The Hypothetical Pub Quiz is tonight!

Honestly, I could just leave this link here but I believe in “adding value” so once you’ve been and signed up to play you can come back and read this.

No Wrong Answers – the quiz for people who don’t know what they don’t know

Wednesday, Sep 30, 2015, 6:00 PM

The Horse and Groom
28 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3NZ London, GB

12 Players Went

Hi, hello and howdy,The next No Wrong Answers will take place on the 30th of September which is a Wednesday. I’m sorting out a venue at the moment and I’ll update as soon as I have confirmation.Please tell you friends!Any questions, call me.Cheers,  Aran

Check out this Meetup →

Joy.

Joy, joy, joy. And specifically, geek joy. That’s what the Hypothetical Quiz is really all about. I realised this when I replied to a friend on the Facebook who was posting about her new iPhone. I am an Apple geek and I make no bones about it. A lot of people get angry at Apple geeks. They also get snobby about geeks in general. Those people are missing out.

Geekdom is about joy. My Facebook friend and I were enjoying a moment of geekjoy. An excessive, perhaps unreasonable, positive reaction to something. When I think about The Hypothetical Pub Quiz I realise that I get a great deal of geekjoy from that too.

I geek out about the games that we play. I geek out about the people and seeing them get all creative and childlike in their behaviours. But most of all I geek out about the ideas.

It’s rare to hear new ideas. Life doesn’t often give that to us. Being wrong comes at too high a cost so many remain conservative in their thinking. They stick close to the tried and true. We both overestimate the threat of the new and underestimate our ability to be creative. We play small.

The HPQ is all about overturning this reality. At the HPQ you play big. The only way to lose is to play safe. The only risk is not taking risks. Failure isn’t a concept that we recognise or have time for because the only way to fail is to not try.

So if you could do with some of this liberation. If you want to enjoy the geekjoy of creativity in the purest form, come to the quiz and geek out with me. You might even end up in my podcast!

How to Want Things: self coaching

Wanting things seems like something we’re all pretty good at. It’s a thing we do constantly from the moment we get up to the moment we fall asleep.

I begin my day by wanting a cup of coffee and a quick trip to the bathroom. This, I believe, is fairly standard. Well, in actual fact, the first thing I usually want is to roll over and go to sleep again but I’ll come back to that. Then I go on to want breakfast, want a shower, want to find a seat on the train, want that idiot next to me to stop playing his music so loud, want a nice, quiet place to get some work done, want my apps to open faster, want to find time for lunch, want to stop feeling hungry having not found time for lunch… you get the idea.

So wanting is a pretty consistently present activity in my life and I don’t think I’m alone. But my thesis here is that despite it being something we do all the time wanting things is something we’re generally very bad at.

You’ll notice in my above list of wants that these are largely passing things – low order things. I want things to meet immediate needs. This is something we are, if anything, too adept at. I say this because what we want immediately and what we want overall often conflict with one another.

I mentioned wanting to go back to sleep in the morning. This want conflicts directly with my desire to have my coffee for one thing but more importantly it conflicts with the things I want in the longer term. I want to achieve things in my career, for instance, that would be inhibited by sleeping all day.

But what exactly do I want to achieve in my career? You know, I would find it very tricky to rattle off a clear and concise list of my career desires compared to my daily routine desires for coffee, quiet and comfy chairs. And this is what I mean by us being, by and large, not very good at wanting things.

I’ve found that many people struggle to articulate what they want in life. I think this is because we don’t spend enough time thinking about it and, perhaps more worryingly, we are afraid to ask for it. We have a voice in our heads that tells us that we don’t deserve to have what we want or that wanting things is in some way selfish or wrong. We have been conditioned this way. This conditioning is a major handicap.

Being able to clearly articulate what you want, to yourself and to others, is what separates those who get what they want from those who don’t. So it’s something I think we should all work on. And there’s no real trick to it, just practice and routine.

Every morning I ask myself two questions:

  1. What do I want in the future?
  2. What do I want to do about it today?

As the day passes and I find myself wanting other things like to watch a TV show instead of reading that paper I have on my desk or to drink a glass of wine with a pizza instead of that water and roast chicken salad, I simply revisit those two questions; but in slightly different forms:

  1. Will this get me closer to what I want in the future?
  2. On that basis, do I still want to do this today?

I may well decide that future Aran can take a running jump – I need a hot chocolate and a nap. That’s not necessarily the wrong choice. The important thing isn’t to live your entire life for tomorrow, far from it. The important thing is to be aware of what it is you want in life and understand how your long term wants might conflict with your short term ones and then to make a decision with that awareness as an ally.

Being good at wanting things doesn’t mean wanting more or less than anyone else. It means being aware of what we want and practicing that awareness in how we live our lives.

Creativity Loves Errors

I’m going to postulate something right now. I’m going to make an assertion that is entirely unverifiable and without support but I’m going to make it anyway. Autocorrect errors on mobile phones are potentially the greatest source of creative inspiration in the modern world.

Creativity loves errors. If looked at in the right way, a mistake, an error, an unexpected outcome, is a great opportunity for creativity. In fact, being right about something is boring from a creative standpoint. You can’t do much with an answer that confirms what you expected. But an answer you weren’t expecting? Ooh, baby!

I bring this up now because of an amusing autocorrect error in a message sent to me by a friend and creative luminary who I shall not name because I like being mysterious.

In reply to my email inviting him to The Hypothetical Pub Quiz taking place on the 30th of September he said something to the effect:

Damn! I’m out of the country. If not I would be there like a flask (of the Jumping Jack variety).

It took only a moment to realise that “flask” should have read “flash” so I teased him that he would have to explain to me what a Jumping Jack Flask was.

A moment later I had the image of a spring loaded Jack Daniels branded hip flask that literally jumps out of its holster when you want a swig of sour mash. Bonkers? Sure. But you tell me it wouldn’t make for a great novelty item?

This little creative moment came because I didn’t just correct the error in my head. I played with it and came up with something fun. It also came about because my correspondent was having fun; using complex imagery rather than boring literalism. Do that often enough and you’ll come up with something that’s not just fun. It’s of moments like these that the future is made.

Ask yourself, are you playful enough? Do you use metaphor and plays or words? Do you allow the time needed to find the fun, the joy and the potential creativity in errors, no matter how trivial? Most people don’t and that’s why most people fail to be creative. It’s not a case of what they can and can’t do. It’s a question of what they allow themselves to do.

It is now the weekend. Your homework this weekend? Be 10% more playful than usual.

I Joined Patreon

I want No Wrong Answers to be all about the creativity and while it is tangentially connected to my day job, Sabre Tooth Panda, I’m not so well established yet that I can put a lot of money into No Wrong Answers without it becoming a big, heavy drain on my resources.

Patreon is a platform where you can support people who create things you like. Under the No Wrong Answers umbrella I create a blog, a pub quiz and a podcast, all of which aim to make the world a more creative place. I think that’s something that people might want to support so now, if they do, I am giving them that option.

I have no major expectation. I’m not expecting to be inundated with patrons overnight. But I do hope that, in time, I will bring in enough money through Patreon to make No Wrong Answers a more professional, more polished product. There’s a lot of ways I can make the world more creative under the No Wrong Answers banner. With the help of my patrons I can do so much more.

If you want to sign up to support No Wrong Answers; the quiz, the podcast and the blog, then go here:

https://www.patreon.com/prometheusinaberet?ty=h

Tell your friends. Tell strangers. Tell that guy standing behind you!

… did I make you look?

Creative Constraints – power to the people!

I love my Apple stuff and it’s always nice when I can find a way to shoehorn Apple news into my creativity focused posts. Today is one of those days. For your information I also enjoy gratuitously referencing Douglas Adams, The Beatles and Nintendo.

Today I get to talk about a new creative challenge for online content creators. Well, not exactly new, but a challenge which has been thrown into stark relief by the technology in Apple’s latest OS release.

Yesterday iOS 9 came out which is big news for Apple geeks like me but, in addition, it’s also big news for content creators on the web. iOS 9 allows what Apple calls Content Blockers to be run in Safari; in reality this means ad-tech blockers which disable things like pop up/over ads, tracking software, etc.

I’ve tried a couple out and they make a huge difference to the web on mobile. It’s faster, cleaner, better than before. My favourite one right now is Peace by Marco Arment which is extraordinarily good at speeding up loading times for some of my favourite pages.

But here is the rub; advertising and tracking is how a lot of content creators make their money on the internet. With the advent of ad-blockers on iOS an increasing number of the most sought after customers are going to be blocking ads and reducing the viability of this mode of monetisation.

You could make a fuss about the ethics of this but in the end this is one technological genie that is now out of the bottle and there’s little point trying to stuff it back in. Mobile web users are now empowered to block content they don’t like and this means that content creators need to think about their relationship with those users.

Empowered users are a creative constraint that every industry is either getting used to or should get used to pretty quickly. It’s not just that an empowered user can choose a different service, they can choose how they engage with your service too. You can’t expect them all to access you the same way, to follow the same customer journey, to agree to an all or nothing service designed around what’s good for you, the vendor, rather than what’s good for the customer.

Online adverts have become increasingly aggressive and deleterious to the user experience. Online content creators are now reaping the whirlwind of that particular path. They focused on what was delivering short term revenue, for whatever reason, and placed the customer second in their thinking.

As your user become more empowered you don’t have the option to do that. But the great thing about this little equation is that it takes only a simple reframing to change an empowered user from a problem to solve to a source of value.

Empowered users create loads of data. Right now the newly empowered mobile web users are telling content creators who they are, what they don’t like and what they are doing about it. They are aware, perhaps for the first time, of what has been pissing them off when they visit a slow loading website. Now is the time for content creators to start listening.

From this dialogue and the insights generated there will emerge the potential for a new way to monetise the web. I can’t tell you what it will be but the clues are already to be found in some of the more forward thinking parts of the internet.

Patreon, a platform for supporting content creators is already a growing source of revenue for many people who get paid by their fans when they create something. The old and nasty “paywall” is being replaced by memberships with exclusive content and special perks for the most avid users; an opportunity to get closer to your best users. Sponsorship by brands that your users will really love, partnerships that create content that the brand and the content creator will be proud of, are far more valuable than little pop up ads and they actually help to enrich the experience rather than detracting from it.

Empowered users are a fact of life and no business or content creator should see this as anything less than a huge opportunity to create new forms of value. Creativity is a team sport but there’s no reason why that team has to be entirely on the payroll.

Don’t fall in love

Today I’m doing some idea generation work; divergence as we in the biz like to call it. I actually began this work yesterday but I didn’t get very far. Why? I forgot one of the most important rules of creativity: don’t fall in love.

Creativity requires a certain… love the one you’re wth attitude. You can’t get attached to an idea because one of three things will happen.

  1. You’ll end up sticking to that idea so rigidly you fail to see something better
  2. You’ll realise that as the idea grows you can’t control it, can’t keep it pure, and you’ll find this heartbreaking
  3. Or… well, read the next bit to find out

The following is a piece I wrote many moons ago. Today I think it stands as a reminder that I may know the rules but I don’t always remember to follow them.

For a while it was perfect. For just a little while it was just so perfect. It was the summer. The evenings were long and warm and I was in love. I knew I‘d found something very special. Something I would want to tell my grandchildren about.

But it wasn’t to be. What had begun with a rush of adventure and discovery, what looked so promising, ended, not with a bang, but with a slowly dawning realisation that, due to a change in senior personnel, the project had lost its major sponsor and would never get off the ground.

Yes, gentle reader, this was the one that got away. And not a day goes by when I don’t think about it.

I try not to regret. I try to think of how great it was while it lasted. But like all heartbreaks there will always be a little bitterness to accent the sweet. Even as I move on to new things, exciting things, I will always wonder what might have been.

I won’t use names, but what I can say is that it was a project I was working on where the client was a major, prestige retailer. We had been asked to bring to life for them the future of retailing, to create something that would point the way to the customer experience of tomorrow. What we came up with was, and I won’t let my deep personal love for this idea be any kind of a factor here, utterly beautiful.

We proposed a live, interactive retail laboratory. We would gather together the smartest people in retail tech and have them take part in a collaborative hack-a-thon to co-create a range of unique ideas which we would then go ahead and test, live in a major retail location. We wouldn’t just propose the future of retail; we’d bloody well prove it too! Real people, real money, real goods, a real store and real feedback about how customers wanted to engage with their retail experience.

I told you it was beautiful.

Here is the truth of it; the creative process is a lot like falling in love, with all the attendant emotional turmoil, irrational fear and, of course, heartbreak, that goes along with it. It begins with a dawning realisation that you have in your hands something really great, butterflies start dancing in your stomach. Maybe you try to ignore it, you’ve been hurt before, but it keeps tugging at you. The obsession grows. You think about it all the time. You daydream about it. You tell people about it until they actually leave the room to stop you blathering on!

And then there’s jealousy. You guard your idea, like the precious thing that it is. Finally you know you have to open up, let the idea grow and take the risk that it might change, that it might not stay the way you dreamed it would be. Your perfect vision, your dream, might have a life of its own.

Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but in the end it’s always something different from that which you imagined. Such is the beauty of both love and creativity – you can’t control either. You can’t own the creative process; in order for it to flourish it has to be free.

So be kind to people doing creative work and forgive them when they get angry, when they natter on or when they seem crestfallen for reasons that you can’t fathom. There’s a reason they’re acting so crazy; you remember what it’s like to be in love, right?

Idea generation works best if you can avoid attachment. This is damn hard. But it helps if you try to nurture a sense of trust in yourself. No matter how great one idea is you have to believe that you have an even better one in you. You almost always do.

Today is my birthday 

So that means I get to write about whatever I want. Like, well, like I do every day. Except today I get cards too. 

You may notice that No Wrong Answers now has a mascot/logo up at the top of the page. That is what I call Promethues in a Beret. Which is literally what it is. But more than that it’s the start of a distinctive visual identity for No Wrong Answers which should set it apart from Sabre Tooth Panda – the b2b side of my business. 

When STP first got started I had a concept for how it might look which borrowed heavily from the punk scene, pop art, fanzines and other art styles and designs that spoke of reclaiming and levelling creativity. I wanted to use collage, to scribble and paint over things, and use found objects. But, in the end, this felt a little too busy, too difficult to apply in a business context. How would that work when I was asked to place my logo next to someone else’s on a T-shirt? How would it work in a report or invoice?  That’s why we ended up going for the clean, geometric look of the Sabre Tooth Panda logo, the simple black, white and red. 

But I didn’t forget that initial concept and now that No Wrong Answers is a more complete brand I can revisit it here. My Prometheus in a Beret image is both a found object and something I’ve virtually inked over. It looks a little Andy Warhol to me. As I develop No Wrong Answers I’ll add to this visual identity but even more than that I’ll be able to open up the visuals to others in a collaborative way. When I run a quiz I will ask people to doodle so I can make a collage of doodles. When I do a podcast I’ll take quotes and asides and turn them into decoration for the site. 

Where Sabre Tooth Panda requires consistency and cleanness to enable me to communicate with businesses, No Wrong Answers needs something more anarchic, something messier. My new logo is the start of that concept. 

Finally, a reminder to anyone who doesn’t yet know – the next Hypothetical Pub Quiz takes place on the 30th of this month starting at 6pm at the Horse and Groom in Shoreditch. Go to http://www.meetup.com/The-Hypothetical-Pub-Quiz-from-No-Wrong-Answers/ and join the Meetup to get all the up to date details. 

The Want-To-Do List

I recently decided to remove the word “should” from my vocabulary. Should is a word that, in most cases, is used to describe a sense of reluctant obligation.

“I should stop eating so much chocolate”

“I should go to work now”

“I should make more time for my family”

See how disempowering those statements are? If we substitute the word “want” see how things change.

“I want to stop eating so much chocolate”

“I want to go to work now”

“I want to make more more time for my family”

Suddenly these same phrases become strong statements of intent. We go from seeing these actions as things we are obliged to do, to things we desire.

We also begin to ask ourselves the next question – do we really want these things?

When people say “should” they often don’t want the thing they are shoulding about. If we say we “should go to work” then maybe we don’t want to go to work at all. But we don’t address that question of what we want because we remove our own agency from the question. We make it about what is expected of us, not what we desire.

Should, therefore, removes our agency and power, masks our true desires and prevents us from addressing what really motivates us.

If this seems like an odd thing to talk about on a creativity focused blog then perhaps some explanation is necessary.

Creativity is strongly linked with autotelic activity. We express creativity best when our motivation is intrinsic, when the activity itself is what we are driven to do. When we remove that independence of thought and action, when we place the motivation in the power of an external factor, then we are less creative. It follows, therefore, that we can bring out greater creativity by making the focus of our daily lives autotelic.

Hence the “Want-to-do” list.

Many of us use a to-do list to get our tasks done. I’m proposing a subtle change. Instead of a list things we have to do we make a list of things we want to do. We focus our energy on our desires.

When we do this I expect there will be two different outcomes.

On the one hand we will feel a greater sense of agency and urgency. A list of chores is something hanging over us waiting for our attention. A list of things we want to do is a set of opportunities to make our life into what we want it to be.

On the other hand we will find that a lot of what we feel we have to do is not what we want to do, or at least seems that way.

Try this out – take your to-do list and reword it as a want-do-to list. Try expressing each task as a desire.

For instance, imagine you have the laundry to do; try saying “I want to do the laundry today”.

How does that sound to you, when you say it? Do you feel like you mean it? Do you really want to do the laundry? Probably, at least initially, it’ll taste like a lie. But ask yourself; do you want clean clothes? Do you want to look good when you step outside? Do you want to feel good sleeping in freshly washed sheets? If you can say yes to those questions then surely you also want to do the laundry! Doing this chore now becomes a pathway to your end-result desires.

On the other hand you may have a task on your to-do list that you can’t find a way to wanting to do! Now here we have a great opportunity to consider why you don’t want to do this.

Broadly speaking I find that when I don’t want to do something it’s because of one or more of the following:

  • I feel incompetent
  • The task is not challenging
  • I don’t understand why I am doing it
  • There’s something else attached to the task that is worrying me and I’m trying not to think about that!

If you have something on you to-do list that you really don’t want to do then you must address why. If you feel incompetent, maybe ask for help. If you find the task too simple, how could you alter it to be more engaging? If you don’t know why you’re doing it then maybe it doesn’t need to be done at all? If there’s something connected that’s bothering you then you need to figure out what that is and fix that. If you can’t turn a to-do task into a want-to-do task then you may want to seriously consider not doing it at all.

If you want to win a race then you have to want to train. If you want to lose weight then you have to want to eat healthily. If you want to have a great relationship with your family then you must want to make the changes needed to make that happen.

It may seem, at first glance, like this is some kind of trick. After all, the tasks don’t change immediately. But I find that when I ask myself what I want to do, not what I feel I should do, I change. I become more focused, clearer in my thinking, stronger in my convictions and I have more fun.

So that’s my tip for the day – don’t make a to-do list. Make a want-to-do list.

The No Wrong Answers Nudge Deck

So I’m working on a thing.

A while back I came up with an idea – Creativity Cards is what I called them. It was a working title. I never bothered to come up with a final name because it turned out that the basic premise already existed; Oblique Strategy Cards by Brian Eno.

These cards offer creative strategies. You’re dealing with a creative task and you want some new impetus? Pull out a card and follow whatever instruction it offers. It could be something like “Replace specifics with generic terms” or “Use a solution from another subject area” (I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting here).

But creativity is one of those areas where being entirely original is nice but not essential. The fact that something akin to what I had imagined already existed wasn’t a complete disaster. If anything it proved that the idea was sound. All I had to do was take it to another level.

So thats why I’m working on a thing.

I’m not going to throw out the initial idea. It sucks that Eno got there first (first Ambient Music and now this!) but he doesn’t own the “bits of advice” patent as far as I know. I’m going to build on it.

Firstly, the No Wrong Answers Nudge Deck (nWand – the ‘n’ is silent) will be online. I intend to host a page on http://www.sabretoothpanda.com in the soon to be created No Wrong Answers section which will display various hint and tips when you load it, drawn randomly from a database which I will add to over time. There will be a “do another one” button to bring up a new hint or tip. This is the start.

The first junction along the roadmap will be sharing buttons allowing you to share whatever genius suggestion comes up with friends on social media or via email.

Junction 2 will be to add accounts that people can sign into when using the nWand. These accounts will allow people to look back at the stuff they’ve already seen and save their favourites for later. They will also allow what I am calling, Junction 3.

Junction 3 is where nWand becomes more than just a hints and tips app and moves towards being a proper collaboration tool. Many great creative techniques require or work best with input from others. Junction 3 adds friends lists and collaborators to your account allowing you to involve others in your activity.

For example, you may get something like “Reword your problem five different ways” with the option to ask other people to reword your problem for you. Select four friends, type out your initial problem statement and let them respond with their new ways to express it.  Another example would be “Ask a random friend for an idea/answer” which would automatically choose a random person from your contacts to email.

The other advantages of doing this online include the use of other types of input and devices. nWand could select a random page from Wikipedia and ask you to figure out how it relates to your challenge, choose from a selection of creative problem solving blogs, videos or papers and ask you to read or watch them for inspiration, set time limits for activities with automatic countdowns running on the page.

I have the basic code for the page ready to go (thanks to my friend Mike Hedges) so, all being well, the nWand V1 should be up and running very shortly. My aim is to have it available for players at the next No Wrong Answers quiz on the 30th of September.

As Yet Unnamed

Yesterday I did a fun little video thingy with my friend and conspirator Shayla Maddox (@shaylamaddox) in order to introduce a project we’re working on together, something we are currently calling ‘As Yet Unnamed’.

As Yet Unnamed is a collaboration between Shayla Maddox (the artist) and Sabre Tooth Panda (the zoologically improbable LTD company which takes corporeal form in me, Aran Rees). All we really know about this project is that the end result will be some form of art show in London. But for now this is perhaps the least interesting bit; the really interesting bit is how we intend to create this art show.

No Wrong Answers, the blog, the podcast and the pub quiz (a sort of holy trinity of creativity, No Wrong Answers be thy name), exists for the express purpose of opening up and normalising creativity. We begin with the premise that creativity is as natural as breathing, eating and sleeping but that, due to various cultural and intellectual catastrophes that have befallen the modern world, many people have self limiting beliefs and unhelpful misconceptions about what exactly it means to be creative. The only way to change this is a full frontal attack on the ivory towers of creativity, be they mystical or academic.

As Yet Unnamed is part of that mission. We will carry out the creative process of conceptualising, designing and building a new type of art show in as open a way as possible to let people see how the sausage is made.

We will blog about it, vlog about it, podcast about it, broadcast stuff on Periscope, share stuff on Patreon, tweet, gram, tumble, chat, snap, crackle and pop and basically communicate the crap out of this. And then, at the end of it all, we will put on a show. In London. With art in it.

And so we begin. Shayla will be editing together and sharing our vlog shortly. Then we can begin the process of deciding what exactly this whole thing is going to be about. And here I will posit a useful starting point:

What is an art show for?

If we begin with the assumption that the point of this show is to simply sell Shayla’s art, then we might conclude that the optimal solution has already been reached; fill a fancy room with free booze and waitresses in cocktail dresses in order to inebriate and flit with rich men who want to appear cultured so they’ll try to show off how rich and cultured they are in order to impress and possibly sleep with the aforementioned waitresses in cocktail dresses.

But perhaps this art show isn’t just about that? What else can an art show be for? This is the first question we need to answer. Until we know what this art show is for, why it exists, then none of the rest of the creative process can take place.

————————————————————————————————————–

Goofing off

Playfullness is an important part of the creative process. Sometimes silly ideas lead to great ideas. So on that basis I want to share a fairly silly idea that popped into my head whilst writing the somewhat satirical take down of the traditional art show above.

If we assume, for a moment, that our target audience is, in fact, rich men who want to look both rich and cultured in order to have sex with attractive women (such men, I hear, are fairly common in some places), then the idea of combining an art show with a dating event might be interesting if morally questionable.

The basic premise is this – we invite rich single men and attractive single women looking for rich single men (I believe these women also exist if you know where to look for them), and get them all nice and drunk on free booze whilst they walk around appreciating art and flirting like bonobos on an off day. We allow strictly no mobile phones or any kind of pen and paper – we don’t want anyone exchanging numbers just yet.

At the end of the evening the rich single men are invited to bid on their preferred artworks whilst the attractive single women look on. This allows the rich single men to show off how rich and cultured they are in order to ultimately impress the attractive single women enough that they may be up for a quick bonk/long term relationship.

The rich single men are reunited with the attractive single women only after the auction is over. At this point we give back the mobile phones and hand out directions to the local STI clinic, just in case.