BBC News – The myth of the eight-hour sleep

Many people wake up at night and panic,” he says. “I tell them that what they are experiencing is a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern.” But the majority of doctors still fail to acknowledge that a consolidated eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. “Over 30% of the medical problems that doctors are faced with stem directly or indirectly from sleep. But sleep has been ignored in medical training and there are very few centres where sleep is studied,” he says.

I always enjoy keeping up with research on sleep. It has to be the subject least well understood, with arguably with the most potential to improve our lives and, at work, our productivity. This article discusses the notion that our sleep used to be done in 2x 4 hours… much like the army does. What we know is that the first few hours of sleep are deeper and more reposing. During the last few hours of a night’s sleep, the amount of deep sleep (stage 3-4 non-REM) is less and, the ability to fall back asleep becomes increasingly difficult if you have been woken. Personally, I would subscribe to a 2x 4-hour sessions, albeit I typically need no more than 6 1/2-7.

BBC News – Beauty sleep concept is not a myth, says study

Love the fact that we have to prove that sleep makes us look and feel good! Whatever else? Bags under the eyes, poor focus, squinting because the eyes hurt… Not good signs coming from the sleep deprived, not to mention the ill effects on the health. A rested person = someone who will be less irritable, who has less worries… and who potentially manages his/her time better?

However, these are not all things I do well, btw!

Sleep Trivia: Mammals’ sleep habits

In an effort to wake one’s sleepy spirits, I like to write about sleep and the need to improve our daily hygiene and knowledge about sleep.

Bottle Nose Dolphin...

Did you know that marine mammals stay awake for over a month?  Meanwhile, here is a fun article about the dolphin’s sleeping habits:  Dolphins keep an Eye Out while sleeping

What are your sleeping habits?

Here are a few sleep tips that I like to promulgate, following on my Sleep Research and ongoing interest on the topic.

Before going to bed:

  • enjoy a light dinner (try the German approach of a big breakfast, a medium lunch and a light dinner)
  • don’t drink alcohol
  • no screens (no television, iphone or computer…)
  • don’t do sports (they wake the cardiac system which takes a while to settle back down)
  • create some relaxing ceremonies (rituals before hitting the sack)

Otherwise, sleep scientists generally say it’s useful to go to bed earlier than later at night (the best hours of sleep and recovery are the first hours of sleep).  Another interesting phenomenon is that our internal biological clock is based on 24.9 hours (on average) rather than the moon guided 24 hours, which means that we would generally find it easier to go sleep one hour later than one hour earlier each night in the absence of external stimuli.  Nonetheless, it is better to go bed at the same time to instil a good habit in the body… Chances are that we will wake with outside stimulus (daylight, etc.) or by our internal clock (especially if we have a habit of waking up at a certain hour).  If you like this topic, you can read more on “why do we sleep?” here.

Why do we get sleepy?

Sleep MysteriesOne of my favourite topics and an underdiscussed area in current life is sleep.

Overdiscussed in day-to-day life and clearly missing in solutions: being tired. Especially on Friday’s, like today, you hear the inevitable sounds of relief of the upcoming weekend of repos and expressions such as “TGIF” (thank goodness it’s Friday).

If we all know we need sleep, one of the absolute craziest things about modern science is that we [top notch scientists included] still don’t know WHY we need to sleep. We also struggle to know how much sleep we actually NEED. We know when we are tired and are ready to sleep, but the amount we need is a mystery. And, even when we are sometimes exhausted, sleep may be elusive. The health considerations are inexact and subject to many unproven hypotheses. In my experience, performance (at work or in sports) during a day is not necessarily linked to the amount of sleep you have had the night before (although you would think it would be absolutely systematic).

In an ongoing effort to bring the topic to the fore, here is a link to a great article, detailing Why We Get Sleepy? And herewith some good tips from LiveScience on how to improve your sleep.

Please do share among your friends and come back to me with your thoughts!

Measuring Quality of Life – A review between France and USA

Quality of LifeAs part of my Franco-American profile, I am naturally drawn to reading about comparisons and competition between France and the US. I came across this May 2009 article, France Beats America, which describes France’s epicurean passion for “living it up” in terms of eating, sleeping and holidaying. On the eating front, as much as obesity and over-eating might be America’s bête noire, the French make more time for eating. According to this article, “[t]he French spend more than 2 hours a day eating, twice the rate in the United States, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)…” The French spend 135 minutes per day eating versus 74 minutes for the Americans and 66 mins for Mexicans (69 mins for the Canadians). The Turks (#1) actually out-eat the French (#2) by an half hour each day! According to the OECD report, the French top the list for average number of hours slept at 8h50/day… marginally ahead of the equally surprising 8h38/day for Americans. Koreans and Japanese sleep the least among OECD countries, and an hour less per day (7h50) than the French (the OECD average is indicated as 503 minutes or 8h20/day). And, if you are thinking that not sleeping enough is bad for your health, the Japanese lifespan expectancy (86F.79M) outlasts France (85F.77M) and far outstrips the US (80F.75M) which is below the OECD average (82F.76M).

Finally, when you add that the French take on average 7.0 weeks of holidayThe Good Life - Man and Girl bouncing on Beds per year versus 3.8 weeks for the Americans, it does add up to a lot more “living it up.” I would tend to argue that the pendulum should swing back for the French, to work just a bit harder … not just any how, but by adding more pleasure, humour and emotion in the work space. And in the US, I would argue that the focus should be on eating better (not necessarily longer).

Meanwhile, among the countries included in the survey, it was reported that men have more leisure time than women. “This gender gap is largest in Italy, where men top women by 80 minutes per day. The gap is just under 40 minutes in the United States, and smallest (less than 5 minutes) in Norway.” France’s gender gap on the criteria of leisure time is 34 minutes (in line with the OECD average of 35 minutes). Is there any real correlation between a reduced gender gap on leisure time with equality of the sexes? That is far from certain. However, to the extent that women are generally at work and have the lion’s share of the responsibility for taking care of the family, clearly women will continue to suffer in terms of having their own leisure time if the burden at home is not appropriately shared. Below is the OECD report (data from 2006, published in April 2009) regarding the leisure time gender gap.

OECD Leisure Time Gender Gap 2009

While life is about good food, good company (including on holidays) and a good night’s sleep (& good health), the issue is about creating a sustainable model, i.e. (a) making the 45-49 weeks at work more agreeable and liberating; and (b) finding ways to allow women to have as much leisure as men. Quality of life should, considering how many hours are put into work, include the quality of life at work and we all need each other to be in “top” shape!

Your thoughts please!

Why do we sleep? Should we nap?

I have written in the past about sleep, in particular how interesting and revealing the study of sleep was for me at University (see here). What has always baffled me is that Sleep Researchers still have never scientifically proven why adult human beings need to sleep. We do know that if we don’t sleep enough, typically we suffer from irritability, forgetfulness and fatigue, and our motor skills in low-grade repetitive tasks diminish. One thing I also know is that, in ‘modern’ society, we sure spend a bunch of time THINKING about getting more sleep.

That said, sleep researchers have been making significant progress recently. LiveScience published this article, entitled ‘New Theory Questions Why We Sleep‘, by Charles Choi, which describes the latest research by Jerome Siegel at the University of California at Los Angeles. Sleep “is often thought to have evolved to play an unknown but vital role inside the body…”; but, Siegel suggests that the reason why we sleep is related to an adaptation to the outside environment. Specifically, Siegel “proposes the main function of sleep is to increase an animal’s efficiency and minimize its risk by controlling how a species behaves with regards to its surroundings.”
There are several other theories as to what is the purpose of sleep. These theories include promoting longevity, a role in learning, reversing damage from daily stress… The Choi article continues to say that “in humans, the brain constitutes, on average, just 2 percent of total body weight but consumes 20 percent of the energy used during quiet waking, so these savings have considerable significance…” Intuitively, the idea that the rest we get is most beneficial for the brain makes sense, knowing that the brain’s activity is never fully shut off during sleep and is hyperactive in the REM phases.
“I think this idea of ‘adaptive inactivity’ is an extremely useful way of thinking about the broader picture of sleep without getting lost in individual theories,” said sleep researcher David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Dinges noted that regular cycles of light and darkness “put enormous environmental pressures on animals that all play into forced ‘time-outs.'”
Meanwhile, there are all sorts of myths about sleep, in part perpetuated by a lack of evidence, but also our lack of study/research and, more ominously, mis-information. It is worth noting that sleep (or at least getting to sleep) is also, unfortunately, big business: it is estimated that worldwide sales for sleeping pills (hypnotics) will surpass $5 billion in the next several years.
My own interest in sleep stems from a fundamental belief that sleep management is integral to time management. Actively managing one’s sleep should be part of one’s daily hygiene, just as much as eating and doing sports. One of the biggest misconceptions out there is that sleeping more is ipso facto healthier, to the point where taking sleeping pills is better than not sleeping enough. This is unlikely to be the case. From this LiveScience article, I quote, “[a] six-year study [Daniel F.] Kripke headed up of more than a million adults ages 30 to 102 showed that people who get only 6 to 7 hours a night have a lower death rate than those who get 8 hours of sleep. The risk from taking sleeping pills 30 times or more a month was not much less than the risk of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, [Kripke] says.”
I am personally a light sleeper and early riser, always living on the edge of what is necessary to live my conscious day in a comfortable way. While many people express a certain jealousy, it could yet be classified as chronic sleep deprivation. Do I naturally need less sleep or is it a self-imposed internal regime? Research by Ying-Hui Fu, a professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco, Mission Bay, suggests that a gene (DEC2) may be responsible for the amount of sleep we need (at least for the short sleepers). So, perhaps I am genetically predisposed?
If one is to sleep or rest effectively, there is also the solution of the nap. On weekends, a longer nap helps to accommodate the sporting endeavours and longer social engagement on the Saturday night… But during the working week, at least for those working in a company, the nap — even the power nap — is basically out of the question. Quite astonishingly, per a Pew Research Center study, reported in this article in LiveScience, napping is an activity done daily by 1/3 of all adult Ameri
cans. But for the other 2/3 [i.e. hard at work], it is a daily dream. Imagine a company where you could, without fear of reprisal, just crawl up for a power snooze of 10-20 minutes when the deep urge fell upon you. Would that not feel like a true daily gift? How much do you think that would be worth? Instead, snoozing is, almost uniformly, voraciously frowned upon and left to do on the commute home, stuffed in between two bodies on the tube/metro/subway or, worse yet, swinging upright, hanging on to a handle bar while standing on a moving bus. Of course, for power naps to be permissible, there would have to be some level of controls. The key is to set clear time-delimited objectives without focusing on exactly “when” the work is being done. This would also be a vital condition to creating more flexible hours for employees. On a side note, the much maligned pigeons (at least on this blog), apparently integrate the power nap into their daily crumb-finding, building-desecrating life – read here for more on those napping pigeons.
In a somewhat counter intuitive result of the Pew study, the most frequent nappers according to revenues were actually those in the middle, i.e. the middle managers : “Among people making more than $100,000, 33 percent said they nap regularly, while 42 percent of those making less than $30,000 clock out during the day. The income group that naps least? Those who make $75,000 to $99,000 (21 percent).” If such is the need for the human body, for the bolder CEO’s or leaders among you, is it not the smart thing to do to invest in organising a nap room, like they did for NASA’s Phoenix mission team members?
What’s your opinion? Is napping a luxury or truly necessary? Which do you prefer, the power nap or 90-minute snooze? Would a nap room make work conditions remarkably better? How might you go about instituting a ‘nap policy’ in an organisation?

Women suffer more nightmares than Men, new study shows

Painting of Woman sleeping with dreamsA study out of the University of the West of England in Bristol, tracking 193 women and men over 5 years, found that women suffer more nightmares than men. Moreover, the research determines that men and women have dreams of a different nature, too. A small article from the Daily Telegraph (“Women suffer more nightmares than men“) wrote, “[W]hen asked to record their most recent dream, 19% of male students reported having a nightmare compared with 34% of women.” Overall, that seems to me like quite a high level of nightmares. Jennifer Parker, a psychology lecturer at the University, said “I believe these results show women carry over their waking concerns into their dream life more so than men do.” I have a couple of comments to add, based on my own unscientific observations that are rife with generalisations (and where the word ‘women’ could equally be written as ‘those having feminine characteristics’): 1/ As Parker suggests, I would agree that women develop stronger emotional connections with their waking concerns which provides fertile grounds for a sub-conscious negative reveil during the dreams. 2/ In my experience, women tend to live their dreams more vividly and to recall them more frequently. I, as a sample of one male, rarely recall my dreams, nor give much credence to the stories brought up when I do remember them.


Meanwhile, as I found in this ABC report which is much longer and more articulate about the topic than the Telegraph report, I was interested by the notion, you are what you dream. Rosalind Cartwright, dream research and chairman of psychology at Rush University Medical Center, says many of these variables are easy to understand. “They are the ones you might imagine, anything that makes for distress and disadvantage,” she said. “These include low income, unemployment and other factors.”

And, as the ABC article continues, “…past research reveals some surprises. A July 2001 study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, suggested that Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats to experience nightmares when they dream.

‘Half of the dreams of Republicans in my study were classified as nightmares, compared to only about 18 percent of the dreams of Democrats,’ said lead study author Kelly Bulkeley in a university-issued press release. ‘My speculation is that people on the right are very attuned to the dangers in the world, and they’re seeking ways to defend themselves against those threats.'”
In any event, beyond nightmares and political affiliations, I assume that women may also have a different relationship with dreams in general and, by extension, with sleep. Beauty sleep is, with dreams included, for an inside-outside beauty.


Corregidor – A Rocky, Whirlwind Visit on New Year’s Day 2009

Corregidor Island Map - PhilippinesThe least I can say for our New Year’s, is that it started off with a bang for us. A thriller in Manila, to coin a phrase a little literally (and litorally). For the first two days of 2009, I took my family to the island of Corregidor in the mouth of the Bay of Manila. On this my 3rd visit to Corregidor, “the Rock” in the unarguable form of a tadpole, I can begin to say that I now know the lay of the land. The island of Corregidor — the site of devastating bombing* in WWII and the capture of 11,000 US and Filipino military personnel, including my grandfather on May 6, 1942 — is a fascinating historical place [see here to read about the Battle of Corregidor]. This 3rd visit to Corregidor, armed with my wife and children, turned out to be most particular, if not spectacular. It all started out rather well. Arriving via ‘banca’ (pictured below right) from Cabcaben on the southeast of Bataan, we landed in a port of shamefully polluted waters (washed in from Manila). Once ashore, we then enjoyed a lazy afternoon at the Corregidor Inn, in which we were stay the night.

Banca Philippines - Pollution BayActivities included attempting to swim in the cold pool, having the run of an empty playground and then swimming in the warmer sea at the nearby beach. Fortunately, the water where we swam on bottomside was distanced from the banca landing spot (other side of the island). As we swam, we noticed the ever increasing wind, but cast caution aside in pursuit of gaiety and exercise. Apparently, we were feeling the perimeter effects of the typhoon off Palawan, many hundreds of miles southwest of us (364 miles to be more exact).

A little nervously, I also watched as the Sun Cruises ferry boat departed mid afternoon, returning to Manila loaded with all the other tourists on the island. We were the only remaining tourists on the island. That evening, in by now blustering winds, we met up with newly installed residents of Corregidor, Steve and Marcia Kwiecinski. Steve and Marcia decided to retire to Corregidor to pursue the footsteps, to a certain degree, WWII Battery Way, Corregidor Philippinesof Steve’s father (Staff Sgt Walter Kwiecinski) who was commander of the last functioning major gun (at Battery Way) on the island. Like my grandfather, Steve’s father (who was an uncommonly tall 6’6 and height was looked down upon by the Japanese captors), was then captured on Corregidor and imprisoned in a series of Japanese POW camps. Fortunately, Sergeant Kwiecinski survived the war and was able to share, later on in his life, some of his travails with Steve (link no longer functioning). Over drinks and dinner, Steve and I shared our stories and mutual interest in Corregidor. Certainly, one of the most interesting stories about Sgt Kwiecinski is that he was imprisoned in POW camps 12&17 in Kokura and saw Bockscar, the B-29 bomber loaded with an atomic bomb, circle overhead and then unload on Nagasaki. Had it not been for smoke coverage, the city of Kokura was to have been the initial target. For those who might wish to contact Steve in a quest to know more about the US history on Corregidor, you can use steveontherock AT gmail DOT com.

After dinner, we retired to our rooms to find our shutters fluttering on their hinges. Repairs were hastily done, but as we were to find out, to no avail. The wind was now blowing full force. The windows and shutters shook and banged and clanged all night long. Sleep was virtually hopeless. If the prior night’s new year’s experience (night of December 31) with the firecrackers going off outside our windows all night long were not enough of an experience in itself (the celebratory handheld firecrackers are a Filipino tradition), perhaps it was just practice for this next night of banging shutters.  (Photo of palm in the wind courtesy of Steve).

Palm Trees in the Wind in Hurricaine on Corregidor

The following morning, to help roust us out of any overnight fatigue, we were informed that, based on the Manila Bay Coast Guard’s decision, the ferry (capable of carrying 150 pax) would not be coming from Manila (48 kilometres away) to pick us up. This was an issue.

To start with, our plane back to Paris (non-refundable, non-changeable tickets) left that evening. To continue, the next available plane out was 10 days later…and one way tickets for the family would have to be repurchased. Moreover, because of the galeforce winds, the ferry would be cancelled for up to three days, meaning that we would have become more than familiar with island life, its 9 km2 (1,735 acres) terrain, solitary hotel, 130 island lodgers and the “karaoke café” on bottomside. On top of that, we would have had a surprise extra week to visit Manila, replete with extra hotel and board expenses. Once we absorbed those issues, there were still the intervening questions of the beginning of school, work, numerous medical rendez-vous and a non-refundable trip to London
.

In sum, not good.

Many calls later, and helped by our travel agent Teresa and the Corregidor Inn staff, we were able to scramble a helicopter, with a pilot committed enough to fly through the typhoon winds to our island to evacuate us. Having already paid for the chopper, we were then informed that they could only take 3 pax. Sophie’s Choice is a grippingly tragic WWII film, but wrong war… and they were mistaken in thinking that my Hollywood-style looks and link to the Pacific War through my grandfather, would cause me to enjoy a replay. We were going to all go together or not at all. Of course, I dramatize a bit. All we had to do was pay for two helicopter rides. Despite my protestations that we had clearly and knowingly checked in as a family of four, our backs were somewhat up against the wall. Force majeure they kept telling me.

The solution, throwing total caution and dollars to the wind: not one, but two whopper chopper bills.

The organizing (and monopolistic) tour operator (Sun Cruises) participated in the [financial] damage fortunately. Despite some harrowing gusts, we were safely whisked away in two separate loads. And, we made our plane not without a little emotion.

WWII Battery Hearn, Corregidor Island, Philippines

Post Scriptum: In the morning, despite the commotion, we made a private visit of the island with Bryan, our kindly tour guide, accompanied by Steve and Marcia. The island is well arranged for a visit if you want to know more about the second most bombed ever piece of land in history (behind Malta). The 30-minute Light & Sound show in the famed Malinta Tunnel is not high quality, but is quite vivid and worth it as long as you don’t have to pay outright the full fare (2500 pesos or $54). The Corregidor guns are certainly impressive and story surrounding them highly engaging. For more on the battle of Corregidor, read here at HyperWar Foundation as well as the personal account of a soldier, Roy Edgar Hays, who was taken prisoner at Corregidor. Malinta Tunnel Entrance, Corregidor Philippines As for historical sites, there is a Foundation that is looking to save Corregidor’s crumbling ruins: Save Corregidor Foundation.

—-

* From Nationmaster: “Japanese bombing and shelling [of Corregidor] continued with unrelenting ferocity [after the fall of Bataan]. Japanese aircraft flew 614 missions dropping 1,701 bombs totaling some three hundred sixty-five tons of explosive. Joining the aerial bombardment were nine 240 mm howitzers, thirty-four 149 mm howitzers, and thirty-two other artillery pieces, which pounded Corregidor day and night. It was estimated that on May 4 alone, more than 16,000 shells hit Corregidor.”

Think Different — What do Feminism, Einstein & Sleep have in common?

Learning to think differently

As a marketer, I am always on the lookout for people who think and act differently. A part of my gestalt, my personality, I associate with people who think differently. Sometimes, that means being the contrarian or the devil’s advocate in a conversation. At other times, it just means looking at issues using different filters. Of course, thinking differently only happens in spurts and in certain arenas. There is plenty of good sense in thinking normally too. However, for the breakthrough ideas, putting on the rose-tinted glasses — or a re-wired thinking cap — is invaluable.

How does one actually come to think differently?

I cannot declare whether one is born to think differently or whether such a disposition is acquired at a given moment or simply over time. Using Apple products alone certainly won’t cut it, although I truly believe it has helped me as I have had to relearn lots of new functionalities (having crossed over from the PC world). However, that is only a recent transition for me. My journey into the world of thinking differently began more precisely when I was at University. And there were exactly three elemental building blocks which helped craft my propensity to think differently — each stemming from one central thought: Discover what you do not know. Being aware of what you don’t know is already a challenge because, you might say, how do I know what I don’t know if I don’t know it exists?

The three areas I became attached to studying were:

1. Women’s Studies.

In minoring in Women’s Studies at Yale University, little did I know I would end up working in a cosmetics company, serving primarily female customers. I fell into the subject of Women’s Studies via literary criticism; but I kept on taking more classes in a more or less direct pursuit to understand better the other 50% of the population. And no, it was not a pick-up ploy–not exactly the right environment in any event. More importantly, by studying Women’s Studies, I became aware of the study of all minorities — and how minorities are frequently obliged to think and act differently to succeed. Via Women’s Studies, I was opened to a whole new world of literature and literary criticism, fascinating insights into the differences between the sexes, the politics of touch (Nancy Henley’s landmark essay) as well as the interplay of females and males in groups (at all ages). I also embraced Jungian philosophy and my anima. I did not know how much, at the time, this minor would take on major importance in my career.

2. Sleep

As a rule, we tend to study all things conscious. Whether it’s history, literature or sciences (each basically through the eyes of men), the focus of our daily lives is what we know and do during our waking day. Thus, when I came across the study of sleep as a subject at university, I was enchanted: an opportunity to learn about the other 1/3 of our day. Certainly, there can be interest in understanding one’s own dreams — though, typically not given much credit in academic circles (nor for university degrees). But the subject of sleep is much more profound, including sleep disorders, sleep patterns… There are plenty of important questions that should concern everyone. For example, how much sleep do we REALLY need? Why do we sleep? On this question, scientists are still arguing (as regards adults). The science of sleep and the work of FSRs (famous sleep researchers) such as the giant apple seed and jazz man, William (“Bill”) C. Dement, is a completely undervalued field. I tip my hat to Professor Mark Rosekind for enlightening me on this fascinating part of our existence. I highly recommend any students out there to seek it out; you can start with Dement’s “The Promise of Sleep.” In the meantime, I can also recommend reading one of my favourite books “L’Art du Temps” or, in English, The Art of Time (by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber) which provides a shortcut view to how I manage my sleep and my philosophy with regard to time management more broadly speaking.

3. Left-handers

I am not left-handed and left-handedness is not exactly a “subject” in the same sense as Sleep or Women’s Studies. Left-handers are not unique — concerning apparently about 7-10% of the population (but they certainly get my attention on the tennis court). Neither is being left-handed a sign of a genius, although there are some wonderful examples, including Albert Einstein, Michelangelo (retrained right), Isaac Newton (the original Apple man), Charlie Chaplin, Benjamin Franklin, Bobby Fisher, John McEnroe to name a few. And, it’s worth noting that Apple chose a whole raft of southpaws — including Pablo Picasso, Jim Henson, Bob Dylan, Jerry Seinfield and Einstein — for their Think Different campaign. Interestingly, we have been fielding more frequently left-handed presidents in the US since Gerald Ford: four of the last six! In the history of the USA, there have been a total of seven lefties in the White House (6 coming in the last century) out of a total of 43 (i.e. 16%). At this time, it should be noted that that both John McCain and nkindex="59">Barack Obama are left-handed (read here about Washington Post’s “Left-Handed Conspiracy“). There is a good body of research done on left-handers, indicating that lefties have a propensity to be more into visual arts. Also, according to this 2005 ABC report, there is the suggestion that being left-handed can entail some health hazards, too. (See also “Brains that work a little bit differently” by Bragdon and Gamon). But, what has always attracted my attention is that left-handers need to operate in a right-handed world. When I imagined my wife before even meeting her, I always thought that she would be left-handed. It turns out that she is absolutely right-handed, but created two sterling left-handed children.

So, what does this mean… at least, in the business world?

For one, I believe that having been attuned to these different topics throughout my adult life is part of how I have cultivated what is described as a “Whole New Mind” (in the book by Dan Pink and highly recommended reading), essentially a balanced right/left brain. In turn, this has been useful in coming up with new ideas and strategies. And finally, most importantly, it has led me to be more mindful of diversity. Whether international, unorthodox or just different, having opposing or alternative thinking people in your team is healthy and enriching. It also requires differing management styles to make the most of their talent. What are other areas of study that can procure “think different” mentalities? I’d love to hear your stories.


Others blogging on “think different”:
Mahmudahsan - with some English proverbs
The Apple Blog – Think Different with Rosa Parks
Mackinnon on Think Differently – athough this looks sadly like a dead blog.

Airline Advertisements – Who Can Afford to Experience Luxury Service?

Airline Ads — the good, the bad and the luxury

In these trying economic times, one of the industries that will inevitably be hit hard (again), will be the airline industry. Whether for personal or business travel, there is likely to be a good amount of seat-belt tightening. Some wise folk would say that NOW is a good time for the companies [that can afford it], to invest in attracting new business. In this vein, I took a look at some of the print advertising messages by airline companies around the world. While I certainly can’t say that I did a definitive and comprehensive search of all the ad creatives, I did find that there were certain patterns. When I take the NORTH AMERICAN companies, for example, it seems to me that the companies are communicating less about the experience in the plane and more about the “dream” of travel and the number of destinations serviced. In the creatives here (which I believe may be a bit dated) American Airlines (left) puts forward that it flies six times a day from NYC to London “via cloud nine.” A second American Airlines ad (right) presents the benefits of staring out the window. Implicitly, they are asking you not to look at the quality of service inside the plane, no?

More current, American’s billboard ad above is another curious statement. What are they selling? They are proposing planes that know how to land in water? Not going to rock my boat, if you see what I mean. The creative concept here is to show that you can have wifi internet access in flight. Dubious item to search if you are trying to encourage people to fly. To the right, you see Delta pushing its inflight entertainment (curiously promoting playing its Texas Hold’em game against fellow passengers). I would be remiss not to include Southwest, a true lovemark, which is proud of its advertising (historical creatives posted on its own site). But, even Southwest, in this output (left), is discussing the technology equipment (and while we haven’t heard the last about inflight telephone conversations), we are again not truly onboard.
And then Air Canada (left), is encouraging pedestrians to consider flying with its “People Working Above” humour. Again, not much content in the way of in-cabin service. Had they picked snow-packed scenery (there is a BIT) and miserably cold people, then the concept might have been to incite people to fly away to warmer climates? Bottom line, the North American companies seemed to be more prone to communicate about the concept of flying, rather than the experience itself. 
And as a sign off on the North American situation, the next step is to focus on on-board advertising to its passengers…as a way to gain extra revenue (see here in a USA Today article earlier this month).

EUROPEAN COMPANIES – THE “JE NE SAIS QUOI…”

After the North American ads, I took a look at the European companies. Mainland companies were not as “out of the cabin” as the American companies. Air France‘s creative (left) has been running for quite a while. It’s a nice image, but it leaves me wondering about the reality in the cabin. And their competition up north, Brussels Airlines (formerly Sabena), had decidedly the same creative air (below). Something about water as being part of the flying experience? The need to sit on a wooden board? I, for one, am absolutely horrible at sitting on the ground. Interestingly, both ad creatives use women.

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England‘s two primary airlines, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, have somewhat different approaches. Virgin allows for cheeky claims as well as innovative service concepts. On the left, you have an ad (9 inches) targetted presumably toward the female customer yet again. On the right, Virgin is going at the pre-flight experience with the offer of the limousine and a fast track check-in into the Virgin lounge. “Fastly Superior” and a cut above in terms of service proposition. Whether it is 9 inches of pleasure or the limo-to-lounge service, there is little humanity in this offer.

Moving to Virgin’s compeition, British Airlines is communicating in this creative on the onboard experience. Again, the focus is on the “mechanical” or physical benefits on board. With a cute creative (using the windows as eyes), the ad speaks to the ability to get a real night’s sleep in the plane (all good when you are flying overnight or on very long haul flights). Of course, in this creative by BA, you have to understand that you did not fly BA in your last flight. I have snuck in an Aeroflot creative just to say that they are more in the North American category…not much to sell onboard, unless you like the idea of doing wheelies and 360s. European companies are in for tough times, just as much as in the US, with lots of short flights, expensive personnel and intense competition (and regulation). Recently, European legislators have decided to go after the European companies for improper pricing advertising. Read here for the June 2008 article from the BBC.

ASIAN AIRLINE CLASS
Finally, moving to Asia. There are many examples that reinforce the notion that the battle is actually for in-cabin comfort and service. Here, we see much more of the human element. For example, Cathay Pacific (below) is not afraid to personalize the experience.

An Air India execution (below), in broad daylight, with the same romantic couple concept.

And the king of inflight, luxurious and personalized service, Singapore Airlines, in a veritable world of its own… Here’s the suite landing execution:

So, in summary, the Good (European) tend to be in the imaginary. The Bad (North American) largely ignore the onboard travails. And the Luxury (Asian) are vying for top dibs in terms of the personal and personalized onboard experience. In these difficult economic times, you have to wonder which airline companies are going to survive. Aside from ensuring that the fleet is uptodate and safe, are companies going to be cutting back on the little luxuries or, to the contrary, investing in the details?

[And then, if you are interested, there are the airline company slogans. I found this site (textart) from Russia, that regroups all the slogans for a host of industries. Here, Airline Industry Slogans it is just for the airline industry. A useful resource for us marketeers (although I can't vouch for how up to date it is)]
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