

I love politics …..

Friday, May 07, 2010

Ian Sanders Marketing Manifesto

My friend Ian Sanders from Essex is a high-profile entrepreneur who is always at the cutting edge of new ideas. Ian has just published his latest little gem.

What I love most of all about the way Ian works is his focus on simplicity. Ian’s New Marketing Manifesto is a breath of fresh air – it’s a one page PDF full of Ian’s Top Ten Tips to help give product or businesses an edge in the market. It’s spin-free and full of proven ideas that can make a real difference.

You can read/download/print the Manifesto by clicking here

These ten tips are at the heart of what Ian does for businesses – if you know anyone who may benefit from working with Ian please pass it on.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Note to all MP's - WE are your employer

So here we are at the General Election.

I'm not as pessimistic as some about the future in Britain. I remain optimistic about my country despite right wing media doom spreaders. Armageddon is not round the corner in Britain.

I’m not complacent but equally I’m not panicking either.

The recession has hit me pretty hard. But then I look at many parts of the world and realise I’m still a multi-billionaire compared with millions of people in the world who may not even eat today.

I think we need to get real sometimes.

Politicians are servants of the people not the other way round. So if the population of Britain vote in such a way that there is no overall majorly for one party then the message from us is work together.

I don’t want to hear pathetic dogma like ‘Party principles don’t allow me to work this party or the other.’ That applies to all of them by the way!

Democracy means WE are in charge not the politicians and democracy also means Britain must be governed with a ‘people focus’ not a ‘party/dogma focus’

I will be voting Labour and of course I accept the overall majority will win the day.