SSACHS APPAREL MAGAZINE
Soudi Masouleh – Editor in Chief
+44 7551 006858 firstname.lastname@example.org ssachsmagazine.com
SSACHS Magazine The Guild, High Street, Bath BA1 5EB.
Veronica Hendry Jan Hills Ima Shah Lottie Storey Photography Anil Iltas
Diane Richardson – Managing Director +44 7702 854475 email@example.com
Anil Iltas – Art Director
+44 7736 850294 firstname.lastname@example.org SSACHS Magazine © 2018 SSACHS Design, and the respective contributors. All rights reserved.
* If you would like to be involved in the next SSACHS edition, get in touch.
SSACHS APPAREL MAGAZINE
Welcome to SSACHS magazine. Produced by SSACHS Performance Design Agency our quarterly magazine will be focusing on performance sportswear and lifestyle brands, taking a closer look at the current trends and issues in the industry. Our aim is to create content that gives a fresh inside perspective and looks further into the various categories and subgroups that will inform your collections and collaborations across the board. With a stellar crew of industry experts from brand strategy & design to product development in performance sportswear and fashion, we dive in at the deep end with the latest trends, the issues that matter and the people that make it happen. We love bringing people & ideas together and so weâ€™ve created this space to get inspired, be informed and collaborate. We look forward to having you on board with us.
Editor’s note This year the spotlight is bright on women and the issues that matter to them. There’s never been a better time to push the boundaries, step out of comfort zones and combine our unique strengths and styles. For our first issue we wanted to celebrate these challenging yet transformative times – looking at the emotional connection of heart, body, mind in fitness and shine a light on everyday sports women that have broken the mould and levelled the playing field on their terms. Championing the richness and diversity of women’s ages, bodies and relationship with sport, we share these stories as a call to arms – to break the rules, follow your heart and get moving in whatever way feels good to you! Soudi
Meet the team: Art Director – Anil Iltas Having swapped the fast living of London life for Somerset, photographer Anil Iltas was excited to jump on board the Ssachs ship. “Being London born and bred, relocating to the green valleys of Somerset was a very different change of pace but it’s given me a new perspective on healthy living and a real appreciation of the English countryside and outdoor life. Photographing the amazing sports women for our first issue was so inspiring and showed how diverse and accessible sports can be whatever our body type or stage of life we’re at.
Editor in Chief – Soudi Masouleh
We are in exciting times as women and it’s great to be part of something that looks at sport from a fresh perspective, connecting our hearts, heads and bodies.”
A design leader, specialising in global women’s performance sportswear for international brands and retailers in Europe and the US. Soudi’s expertise and industry knowledge is the driving force behind SSACHS. “I’m all about creating “The Vision” so that each branch of the team from marketing to apparel & footwear design can aim for the same result and firmly establish their brand within the wider market.” “I thrive on coaching them and pushing their designs to match their goals and love seeing the development of a team as they start to work in harmony together and create fresh innovative collections.”
Managing Director – Diane Richardson Diane Richardson of Brand Focus is a passionate brand strategist with over two decades living and breathing sports and brands. “Coming on board with SSACHS magazine was an opportunity to bring together my industry experience and wide range of business networks with my love of sports and the outdoors. Our aim at SSACHS is to excite, inform and collaborate – keeping you up to date on the latest trends and issues, creating connections within the industry and celebrating its talent and unsung heroes.” 4
The Emotional Connection Contributing Writer – Lottie Storey Lottie Storey is a freelance writer from Bristol, who contributes features and blogs to lifestyle magazines and websites. Find Lottie’s blog at oysterandpearl.co.uk and follow her on instagram @lottie_storey
The Emotional Connection Senior Trend Analyst – Veronica Hendry Veronica is a freelance trend consultant with over 19 years experience in both the active and trend industry. Having worked in both the northern and southern hemispheres for global sport brands and forecasting agencies, and with highlights including designing for the London 2012 and Beijing 2008 Olympics, Veronica continues to work with a range of international clients in the active and trend forecasting sectors as well teaching at University.
Contributor – Jan Hills Jan started Head Heart + Brain to reinvent leadership development. She created the leadership and career management programme BrainSavvy Woman. Before Head Heart + Brain, Jan ran an HR consultancy and has also worked as a Managing Director and COO of an investment bank. www.headheartbrain.com Jan is the author of Brain-Savvy Business, Brain-Savvy HR, co-author of Brain-Savvy Leading, and Brain-Savvy Wo+man. email@example.com +44 7766 805552
Contributor – Ima Shah Ima Shah is a sharp, intuitive and highly visual thinker, uniquely adept at the study of cultural, product and consumer trends. Ima is currently the trend manager for Notonthehighstreet.com where she predicts trends in fields as diverse as fashion, interiors, beauty and experiences to small creative businesses across the UK.
Magazine Layout & Graphic Design – Graham Saunders Graham is a freelance graphic designer from Bath with a wealth of experience in creating and managing design projects for print and web. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
EMOTION THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE
EMOTIONALLY ENGAGING THE CONSUMER
THE “AHA!” MOMENT
STRONG IS THE NEW SKINNY
WHAT IS YOUR TRUE PURPOSE?
“ I’m proud of the way I’ve dealt with setbacks. It’s hard when you feel down and you think, ‘Why is the world doing this to me?’ But you have to pick yourself up again. That’s what makes you a better athlete.” ~ Jessica Ennis Hill
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Women are discovering their athletic potential. It is a time of discovery for not only their body but their mind. Their approach to sport is unique, and brings a whole new set of attributes and stylistic differences.
FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE Back in 2014, Sport England discovered a huge gender discrepancy. While an average of 40% of men enjoyed a half hour of sport each week, the figure was 30% for women. Why were two million fewer women than men taking part in sport and exercise? And why – when 75% of women said they wanted to be more active – weren’t the numbers changing?
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
WORDS | Lottie Storey
ike many of our relationships, the one we have with sport and exercise is complicated. Wherever you stand on the Mars/Venus debate, there is much anecdotal substance to the claim that women have a different emotional connection to fitness than do men. When I began researching this feature, I was surprised at how little research is out there relating to our emotional connection with sport and how this might break down according to gender. Yes, there’s plenty out there on how sport and exercise affect our mindset (have a read of the Mind Report ‘How to improve your wellbeing through physical activity and sport.’ It explains how being active is important for our physical and mental health, which sports or exercise may be best for you, and how to overcome common barriers, potential risks and planning your routine safely). Also there’s a wide range of academic research exploring the impact a positive or negative mindset has on sporting outcomes. McCarthy’s 2011 research explores how positive emotions impact greater self-efficacy, motivation, attention, problem-solving, and coping with adversity. But what about how we feel about sport and exercise?
The research conducted by Sport England went on to inform their 2015 This Girl Can campaign. Hugely successful, This Girl Can was designed to break down some of the barriers preventing women from accessing physical activities. Mothers were a core audience for the This Girl Can campaign after research revealed that while many mums would like to exercise, the fear of being judged for putting themselves first is a barrier. A massive 81% of mothers with children under 15 prioritise spending time with their families over getting fit, while 44% of mums feel guilty if they spend time on themselves. In some cases men have ‘hobbies’ which are to be encouraged, while some women instead engage in ‘me time’, which can easily be dismissed as something of an ‘indulgence’. Many women reported feelings of not being good enough, self consciousness, worrying about what other people think, judgement and more, hence the campaign’s accessible imagery showing women from all walks of life enjoying a broad range of sporting activities and enjoying themselves. This Girl Can has proved a huge success, with 1.6m women starting to exercise. Moreover, the number of women playing sport and being active is increasing faster than the number of men. Some of these barriers have been destroyed, but what is it about how we women connect with physical fitness that differs so much to men?
The women surveyed expressed a more conservative view about the level of their abilities than men and were particularly negative about their running speed, whereas men over-estimated their handeye co-ordination. Research showed that more than half of men think they are better than average, which is clearly a mathematical impossibility! The findings reminded me of the much-publicised statistic from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, whereby an internal report at HewlettPackard revealed that women only apply for jobs if they think they meet 100 percent of the criteria listed. Men apply if they think they meet 60 percent of the requirements. No wonder there’s a gender pay gap.
Scratch the surface and it’s easy to find reasons for our more complicated emotional relationship with sport, exercise and fitness.
And this is why I believe that fit is a feminist issue, albeit more play gap than pay gap. Scratch the surface and it’s easy to find reasons for our more complicated emotional relationship with sport, exercise and fitness. Much of this comes down to our equally complicated relationship with our bodies. From puberty onwards, women’s bodies experience massive change – as teenagers, our breasts and hips grow visibly, making way for our bodies to accommodate babies should we choose to have them. Our relationship with our post-birth body is often problematic, most real-life women become upset at not pinging back into shape immediately. Weight issues often creep in, the result of hormonal changes colliding with a change to our daily routines. Later in life, the menopause arrives, bringing with it more hormonal and physical changes. And emotionally? Cultural expectations of women’s physical attractiveness take their toll on the way we feel throughout our teenage years, into adulthood and older age in a way that just isn’t comparably felt by men. The messages are powerful: Get fit and slim down for your wedding day. Endless TV adverts in which beautiful women laugh while eating salad or yoghurt. Watch the latest celebrity fitness video and transform your post birth body in a matter of weeks. While we might feel an emotional connection to the more approachable celebrities and really care about their before and after journey, when one woman in every four says “I hate the way I look when I exercise or play sport” – it’s clear that things need to change. If we’re to improve on all the disappointing stats, we need to make women feel good, to improve that emotional connection away from ‘I suppose I’d better’, towards ‘I really enjoy this’. Whether that’s improving the look of our activewear to encouraging group activities (we are supposed to be the more sociable gender, after all), it comes down to the same thing: confidence. And culturally? Things are slowly changing. With more evenly shared parenting and childcare, comes a shift in available hobby time. Fit – like fat and pay and all the other areas of gender bias – is a feminist issue. 2018 marks 100 years since women first secured the vote and we’re now voting in increasing numbers – with our feet and our funds and our influence. Let’s make sure that impact is also felt just as strongly on the pitch and the court and in the pool.
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Emotionally Engaging the Consumer
American Apparel | www.americanapparel.com
EMOTIONALLY Engaging the Consumer
WORDS | Veronica Hendry
With the rise of new female subcultures within active, how do brands authentically connect with the female psyche and their ritual of being active through both new design and brand communication?
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
s little as 10 years ago to the outside world, the activewear market, was largely stereotyped as the domain of the male athlete, blokes who crushed cans on their forehead after smashing goals, tracksuits, trainers and apparel designed to soak up sweat. Apart from notable collaborations such as Yohji Yamaoto and Stella McCartney with adidas, the industry was tarred with functional polyester and an over excessive use of neon accents. However fast forward to the present day and the rise of Athleisure has suitably changed all of that. Whatever your opinion may be of the ‘all encompassing’ word banded about within the Active sector, Athleisure has spawned a multi billion dollar industry and with it the rise of a very powerful female consumer. With no signs of slowing (sales are expected to double from 2016’s $46 billion to $92 billion in 2020, A.T. Kearney) athleisure has given way to new offshoot product areas led by the power spend of this new female consumer.
How can the active industry lead and play a role in the progressive representation of women in fashion?
A market that was once the domain of the major sport brands, athleisure has given way to new power players and off shoot product areas driven by the power of the female spend. Ranging from pre and post recovery, haute-athletics after 5 and the 25 hour day, new and emerging activewear brands compete alongside the established powerhouses, and are intern joined by the high street and high end to vie for a position in a market that is steadily growing but increasingly close to saturation point. Above all this noise how do brands attract and emotionally connect to a new female consumer that comes with it? In an age where we have become increasingly obsessed with how we look and our bodies becoming one of our biggest assets we ‘invest’ in, how does this influence design? What is the balance of performance vs aesthetic? How do active brands that purport change through hard work and high performance technical design compete alongside the quick fix solutions from the high street? And with the rise of new female subcultures within active, how do brands authentically connect with the female psyche and their ritual of being active through both product and brand communication? PHVLO | phvlo.com
In an age where we are living longer and have become increasingly obsessed with how we look and our bodies becoming one of our biggest assets we ‘invest’ in, how does this influence design?
Bella Hadid for Nike | www.nike.com
Kylie as brand ambassador as she was (in)famous more for her artificially enhanced lips and dramatically changing body and face that suggested there was more going on than just work outs in the gym. Consumers and the industry questioned the authenticity of the partnership and Kylie’s commitment to genuine exercise. Was this giving the brand credibility in active? or actually devaluing it?
Cause Celeb and the importance of authentic collaboration In an age where we as a society have become increasingly obsessed with fame, the perfect social media account and the perfect body, we ask the question what is the power of the celebrity within the active market? With a new generation of celebrity emerging thanks largely to reality TV, social media, the tabloids and famous parents, a new generation of entitled celebrity has emerged, and athleisure seems to be the uniform of choice. Rich with seemingly perfect lives, wardrobes and bodies, the celebrity trinity that is the Jenner’s, Hadid’s and Kardashian’s bring with them millions of social media followers who aspire to be just like them. With far-reaching appeal, this makes them attractive to big sport brands with cash who want their audience and bring them in as brand ambassadors to endorse the brand. But does this give brands kudos or do the complete opposite? In such a hyper reality world where we feel the pressure to be constantly perfect, are these ambassadors aspirational or detrimental in connecting with the female psyche and consumer? And Ultimately do these girls really work out? Or is what we are seeing the result of surgical enhancement? One of the biggest partnerships to turn heads, was that of Kylie Jenner in 2016 with Puma. Leaving aside Kanye’s tirade about the deal, Puma faced criticism with it’s appointment of
Bella Hadid was then to became infamous for all the wrong reasons, as Nike brand ambassador she raised both her own profile and Nikes somewhat debatably with her now infamous Complex interview. Interviewed while out sneaker shopping with the magazine, Bella’s over compensating to try and relate to her audience managed to do the opposite and expose her lack of authentic credibility with her ‘Homeboy’s gonna get it’ comments. You could almost hear the unison of audible cringe as you were still watching the clip and indeed the audience balked and backed it up with the deluge of memes, tabloid articles and comments sections that followed. And as recent as New York fashion week, adidas Originals ambassador Kendall Jenner declared “Tracksuits are very happening right now,” then edifying it with “because Athleisure is what’s trendy.” Is this the disease of the bigger brands trying to find new relevance in an increasingly oversaturated market? Throwing money at high profile celebrities ensures column inches in niche and popular publications and wider access, however what does it do long-term for the brand and it’s authenticity? How does it shape it’s female consumer going forward and what does this mean for authentic collaborations with female athletes? Furthermore, how can smaller emerging active brands engage better with the female consumer with relatable ambassadors?
What is the real value, if any, of the celebrity ambassador?
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Selena Gomez for Puma | eu.puma.com
In such a hyper reality world where we feel the pressure to be constantly perfect, are these ambassadors aspirational or detrimental in connecting with the female psyche and consumer? Kylie Jenner for Puma | eu.puma.com
American Apparel | www.americanapparel.com
Sexy, not sexualised In contrast to the celebrity ambassador, comes the aspirational model and the question of ‘real life vs constructed reality’ and ’sexy vs sexualised”. Known for its inaugural catwalk show and scantily clad models, Victoria’s Secret has made a conscious effort in recent years to promote the workout regimes of their models to give credence to their active line. In an attempt to reposition the brand away from it’s overtly sexual reputation, the brand celebrates the workout routines of its ambassadors for an authentic connection within the fitness market. While American Apparel, has recognised its dubious history and has brought in an all female executive team to shake up the brand’s image. In an attempt to make it more relatable to its every day consumer, it’s new ad campaigns only use real people who represent the brand, each one with an interesting story, and the same aesthetic and ideals imposed on both the male and female models. Choosing to still be sexy but not sexualised, models determine the pose stance and look, seeing being sexy as a positive and a choice, as opposed to being sexualised. With sexy as a word often frowned upon, how can industry celebrate the term and move it away from preconceived stereotyping? Making it empowering and in tern empowering women who work out because they want to look good.
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Quiet Dissidence, a new disruptive thinking Working in the active industry we are all too aware of the buzz word ‘disruptive thinking’, we are constantly competing in today’s fast-changing world to create a steady stream of new ways of thinking that will have maximum impact on the market. But how about approaching if from another angle, with ‘quiet dissidence’, that makes a stronger impact because of the lack of noise, letting the campaign or user experience speak for itself. In stark contrast to the big budget, hyper fuelled marketing campaigns of Nike and adidas, ASOS recently revealed their latest active campaign with as little fanfare as possible, despite the fact they launched an innovative campaign that embraced all genders, diversities, abilities and disabilities, something long overdue in industry. A louder release may have garnered more publicity still, however the silence and lack of fanfare from the brand lent even more gravitas to the campaign, with the company declining to comment about the launch and instead letting the campaign speak for itself, connecting with the consumer through its own authenticity. Quiet dissidence is about causing disruption by going quietly against accepted expectations and creating the biggest stir through an authentic connection between consumer, brand, experience and product. No longer is it about the over the top PR stunt and making as much noise as possible. This also influences how we use social media and attract followers and consumers
for new campaigns. Social media influencers may bring large audiences in their millions, but new bloggers with 100,00 less are seen as more engaged with their followers and the product they choose to endorse, which makes them stronger advertisers for both the brand and the connection to the consumer. New emerging brands particularly benefiting from this. What does quiet dissent and the rise of the micro blogger mean for new emerging active brands? How can a band quietly disrupt and create maximum impact? How can this help make the niche appeal to a broader market?, and how can you give renewed interest to something that has become over saturated for the consumer?
How can a brand quietly disrupt and create maximum impact?
ASOS | www.asos.com/women/
Ivy park | www.ivypark.com
Ivy park | www.ivypark.com
Sukoon Active | www.sukoonactive.com
Diversity and Inclusivity In contrast to the celebrity brand ambassador, industry is also being challenged to include and consistently communicate with its diverse female audience of beauty, strength, age, colour, ethnicity and religion. Something long overdue. Moving away from over glossed, over idealised social media feeds, campaigns and editorials, this is about no longer designing to a ‘stereotype’, but instead authentically engaging with the active ritual, lifestyle, wants and needs of a female consumer that has been misrepresented or ignored completely for so long. For an age, look books, editorial and campaigns have focused on a small percentage of the population, otherwise known as ‘the skinny white girl’, relatable to a tiny few but not the majority. With multiple tribes of new active women emerging, this is about embracing and connecting with a modern female consumer who works out, whatever her size, her athletic capability, age, ethnicity, colour or even socio-economic standing. Whether using exercise to build muscle or slim, or recover from physical or mental trauma, this is about engaging with an active female consumer that has been ignored for too long. Understanding why she works out, where she does it and how she does it, what is her active ritual? Her needs and wants? And how can brands authentically engage and erase the invisible line between reality and stereotype?
With exercise being for many as a way to be physically fit, live longer and slim down, ironically the debate around the term ‘plus size’ continues on, and a generation of Baby Boomers feel forgotten about by the active industry. While the Paralympics are revered, how many physically impaired athletes do we see front campaigns or editorial? And of course while it should be the norm, all of industry, including fashion, is being challenged to represent women of all colour, ethnicity and religion, who in turn are driving new developments in performance product as well new active subcultures. When ASOS recently released their latest ‘More reasons to move’ activewear campaign it not only challenged industry and society attitudes to disability with amputee model Mama Cax, but proudly represented varying body shape, strengths and ethnicity with its cast of athletes. Slickly put together, with little fanfare on its release, it’s somewhat perplexing that this campaign stands on its own as being one of few to represent the diversity of society Another issue for industry that continues, is the erasing of the invisible line between when a size changes from ‘normal to ‘plus size’ and the case for all inclusive sizing. Catering to a changeable female body; be it genetics, period bloat, weight gain, or pregnancy, as well as removing the stigma of size and the psychology of only committing to cheaper ‘temporary purchases’ that potentially don’t perform as well. Recognising an existing consumer can vary in size over the course of a year and removing ‘plus size by incorporating graded sizes as an extension of the existing main range.
THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTION
Nike | www.nike.com
How do brands authentically communicate with emerging active subcultures and their respective female consumer?
Erasing the line between what is ‘old age’. The baby boomers or The Elastic Generation, (JWT report 2015) are a female consumer with a powerful spend who currently feels misrepresented or completely overlooked within the active industry, seen as an ’old lady’ stereotype. Investing in their bodies and appearance, and outspending the younger generation, this consumer is not the same as her counterpart of even 30 years ago, and will continue to evolve as the population ages. With the majority of social media and editorial focusing on younger models as the active ideal, with the exception of a few such as IVY PARK who led one campaign with 60 year old choreographer Karen McDonald, the older consumer consequently feels alienated. As we live longer and invest in how we look, ageing generations bring with them new cultural influences and thinking that inform both a new aesthetic and way of working out. And while the active industry may fear slightly better than the fashion industry with an international role call of athletes from around the globe, it is still fair to say that overall women of colour and ethnicity are still severely under represented within active campaigns and editorial. Yet at a grass roots level, a strong shift is emerging with new influencers, leaders and active subcultures changing the landscape of industry and demanding
to be acknowledged. Informing new ways of working out and a personalised tone of voice that resonates authentically with the consumer rather than a ‘corporate soundbite’, an awareness of social issues and breaking through stereotypes is driving the development of new product. Accessible and inclusive social media influencers such as @blackgirlinom and Trap Yoga Bae, promote wellness and yoga to women of colour and those who lack acceptance. While alternatively religion gives way to new design solutions that enable women to work out at their optimum while still being able to honour their faith. While Nike made headlines in 2017 with the release of its performance hijab, smaller brands such as Sukoon and Veil have catered for the needs of the muslim women well before this time, delivering both function and form in performance hijab’s and modest performance clothing, with advocates such as @runlikeahijabi. How can brands be inclusive without over promoting and making it look like a gimmick? How do brands authentically communicate with emerging active subcultures and their respective female consumer? What is the definition of plus size? What is the ritual of the baby boomer vs her younger counterpart and how does this influence design and communication? Aside from the hijab, how can brands better design for the muslim women?
As athleisure evolves to inform new subcategories such as pre and post recovery and the 25 hour day, what future categories will evolve from engaging with new emerging subcultures? SSACHS
Transforming brand aspiration into reality and brand promise into revenue
BRAND FOCUS Q&A with Diane Richardson, Co-Founding Partner of BrandFocus Consulting.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Anil Iltas
“We don’t really like the title ‘Consultants’ and see ourselves as ‘Brand Assisters’ or as a client recently called us, ‘The Brand Fixers’!”
How did you two meet? We met whilst we were both working for Timberland back in 2005. Yolande was based in Paris managing the Licensing Division and I travelled there to share the direction of the Timberland Menswear collection to ensure the Licensing partners were aligned with the brand strategy and creative direction for the season ahead. We then collaborated on the Global Menswear collections and although we both moved on to new personal and professional career paths we remained in contact as we always felt we were ‘soul sisters’! A few years later we reconnected and decided to capitalise on our experience and shared passion for brands and retail, and set up business together. We have worked together for five years – taking our big brand experience and applying and adapting our ‘know how’ and business principles to brands of all sizes – accompanying business startups, brand launches, product development, retail expansion amongst many of our varied missions.
What are your strengths and how do you team up to make the best of that? We have shared passion and values and complementary skill sets. My background of retail buying and product merchandise management for several globally renowned brands has taught me to successfully drive the product merchandising strategic goals and collections across international territories. My experience also brings a strong understanding of brand growth indicators and a skillset to manage the delicate art and science of brand management. Yolande’s background of Licensing and International Business Unit Management is particularly pertinent from the market perspective and notably accompanying the ‘go to market’ strategy. We are both strong communicators, and have a direct, no-nonsense style. We both work passionately and so really have to connect with a brand or team before we commit to a mission. We don’t really like the title ‘Consultants’ and see ourselves as ‘Brand Assisters’ or as a client recently called us, ‘The Brand Fixers’(!), as what you get from us is a hands-on approach with strategic insights and assistance to implement the strategy and execution in equal measure. We go against the grain of the traditional ‘suited and booted’ Brand Consultancies who just dish out advice and do not necessarily monitor the impact and progress of their clients.
What kind of businesses do you help? From fashion, sportswear through to homewares. We assist startups and emerging brands through to larger corporate business. For the startups and young business, we introduced The Brand Business Planning tool. It takes the edge off of the traditional, impersonal business plan new business owners feel they have to fill out for the sake of seeking grants or loans. We have poured our 40 plus combined years in the industry to design a business plan which documents the Founder’s
creative thoughts and vision, and turns them into a viable brand and business. The BBP is also a mentoring programme to keep the business planning on track, and we help them plan their journey. Many new business owners need this helping hand, and assistance to take a step back and focus on their uniqueness and core value. Our Corporate clients reach out to us for our knowledge on global markets and our network, or to assist their teams in structuring their processes notably to be more market focused. Often these clients are looking to launch into new markets and require our assistance to position their brand accordingly with a relevant offer, help them conduct the due diligence to understand the cost and benefits, and assist them in creating a durable business organisation to manage their development.
There are so many Marketing / PR / Design agencies out there, What is your speciality? We consider ourselves to be ‘Product & Brand’ experts with significant operational experience - we are not afraid to get our hands dirty! We understand each step of the process, from strategy to execution, based on our first hand experience, so our recommendations are proven. We have a structured approach and insist on conducting a Brand Audit whatever the state of development of the company. We give perspective to issues and opportunities to avoid companies throwing money out of the window if the timing is not appropriate or need not justified. We understand a brand’s business from Design to Sales and so can add value at each stage and engage tangibly with teams on all levels. Teamwork is key for us, to understand challenges and opportunities and to collaboratively find solutions tailormade to fit a client’s specific needs. Our extended team and broad network of experts we have built up over our years in Global companies, stretches around the world and across different functions and industries and also supports us so that we can offer a multi-dimensional service. In a nutshell, we are expert brand generalists!
How do you convince a business that your strategy to improve sales/visibility will work? Our experience tells us that, firstly, a cultural fit between client and ourselves is paramount. A like-minded attitude to collaboratively determine the best strategy and to gain faith from the client that our proposal is considered, researched and justified usually gets us, and our clients the best result. Many of the sales plans will have been tried and tested models so we seek out the like-brands who have succeeded and take learnings from their experiences. In addition, they get our knowledge of the markets and use of our network who sit amongst some of the best brands in the world.
What’s the worst and best part of your job? The best part is discovering new brands and their owners or managers and seeing the window of opportunity to help them grow! I guess we are sort of brand ‘nurturers’! Even for new markets we discover, for example we worked for a chocolate brand, a market we did not know, and it was exciting to discover this new world and environment. Quickly we saw that there were clear parallels with our branded backgrounds and even synergy coming from outside their market to bring fresh eyes and approach around a shared problem. This was really rewarding! The worst part is difficult to identify, but if any, it is when a brand owner is too scared to take the leap of faith, despite us working on careful planning together, and move to growth mode. We see the huge opportunity that is potentially missed. It is rare, but frustrating!
Our stress relievers… Friends, family, sport… we believe in balance, and despite our full investment in our professional lives, we enjoy socialising and being active in sports to decompress! We have both previously been team sports players, and we continue to be active members of sports clubs even now. Yolande in Field Hockey in France and I have created a Hiking club close to Glasgow. Apart from that, our best stress reliever is laughter, and our sense of humour often helps us keep an even keel!
“Our best stress reliever is laughter, and our sense of humour often helps us keep an even keel!”
What’s your ‘go-to’ piece of kit that gets you in the zone? My home office sits on the outskirts of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs in Scotland and from the moment I wake up in the morning, I can see the hills and the weather patterns crossing over them. There really was no option to selecting my new sport, it had to be hiking, across this stunning part of the world. My instagram features what I call, #twohourwindow. My chance to escape my desk, get outdoors and ‘get active’. Not only does it take your mind off the stresses of the day but it’s an excellent time to come up with new ideas and work out solutions to work problems. I bought these Salewa Alp mid-cut boots last year and I love them! Combining GORE-TEX® for waterproofing and breathability, and Vibram® sole’s allows me to cover different terrains in the very changeable weather climate of Scotland. And, as the label suggests, they are Alpine Fit 100% blister free.
Both Yolande and I were introduced to Smart Wool whilst working for Timberland. At this point Timberland had bought the Smart Wool brand and the entire Timberland team was introduced to this innovative sock brand. The combination of Timberland boots and Smart wool socks were a fantastic relationship for the wearer. There is not one but five types of hiking socks in the current Smart wool collection. I enjoy the heavy cushioning hike sock as I need the additional warmth for the Scottish climate. They combine their SmartWool fit system mix with Merino to help keep feet happy. Combining the boots with my Smart wool® socks, my feet remain in decent condition allowing me to complete a few #twohourwindow hikes per week.
“There really was no option to selecting my new sport, it had to be hiking, across this stunning part of the world”
“ Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” ~ Bethany Hamilton
EMMA COLLINSJONES Q&A with Emma: Weightlifter and yoga teacher Emma Collins-Jones talks to us about how the two sports have more in common than youâ€™d think, learning to love your body and challenging perceptions of image and women in sport.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Anil Iltas
The Weightlifting… What attracted you to it? I got into weightlifting through CrossFit. I did CrossFit for a couple of years but didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. I wanted to compete and decided to compete in weightlifting as I took to it quite naturally and liked the challenge of getting stronger. My first competition was the British Student Weightlifting Championships in 2014 and I won!
The Combo of Yoga and Weightlifting is unusual. How did you get into this and why? I loved to dance when I was younger, and I think Yoga filled that gap when I moved to Bath to go to University. Through meeting great teachers, I became interested in Yoga philosophy and decided to train as a teacher in 2013. Weightlifting and Yoga are more similar than you think. They are both about focus and control. They are about mastering the mind and body as one.
Have you had any negative comments about women using weights?
How has this changed your life in terms of confidence, strength, emotional strength, family, and friendships?
I think I’m lucky living in Bath, and attending Bath University as it’s quite normal for women to do sports and there are lots of athletes around. The main negativity I’ve faced is from my family – they see weightlifting as a male sport and don’t think women should be ‘too muscly’. Plus, they think it’s bad for my back. I do get upset when comments are made about me ‘looking like a man’ but it doesn’t make me want to stop. And I think my family might be coming around... they came to watch me compete last year and saw that weightlifters are all different shapes and sizes and it is a real sport!
How has weightlifting changed my life? It’s taught me patience. I haven’t progressed as quickly as I hoped I would and I think when I was younger I may have just given up. But I’ve realised that by committing myself to weightlifting for the long run I will get better and the journey is almost more important than the competition results anyway. I have always had an athletic body and been a little bigger than my friends. When I was younger I felt insecure but now I love my body and my strength. I’m grateful for my body and for everyday that I can train and practise weightlifting.
“Weightlifting and Yoga are more similar than you think. They are both about focus and control. They are about mastering the mind and body as one”
What would be your advice to someone starting out in weights or yoga?
“Yoga can be anything that gives you a chance tune into your mind, breath and body”
With Yoga there are many different styles and teachers, so it’s important you try a few classes to find your best fit. For me, because I spend so much time in the gym, I like slow relaxing Yoga classes, but another person might want a workout style class after a day of sitting in the office. There is no right or wrong type of Yoga. Yoga can be anything that gives you the chance to tune into your mind, breath and body. For weightlifting, it’s best to start with a coach or a friend. Don’t be scared to ask people in the gym for help either. I like it when people ask me to show them how to lift!
What is your favourite item of sports gear and why? (I think you mentioned shoes?) I’m usually in sports gear for work (teaching Yoga) so my weightlifting shoes are probably my favourite thing as they are unique to my sport. They are big ugly things but weightlifting is not about what you look like, it’s about how much weight you can lift!
What’s your ‘go-to’ piece of kit that gets you in the zone? My weightlifting shoes, because they are specialist and niche for what I do. Without them I couldn’t do weighting at all.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Anil Iltas
DEBBIE ROBINSON Proving that age ainâ€™t nothing but a number, personal trainer Debbie Robinson talks us through her fitness journey and how women of all ages and stages can find their sports and fitness groove.
have been teaching Pilates and fitness classes for about 30 years continually. I first started teaching Step ETM. These were the days of the Green Goddess and Rosemary Connelly, Mr Motivator, it was literally just Exercise to Music. It’s evolved so much since then - everything goes in rotation. Step class was my favourite and I remember I once had 60 people in one class at the sport centre in Bath. I used to teach 3 classes back to back in those days. I’m really fortunate in that I don’t look my age. People talk about getting the “middle-aged spread” during their perimenopausal time, but my routine of physical exercise and a healthy diet helps me to keep in shape. I also used to run a women’s only gym called ‘The Studio’ in Bath, which was great as it gave many women privacy whilst working out. This attracted many females within the area from all walks of life and a lot of muslim women too. At the time we were the only gym with a pole dancing class and it was hilarious! The age range was 16 to infinity. Unfortunately we had a fire and had to shut the place down in the end.
“we were the only gym with a pole dancing class and it was hilarious!”
I think the secret to keeping your ‘youth’ is truly believing that age is just a number. I have always believed this at every stage of my life. I just love to keep busy and if I’m not teaching or personal training then I’m busy with the grandchildren. I have two at the moment and one on the way. I think keeping active as you get older is important for helping you to stay as healthy and independent as possible. Start slow and steady and remember that it’s not about getting super fit but being able to do everything you do now in ten years time. Even ten minute walks, twice a day will make a difference. It is just enough to get the heart rate up so you feel warmer. If you have any medical conditions or take medication regularly it is important to speak to your doctor before starting anything. I don’t feel I will ever want to stop exercising or slow down. If all the benefits of exercise could be placed in a single pill, it would be the most widely prescribed medication in the world so it’s definitely a case of use it or lose it! Exercise, whether it is a sport or some kind of physical activity is vital to a female’s well being, for both their body, mind and selfimage. I think the way PE is taught in schools nowadays puts some girls off any exercise for life. Just look at the obesity levels in the UK-it’s an epidemic. If no female members of a family partake in any activity then it is highly unlikely that any following generations will. It’s about education and making young children aware of all the activities available and providing the opportunity for them to try, whether it’s in sport or fitness. Then they are more likely to carry it through their adult life. Exercise also encourages people to get out of their comfort zones, and find an energy they didn’t know they had. My favourite ‘go-to’ piece of kit that gets me in the zone is my tank top. It suits the shape of my arms and I’m proud of them- it’s a feel good top.
“I like to get people out of their comfort zones! Finding energy they didn’t know they had”
KATE MALTBY Q&A with Kate: We talk to one of the UKâ€™s top ranking female runners Kate Maltby about how finding her place in sport helped her find her passion for life and her top tips for staying fast and focused.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Anil Iltas
Why are you running? How did you find running to be your sport? I was never brilliant at sports at school, just average and enjoyed trying hard and doing team stuff. I used to swim for a club when I was in my teens, then after my parents spilt up, I moved in with my mum and she got me a dog and I started to take her out running in the woods after school. I think I just got hooked on the quiet time it gave me away from school and home life.
What do you think about whilst running? For me, running is a sort of moving meditation, most of my runs start with me listening to my feet or my breathing and then I seem to switch off, thoughts come, thoughts go… I don’t hang on to them. If I’m doing a hard session, like on the track, I use self talk to keep my concentration, such as repeating… ‘Focus, focus, focus’.
What do you eat or drink before a run? If I’m running at 10am (I rarely run before breakfast) I have a lemon tea, two slices of toast with coconut butter, peanut butter and Marmite and a coffee. If it’s later on in the day I would have a normal lunch like fish and salad or rice and I might top my energy up with a banana and dark chocolate. Sometimes races are at odd times and it’s hard to know whether to eat something more substantial as I need to keep my blood sugar steady as 56
this helps my hormones stay balanced. So before my 5km in Germany which was at 3.45pm, I had a rice cake sandwich with smoked salmon and dip for lunch at 12pm and a banana and coffee 90 minutes before the race. I don’t eat any gluten and reduce dairy to just yogurt. That’s been an important part of my running success. I always think… Eat healthy first. Run second.
“Its sort of a moving meditation, most of my runs start with me listening to my feet or my breathing and then I seem to switch off, thoughts come, thoughts go… I don’t hang on to them”
When do you need new running shoes? I only get new mileage shoes once a year, due to the cost. I run mostly off-road to protect my joints. I’ve worn the same racers for 3 years – I need some new ones! I have spikes for track and cross country. Connecting with Diadora is the first time I’ve had any kit or trainers. The trainers are really comfortable and light.
Who is in your running support network? Definitely my mum- she has been there throughout everything. She likes to be at my races and in cross country she puts my spikes inside her coat to warm them up! She always has the tissues, water and safety pins and has helped me through my big life events. She is a strong independent woman and I’ve always looked up to her for that. I live next to her and wouldn’t change that for the world. My coach Chris Frapwell has also been an amazing support to me. He has coached me since I was 17 years old and is like a dad to me. We plan the blocks of training together and he’s not afraid to tell me some honest truths… Which I think is good for me. I do most of my training on my own, then sometimes on a Saturday I join Chris’s group in Stroud which I absolutely love doing. I love the banter- it’s such a mixture of people of all ages and sports. I love training with others, its a real treat for me.
What training phase are you in right now (and when does it end?) I am currently preparing for the summer track season, where I’m aiming to go sub 15.30 (Commonwealth qualifying time). This will finish at the end of August. I have planned a big walk and camping in Iceland with my best friend when my season finishes. I can’t do things like that when I’m training, so I am really looking forward to it.
“Growing in confidence as a woman and as an athlete. Learning that mistakes are ok and that bouncing back from them makes me stronger”
What are the top three “little things” that you do to prevent injury? • I eat properly (high protein, especially for recovery after training) to keep my hormones balanced. • Gym-strength work every week and pilates to stretch out after every run. • Keep a positive mindset and keep running in perspective (‘I love to run. I don’t need to run.’)
How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run? A strong coffee usually does the trick! And having races and the training block planned. I know I feel better when I’ve managed the block and done all the sessions planned. I guess the key is in the planning and making sure I don’t put too much in the block which would make me over tired and then I would struggle 58
with motivation. I also try to be positive with myself and practice self talk and reward myself for my achievements in the block. A reward might be putting a new photo on my inspiration board (I currently have photos of me and my brother when we were little – playing in the river in Dartmoor). Other rewards could be a glass of red wine or watching a tv show or simply saying to myself ‘that’s great, it’s been a good day, well done’. Sometimes I tell myself ‘it’s only one foot in front of the other,’ so then I can start really slowly and build on it if I want to. I’ve also worked hard in the last few years on ‘being consistent, and not perfect’. With this has come a certain amount of acceptance.
How are you improving on your past training in order to get faster? I listen to my mind and body, plan the blocks with Chris carefully. Sometimes I’m not racing as much but instead focus on growing in confidence as a woman and as an athlete. It’s important to learn that mistakes are ok and that bouncing back from them makes me stronger.
How have you invested in your knowledge of the sport? I coach swimming and share a lot of lifestyle coaching with the young swimmers. I am slowly getting better at social media so I can share my experiences (I have a blog – runningandpilates. wordpress.com) and I have just joined instagram @maltbykate. I teach pilates classes and I am studying a MA in sport psychology at UWE. I’m still racing so training takes up a lot of my time and energy!
Advice: as a beginner, should you run with or without a training plan I think a plan can help with motivation. If Chris tells me to have a week off, I go jogging with the dogs without a watch. I guess that’s just for enjoyment. It depends on your goal really.
Do you have a quirky habit while running Not really. I’m a very laid back runner- I don’t stop my watch at stiles/lights and I’ve never downloaded my watch (I actually don’t know how to). The only thing I can think of that is kind of quirky is that I have a few trees on some of my routes that I have to run around and they have names.
Morning, midday, evening? I like to run late morning after breakfast around 8ish and take some time just sitting with my dog, listening to the birds and sometimes enjoying some reading, doing some work or yoga. Midday is time for lunch and walking the dogs and maybe an afternoon nap. My evenings are taken up with swim coaching or a pilates class and then another run late around 8 or 9pm.
“I won’t run outside when it’s…”?? Lightening!
What was/is your worst injury—and how did you get over it The hamstring tear went on for ages (2 years). I could run to a certain level and then it would just ache and hurt so I couldn’t get fit as I couldn’t push it at all. Caroline Middleton (Cirencester massage) sponsored me in 2016; I think that gave me some hope. The massage worked at the scar tissue and I also swam a lot, did walking drills and qualified in pilates instructing at that time… So good things came out of it.
What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about running? Specifically running long distances I love the peace and tranquillity I get when I’m out in the woods and meeting new people- I enjoy that too.
Your race ended in heartbreak. What were the circumstances and how did you feel? My recent indoor season didn’t go to plan as I had run 9min in Boston and then didn’t run well in the trials. I lacked the belief in my racing ability and kick. I had asked UK athletics for some support (funding for a trip at Christmas for warm weather) but they had said ‘I needed to do more than the others’ so then I raced too much in January – chasing the sub 9min and lost sight of my own self belief for the trial. I kind of let their comments get to me which is unusual for me, but it happened. My mindset slipped and I just didn’t feel good in myself. I felt really disappointed in myself for letting things slide. And I felt like I’d let Chris down, but in reflection I can see how it happened and next year I will do things differently. I say to myself – ‘everything I need is within me’ and then no matter what anyone says or does I’m ok as I know I have the strength to do this.
“I say to myself – ‘everything I need is within me’ and then no matter what anyone says/does. I’m ok as I know I have the strength to do this”
What’s your ‘go-to’ piece of kit that gets you in the zone? My Timex. Ironman triathlon watch. Just a stop watch.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Anil Iltas
Changing the game â€“ Maya Milani shares her story into skateboarding, the life lessons its taught her and breaking down gender and cultural stereotypes for a new generation.
MAYA MILANI SSACHS
â€œYou can tell a lot about a skillful skateboarder, their tenacity to never giving up, their commitment, their struggles, their achievements, their solitary journeyâ€?
was born in Manila, Philippines; my family was very poor and my mother sold bananas, saving pesos to buy a ticket to Japan. She auditioned as a dancer and, despite everyone telling her it was foolish, she took a leap of faith and followed her dream.
Perhaps, the only thing I struggled with was our views on money; there were high expectations of me to earn a lot, especially as we came from poverty and I now live in a richer country. I’m still trying to convince her that skateboarding can change things.
She became a Contemporary Jazz dancer, one of the finest in her field and eventually she came back for me. We lived in Japan, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and in the UK. My mother met my step-dad on one of her tours in the Middle East. He was English and when I first met him, I spoke various languages, except English. I think he found it amusing as I kept saying to him, “tulog na” (go to sleep). I have no idea why I kept telling him that, maybe because I thought he looked tired? I found it really challenging going to an English school, but It’s been over 15 years now since then and I consider myself British.
I’ve always been so drawn to the skateboard, but in the past, I’ve been too afraid to try it, I mean who wants to be seen falling over and messing up? You can tell a lot about a skillful skateboarder, their tenacity and ability to never give up. Their commitment, their struggles, their achievements, their solitary journey. I always found it inspiring, to see a skateboarder cruise in front of me, because in any given moment, there is the risk of falling over and despite that, they still keep going.
The women in my family carry the most grit. The Philippines is a Catholic country, and when my Mother was growing up and even until now, it is illegal to have contraception or to have abortions. Therefore, women would bear children to work, but my mother didn’t want that for me. Because of this, her drive and work ethic exceeds everyone else’s around her and she also expects this from me. Which isn’t necessarily a problem, I have a lot to be grateful for because of her and I now have an unbelievable hunger.
“I always found it inspiring, to see a skateboarder cruise in front of me”
When I began, I felt very intimidated, I avoided the skatepark for a long time, because of how many boys there were. But, I spent hours on my own, in the tennis courts, practising and the more I progressed the more confident I felt. Now, even though skateboarding is predominantly male, I commit myself to dominate, regardless of gender, because it isn’t a competition for me, I just don’t allow myself to be outworked by anyone. I don’t really listen to what people think about me skateboarding, I just ignore any negative vibes. I’m so busy being in it, and any negative vibes, I tend to use as fuel. In fact, whenever I’m having a really bad day, and I can’t express myself through words, I grab my board and skate, within half an hour, I immediately start to feel clearer in my mind. Once, I was so stressed out, I hadn’t slept that night and I couldn’t focus, I skated for nine hours and I came home, smashed out emails, wrote a song and slept like a baby. Since picking up my first skateboard back in May 2017 (only six months ago before writing this,) I’ve learned five important lessons. I did a pitch night in September 2017, where I talked about the studio I was building and how skateboarding enabled me to become the person required to run it.
“The lessons can be applied to everyday life”
The lessons can be applied to everyday life, these are: First lesson – you can’t get on a skateboard without submitting your entire being into it. Meaning you can’t half do it-it’s all or nothing. Second lesson – you have to practise faith, but not in an esoteric religious sense, but in a way made practical. Like going to the gym for the first time; you won’t see any results from that first day, or on the second or third or even a month. But after a year of gym, you’ll be stronger than you were on day one. Third lesson – on my first day of skateboarding, I tried to do the most complex, most hardest trick of all, called the kickflip. I ended up pulling my hip and twisting my ankles and severely injuring myself. The third lesson is it’s not about the intensity of the thing you’re doing, it’s not about doing it all in one day. It’s about the fourth lesson; Consistency – doing small things really well, over a sustainable period of time. Not neglecting practise, turning up to meetings and just doing it. The fifth lesson – in skateboarding, you will fall over. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how perfect you think you are, you will have a bad day-it happens. From that fall and bad day, you are granted options, really only two, do you fall and give up or do you rise and try again? The fifth lesson is having the tenacity to never give up. SSACHS
My team are my biggest supporters and inspiration. I spend most of my time creating recognition for other people, I don’t require it for myself. I really believe in myself and that doesn’t need words, it’s reflected back from the people who are creating this studio with me. It is called Walking Giants, because it’s about walking into your greatness. There are 12 of us and each and every one of us come from different disciplines. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t know how important this drive and passion truly is, it’s infectious, it can inspire people to create and live life to the fullest. Before I go to skate, I make it my ritual to tap my shoes on the floor – to check if they’re stable and fit. It helps trust my feet.
“I spend most of my time creating recognition for other people, I don’t require it for myself. I really believe in myself and that doesn’t need words”
â€œ Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.â€? ~ Gail Devers
THE “AHA!” MOMENT
and how to harness it WORDS | Jan Hills
“Aha! I solved it!” I’m writing this when I should be working on an idea for a client. I’ve done the research, thought hard about the problem and....Blank. What to do? I need some insight but nothing is coming. The harder I think, the less inspired I feel and the boss is looking at me with the expression on his face that I should be on to the next project. How can I come up with ideas if my brain is full of concerns, pressure and hassle?
The short answer is I or you probably won’t come up with an idea or at least not a very inspired one. Work can be a challenge: so many problems to solve and so much to do that there’s little time to think about the issues, let alone come up with inspiring ideas. If you are looking for inspiration, thinking harder may actually be the wrong thing to be doing. What is the right thing? According to studies of how your brain works it is to stop thinking about the problem. This is counter intuitive. But when you read the science you know it’s true because when you have had a breakthrough idea this is how it’s happened. You were walking to work thinking about nothing in particular or in the shower or at the gym. The science resonates with your experience.
THE “AHA!” MOMENT
The science People tend to solve problems in two different ways. Either they work logically through the evidence, or the solution pops into their mind along with a feeling that the answer is right. We call this insight, or an “Aha!” moment. Insight can save you lots of work and may even get you to be more productive, creative and effective, but it’s seldom included in a job specification or reviewed at appraisal. And most people’s working patterns and environment actually work against this insight happening.
Where does inspiration come from? When I ask people how they solve problems at work, especially problems that are creative and inspiring I consistently find that they don’t come to the solution through analysis; the answer always arrives suddenly, usually when the issue is out of conscious awareness - just as they fall asleep or wake up, during exercise, when they’re in the shower, basically times when the brain is not “busy”.
What is insight?
We’re not talking about general creativity here: that’s a process, a way of thinking and perceiving. Insight is also different to intuition, which is a nudge or a hint about the direction you need to take, rather than the whole solution.
Beeman’s research suggests that insight tends to involve connections between small numbers of neurons.
Insight is sometimes called an epiphany, an “aha” moment or an “eureka’ feeling. Buddhists use meditation to help solve problem using insight or “vipassana nana.” It’s the moment of clarity when a solution comes to you, and you know it’s correct, The whole answer tends to come at once. And it can happen in odd ways. There are numerous examples in history of these insight moments occurring, maybe two of the most famous are Archimedes an ancient Greek who had a problem with bath water and Albert Einstein who produced miraculous ideas from ‘nowhere’ which changed our understanding of how the world works.
An insight is often a long-forgotten memory, or a combination of memories aligned in new ways. These memories don’t have lots of neurons linking them together, which is why we need a quiet mind to notice the new connections and the insight they provide. A busy mind with little down-time tends to overlook the insight. You notice insights when the overall activity level in the brain is low and you are not busy thinking or doing very much; you might be in the shower, walking in the country or just dropping off to sleep.
How do insights work? Mark Beeman of Northwestern University is probably the best-known and most respected neuroscientist working on insight. He summarises the elements that make up insight as unconscious processing: solutions come to people when they’re not thinking about the problem in the same way as they have before (think Archimedes in his bath). A relaxed mind: you’re calm, and ideally in a good mood. And a sudden answer: when the solution comes it’s a surprise but you’re confident in it – you just know it works.
“When the solution comes it’s a surprise but you’re confident in it – you just know it works”
Beeman also found that these sudden answers tend to be correct: 92-94% of insight answers were correct compared with about 80% of answers produced by logical analysis. So here’s a bit more detail on those elements, with the scientific evidence pointing to how insight happens and how you can create the optimum conditions for your own insights.
Inward-looking Beeman has also found insight happens when we are looking “beyond the box,” not at the problem, but inside ourselves. Our attention can be externally focused (reading this article) or internally focused (an image has been generated in your mind’s eye by a word on the page). We tend to flick between these two states all the time. When people have insights they are often “mind-wandering,” according to psychologist Jonathan Schooler, rather than focused on the problem. Mark Beeman has recorded reduced activity in the visual and auditory cortex just before the moment of insight, which indicates that people shut out external stimuli to save brain resources for noticing the insight.
In a similar study, Joydeep Bhattacharya of Goldsmiths and Bhavin Sheth of the University of Houston identified that the brain knows how it will solve a problem eight seconds before the conscious answer appears. Sheth suggests this could be the brain capturing transformational thought in action (the “Aha!” moment) before the brain’s owner is consciously aware of it.
Relaxed positive mind
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that being in a good mood helps problem-solving, and it’s well-supported by the science. Participants who were happy when they arrived for an experiment, or who were put into a positive mood in the lab, solved 10% more problems overall, and solved 20% more of them by insight.
Beeman can predict which method (logic or insight) someone will use to solve a problem by the type of activity in their brain immediately before the problem is presented to them. He says the mental state determines our approach, and also personal preference. Someone’s resting state of brain activity also indicates which approach they may take.
A positive mood induces a broader focus of attention, allowing more creative and flexible responses which are good for tackling complex issues. Negative emotions tend to increase physiological arousal, narrow focus and restrict behaviour. When people are happy their perception is wider; when they’re anxious they exhibit more “tunnel vision.”
THE “AHA!” MOMENT
Creating insight in the organisation
If you want insights you need to stop trying to solve a problem.
And how do you apply all this to your wider work context?
A distinctive feature of problem-solving is that people get stuck. They go round and round the data and the issues and can’t see the solution. This happens because we tend to get fixated on a small set of solutions. The more we work on this same wrong solution, the more we prime the brain for that solution and the harder it is to think of new ideas.
When we’re solving problems in conjunction with other people at work, we tend to do the opposite of what the science indicates will be most effective. We put pressure on ourselves with a deadline, we gather more data, we brainstorm as a group... all of which demands a lot of brain-processing and makes it hard to have insight. It also tends to reduce the range of solutions as a group conforms to consensus, collective thinking.
Insights tend to happen when people give up, at least temporarily. Psychologist Stellan Ohlsson’s “inhibition theory” indicates that we need to inhibit the wrong solutions for the right one to come to our attention. Also, effort tends to involve a lot of electrical activity, and can reduce the likelihood of noticing the quiet signals of insight. You are more likely to get an answer to a problem if you let go of trying (remember: we have many more resources for non-conscious processing than for conscious processing).
How to have more insight
A better approach is to define a question as a group, then for people to individually take time off and allow their brains to process and solve the problem. The group then comes together to review and agree on the solutions. You’ll find the steps for creating insight are useful in many work situations. And if your work environment isn’t conducive use the science to help persuade your boss and colleagues to make some changes.
Following on from Beeman’s research we’ve created a shorthand model to help you remember the steps to increase insight. But remember that first it’s important to put your brain into the state that increases the chances of insight occurring: relax and put yourself in a good mood by watching a funny film, going for your favourite walk or chilling with your favourite person.
A guide to increasing insight: While insight is rewarding we need to reinforce the new neural links to maintain focus and action. So write down the insight, explain it to someone else, or visualise yourself with the problem solved.
Review and research the problem to be solved. At this point you may feel a little stuck if you are concerned about solving the problem, or you may feel focused.
Stop trying to actively solve the problem. “Put it on the back burner” and get engaged in a completely different type of activity: go for a walk, or tidy the office.
This is the moment of insight. Usually accompanied by energy. Within the brain a reward of dopamine is released when the answer appears.
You are more likely to get an answer to a problem if you let go of trying
STRONG IS THE NEW SKINNY SSACHS
STRONG is the new skinny Self acceptance, brute force and a raft of new fitness influencers are currently challenging our long-held beauty ideals, But is strong really the new Skinny?
WORDS | Ima Shah, Trend Manager â€“ Not on the High Street www.notonthehighstreet.com
t had been almost two years since I’d seen the inside of my local gym but nothing could prepare me for the shock I received last night. “What’s happening? I asked my newly appointed personal trainer, “is there something wrong with the treadmills?” Bar one O.A.P plodding along to the rhythm of the channel 4 news, the treadmills were all empty. “Nah, this is it now, everyone’s into strength training, and according to those ladies, it’s leg day!” The leg day ladies were deep in concentration (or competition) completing reps of dumbbell squats, each – I can imagine – striving to sculpt their own version of a Kardashian style behind. I was well aware that some kind of movement was afoot, as like many for us, I live half my waking hours on instagram – I blame the tiny human permanently attached to my breast for that. But seeing the amazing toned bodies of insta fitness influencers like @tammyhembrow, and @missjaninegeorge in the early hours of the morning was what drove me back to the gym in the first place. What I didn’t expect to see was how much our collective ideal of body image had changed and how quickly. Two years ago there where only a handful of women pushing weights. Many of us were pounding the treadmill and restricting calories in pursuit of a slim frame and a tiny butt. That silhouette seems to have fallen out of favour, for many Kim K, and Serena Williams now seem closer to the body types to which we aspire. It’s an extreme look; but it underscores the fact that today, strong is the acceptable face of skinny. But is this strong, toned look any less dangerous than the pursuit of an ultra thin silhouette? As with any trend there is still an expectation to conform. In short I think the answer is yes, this is different, or at least it feels different; there’s an almost palpable sense of acceptance within this trend. There appears to be an understanding that there is no ‘right’ way to look. The aim is to sculpt a strong and powerful silhouette, by building both muscle mass and confidence. The end result is up to you and how much work you’re willing to put in, rather than a mass-marketed ideal of perfection. However, it is easy to see how this trend can be taken to extremes by those who are vulnerable. So it’s refreshing to see how a new raft of self-made insta stars are all too aware of the impact of their posts and are constantly reminding their audiences that your fitness regime is only part of your journey towards self-love and body confidence.
“There appears to be an understanding that there is no ‘right’ way to look. The aim is to sculpt a strong and powerful silhouette, by building both muscle mass and confidence”
But ultimately, this is still a body trend which does pile on the pressure to look a certain way, but at the very least the strong aesthetic does open up a conversation about what we consider to be beautiful. The message is clear: power and strength can be both feminine and sexy.
What is your true purpose?
BYLE KAT BYLES
Imagine creative inspiration on tap, whenever you need it. Kat Byles is a Business & Creativity consultant working with entrepreneurs and sports brands making a difference including Nike, UEFA, Homeless World Cup and Beyond Sport. After ten years as a pioneer of sport for social change she now specialises in connecting business leaders to the wisdom and creative energy of their heart.
PHOTOGRAPHY | Yensa Werth
Tell us about your advocacy for sport for social change at the Homeless World Cup.
So what took you to Antigua and switched your focus to creative inspiration and heart in business?
The Homeless World Cup uses football to beat homelessness and is packed full of inspirational stories of transformation. Over 6 years we grew the social enterprise from 20 to 75 nation, positively impacting 250,000 homeless people. We did this with a world-class, annual, international football tournament and national grassroots football programmes running all year round. We worked with Nike, UEFA, United Nations, Manchester United and Eric Cantona all uniting to create global change.
After 6 years running around the world with the Homeless World Cup I experienced burn out. Exhausted, my intuition led me to Antigua for a month to recuperate. I walked barefoot on the white sandy beaches, floated in the turquoise Caribbean Sea, watched the sunset and the moonrise and ate mangoes picked fresh from the tree. Slowly my wellness, vitality and creativity returned. Now Antigua is the keystone in maintaining my energy, wellness and creativity in my life and business.
The transformation was radical with over 70% of players experiencing a positive life change –men and women came off drugs and alcohol, moved into homes, reunited with families, qualified as football coaches and set up their own football programmes. To see all that grit, spirit, and fight for a second chance was deeply humbling and showed me what human beings can withstand and still rise. Sport comes alive when it has a higher purpose.
I remember initially feeling shame at burning out until I watched the Pixar documentary and learnt the team couldn’t work for a whole year after Toy Story 2. Further investigation revealed that burn out is far too common in business, particularly amongst passionate, creative people. We get caught up in being busy and lose connection with ourselves, with nature and with the natural stream of life. Now I work with business leaders and creatives on retreats, creative masterminds and one to one consultancy to create with the wisdom and energy of their hearts. This ensures connection, wellness, deep fulfillment, legacy creation and surprisingly greater financial returns too.
“We get caught up in being busy and lose connection with ourselves, with nature and with the natural stream of life”
What’s the benefit of a business retreat in Antigua? Antigua is a radically different environment from your office. We work out in nature on the white sandy beaches surrounded by the turquoise Caribbean Sea. It is now scientifically proven that our creativity is significantly enhanced by bodies of water inducing a state of calm, conducive to inspirational downloads known as ‘Blue Mind’. Antigua’s culture is about going with the flow. There is no rushing, striving, pushing, using our will power to make it happen that is the norm in traditional business. This relaxed approach is vital for wellness and creativity as we receive inspiration and our best ideas when we are relaxed. Combine this with creative sessions to intentionally move beyond your logical mind to access the deeper, intuitive intelligence and creativity of your heart, and you create radically different results. Results aligned with your true nature and purpose that are deeply fulfilling, moving and impactful. Results that are quite literally full of heart and inspiration.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”
How do you turn all that creative inspiration into a solid plan? By going step by step guided by the wisdom of your heart. Embracing Martin Luther King’s philosophy “You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Creating with heart and inspiration is emergent. You learn to thrive in the space of not knowing and be curious, be in the highly creative state of innocence where you can observe fresh connections. You also learn to put in structures that support and cultivate the highest creative outcome for you and your team. The Antigua Retreat and Creative Mastermind are designed for this purpose – to connect you to your heart’s vision and focus on creating it from your heart regardless of what is going on in the day-to-day business.
Can you give us an example of how creative inspiration has impacted the businesses you work with? I’ve worked with creative agencies to completely change direction by aligning their business with a higher purpose; creative directors to design ground-breaking, innovative products, and source the creative direction for a new business; with marketing directors to design marketing campaigns generating 60% growth in customer acquisition. They have effortlessly and naturally stepped beyond fears of not knowing, years of being stuck or in overwhelm to create what they previously believed impossible. They have doubled their audience, quadrupled revenues, become confident, creative, imaginative industry leaders, opened international offices, lost kilos and become full of energy and life. Creating with heart and inspiration offers us all the chance to fulfil our true nature, purpose and potential, to experience deep fulfilment, wellness and creative flow all whilst making a difference and leaving a lasting legacy. To arrange a retreat, creative mastermind or one to one and tap into the wisdom and creative energy of your heart contact email@example.com. SSACHS
â€œ It is now scientifically proven that our creativity is significantly enhanced by bodies of water inducing a state of calmâ€?
In our next summer issue weâ€™ll be looking at the effects of sport and apparel styling for men.
We go deep into the Moroccan desert to interview Berber Saharan sand-boarders about their love of the desert and get inspired by their fusion of ancient traditions with modern sports and styles. Focusing too on boxing, martial arts, and mens ultra running we ask â€“ What does it take to be part of these mini sub-communities? How did they discover what they do? Why do they love it so much and how has it changed them for the better? We discuss apparel and what we, as performance sportswear designers can contribute to winning a medal, help them excel and claim that prize trophy or personal symbol of success. 94
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