THINKING FOR A LIVING
“Thinking is probably the hardest work there is, which is probably why so few engage in it.” – Henry Ford
When was the last time you stopped, turned off everything around you— your mobile phone, iPad, computer, TV, radio and everything else in this hyper-connected, hyper-distracted world—and took the time to just … think? Can you remember? I can’t. I’m always on – 25 x 7.
HOW MUCH THOROUGH THINKING IS THOUGHT?
Last year 107 trillion emails were sent. Each day two-billion tweets are twooted (I know that’s not a word, but I like the neologism connotation) and one-billion pieces of content are posted on Facebook. Not to mention that 7,000 comments per second are posted on Facebook. That’s a lot of “doing” but most of it is “reactive.” Responding to the thoughts of others, who are probably reacting to the thoughts of others reacting to the thoughts of others.
How much thorough thinking do you think was thought in all that doing?
WEIRD SOUND IDENTIFIED
So, I decided to try it. Think, that is. First thing I noticed was weird. Really weird. It was a strange sound that I later identified as …
It was unnerving. To get past the unnerving weirdness I decided to do some deep, thorough thinking on a problem I was having with a book I was writing.
Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book. – Edward Gibbon
I quickly arrived at a conclusion. It’s much easier to do a lot of stuff than think. But that wasn’t really the solution to the problem I was looking for. So I stopped to think again …
… and immediately ran into another conundrum. Thinking is hard work. I just couldn’t get started again with that deafening silence distracting me.
So, to help the process I decided to track down one of the nation’s foremost visionaries and leading authorities on thinking and marketing, Joey Reiman, and talk to him about the future of thinking, the business of thinking … or the lack thereof.
SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP
Joey Reiman is the bestselling author of several books, including Thinking for a Living, Success: The Original Handbook, and The Best Year of Your Life … Make It Happen Now! A world-renowned speaker, he provides listeners with the inspiration and foresight needed to become leaders of the future. Next year, Random House will publish Joey’s latest book, Business at the Speed of Molasses, which promises to speed up the ideas revolution by slowing business down so that it may be more purposeful, passionate and profitable.
Joey Reiman has it nailed. He’s won over 500 creative awards in national and international competitions, including the Cannes Film Festival. Joey also teaches a course on “Ideation” as an adjunct professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.
CREATE BIG IDEAS—GET PAID WELL
And … Joey Reiman and his company, BrightHouse, charge between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per idea.
THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE
In 1994, Joey Reiman did something most would think unthinkable. He walked into a meeting with his Board of Directors and announced that he was shutting down his award-winning $100 million a year ad agency, to create an ideas company—to think for a living. His only product would be “ideas.”
“The world was ad rich and ideas poor.” – Joey Reiman
Joey Reiman was convinced that the marketing and advertising world had it all wrong. Their business model—built on the primacy of ideas, but only being paid for the execution of those ideas—was flawed. You see advertising and creative agencies get clients by pitching ideas and giving them away for free. They make their money in the execution of volume production, media spots aired, print ads sold, etc. They don’t get paid for where they create value—the idea. They get paid for the execution of those ideas.
A BETTER IDEA
Joey Reiman had a better idea. He shut down the advertising company, walked away from a $100-million-a-year advertising agency and started a new company he named BrightHouse. It’s considered the world’s first Ideation Corporation.
I wanted to talk to Joey not only about “Thinking for a Living” but also about walking away from a successful $100 million-dollar company. Think about that? It took a real conviction, commitment and some serious …
Steve Kayser (SK): What was going through your mind when you shut down your successful advertising company to start a new company selling ideas? That took a lot of guts.
Joey Reiman (JR): I think everyone has a Joseph Campbell moment at some point in their lives. You’re living what would be called an “ordinary existence” or what I would call doing the “day-to-day job,” and you’re somewhere in your career, and out of the blue you get a call, just like Luke Skywalker got a call. His was a little more dramatic because he leaves his uncle and aunt to go out and save an evil empire; he got a call to go save a princess and the universe. We all get calls to save ourselves, our families, our companies and even save the world in our own way, but we don’t take the call because we’re sort of set in our ways.
We’ve become routinized, codified and structured and live out a fairly dull existence. But we don’t have to. Those of us who do get a call to do something bigger, better … some higher calling—it’s often to leave your job, to leave your career and follow your calling.
SK: Joseph Campbell called it “Follow Your Bliss.”
ANSWERING THE CALL
JR: Yes, he did. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m keen on teaching my students at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School on not going after a job or a career but a calling.
In 1994, after having a meteoric rise in the advertising industry, winning every possible award (over 500 of them), and really gathering all of the stuff that is supposed to make you happy, I recognized that when you got to the top of the mountain, what you find up there was what you brought with you. And those gold statues actually weighed me down on the hike up. Worse … having the gold statues up there really means nothing.
SELLING YOU WHAT YOU DON’T NEED
That’s when I had a “spear in the chest” moment. I recognized that all of the work I was doing on behalf of the advertising agency was really nothing else than selling people what they didn’t need. Then I started thinking about advertising as the grandest, social experiment in civilization that had basically failed.
JR: Because we can’t get enough of what we don’t need. If you have any industry that’s a trillion-dollar industry focused on getting people what they don’t need, then to what end or benefit is that?
I thought the advertising industry had the smartest, most creative people on the planet, and I asked myself, can’t we do better? Can marketing move from marketing to seller to marketing to serve as a healer? This concept was very exciting to me.
I combed through history, I looked throughout civilization for the biggest ideas that actually served humankind. and I found what I call “master ideas.” Ideas like:
We shall overcome
God is law
For better or for worse
All men are created equal
Very big ideas that were not necessarily factual, but that I recognized as truths.
FINDING THE WHY
The hypothesis was:
Can a company—a marketing company—actually look into other companies as we look through civilization, searching for the instructive sparks of fire that actually gave birth to the company, that gave the company a reason for being alive? To find the”why?”
If you found the DNA of the why, that instructive spark of fire, then you could actually rebuild culture, wrap genuine value around it, be a more purposeful company and have that purpose drive strategy and tactics.
That notion was big enough for me to recognize a space that nobody had ever gone to in marketing. What I called it was from a word I borrowed from the psychiatric community—”ideation.” Now in the medical community, that’s not a very good word. It actually means to ruminate about suicide. But the second meaning of the word is the thought process—the thinking process. I combined that in with the notion of a marketing company that would call itself an ideation company that would deliver larger ideas for organizations with the hope that those ideas could help improve public life. And not just in the public perception of the brands, but the company whose advertising we’re supporting. To deliver real results for our clients.
BRIGHTHOUSE—THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THINKING
And I thought “that’s pretty grand,” that should be in the executive branch of thinking. That, of course, would be in the White House. The White House turned into our company BrightHouse with the idea that I would attract the very best thinkers from around the globe in service of the globe and the people living on it.
“Ideals are like stars: You will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny.” – Carl Schurz
That was the vision to me years ago. Frankly, it was big enough of a vision. It’s kind of you to call it courageous, but the vision was more enlightening than courageous. It just wouldn’t let go of me. In all callings and in all purposes, when they’re given to you, they’re gifts. Once you acknowledge and hear it, it’s hard not to keep hearing it. Actually, it might take more courage to live a life that has not been lived than to fully recognize the power of the life you have inside you to be lived.
With that enlightenment, I put the word out and some exceptionally smart people came in. I fired all of my advertising clients except for Children’s Hospital, which I didn’t think was the right thing to do. That was 15 years ago and BrightHouse has really enjoyed a great journey helping other companies, other leaders and other marketers hear their call and take their journey.
SK: By that you mean helping them find their bliss? Find their meaning? Viktor Frankl’s book The Search for Meaning spoke to this journey, but I think Joseph Campbell might have had a little better interpretation of it. Campbell said, “People don’t want to search for meaning—they want to experience meaning.”
JR: Yes. It’s a real search for the rapture of life. People really are not necessarily searching for the meaning, but like you just mentioned, Joseph Campbell said they’re in search of the experience of meaning in life.
THE PRIVILEGE OF LIFE?
The privilege of a lifetime is to be who we are. In this society, we are not allowed to be who we are. The freedom to be who we are is often taken away from us at work. We are accountable not to our family, but to the company and we don’t get to define successes in our own terms.
Be who you are; it’s a privilege that’s exclusively yours.
So, what the power of purpose and the power of living our own story is, autobiographically or with authority (the power of being the author), is that we get to write our own scripts, and that’s a cool place to be. I mean, I really love my work. I help people to make their lives work and their companies work better than they do.
SK: So many people give into resistance. “‘I will do it some day. I will, I really will.” But then someday never comes. Resistance beats you. You came to a point in your life—a jumping-off point—where you just said you were going to do it. Was that because you were so comfortable already due to previous successes, or because you were so convinced that it was the right thing for you to do personally?
IT TAKES COURAGE TO BE WHO YOU ARE
JR: It was the right thing for me to do personally. I could not have turned my back on it. In that sense, it was the courage to be who you are in the face of adversity which, at that time, everyone in the world was saying to me;
- You can’t have a company based on ideas.
- Why would you turn your back on the advertising industry that’s been so good to you?
- Why would you give up the accolades, financial rewards and the comfort and security of an industry that’s been proven?
I believed marketing and advertising could do better. Since then, I think I’ve proven that it can.
THE THINKING MODEL—THE FOUR I’S
SK: You created a thinking-process framework for BrightHouse by melding the experiences, processes and thoughts of many great thinkers; from Herman von Helmholtz and Csikszentmihalyi (I’ll never say that one on the radio) to Marshall McLuhan to produce your trademark Four I’s thinking methodology.
THE FOUR I’S:
- Investigate – Gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data.
- Incubate – Three or more weeks of thinking, daydreaming.
- Illuminate – Big ideas don’t appear. They evolve. Look for the flash, the “AHA” spark of a BIG IDEA that will make a dent in the universe.
- Illustrate – Visually portray and personalize the Big Idea.
How did the Four I’s concept evolve?
JR: I looked through all of the thinking frameworks throughout history. In the Anatomy of Thinking by Herman Von Helmholtz, a Berlin physicist, his framework is designed to suggest that there was an incubation period. He was a 19th-century physicist, so this guy was way way ahead of his time.
PANDER AND WANDER
When I looked further at the frameworks, especially in American business, there is no narrative time, no incubation time, no pondering or wandering time, so we actually put it into our model.
Albert Einstein was keen on thinking like a child and taking time to daydream. I think the notion of daydreaming is critical, not only for thinking but critical thinking.
YOU HAVE TO TAKE TIME
In order to think great thoughts, you have to create them. In order to create an environment for an unconditioned response, you need to schedule time to think, and this sounds like daydreaming to me—space time or freebie time. That time is when we do our best thinking. It’s where intelligence has thought. The bottom line is that creativity is intelligence having thought. In order to do that, you have to make time.
HERE’S THE FORMULA YOU NEED TO KNOW: 4 I’S > C2
“Four I’s see greater than two eyes. It’s my equation not only for marketing, but living, loving and life.” – Joey Reiman
THE FIVE LAST BASTIONS OF GREAT THINKING ARE?
SK: Most companies would probably look askew at scheduled daydreaming time at work.
JR: Yes. That’s a problem isn’t it. Where to think? I wrote a paper about the last five bastions of great thinking. It’s certainly not the office, it’s the:
- John (aka toilet)
Turn off the noise. Listen to your mind. Get out of your cubic-hell. People who work in cubicles have jobs too small for the spirit, and that’s an American tragedy. They’re really cubic-hells.
“Face it, most of us have jobs too small for our spirits. “- Joey Reiman
SK: And that’s still the model you use, the four “I”s?
JR: It’s the methodology we use in order to identify a company’s purpose. What BrightHouse is known for is helping Fortune 100 companies:
- Discover and articulate their purpose
- Tell their story— and by doing so
- Attract relationships and not necessarily customers
BUYER VS. BUY-IN FOCUSED
That’s very different from typical marketing that is focused on getting people to buy things. We’re focused on one thing and that’s to buy into—not to buy things, but to buy into things.
“You don’t buy an iPod, you buy into the Apple philosophy.”- Joey Reiman
This is all predicated on the notion that human beings crave meaning. If you’re not creating meaning, then why should people seek you out? But if you create meaning in a genuine, moral and ethical sense, then people will not just want to break down your door, they’ll want to live with you. I think this is really the most important thing as marketing moves from product-focused to customer-focused and gets into the power of relationships.
SK: Just a wild guess here, but I’m thinking you probably ran into some resistance and adversity when you tried to create BrightHouse. What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
JR: I ran into a lot of people that said “No. Won’t work. Who’ll pay for an idea? “
SK: (That’s what I was thinking— boy was I wrong. But then again, refer to the opening cartoon.)
JR: And … “Really , who would pay for an idea? It’s not the way the world works.” That’s when the Coca Cola Company and Coty Cosmetics stepped forward and tried it. We’ve never looked back. But, even to this day, fifteen years later, I still have to teach people a whole new way of thinking and sell the concept.
Our business is really Thinkonomics, and the work we do at BrightHouse is for visionary leadership. Though I’d like to think that every leader is visionary, you and I both know that’s not the case.
QUARTER CENTURY VS NEXT QUARTER
I search for people who are thinking forward into the next quarter century—not just the next quarter—for their shareholders. I think that stereoscopic vision where you’re focused on both the next quarter and the next quarter century is the kind of leader that hires BrightHouse.
“I paid Joey Reiman $1 million just to think!” – CEO Jim Adamson of the Advantica Restaurant Group
SK: Selling value. Selling the value of an idea. You actually charge $500,000 to $1,000,000 per idea?
JR: Yes. I think if you were to ask any of those CEOs “was it worth it?” they’d say yes. Many have been asked. There is a real sense of great value delivered. And value, in return, should be received for great ideas.
QUESTIONS CAN BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANSWERS
It’s something I feel strongly about and stand for. It’s just like grammar school. You don’t get credit for the answers; you get credit for solving the question. The questions could be a lot more important than the answers. These questions lead you to deeper thinking toward thoughtful solutions. We don’t need quick solutions. A quick solution often doesn’t work. Thinking more deeply, thinking more thoughtfully, thinking more long-term, takes a longer period of time but it has greater generative effects.
STOP DOING—START THINKING
We need to stop the doing and start thinking.
SK: Yes. Agreed. But it’s a little difficult for some managers and leaders to think you’re working when you’re at your desk thinking. For example, I tried that once.
And the boss caught me deep in thought, which I re-positioned as, “I was hard at work.” My reward? A retro-pay adjustment. That belies the flawed notion of seemingly “doing something” means your working.
“Never mistake motion for action.” – Ernest Hemingway
Was there a point when you were creating BrightHouse and the “Thinking for a Living” concept that you questioned whether you could really pull it off?
JR: I’ve had times at BrightHouse where we took a step backward. I remember working with Delta Airlines and they wanted us to go back to doing their advertising. There was a lot of money on the table—a very lucrative opportunity. I did it, took the money, and it was a big mistake. So yes, I did question myself.
SK: How do you sell ideas? I know you can sell ideas with volume production and execution, but just the idea itself? It sounds to me like the epitome of the definition of a “Complex Sale.”
JR: I couldn’t sell something unless I believed in it—passionately. It’s very similar to consultants. There are two kinds of consultants: the experts and the advisors. The experts I can get in the phonebook. But the advisor is different. In past times, the king would rely on his advisor, not the expert. The advisor was always stacked above everyone else next to the king.
That’s what we sell at BrightHouse. I’m not selling expertise. Those in advertising, they’re experts at communicating. We’re advisors. I do think people will pay for a point of view because anyone can have a point of view.
But to have a:
- Point of view
- Noble purpose
- Live that purpose
- Look at the world through a prism of purpose that magnifies everything
… that people will pay well for … very well; millions of dollars.
SK: What do you look for in a person when BrightHouse hires a thinker?
JR: Well I used to put out a “For Hire” sign, but it was spelled “higher;” the notion being that we were looking for people with a higher form of thinking. Beginning at BrightHouse is pretty hard. There are a number of interviews, a number of case studies, a number of cases, and I don’t look for anything close until I look into the eyes of the person.
I look for passion because I can teach anyone just about anything but I can’t teach will. I need will much more than I need skill. If I see will in your eyes, I don’t care what your skills are like; that can be taught. But the will is a gift. That’s what I look for.
“Will is more important than skill. Thinking can be taught. But will is a gift.” – Joey Reiman
SK: Who are some of the luminary thinkers you’ve attracted to BrightHouse?
JR: We’ve created the largest and most distinguished Luminary Network on the planet. We engage these top scholars and expert advisors on all of our projects to provide divergent, unprecedented thinking and insights. It’d be easier if people just went to our website and clicked on “Luminaries” to check them out. But they include:
- Dr. Philip Kotler, Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management
- Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the sixth astronaut to walk on the moon and the pilot of Apollo 14
- Robert Watson, former CEO of the Salvation Army
- Horst Schulze, founding president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company
- Dr. Kary Mullis, the 1993 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry
- Dr. Allison Druin, Director of the human-computer interaction lab at the University of Maryland
- Sam Keen, noted philosopher and author. Bill Moyers profiled him in the 60 Minutes PBS special “Your Mythic Journey.”
Among many others.
SK: Back to thinking for a living. What do you think of a genius-type like Nikola Tesla who got the call to change the world through his inventions? He did change the world but died alone and penniless, mainly because his call didn’t include business smarts. He believed himself to be a “Planter of Seeds,” of great ideas for the benefit of our world. Thomas Edison on the other hand, invented for one purpose: to sell a product. If he couldn’t sell it, it wasn’t worth inventing. The businesses he created still exist today and he died fabulously wealthy.
JR: When so many artists and great inventors get the calling, there is not a checkbook. Larry Barkin said, “Infinite patience produces immediate results.” What he meant by that is that if you have a calling of something great, you need to heed it. Edison beat Tesla in sales. Plain and simple. It was his call. Not Tesla’s. But I think if people follow their dreams, try to live them everyday, then their dreams will come true. Those of us who have them everyday get to live a better life than those who are living without the dream, which is, I think, a nightmare.
Aspirations are different.
What do you aspire to? Is it money? Will you be happy with money? I don’t think most are. Life isn’t printed or lived on dollar bills even though a lot of people think it is. I know a lot of unhappy rich people. I know more happy people without a lot of money but have great hearts and the dream in their heart is what sustains them.
I wish for everyone to be a Tesla and not an Edison.
SK: If Tesla were alive today, would it be any different?
JR: Yes. Because he’d be working with BrightHouse. His soulful passion would be nurtured and rewarded.
Passion + Purpose = Profit
About Joey Reiman
As founder of BrightHouse, the world’s first Ideation Corporation™, Joey Reiman decided to offer companies a revolutionary way of thinking that promised to change the way they did business forever. Over the past 25 years, Joey has emerged as one of the nation’s foremost visionaries and leading authorities on thinking and marketing. He is the bestselling author of several books, including Thinking for a Living, Success: The Original Handbook, and The Best Year of Your Life … Make It Happen Now! A world-renowned speaker, he provides listeners with the inspiration and foresight needed to become leaders of the future.
JReiman@thinkbrighthouse.com Atlanta 790 Marietta Street P: 404-240-2500 Atlanta, GA 30318 F: 404-240-2501
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