An exciting package arrived at STEAM Co. HQ just before Christmas from the USA covered in green polka dots and, on Christmas morning, proved to be what we’d hoped it was.
A LITTLE book from a big brain.
Perfectly timed to kick off everyone’s new year, ‘What to do when it’s your turn’ is the latest project from Seth Godin, unquestionably one of the marketing world’s most prolific thinkers, doers and authors with 17 odd books behind him from All marketers are liars to Purple cow and Unleashing the idea virus. His is the No 1 blog on marketing, tribes and respect. Not to mention a string of top ranking TED talks.
A guru of, in his words, 'marketing, respect, and the ways ideas spread', Seth’s the master of one thing in particular - common sense - or specifically, packaging it up with a good story and accessible, engaging and entertaining presentation, and this book is no exception (apparently he designed it himself).
Stop stealing dreams
I doubt Seth needs the money any more. He's sold companies. His books have been business best sellers. The mind boggles at his speaker fee and he has a string of ventures behind him.
He's gradually moved from smart spins on the junk mail business to applying himself to social change projects like his manifesto on what he feels is wrong with education in ‘Stop stealing dreams’ that he published as a freely distributed PDF and YouTube talk.
Not unlike most of the big brains that dominate the upper echelons of marketing, Seth’s very good at what he does not just because he’s bright, but mostly because he understands people and what makes them tick – what in the marketing world they call ‘insights’ (I did say it was common sense repackaged).
Self-help or self-start?
This book comes as a follow up to Seth's book 'The Icarus Deception' that explains many people's reluctance to venture off a safe and predictable path - not fly too too close to the sun, or the sea. It set out to inspire them to do their art.
The key insight that underpins every page of ‘Your turn’ has probably been learned the hard way.
I’m sure that Seth has realised that however famous and popular he is, however universally recognised the need for the change he advocates is, regardless of whether he gives inspiration away for free as a PDF – most people are programmed to do nothing and will do nothing, beyond click on to the next TED talk or page turn to the self-help book.
28 million people have seen Sir Ken Robinson’s No 1 TED talk on how schools can teach creativity out of children. I’m sure some of them must agree at least a little with him but hardly anyone is doing or has done anything about it.
Enough talk, we need to walk the talk. We need talk walkers.
It seems many people are rigid. Rigid with fear. Fear of failure. Seth says, ironically almost, that they are in fear of freedom, freedom from humdrum jobs for the man and keeping up with the bills that come with the lifestyle they choose.
The book has one goal.
To get readers to do something.
And the title ‘It’s your turn’ pulls no punches, it leaves no place to hide.
A great example is how he questions one of the most famous marketing straplines in the world, Nike’s 'Just do it'.
He asks if with ‘Just’ whether Nike mean “what the hell, it doesn't matter, just go ahead and do it”.
He subverts it with only one word so it means:
“Do it without creating a series of distractions about it.
Do it without bargaining with the fear.
Only do it.
Do it without apology and do it now.
We rarely do something with ‘only’.
When we do, our power astonishes even us”.
One thing that’s struck us about people’s reaction to STEAM Co. after a STEAM Co. Day is how the experience of being involved in any way in the process of inspiring children with creativity and making art, working with other people to do so touches them.
A few years ago we had this email from the Blackberry of a tax partner at one of the world’s biggest accountancy firms:
“I have had to dash off but I just wanted to say that I am buzzing with energy. Today was such an inspiring and marvellous day. The ideas were fantastic and truly captured all the children's imaginations. I feel so very privileged to have been able to share the day with the children and you”.
I can’t. Can I?
One of the reasons so many people are rigid with fear about taking their turn is that they still have mortgages to pay and families to feed. Many struggle to see beyond the more predictable second career options like becoming a pilates instructor or a school teacher, worthy as they are. And they don’t jump.
Many people don’t take their turn as they have no idea what to do. For all the motivation books and self-help groups, the answer so often is, do what? How?
Seth keeps it open here with 158 pages telling you it’s your turn and to do something. Sir Ken Robinson in his book ‘Finding your element’ makes the point that you don’t’ have to throw everything in the air to pursue your element, but leaves a big question mark as to what your element might be. That's the holy grail. Maybe it 's in the next self help book.
Living the dream
STEAM Co. powers communities to inspire primary children with creativity. We provide the inspiration and resources to help them run STEAM Co. Days, schools days like no other where the children get to choose from around 20 thinking and doing activities from across the spectrum of crucial STEAM skills of Science, Tech, Engineering, Art and Maths.
And everyone can get involved.
Recent research presented by the Mayor of London shows that 50% of primary children have made their career choices by the time they leave primary, yet only 5% of primary teachers have science qualifications and the arts are continuously beaten into a corner.
The Telegraph has published research showing the when asked what they want to be when they grow up ,4 out of 10 British children just say "rich". They need real role models and some aspiration.
But what chance do our children have of finding out what they want to be good at and pursuing that dream? What skills will they need. We believe creativity needs to be up there.
The Economist said that "schools themselves need to be changed, to foster the creativity that humans will need to set them apart from computers. There should be less rote-learning and more critical thinking"
The A in STEAM stands for Art.
Seth has a lovely definition for art in his films for Your Turn:
"Art is what we call it when someone does something that might connect us with someone else.
Art doesn't work because we did something boring and predictable. Art works because we connected.
"The feeling before you do something that might not work is the feeling of being human, making art, making a difference""
The Co. in STEAM Co. stands for connections, a framework of inspiration, content and tools to enable creatives, parents and engaged members of the community to go into primary schools to support and work with teachers.
It stands for collaboration, helping children understand and make art, their art, together.
We’re giving the community the chance to take their turn to give back without throwing careers up in the air or giving people who are between jobs an outlet for their passions and talents.
Our New Year resolution
We’re going to be coming out of the blocks running in 2015 with a plan to raise profile, raise funds and raise pulses to start rolling out STEAM Co. Days to every primary school in the UK.
We have plans for a major event in March with the backing of a major media organisation and related social enterprises, trade bodies and creatively gifted kindred spirits.
We're going to be working with one of the world's most engaged organisations, The Royal Society of Arts and their 27,000 fellows as part of their 'Power to Create' agenda, following a talk we gave there at the end of 2014.
We’re looking for parents to take the lead and run STEAM Co. Days in their children’s schools.
We’re looking for the UK's world class creative ambassadors, or 'inspirators' like Paul Smith, Heston Blumenthal, Wil.I.Am, Zaha Hadid, James Dyson, etc, to work with us to create and package content that can inspire children across the country, if not the world.
We need corporate sponsors and donors who believe in our tomorrow and will help fund it.
It's your turn. Will you take it?
YES, Pass it on
Hopefully it will fire you up to realise it’s not only your turn, but OUR turn. The Co in STEAM Co. stands for COmmunity (among other things).
See bottom of this page for details on getting one, if you want a copy. But you have to promise to pass it on.
It's YOUR STEAM Co.
Let’s only do it. Together.
BLOG POST : UPDATE #SCOL1
Since writing this post, we've shipped several cases of 'Your turn' into the hands of UK 'ruckusmakers' for Seth'.
We've since worked with Liverpool, probably the UK's most amazing creativity and community focussed cites, on a weekend long launch festival for STEAM Co. We engaged the business community/LEP, the Mayor's marketing tourism team 'It's Liverpool', local schools and the Baltic Triangle creative community. We were offered the use of the facilities of 2 amazing secondary schools, now housed in an old sugar warehouse in the docks.
100's of primary children with their parents and teachers came in to sample a STEAM Co. Day on the Friday and an audience of teachers and school leaders heard an exclusive keynote talk from Prof Guy Claxton on how education has to and can change, referencing his new book 'Educating Ruby'. The Saturday will saw keynote talks including a link with Sir Ken Robinson in LA and over 25 short talks by artists, parents and teachers to inspire us to not just, but 'Only', do it.
Seth's book featured in the call to action of that day to inspire to motivate us to 'be the change we want to see'.
More here. But don't click til you've at least watch the first film below, which sums up so perfectly what we're going to do in the UK, city by city, town by town, village by village.
(Possibly a bit random but the way the above film captured the spirit of community, togetherness and collaboration simply blew us away - we had to mash it up and hope Nike don't mind too much. Maybe one day we'll be able to make a film even half as powerful as this about how the UK came together to inspire its children with creativity to power the country forward. Maybe there's a brand out there with similar values now that would like to do it to help jump-start us today?)
UK copies of 'YOUR turn' available HERE
To save the mega cost and time of international shipping from the USA, Seth sent us a few cases of books to distribute from the UK, which are now sold out. We've now hooked him up with a boutique UK book publisher/reseller so if you'd like one, click here.