During the 2009 swine flu pandemic the authorities in Egypt had all 300,000 domestic pigs in the country slaughtered. The decision put thousands of farmers out of work and took an entire food source off the table. Not to mention the inhumanity of the whole thing.
It was the name. Bird flu had already caused panic around the world in the mid 2000s, when newspapers reported that the disease could pass from birds to humans. So when people saw the name ‘swine flu’, following the same naming template, they assumed they’d catch it from pigs. Despite the World Health Organisation repeatedly saying that couldn’t happen.
That example comes from the WHO’s Dr Keiji Fukuda, who’s just published some guidelines for naming new diseases.
Many will say it’s just abstract brand nonsense. But tell that to the thousands of needlessly panicked people.
And all those poor pigs.
Today was The Writer’s first foray into the world of trade shows – and very interesting it was, too.
While Theo and Sarah manned the stand (if you come along today you’ll find us at 758) I went to a few of the conference sessions.
Here are three of my highlights.
Quote of the day:
‘A notebook is the most intuitive technology you’ll ever use. It doesn’t crash, it doesn’t run out of battery, you can carry it with you and pass it on.’ Robert Ashcroft, Santander.
On a day that was filled with companies selling learning tech and speakers talking about it, it was nice to see that trusty pens and paper still had their place (not that there was ever any doubt).
Later on, when Stephen Frost told us about his time training 70,000 Games Makers at London 2012, notebooks won gold again. How did they make sure every Games Maker knew what to do? They gave everyone notebooks to make their own mini learning guides. We’re so proud.
Slide of the day – Stockholm 1967 (the morning after driving laws changed, from driving on the left to the right)
Later, Stephen used this as a metaphor of poor organisational change. It’s not enough to tell people to change. They need to understand when, how and why to change if you want to avoid chaos. You’ve been warned.
Video of the day (Candid Camera showing how people behave in lifts)
You might see yourself as a free spirit. But the chances are you’re not quite as independent as you thought. Volvo Group’s learning team played this to remind us that, whether consciously or not, we all try and fit in. And if you want to break people’s habits, you’ll need a strong-minded team to start leading by example.
Our Neil will be at the event today, running a taster session on the neuroscience behind our training. He’s on at 11.15am. Hopefully he’ll see some of you there.
Here’s our stand, if you’re trying to track us down.
Introducing the first in a series of #ThingsWeLike. Spot anything you think we’ll appreciate? Tweet us @TheWriter.
Loving this, er, cat naming system!* Proof that good names get you noticed.
The internets point to this Reddit contributor as being the naming genius.
*[high status title] + [onomatopoeic portmanteau word] = awesome cat name
I had an interesting linguistic encounter with my local MP last Sunday. She knocked on our door. I introduced her to my daughter, who’s busy working for an imminent AS exam in Politics. (Never mind the politics, think of the revision potential.)
The MP said how important she felt it was for young people to vote.
To illustrate, she said to my daughter something along the lines of, ‘Imagine what your wardrobe would be like if your grandparents chose all your clothes. They probably wouldn’t suit you at all! Well, that’s what would happen if we left everything to the over-60s. We’d end up with policies that wouldn’t be right for young people.’
At the time, I thought it was a great analogy – it put it in terms my daughter could understand, and didn’t muddy the water with any partisan politics.
But when we talked about it afterwards, my daughter was quick to put the analogy to the test.
First, she said, are ‘grandparents’ really synonymous with ‘people who don’t understand anything about what’s hot and what’s not’?
Second, if we’re talking about clothes, it might well be that grandparents would choose things that were more practical and well-made – the sorts of things that you’d never pick for yourself, but deep down know are sensible choices.
And third, she asked, why is it a good thing just to vote for what suits us? Aren’t we supposed to vote the way we think would be best for as many of us as possible?
So, I applaud the attempt to make the argument in a way that was easy to understand. Metaphors are brilliant for helping us grasp complicated ideas and bringing mundane information to life.
But it was a big reminder to me that you have to make sure it’s the right metaphor – one that can stand up to a proper interrogation.
Only then should it get your vote.
What can creative writing teach you about writing at work? More than you might think. When our Marianne isn’t working at Writer HQ, she’s busy writing plays. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share her top tips for improving your writing.
Part three: keep up your creativity
Well, let’s not say perfect. Perfect is an impossible brief. But practising writing builds your confidence and creativity.
If you ever have to be creative at work, it’s worth getting into the habit. A couple of ideas from creative writing guru Julia Cameron could help: she recommends starting every day by writing longhand for three sides of paper. These ‘morning pages’ clear out the brain and help you be more creative. And take yourself on a creative date every week – a solo expedition to explore something that interests you. Whether that’s a film, art exhibition or just a walk in the park.
Go your own way
Writing is a personal process, and there’s no magic formula to get it right. Some people plan, other people make it up as they go along. Some people need eight hours of quiet solitude, others get inspiration from noisy busy places and not having quite enough time. Whatever works for you, works for you.