Tag Archives: ARF

Latest Lessons from Erwin Ephron

Volume 4, Issue 15

This last Monday I was presented with the Erwin Ephron Demystification Award by the Advertising Research Foundation. Naturally, I was tipped off in advance, and had organized my thoughts about what I would say.

Bill Harvey receives The ARF's first Erwin Ephron Demystification Award - June 9, 2014
Bill Harvey, recipient of the first Erwin Ephron Demystification
Award, with Gayle Fuguitt, CEO and President of the ARF.

(On the subject of acceptance speeches my mind always goes back to Sally Fields’ Oscar acceptance speech in which she emoted “You… like me!”)

For those of you who did not know Erwin, who passed on some months ago, he was one of the thought leaders of the advertising industry, known best for his ability to express himself so that not only did everyone understand him, his arguments were inarguable. He was also a great friend and mentor of mine. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had so many great mentors. The Universe sure has treated me nice since I acknowledged its sentience.

For those of you who weren’t there on Monday, here’s approximately what I said, with some unintentional omissions and a couple of new thoughts as I write this:

Thanks ARF, everyone involved, for this award. Thanks Erwin for teaching me how to demystify a little bit. I’m working at it. No one can do it like you could, buddy.

Interestingly, the last conversation I had with Erwin sort of presaged that there would be an Erwin Ephron Demystification Award. I was in a hotel room in Manhattan and my cell rang. It was him. He said that he and I still had some unfinished work to do together with the ARF. He said that the keyword is simplicity, that we need to get back to the basics of brand building (sales and long-term brand equity), and resist the attractiveness of all the new things that distract us from getting the brand to be more successful by making wise creative and media decisions. He expressed concern about how much time we spend reading or talking about new technologies. He didn’t object to including new stuff in the conversation, he just didn’t want us to go goggle-eyed and indecisive and to spend all our time that way. He knew how much hard work it takes to make brands succeed better.

I’ve been applying his advice. I have people editing my ravings to help me demystify more (hopefully). There are large blocks of time in which I refuse to even glance at email and instead focus on the biggest priorities. I studied Erwin’s book, Media Planning – From Recency to Engagement, again for more clues. Of course, I love his first chapter, since he wrote it about me. How can you not love a friend who does that? But it was in his second chapter, on page 8, where I found that any brand can gain 5% to 10% more cost effectiveness by geotargeting. It’s still true. Five to ten percent is a lot considering that typical mature brand domestic growth is almost zero percent. Back to basics. With partners, I’m developing hyperlocal automation partly inspired by Erwin. Actually we are not claiming 5-10% but only a minimum of 2%. Not to revise the master, but he wrote that a while ago when mature brands were still growing domestically. Today the game is a lot harder. What is really needed goes beyond what media and creative people can do. What is really needed is new product development focused on healthy sustainable environmentally-friendly and animal-friendly products more than on advertising to fuel a new growth cycle.

Let me leave you with a tip as to how to be next to win the Erwin Ephron Demystification Award. Write something that de-confuses us, something simple yet profound. Take the mystery out of something we are grappling with. Or at least, help us organize our confusion.

Thanks again to all!

The ARF is a great organization that nurtures the actual and potential brilliant scientists in the industry. Marketing science is every much a science as behavioral economics, and the two are interlocking fields of psychology.

Wishing you all great joy at your work!


PS — In my Myers blog (link below takes you to the most recent post in that series) I will soon publish a supplement to this post focusing on the technical comments I made, which are of interest to marketers and possibly of less interest to most people.

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com.

My new book, You Are The Universe: Imagine That is now available.

Can Creativity Be Induced?

Volume 3, Issue 38

Waves booming, the expletives of gulls as they glide like white boomerangs buzzing us, scouting for handouts. I’m sitting with Lalita at breakfast on the terrace at the Malibu Beach Inn, reading The New York Times and I come across a book review reprinted from the Financial Times of London of the new book The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas by David Burkus.

According to Burkus, taking the review at face value, Plato and the other dons of antiquity were deluded and superstitious in believing that creativity was conferred only on certain humans and that moments of inspiration were given to them by the gods; that even today the popular notion that an “Aha!” moment exists is foolishness, and that creativity really comes down to hard work by large numbers of people working together to generate “creative ideas”. To which my first thought is “Why does it have to be one way and not the other, why can’t there be some truth in all of these ideas?”

The author reportedly goes on to point out that the efforts by organizations to instill increased creativity often backfire, instead causing people to conform so as to belong to a new groupthink where they hold back ideas that they fear would rile the comfort of the tribe and thus cause themselves to become treated like outsiders. This part also has the ring of some truth in it, as I’ve been in such situations, though found myself and a few others quite willing to bear the risk of contrarian creativity.

The book deserves to be read before coming to any conclusions about it, and it surely provokes useful thought if even its review does so. Yet all books that take seeming black and white positions from the title forward would in my estimation have low likelihood of portraying the complexity of the real world as it exists. I will apologize in this space if after reading it I must eat those words, for the review is not the book, the map is not the territory, as S.I. Hayakawa liked to say.

In my practice both at Bill Harvey Consulting and at The Human Effectiveness Institute I’ve often been asked to lead workshops aimed at increasing individual and group creativity and performance. My book Mind Magic is specifically tasked at doing that, and one edition of the book was even experimentally titled Freeing Creative Effectiveness. So as you can see I have a dog in this race, and a potential axe to grind.   😀

Can I prove that I’ve ever induced creativity by a book or workshop or any other means? Alas, no scientific proof yet (we’ll do A/B testing at some point), although anecdotal circumstantial evidence abounds in thousands of letters from readers, including this review from Dan Goleman:

“Highly recommended… will loosen your moorings and open you to creative vistas.” — Dr. Daniel Goleman

Science of course considers individual reports subject to placebo effect and various other biases including the desire to be nice.

In group work, there have been similarly non-definitive measurements. When Richard Zackon and I did an ARF creativity workshop last year it got good scores from the participants and many nice emails. Several people even followed up with telephone consultations. And beyond kind words there has been evidence that one day’s worth of a creativity-inducing workshop has had major positive effect on the directions that leaders of major companies took soon afterward.

I was amazed at the creativity I found in high-ranking officers of two different military branches during workshops I led. In one war game I created, a female officer in charge of a powerful group of units took the bait of my scenario to find a solution even more creative than the one I was going to reveal at the end had nobody thought of it.

The placebo effect and its counterpart in groups, the Hawthorne Effect, suggest that false effects can be caused simply by paying special attention to people. And yet why call these effects “false”? If one can remove pain with salt water and the powers of the subconscious why not use it? If one can cause creative behavior with hand waving, why not take all you can get?

Coming back to the Myth of Creativity book, one of its conclusions ascribed by the review is that creativity is best fostered in organizations where it is challenged. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and compressing a spring or irritating an oyster analogies do apply to inducing creativity. I used to tell my team at a certain large agency that the repressive conduct of my boss at the time was an opportunity to be “creative within constraints”.

At the aforementioned ARF creativity workshop, we had the participants anonymously hand in ratings of their own organization on a ten-point scale of creativity repressiveness and siloed confusion. The range of scores we received covered practically the entire range from zero to ten. Take a look at your own organization and see what score you would give it.  🙂

Other than distributing our book and video to your team or doing our workshop, or doing similarly with other interveners from outside the organization, what else can you do? Guard against simulated creativity-inducing exercises, which can backfire. Give people autonomy within the bounds you feel each is equipped to handle and then give a bit more. Give people permission to try new things even if they might fail. When someone screws up, be kind yet honest. Don’t just simulate that, be authentic. Check the effect on target to be sure you’re not kidding yourself to make yourself feel good when you might have actually crushed them.

One way I found it easy to get bollixed organizations to be more creative is to interview the employees and get their creative ideas and then feed those ideas to the top person who can then take credit. That person was always the bottleneck and would only act on creative ideas if he/she could take credit for them. Before the intervention, good ideas had come up in meetings and been shot down, and months had passed until the top person was able to forget that the idea had been mentioned before, then putting it in new garb and “inventing” it as his/her idea. Thus the organization lurched forward, driven by organizational creativity with a delay cycle equal to how long it took the top person’s ego to forget and reinvent.

The notion that the “Aha!” moment is a fiction strikes me as funny. I have had this experience all my life, of ideas putting themselves together in a flash. Carl Jung and William James and many others define the intuition as the mind’s way of suddenly making logical connections among bits of information lying around. Saying that this process does not exist is amusing. Daniel Goleman’s description of the way the brain works at these moments would seem to add further veracity to the existence of “Aha!” moments in fact.

As to Plato’s being superstitious in considering that inspiration can come from levels above human consciousness, please see my new book when it comes out, You Are The Universe: Imagine That, which postulates that all observed phenomena including the paranormal and religious can be accounted for by my Theory of the Conscious Universe, in which we are all one Self living through many avatars, one biocomputer server networked to many clients. In that picture of reality, Plato could easily have been right.

Best to all,


Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com. 

Not Doing Can Be an Exquisite State of Being

Volume 3, Issue 18

In the prior post we offered an exercise and a discussion about the merits of balancing “doing” with “not doing” in one’s life. The object as always is greater effectiveness in one’s life, achieving emotional and higher goals on all fronts including love, creativity, and ultimately spiritual fullness. Our definition of “spiritual” is the intuitive knowing and feeling of relationship with all beings and all things. All of this is yours to enjoy in life. Hence the Jewish toast “to life” (l’chaim).

However, if one is always pushing toward targets, there are times at which one is inadvertently setting oneself back in regard to those targets. Thus the I Ching states: “Keeping still. Keeping his back still so that he no longer feels his body.” The authoritative Wilhelm/Baynes edition comments: “True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward.”

Speaking about cultivating the “Aha! Moment”, an aspect of Flow state, Steve Kotler at the ARF described a stage in the creative process in which one is wise to turn away from the challenge and do other things, for it is during this turned-away phase that the Aha! moment comes.

Certain batteries get recharged when one takes oneself temporarily off the wheel that is always driving us. This also happens during entertainment such as we get from screen devices, books, stage and other performances, spectator sports, vacations, making love, being with family and/or friends. But the subtlest batteries only get recharged when we are alone with ourselves. This can take the form of formal sitting meditation but it doesn’t have to. We can be alone in nature, alone at home, alone on an airplane, anywhere. As long as we are not working down the TO DO List, there is a greater chance that we will slip into the Observer state (the precursor to Flow state) effortlessly. To help bring this on, here are two tips:

  • Look more closely at the place from which thoughts/feelings arise.
  • Don’t add to what you observe inwardly/outwardly, i.e. stop interpretations.

These mindsets are helpful in cultivating the subtle capabilities of consciousness, the intuition as Science calls it.

The movement associated with creative energy is good. Stillness in body and mind is also valuable. Balance is optimal for maximizing effectiveness toward all goals. Here is a relevant excerpt from Mind Magic.  

Best to all,


PS — Our measure of effectiveness is results, outcomes, measurable things. Thousands of Mind Magic readers wrote unsolicited postcards, letters and emails reporting improved performance across twenty or more scales including happiness, self-confidence, creative output quality, and so on. Corporations wrote similar letters reporting improved decision making, reduced bias in perceptions, better teamwork. Military commanders mentioned mental flexibility, adaptability, fortitude. (Full battery of measures we are using currently in testing, available on request.)

Follow my regular blog contribution at Jack Myers Media Network: In Terms of ROI. It is in the free section of the website at  Bill Harvey at MediaBizBloggers.com.

Flow State — How Can I Know It Will Work for Me?

Volume 3, Issue 8

In the last episode about the recent ARF Re:THINK 2013 conference, I left off at the point where Bob Barocci was about to relate a conversation with Steven Kotler, a thinker and writer on Flow state (in other words, another “me” 😀 who was twice on the conference docket as luncheon speaker.

Bob’s question to Steven was framed by him first saying in effect that Flow was for athletes and Bob didn’t think it was for him. The question then was how could you test this and tell for sure if it makes a real difference in performance?

Steven said that the 4-stage Aha! Process could be disrupted, and the results measured. In other words, performance would be lowered, proving that Flow state can be blocked, and thus logically “proving” that it can also be fostered by not interfering with the natural process as companies might unknowingly be doing by current business practices e.g. people popping into one’s office. Bob appeared unswayed, so I sent him a copy of my book Mind Magic suggesting that he could tell if it worked using this questionnaire on himself after reading the book. So far no word back from Bob as to effects.

Having thought about the question of testing and validation of Flow for most of my life, starting long before I knew the word Flow in this context, I have some ideas as to how to actually do it. In one instance I presented to a client, a group of senior U.S. military officers in a strategic unit, the idea of two combat units currently performing at equal levels. A Flow induction intervention is applied to one but not the other.

Flow induction interventions that have been considered in the past across the planet (not all necessarily effective) can be specific forms of mental focus i.e. meditation concentration contemplation, books, blog posts, videos, podcasts, tweets, persuasive speakers, chemicals (the military has tested some of these for example), several other people acting but you think it’s a real situation you’re in, being put into a life- threatening simulation but you think it’s real, psychotronics, etc.    

Within a company, two teams performing equally well and doing similar jobs, perhaps in different geographies but similar work cultures, matched in as many other ways as possible, would be the way to test the efficacy of any purported Flow intervention.

Companies and every other working grouping of people owe it to themselves to test Flow induction by any means they are attracted to. In the next post, some “genes” of Flow that the Human Effectiveness Institute has discovered, and the nature of the Flow inductions we recommend and offer.

Best to all,


The Flow Genome Project

Volume 3, Issue 7

At ARF’s Re:THINK 2013, Steven Kotler was the luncheon speaker on two days, the second time accompanied by his colleagues Jamie Wheal and Dave Stanton in the Flow Genome Project, which is aimed at helping us become a race of “supermen” through a scientific understanding of what Flow is and how to cultivate it — exactly the purpose of the Human Effectiveness Institute, and increasingly the interest of Daniel Goleman. Naturally I spoke with Steven and offered that the Institute would pitch in in any way.

He came to Flow through a near-death experience and I through stage performances beginning at age 4. He presented an excellent depiction of Flow with breathtaking pictures of mountain climbers, surfers and other types of Flow state performers well documented and obvious in their beingness in Flow. Surely people can realize that this is another state of consciousness, and will become interested through the efforts of many of us in attaining this state, now that they know we can all do it.

But do they believe it? Neither Steven nor I have proven yet that “ordinary people” can become superbeings. Nobody has. Elite military trainers will contend that they do this in a narrow but useful field, and this leads to the larger obvious point that Flow exhibits differently in different people. We all observe it most commonly in sports, which could explain a large part of why sports is such a dominant interest. We see it in great violinists and every other type of musician including those using natural instruments.

Creatives of all kinds including artists and scientists and improvisational performers experience Flow internally and it is only “seen” to a degree by others around them, who may largely misunderstand, distort and resist the content of the Aha! Vision if it is shared prematurely.

The average person when in Flow is unaware of it. It occurs during sex, and in loving communication among human beings all the time. This is the real proof that we can all get into Flow. As we let go into engaging with a loved one without any inner blocks, turned on and driven and focused by love we shift into a state of menschness and rise above every ignoble impulse. We do it out of love. This is ethical Flow, ethics being the instrument we are playing. It is one we can all play.

The Aha! Moment is in fact the one “gene” (component, method) that Steven and his colleagues shared. The Flow Genome Project leaders correctly state that the creative process leading up to and including the Aha! Moment — which is the natural creative process as manifested in humans — involves four stages:

Stage 1: Absorb the firehose of information about the challenge

Stage 2: Go away and have fun, forget all about the garbled mountain of info now doing things to itself in your subconscious

Stage 3: The Aha! Moment

Stage 4: Organize and communicate, carry through to real-world implementation validation success of the Aha! Vision

Outgoing ARF CEO Bob Barocci opened the third day’s session by reporting a conversation he had with Steven. I’ll relate that in the next post. Before I go however I want to say that Bob has done more for the ARF than anyone else. His predecessors were all giants in that field of applied communications psychology we call marketing, advertising and media research. Bob is a Renaissance Man.

His predecessor Jim Spaeth had opened up the ARF to whole new ways of thinking and Bob took that to a beautiful extreme inspiring a coalescence of researchers from across traditional, digital, and social, putting the ARF on a firm financial footing for perhaps the first time in its long history. Bob’s successor, the former Chief Research Officer at General Mills, Gayle Fuguitt inherits a solid base and forward momentum to guide in the directions she feels are best for the industry/scientific sub-community, and for society.

With Flow and authentic social motives on the agenda, the ARF can lead more than the research industry in the years ahead. There’s an Aha! Vision for you.

Best to all,


Flow Goes Mainstream

Volume 3, Issue 6

March 18-20, 2013 — the Advertising Research Foundation Re:THINK 2013 program sports a lunchtime speaker, Steven Kotler, two days in a row on the subject of Flow state (the Zone) and how to instill it in business. Bravo! (See Review next issue.)

I’d like to think that my blogs on Flow, and the (somewhat) Flow-inducing ARF University Masters Level Playshop with Richard Zackon, helped create a conducive atmosphere for ARF to put Flow state high on their new program. Hopefully it will stay there over time as Flow state means better decisions, more creativity, more effectiveness, and significantly, it means authenticity, not the Mask of the Advertiser, as Nick Pisacane calls it. Advertising itself as well as its research will benefit more from Flow state than by any technology.

Authenticity is the key attribute most necessary in the new social era of media advertising and persuasive communications. In Flow state, one has no egoistic tugs on the essence of the idea emanating. One is not self-protective (except in martial arts settings). Authentic feelings are expressed and this is what the public thirsts for — both to receive authentic messaging and to evoke it from inside by immersion in a world of role models acting genuinely. This is the promise of the future society powered by Flow state.

President Obama is initiating a federal research program into the brain and consciousness. Flow state for the military and government is one motivating driver. I began to pepper US presidents with this idea 40 years ago and have run workshops for top US military officers to teach the inner “tricks” of Flow.

Our work at the Human Effectiveness Institute is focused on the experiential handles. What goes on within the subjective frame that can be guided? Richard Davidson and Daniel Goleman, my old friends and partners, lead the world in both understanding the psychology of consciousness at the brain level, and in disseminating the information so that everyone can benefit. I see our workstreams as complementary. Theirs is objective and mine subjective, the way consciousness is experienced from the inside and what controls we have over it, which are largely subtle.

Dan in his great book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights (reviewed here recently) uses the term “Self-Management” to describe one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence, a quotient conducive to Flow. We would probably use the word “guidance” in place of “management” in that managing is not as encompassing as guiding. Freud in Civilization and its Discontents calls the ego or secondary principle the “manager”, arising from the id or primary principle, which is who we are at first. In Freud’s view both the id and ego persist together as aspects of the self, joined by the impounded incoming other-directedness of the superego or conscience.

Zen is the art and science of making the ego and superego transparent (though still present) so the self is expressing the id in a way that is in Flow with the Tao or universal consciousness. Zen’s contempt for words and concepts neuter the ego, which depends on the intellect, concepts and words for its management style. In Mind Magic, the section on Mindquiet provides a simplified step-by-step approach to removing the over-emphasis on words.

In his Maximize your “Aha!” Moment blog post recently (see also my post Set Yourself up to Cultivate “Aha!” Moments from Sept 27, 2012) Dan points out that there is a burst of gamma activity (signaling “far-flung brain cells connecting in a new neural network”) in the neocortical right temporal lobe 300 milliseconds before an “Aha!” moment. He also describes that part of the brain as being the part that gets jokes: “It understands the language of the unconscious… the language of poems, of art, of myth. It’s the logic of dreams where anything goes and the impossible is possible.”

That’s a good description of the inner-mind language used throughout Mind Magic, which is designed to be a stimulus to bring the reader into the Observer state as an ideal Launchpad for Flow. We hypothesize that the subjective self is more centered in the right temporal lobe than the left during Observer state, as sensed by the natural ease with which one thinks wordlessly — whereas the left temporal is the “Worder” as I call it. Both right and left temporal areas have active insight collection capabilities, the left seeing differences analytically through abstraction and symbols (e.g. words), and the right seeing connections holistically in feeling/images.

Main takeaway: we need tools we can use to get into Flow and these must speak in layperson terms. Dissecting the physical brain processes underlying Flow is needed too, but in itself does not replace tools that the layperson can apply to get into Flow — which is the purpose of our work. More on Flow Goes Mainstream in the next post.

Best to all,