Making time to think before you act is a vital survival technique

The much-anticipated Battle of Big Thinking, the annual brain-fest that took place earlier this month, provided much food for thought.

Making time to think before you act is a vital survival technique
Making time to think before you act is a vital survival technique

Twenty-two pointy-heads, from seven different disciplines - creative, research, PR, marketing, planning, communications planning and publishing - all in one room together. Thinking. They, together with the equally brainy audience, could probably have powered nearby St Pancras if only a way of plugging them in had been found.

It was the first time I had attended, but, almost as an escape from the immediate pressures of organising this week's Thinkbox Televisionaries event and the totally shit market we're all living through, I went along and was thoroughly rewarded for doing so.

There was something to treasure from every speaker. Some of my favourites were Dave Trott (CST) on predatory thinking; Steve Aldridge (Partners Andrews Aldridge) on finding a brand's natural voice; Paul Melody (Freud Communications) on change we can believe in; Ian Armstrong (Honda) on neuroscience; David Bain (Beattie McGuinness Bungay) on brand humility; Nikki Crumpton (McCann Erickson) on connectivity; David Hackworthy (The Red Brick Road) on the evolution of brands, and Jason Gonsalves (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) on human duality.

In the week of Obama's joyous triumph, it was inevitable that he would get a few emotional mentions. Other popular references included particle physics, open-source structures and the staples of story-telling, fame and "ideas". But, to my rather pathetic joy, the winner of the cultural reference game by a very wide margin was The X Factor.

The winner tapped into the zeitgeist of economic gloom and turned it on its head through the magic of "opposite thinking".

Graham Fink, the creative director of M&C Saatchi and overall winner, fired us all up to join his "Big Thinking Club", whose mission will be to find the gold in this goddam downturn.

Graham had gone to extraordinary lengths to pair us all up with our "opposite brain" - a big thinker from a completely different industry. Genius. Mind you, I ended up with a lady who runs a food development company called Chocolate & Chilli Ltd, so maybe not quite so far from home for me as Graham had anticipated.

When times are difficult, we all rush around "doing" stuff very visibly and feel guilty if we don't. Les Binet spoke about big thinking not being enough; you have to do other things too, such as researching your ideas - and he's right, of course. But making time to think before you act isn't a luxury, it is a vital survival technique.

Tess Alps is chief executive of Thinkbox, tess.alps@haymarket.com

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