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,