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If the popular TV series Mad Men proves one thing, while the public likes to complain about advertising, they are intrigued by it and perhaps at some level, would like to have a crack at it themselves.

David Ogilvy, arguably the most famous person in the history of advertising, is celebrated for his ability to splice the commercial reality of business with the creativity required to make it relevant to the everyday consumer.

Whether you work in advertising or not, his long list of famous quotes and anecdotes will inspire you to solve whatever brain-scratching problems sit in front of you. Not analytic, nor whimsical, his perspective on problem-solving and thinking will no doubt live on for decades to come given its relevance and accessibility to all of us.

At Be Challenged we partner with an advertising agency, Co.gency. I’m often engaged with them in conversation about such characters and approaches and more often than not I can see their application beyond advertising for our broader business, which is why I wanted to share them with you.

In our business, we’re often engaged to help pull teams away from their day-to-day in order to help them see the forest from the trees. I was shared this Ogilvy quote recently and it resonated with me greatly;

“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.”

Now, the ‘half pint of claret’ isn’t necessarily required, although I’ll let you make your own mind up on that. However, the general message touches on why we, Be Challenged, exist as a business and what is often a key structure to our sessions:

1. Informing the conscious mind
2. Creating room for the unconscious mind

In the bun fight of day-to-day work, we’re largely incapable of thinking beyond the walls that encase us. How many times have you stood up and walked away from your desk to try and gain clarity on something? It’s a natural behaviour to create space when you need to solve problems.

The reality is, however, when we storm away from our desks, we don’t always solve the problem at hand. That’s where our team can help. When Ogilvy says “Your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant” he’s making the clear point that space alone won’t solve your problems.

You first need to start with inputting the relevant information. When we’re engaged to help facilitate team offsites and retreats, an important step is setting context around the strategic goals and challenges your business and or team are facing. We are not posing them as challenges for the offsite necessarily, but rather, distilling them so they are clearly and consistently understood across the team.

Most of your team will likely know of these goals and challenges already and have already spent hours trying to help solve them. Therefore, simply framing these challenges is all that is required to “inform the conscious mind”.

Then, comes the second part, creating room for the unconscious. This is where our team programs play a crucial role. Most of these are designed to get our highly rational brains to embrace lateral thinking. This is not a simple thing to achieve so our programs have been designed by educators and psychologists in order to create this shift in mind state relatively quickly.

Importantly, these programs aren’t framed around your challenges, in fact, they are completely different and often obscure challenges. Again, this is completely by design.

When we free our mind of the problem at hand and solve new challenges, we quickly discover paths to rethink the challenges that have haunted us.

This simple, yet highly effective formula has proven time and time again for our clients to not only help improve team dynamics but also provide individuals the tools and space required to overcome problems in their own part of the business.

An interesting, unintentional benefit of our approach is that it often stimulates big-picture thinking, ideas flow and people better grasp the bigger strategic challenges their businesses face.

When it comes to big ideas, Ogilvy has another pearl of wisdom to offer…

“It will help you recognise a great big idea if you ask yourself five questions:

1 – Did it make me gasp when I first saw it?
2 – Do I wish I had thought of it myself?
3 – Is it unique?
4 – Does it fit the strategy to perfection?
5 – Could it be used for 30 years?”

This is a simple, yet highly effective way to objectively think about the ideas that flow, to ensure they have the potential to offer material benefit to your team or business.

So, as we approach year-end, rather than putting your challenges aside and steam to the finish line, let Be Challenged create the forum and space you need to crack those hard nuts. Set up 2024 as the year you go to the next level.

Whatever your business, we’d love to help you toward your north star. Get in contact here!

Thanks for reading.

Kingsley Seale

Joint Managing Director, Be Challenged

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