Category Archives: creativity

Lucyinnovation blog has moved house

Lucyinnovation blog has moved house. It now lives at lucyinnovation.co.uk

It’s moved because its been spruced up.

If you follow this blog, and want to keep following, you need to go to lucyinnovation.co.uk and scroll down to Follow Blog by email and sign up again.

I know that’s a pain. I’m sorry its clunky and not very innovative, but I hope you choose to keep reading….

Lucy

@lucyinnovation

Lucy@lucyinnovation.co.uk

Pillows, helmets and hygiene

Dave Brailsford, Team GB Cycling Performance Director attributes much of his teams’ recent Olympic success to incremental improvements.

The principle of incremental improvements across the cycling team came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

This concept of incremental improvement or ‘aggregating marginal gains’ in sport is not new, but it has not been included into every element of a training strategy with such conviction before.

GB Cycling’s training included rigorous training schedules to improve physical fitness, a carefully planned diet, a series of marginal technical improvements to equipment and working with psychologists to adopt a winning mindset (which included reducing the number of racing days but competing in those fewer races with a focus on winning).

Brailsford also highlighted the importance of other things that might seem of little importance, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away, training in different places and being scrupulous about hygiene so as to reduce the chances of getting ill.

“They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.” Dave Brailsford

The team also looked to worlds outside of cycling for answers. They hired Formula One engineers to model the aerodynamics of helmets and bikes, the “pillow” idea apparently came from the Royal Ballet and the emphasis on hygiene is the result of talking to surgeons about avoiding illness,  (Rumour has it that Brailsford had someone to continuously clean the door handles in the Olympic village lest germs should get into the camp)

For me, the team’s success is about the sum of the parts including; the dedication of the cyclists and the coaches, the physical training schedule, the best equipment, working with psychologists to ensure that cyclists were focused on success and the hard work and constant striving to be the best that they can be.

In addition to all of the above, the GB cycling team were doing something different to their competition, and I think that also contributed to making them outstanding.

Dave Brailsford and his GB cycling team bought home 7 gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. Tell that to anyone who doesn’t see the value in incremental innovation.

What tactics can you borrow from the GB cycling team and apply to your fundraising?

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn

Fundraisers, think about your most successful fundraising campaign, mailing, event, individual gift, trust application or corporate pitch. I bet that they all have something in common. In some way they have fulfilled a need for your audience, captured their imagination and evoked some form of emotion that has inspired them to take action.

In the charity sector there is a lot of talk about the ‘donor journey’ but for me the start of any donor journey is you finding your story and telling it in a way that touches people’s hearts as well as their minds. Telling a story written by your marketing team isn’t good enough. You have to find your own stories that evoke passion and power in you.

People give to help people. The relationships you build with your donors are your relationships – you build rapport, you build trust, you inspire donors to get involved, you make a difference.

I think perfecting the art, and it is an art, of seeking out real stories and telling them in a way that inspires both you and your donors is the essence of being a fundraiser.

A book that has inspired me is Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (Random House, 2007). They outline six principles that will help your stories to inspire your audiences’ hearts and minds.

1. Simple - Keep your story simple. Focus on your core message. Using analogies helps simplify complicated information.

Help the Aged’s ‘make a blind man see’ press advertisement is a great example of a simple story.

2. Unexpected - Say something unexpected to get attention. Ask questions to hold people’s attention and curiosity.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn. A six-word story by Ernest Hemingway. Think about it for a moment. Those six words are somewhat unexpected yet hugely powerful. You can read more six word stories here or submit your own.

Amnesty produced an award-winning unexpected message to throw away this flyer in their insert campaign.

3. Concrete - Be specific. Paint a mental picture with words by using sensory language. The famous president of the USA John Kennedy painted a picture with words in a powerful speech when he said, ‘I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.’

An RSBP campaign to save the albatross brilliantly uses this technique. You are asked to picture the scene: imagine you are in a restaurant tucking into your first bite of succulent Pacific salmon. Something is not right. Read more about what happens next here.

4. Credible - Provide compelling details, whether it’s research and statistics, the name of an industry expert, or something down to earth about the difference you are making.Research shows that many people respond better when they can link their contribution to providing help to a specific situation or person.

‘If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one I will’, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Child’s i Foundation raised £10,000 in 38 hours to save baby Joey’s life. The story is all about baby Joey and his parents. Take a few minutes to watch the video in the link. I challenge you not to be moved. Which leads to sticky principle number five.

5. Emotional - People care about people. People care about situations that they can identify with. There is a range of ways in which you can do this and I like  Action Aid’s What a Feeling campaign that asked ‘How does it make you feel to be part of the Action Aid community?’

6. Stories - The very process of telling a story helps people see how an existing problem might change and how they could help that change happen.

St Mungo’s, a charity for the homeless in London, uses real life stories and includes inspirational accounts of how, with help, people can change their lives.

How to seek stories

Does your storytelling spell SUCCESS? The more of the six principles that you can weave into your communications, the more likely it is that your messages will stick. Your challenge is to continually and deliberately seek stories that inspire you and that you can tell to inspire others. Here are some tactics to help you do just that.

  • Carry a notebook with you. Use it, make collecting stories and observations on life a habit. We know that the more connections we make the more likely it is we are going to put those connections together to come up with something new. That something new could be your wonderfully compelling story… or the next big fundraising idea.
  • Read more stories. Millions of authors have spent time writing stories. Read them. Think about what the author does to keep you eagerly turning the pages. Try using that author’s tactics on your own stories.
  • Watch films and consider their storytelling styles. What keeps your interest? What turns you off?
  • As with everything, if you are going to become good you need to practice. Practice telling stories; practice on your friends and family, use your voice and body language to bring the stories to life.
  • Volunteer at a local school or a reading stories project – or perhaps you have a Ministry of Stories near you? What a cool place!
  • Practice writing. Start a blog.
  • Get some storytelling training. It will be one of the best investments you and your organisation will ever make.
  • Enjoy your story-seeking adventure.

Have a go. Tell us how you get on.

This blog was first published on sofii  and I am running a session on storytelling at the Institute of Fundraising Scotland conference in October. Perhaps see you there.

Are you still useful?

This week I went to ‘Overturn’ the MA in Innovation Management Degree Show at Central Saint Martins. Who even knew you could do a MA in Innovation?

Innovation expert Max McKeown (taller than I expected) delighted the audience for over an hour with a great presentation and some rather interesting innovation discussion featuring;

  • If anyone wanted or expected future to be exactly the same as it is now
  • How washing machines have made women in America fat
  • Pondering over to what extent past experiences affect our behaviours

Pretty intense stuff for a school night, but the observation that really struck a chord with me was;

If you have been with your firm for less than 6 months then you are still useful.

You are still useful because new people have enthusiasm that something can change. New people bring diversity as they are external to established systems and can see where change could make improvements. New people ask questions. New people challenge ‘the way things are done around here’.  Six months were how long it took for a person to stop being new, to stop asking the challenging questions, to stop believing that something can change.

The next question was how long we thought it takes for a new person in an organisation to get listened to.

There was a range of answers. All over 6 months.

So there we go, organisations employ people for their skills and experience to get the job done as well as their potential to ask questions and drive change. For the first six months they tend to do that, question and challenge, as time goes by they challenge less until they are one of the team, conformed to the status quo. That is just when they start to get noticed and gain influence. But by that point it is too late.

Sound familiar? Or not? Love to know your views.

P.S. Central Saint Martins Kings Cross Campus in London opened last September.  It is an awesome building, part of the regeneration of the Kings Cross area. Find a reason to visit if you can.

Creativity, Innovation and Quality of Life

Innovation is a buzzword topic. You can even do a Masters Degree in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership at City University in London. It has its own acronym; it is fondly referred to as the MICL.

This is great because they have free public lectures. Last week I went to listen to Professor Patrick Jordan talk about Creativity, Innovation and Quality of Life.

Quality of life is defined as the wellbeing of individuals and societies. There is an increasing emphasis on the importance of quality of life and wellbeing. The Office for National Statistics is now attempting to measure national wellbeing in the UK.

Jordan suggests that there are nine major factors that need to be taken into consideration when measuring quality of life in his 2010 paper, ‘The Good Society Framework’.

The nine factors are explained below with examples highlighting how innovation and creative thinking are helping individuals and communities improve their quality of life.

1. Relationships; the quality of our social,family and interpersonal relationships is the single most important factor in measuring quality of life or wellbeing. Research has shown that there is a loneliness epidemic in older men.  Men communicate best when bought together round a task. Men in Sheds is an innovative project responding to this by establishing a task based shed network providing a community of support and social interaction for men.

2. Economy; this refers to people’s degree of economic spending power and the extent that jobs develop and reward individuals. In tough times, with public trust in large banking corporations at rock bottom, there has been an opportunity for the development of peer-to-peer economics. Zopa provides opportunities for people with savings to lend. The lenders earn interest and the borrowers receive better rates than banks can offer. Regulated by the FSA, Zopa has half a million members who have to date lent more than £190 million.

3. Environment and infrastructure; this is about how pleasant, effective and efficient our environments are. Transport for London invested in an initiative to ensure public transport in London was accessible to people with disabilities. Yet, despite the improved access, people with disabilities were not using London trains and buses. In particular wheelchair users didn’t use buses. Transport for London worked with Jordan to establish why. He discovered primary reason wasn’t the physical barrier; it was because of the uncomfortable interaction with the driver and the public. Bus drivers are measured on punctuality, the additional time to help a wheelchair user on and off the bus meant their bus would arrive back at the depot late. Because of this they often didn’t stop for wheelchairs – or were stressed and rushed when they did. Making using the bus a bad experience best avoided. Therefore changing the time measure for drivers, rather than the physical environment may improve the bus experience for wheelchair users.

4. Health; in particular access to good healthcare and food. Jordan spoke of a hospital project in Korea. They turned their radiography ward into an entertainment centre. Patients could upload photos and listen to their own music in an attempt to take some of the trauma of sitting in a stark and unwelcoming ward by making the experience as comfortable as possible.

5. Peace and Security; this refers to levels of crime and if people feel safe in their homes and public spaces and whether or not society is affected by war or terrorism. Jordan spoke of initiatives to develop more effective ways to identify terrorist suspects. Currently terrorist suspects are single people in a public place, looking nervous, with a backpack, meeting another single nervous person. Anyone who has ever been on an internet date is a hot terrorism suspect based on current techniques.

6. Culture and leisure; this is about identifying if there is a rich and rewarding
culture and opportunities to participate in leisure activities.  GoodGym is an organisation that connects people who want to get fit, with physical tasks that need to be done and benefit the community. So rather than mindlessly pound a treadmill you can run to an elderly neighbours garden that needs digging. Great concept.

7. Spirituality; the choice to practice which religion you choose, access to spiritual and philosophical teachings. An example is the Meditator app for smart phone has been developed to enable more people to relax and experience the benefits of meditation.

8. Education; this places the importance on enriching educational opportunities the enable people to function effectively in society. An example of a project enabling better educational opportunities is the US Knowledge is Power Programme (KIPP). Based on the premise that levels of achievement are often inhibited by low expectations, KIPP uses the slogan ‘work hard be nice’ to build the confidence and expectations of students from undeserved communities that they will go to, and do well at college.

9. Governance; so whether there is democracy, fairness and freedom of expression. Social media has given the masses a voice and the ability to spread campaigning messages. There are many examples of groups coming together to have a voice or take action; from the organization of the riots in London last summer to the uprising in Egypt last January.

Jordan’s final point was that using innovation and creativity to create a better quality of life was for all. Not for the few that can afford it – but for everybody.

How can we better engage our creative and innovative skills to improve our individual and community wellbeing? What do you think?

PS. You can find out more about MICL at a free open day conference in London on 11 June.

Why we have our best ideas in the shower

This evening I watched the live stream of a RSA talk by Jonah Lehrer about new research that is deepening our understanding of the human imagination.

Not actually being at the RSA in real life was a strange experience, I felt like I was intruding as people arrived and I watched by myself. In silence until the speakers took the stage. It was also a modern-day miracle given my recent service from Virgin Broadband.

The talk was based on Lehrers new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, which explores where creative thoughts originate.

CRAP

No I’m not being rude. CRAP is apparently an acronym for Compound Remote Associates Programmes.

CRAP is like the word puzzles you get in the Sunday paper. Unrelated words are presented and the problem is to find a fourth word that relates to them all, e.g. for the words; pine, crab and sauce  – the solution word is apple.

The study showed that the creative insight that comes before a solution, can be detected in the brain 8 seconds before it arrives. It’s identified by functional resonance imaging and electroencephalography.

In plain English this means that the bit of the brain behind your ear that scientists don’t know huge amount about shows a sharp spike in alpha wave activity. This alpha wave pattern closely resembles that of someone who is in a relaxed state.

Therefore the conclusion is that if you are in a relaxed state (and a good mood too apparently) you are far more likely to develop creative thoughts.

So this is good news. If we can relax more, and spend more time on the activities that relax us; going for a walk, having a bath, taking a break from our desk or having a few beers with friends (A different study showed that undergrads who were too drunk to drive had a 30% higher success rate in solving these sorts of problems… make of that what you will) it will help us be more creative.

The bad news is that for many people it is hard to relax and switch off from the stresses of daily life. Also relaxation alone wont cut it. According to Lehrer to master the elusive skill of creativity we also need grit, serendipity and real life face-to-face interactions.

And to find out more you can see the RSA film of the event here.

Perhaps that explains why so many of us have our best creative ideas in the shower?

Same challenges different time zone

Last week fundraisers from across Queensland gathered on the Australian Gold Coast for the Fundraising Institute Australia Dare to be Different conference.

Many people asked me what I thought the differences were between fundraising in the UK and Australia. I struggled to come up with many apart from the difference in population size (Australia approx 22 million and UK approx 61 million). My observations are that there are more similarities than differences….

  • People give to people. Fundraising is about building relationships and connecting donors to the cause and showing them the difference they can make in the world. As Kay Sprinkel Grace observed in the opening plenary, fundraisers across the world are brokers of dreams.
  • A tough economic environment poses challenges for fundraisers the world over. Fundraisers must find a balance between focusing on activities that will bring in the highest rewards as well as identifying future trends and developing creative solutions as Tony Elischer demonstrated in his sessions.
  • Recruiting new donors is hard and recruiting the right donors is harder.  Adrian Sargeant stressed that ‘it’s better to spend more bringing in people who are right then have better response rates from people who will never give again’, and helped us understand how to identify and attract the right donors.
  • Keeping new donors is even harder. In the UK 50% of new donors are lost in the first year. Then 30% are lost year on year. In the USA 75% never come back. Organisations must build trust and loyalty and develop long-term donor relationships.
  • As a sector we are very open to sharing and learning from each other. Christiana Stergiou and I took the audience through as many fundraising examples from www.sofii.org as we could in an hour and encouraged fundraisers to use this excellent free resource as well as  helping others by submitting their own exhibits.
  • At Dare to be Different it was refreshing to learn from what had not gone so well with an open and impressive session from Marcus Blease from Cerebral Palsy Alliance,  Trudi Mitchell from Cancer Council NSW and Paul Tavatgis from Cornucopia Fundraising. As a sector we could learn so very much more if we were more open about what did not go so well.
  • Storytelling is the new buzzword. Human beings are hardwired to learn through storytelling . Anthropologists contend that 70% of our learning is through narrative. So it’s no surprise that it’s a skill that fundraisers want to perfect.
  • We love jargon. The usual suspects kept cropping up and the top three terms were supporter journey, touchpoints and integrated campaigns as well as some new acronyms that I have never heard before.
  • The general public has a perception of how charities should operate. Many make decision to donate to a cause based on the % of their donation that will go to services and do not like to think that their donation is ‘wasted’ on administration or staff costs. Dan Pallotta made a case for transparency and the importance of investing in order to effectively fundraise and the importance of communicating the real cost of raising funds to donors, supporters and the public.
  • Fundraising is not always perceived well outside of the sector. Asking for bequests was picked up by the tabloid press, quick to paint a negative picture of the sensitive topic of how fundraisers ask people to consider leaving a gift in their will, which could make a lasting difference to the world.
  • The world is small. I met several of ex-colleagues from the UK and from the NSPCC as well as Twitter friends. I liked how the world got smaller.

So that’s the top line. But for me the most important thing I came away with was inspiration from meeting a collective of passionate people doing great work for a range of causes with a restless energy to do more. I’m proud to have the opportunity to work with you. And not forgetting, that in addition to your great work, you all know how to party.

The case against the case against innovation

I’m a big fan of Jeff Brooks and the Future Fundraising Now blog. I love that Jeff is a straight talker and is brutal in his views on crap fundraising – just check out the stupid non-profit ad series on sofii if you are not sure. He delivers wise words every time.

Apart from today with the case against innovation.

You know that innovation is my favourite topic so I couldn’t let this one go without comment.

Jeff talks about his experience of developing a purely recreational web project not intended to persuade or motivate any action. But If you don’t know what you are aiming for; what success looks like – how will you know when you achieve it?

Doing innovation for the sake of it or just because you can or because you are trying to be cool is an error. For starters it gives innovation a bad name, associated with wacky brainstorm sessions complete with green bean bags and warm up exercises to make the best of us cringe.

Innovation should be about delivery of a good idea that achieves a strategic business need or solves a business challenge, for example developing more effective processes, selling more ‘stuff’ or raising more money.

I agree that flouting convention and developing something new is hard. It’s much easier to just do what you have always done. It’s less hassle to just coast along. As fundraisers our job is not to just coast along. Our jobs are to change the world. And to change the world you have got to do something different.

Jeff says that there is a letter in direct mail fundraising because it works. Its convention. Good point. That doesn’t mean that convention is always right. You should be testing new things as well. New things that might even work better for some audiences.

If you want your fundraising to work you first have to get your basics right, be clear on your mission, develop your case for support, understand your donors and provide them with a compelling story that connects them emotionally with the cause, show then the difference their support can make, take care to thank them well and choose the channel best suited to their needs. Then from that place test and refine new approaches.

Fundraising innovation is about breaking down barriers to giving and making it more compelling and easier for people to give and that means trying out new ideas. The worst thing you can do is just stick to convention. Because that makes you like everyone else. To change the world you have got to do something different.

P.S. One of my favourite websites is le cool. It scrolls from left to right – Jeff perhaps you were just before your time….

I love infographics

I love infographics. I love infographics so much that I’ve written a blog about them.

An infographic is short for ‘information graphic’ and is a visual representation of information data or knowledge. They are the perfect tool for presenting complex information quickly and clearly.

How much information do you receive on your average day? For most of us it’s more that our brains can process. As we become increasingly connected through use of mobile and online technology our attention spans are becoming shorter as we try to process increasing amounts of information. As we flit from task pretending ‘multi-task’, the ability to filter information is becoming more and more important.

So the task for anyone getting their message to stand out amongst all the background noise is becoming harder than ever. I think infographics are a good way to grab attention and they tend to be shared widely via digital media. This blog by Mick Dee provides some good examples of how infographics work and some tips for developing your own.

So given what a great tool an infographic is for expressing complex issues in a compelling way and demonstrating impact, I am surprised that more charities are not using them. Infographics can showcase a charities expertise, demonstrate their view in a wider political and social environment or could be a way to thank donors or keep them up to date on progress. They provide visual clues on the cause and can bring a sense of fun where appropriate.

Howard Lake has been collating examples of fundraising infographics here. My favourites include;

Leeds University’s Alumni & Development Team have presented the results of their matched giving campaign in infographic form as a thank you to the donors who gave. It will appear on the back cover of the next donor newsletter. Brilliant.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have some interesting infographics, including an interactive one on it’s campaign to end malaria.

Charity water and eNonprofit Benchmarks Survey are both making good use of infographics to communicate their messages. Click on the links on the images to see in more detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So next time you have a message to get across to donors, supporters, volunteers, staff or the general public, bin the lengthy word document or email, and think if using an infographic will work harder in cutting through the background noise to enable you to get the results that you want.

Here’s to the crazy ones

I surprised myself last week how upset I was when I heard that Steve Jobs had died. It’s been hard to digest all that has been written about Steve in the last week. For me, the 1997 Apple advert The Crazy Ones’ just about sums it up. So I’m sharing it here.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I believe that Steve Jobs was a crazy one. And he changed the world. Thank you Steve.