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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Maria Franzoni interviews Ken Hughes.

Ken Hughes is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading Consumer Behaviouralists and Customer Experience Strategists.

He is best described as a “Social Science Frankenstein. Because he is part anthropologist, part sociologist, part consumer psychologist, and part cyber-behaviouralist.

Among other things he is a CEO of a consumer Insight agency, a part-time university lecturer, an author, a TED speaker, and a strategic advisor to some of the biggest global brands and businesses all over the world.

Connect with Speakers Associates

Episode #241

Creativity, Collaboration and the Customer Experience

Maria Franzoni (00:16): Hello and welcome back to The Speaker Show with me, your host Maria Franzoni. In today’s show, we are talking about human behaviour. The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau for the world’s most successful organizations, providing keynote speakers for events, conferences, and summits. Our guest today is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading Consumer Behaviouralists and Customer Experience Strategists. He’s best described as a “Social Science Frankenstein”. He is made up of part anthropologist, part sociologist, part consumer psychologist, and part cyber-behaviourist.

Maria Franzoni (00:52): Among other things, he is a CEO of a consumer Insight agency, a part-time university lecturer, an author, a Ted speaker and a strategic advisor to some of the biggest global brands and businesses all over the world. His speaking performances are not only insightful and thought-provoking, but are infamous for their sheer passion, energy, and wit. As one of the most sought after speakers on digital disruption and the modern consumer, we’re thrilled to have him with us today to discuss his speaking career and his latest topics. Please welcome my guest, Ken Hughes. Ken, it’s absolutely lovely to see you. And it’s lovely to see you upright.

Ken Hughes (01:32): Thank you very much. Yes. Having fallen from 30 feet, which is what heck I was crazy and broken 31 bones in my body a few years ago. It’s certainly been a journey. My I am sitting, which is

Maria Franzoni (01:43): Fantastic. Yeah, no.

Ken Hughes (01:44): And walk again.

Maria Franzoni (01:45): You had us all worried, so it’s great to see you. Great to see you looking fantastic. Obviously people looking on the podcast or listen to the podcast, won’t see how wonderful you’re looking, but you’re looking fabulous. I’m gonna get right to it and start picking your brain on this topic because you are the expert. So listen, you coined the phrase, “the captive economy” during the pandemic, and this was your most booked virtual speech during that period. What is the captive economy?

Ken Hughes (02:10): Yeah, I mean, so when everything kicked off back in 2020, I became fascinated. I mean, I’m a behaviorist, so I’m fascinated by human behaviour, why we do what we do, and how the brands and businesses they work for, you know, kinda harness that understanding to ultimately build better connections with their customer, be it to be at B2B and B2C. And so looking at everything shutting down, I became fascinated by the psychology of captivity. The psychology of incarceration of kidnapping of slavery and what happens people’s minds, particularly as they go to that kind of incarceration, trauma, and ultimately what happens afterwards. Cause that’s what the interest of the clients were. So the captive economy looked at the fact that as individuals, we were all in captive in our own homes and all the businesses were all shuttered down. And what did that mean for leadership and for talent acquisition and for, you know, all these things, the big themes that we talk about on the circuit.

Ken Hughes (02:55): And so you, emerging values came out. I mean, I study consumers all the time and so the need for freedom, the need for autonomy. When your freedom is taken away from you. You yearn control. You yearn an attachment, which is what, you know, Stockholm syndrome is all about. So, you know, brands had this wonderful opportunity to attach themselves in a brand loyalty customer lifetime value they never had before, people were yearning community belonging. Obviously the digital step jump and digital transformation took off. There was a whole, you know, focus on health and wellness. And so, I basically looked at all the emerging values, from all my clients, and basically would bring them through those values of the captive economy. And then obviously that led into the recovery, and the psychology of survival and the psychology of recovery. And so really the last couple of years, I’ve really sounds awful.

Ken Hughes (03:36): I really enjoyed as a behaviourist. I was probably one of the only people used to swing my legs in the bed in the morning and think, Ooh, what’s happening today? Cause I mean, society went through such a fundamentally challenging times, economically, technologically socially, behaviourally, psychologically, and I’m just fascinated by all those fields. And so like from an anthropological point of view, a sociological point of view, watching people have to cope with new realities, how that would shape their needs, their wants people are reshaping their lives. All of course, presenting huge threats to the way business models were and huge opportunities for those that want to step up and change the nature of what they do. So, yeah, it’s been a really exciting time.

Maria Franzoni (04:15): I can imagine. And also of course at the beginning you were also observing how people behaved in scarcity here and when they were, you know, scared that they were gonna run out of toilet paper and things like that, you know, there was amazing behaviours that we saw all. Fascinating. Are you going to write all up as well? Cause I think it’s a great book.

Ken Hughes (04:31): Yeah. It is a great book if I could ever get the chapters together. I have a weird relationship with books because I put out a newsletter once a month in which I do a significant blog. I do a video log onto my YouTube channel and I find that the tens and thousands of people who follow me consumers there, they don’t necessarily want to wait for a book every year. It’s really interesting, you know, and sometimes people say, oh, where’s the book. And I say, it’s actually all there in the blog. Actually I do have a blog called The Toilet Paper Apocalypse as you mentioned that because the psychology of that actually unique moment is very interesting. And that does tie back to the, I don’t know what to do. I’m scared, I need to do something. And that’s the autonomy that we yearn for some kind of control and the only thing that we could do.

Ken Hughes (05:09): And when you look at that, that spiraled from a single social media video shared in Australia of two women fighting over to world, and that went because of the way social media network, the networks worked today, it went global into a moment of, I need to do something, cause I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how big this thing is gonna be. I should do something too. And because toilet paper is such a physically big product, though it only takes five or 10 people to react that way in a store for the shelves to look empty. And then it becomes a self-perpetuating thing where the shelves are empty. I need to get on this. And so yeah, we had a two week window where we acted wholly irrationally. I mean, we need to remember this virus said do with our gastrointestinal attractive any so, you know, it was the complete nonsense.

Ken Hughes (05:46): And so it’s really interesting to look at the power that fear has in the human psyche. And when we don’t understand something, we act irrational. And in that space, there’s also a huge understanding for how we build better connections with customers and how we remove those fears and how we understand in the fear they may be going through in their customer journey, whether, you know, whatever we’re selling, it’s our job to make sure we identify the pain points and identify the friction points and dilute them. Because if we don’t, that fear becomes a barrier to purchase. Ultimately

Maria Franzoni (06:13): That’s all absolutely fascinating. I love all this. And I love the fact also because you know, most people think, yes, I’ve got to write the book, but you’re saying, well, hang on. The consumer behavior is that they’re reading the blogs, they’re watching the videos. I’m seeing that this is happening. Why would I take a year out to write a book? So I love that gives me an excuse to I’ll do some more videos. So you, you also do a lot of work in the customer experience space. And I have to say that customer experience, you know, through pandemic, hasn’t all been great. So do you think that’s why there’s been a lot more interest recently in customer experience?

Ken Hughes (06:49): Yeah. I mean, I’ve been watching this shift, the last kind of four or five years, it’s getting bigger and bigger every year and the pandemic really did step jump stuff. What the pandemic really opened up is connection. You know, we yearn as humans to connect with one another and there’s certainly a shift happening in the younger consumer generations, your gen Z, maybe your younger millennial, but particularly evident in the gen Z generation, which will kind of take over, you know, the consumerist force within about five or 10 years, in terms of spend certainly, that they, their, what they value is shifting. And they really do value authenticity, and they value connection, and they want to understand, well, if I’m gonna buy from you, why like, what is your, why? You know, we joke about it, but it is very true in a recruitment moment of a gen Z employee at the moment, they do ask right across the interview table.

Ken Hughes (07:37): Why should I come work for? They want to know the companies, why, you know. And that is true of all brands and businesses. And even in fact, in B2B as well, it’s very true. You know, why should I buy from you beyond product, beyond service, beyond quality? Like what, what do you stand for? And so from a customer experience, point of view, it’s our opportunity as brands and businesses to demonstrate our connection with our consumer. Our genuine care, genuine authenticity. So this goes beyond things like digital convenience. Sometimes when people think about customer experience, they think about, oh, that’s the seamless frictionous customer journey, make it easy, make it instant, one click, one swipe. And yes, an instant is very important and convenience is very important, but really customer experience is about a philosophy embedding a philosophy into the organization where instead of the customer being some inconvenient end point on a customer journey, that they are genuinely the center of it, that we invite them in to collaborate to the products.

Ken Hughes (08:28): In fact, one of my favorites is TikTok. If you look at how TikTok has challenged the nature of collaboration. So in the past, you know, we used social media to consume. We consumed on YouTube. We just sat there and it was a passive consumption moment. Whereas now, we’re drifting into what we call active consumption, where the consumer wants to be actually part of the process. So like, if you look at a TikTok duet, you know, I can put out some content and then you can put some content next to it and build on that content and make new content. So together, we’ve kind of made a new piece. Then someone stranger would take our piece and build on. And so it becomes a pyramid and it becomes in, and you’ve seen those TikTok chains and they go off into all sorts of directions.

Ken Hughes (09:04): TikTok is successful because it’s collaborative and YouTube is fading because it’s less collaborative. And so years ago, if you were a musician, you put your video out YouTube or a Vevo and people will consume it. But today, as a musician, you can put your video out on TikTok. And I, as the fan can be in your video, I can harmonizing the chorus. I can actually star in the video by putting out a duet. And that’s the shift from passive consumption to where I just consumed as a consumer to active consumption, where I want to be part of it. I want to interface and buy from businesses and brands that I can belong to. And so that’s a real shift. So that’s why the customer experience, isn’t just this kind of, oh, let’s make it easy. Let’s make it customer centric. It is actually about putting the customer right in the heart of everything we do.

Ken Hughes (09:41): And that’s challenging for industries like financial services industry, the healthcare industry, they’re very product and process centered. And they say, oh yeah, let’s do that customer centric. But really actually doing it is a huge challenge. There’s a lot of my work is to go into those organizations and to challenge the way things are going and to kind of shape people by their shoulders and say, look, the next generation just don’t see the value of being some inconvenient truth in your customer journey. They want to be a big part of it.

Maria Franzoni (10:08): Absolutely. Absolutely. And actually you practice what you preach because I remember so, you know, I worked with you, when I was booking speakers and you treated me as a client, as a customer. You put me in the center and you had a journey. You had a specific journey that you took us on. And it, you stood out to me as being very different from many of the speakers we worked with before, because you really cared about the whole journey. You had an overview, and you still send me gifts, which is lovely.

Ken Hughes (10:37): Yeah. Do, if I was waiting for the business to come back, but that doesn’t seem to, but I mean, I use gift giving as a language because again, if you look at me, I’m a B2B brand, right. I sell my services to an event planner or to a client. And that’s a, I’m only a small part of their event. I’m one speaker, maybe of six, or I am one speaker of a two day event. And so I’m aware I’m a small part of it, but I don’t want to be a one night stand in their life. I would like to have a relationship with these people. And so how do you build a relationship? Well, you build a relationship by showing them, you care by talking to them before their event. And even sometimes helping them, because I speak at events all the time.

Ken Hughes (11:11): They might be, them running three or four events a year, but I’m at two or three a week. So I do kind of weirdly like yourself have a lot of expertise about events. So I kind of, we shared that with them in advance, I’ll enjoy the performance piece then afterwards, I don’t see it cutting off the moment I woke off the stage. I either want to be invited back in two or three years, time to their event, again, if they run it, runs annually. I want to talk to them about maybe some of the work I do in terms of motivation person development stuff. And so I have other pieces that I do. I’m a firewalk instructor. I’m, you know, I’m make people walk on broken glass and all sorts of crazy stuff. And there’s often either upsell or there’s other ways that I would like to develop the relationship and the best way to do that is to show them that they’re important, you know?

Ken Hughes (11:49): And so they’re small things, but people value them. People value their connections, whether it’s a little chocolate bar, they get from me a personalized chocolate bar or can use socks. I can use working from home socks during the pandemic and, you know, just all little relevant things that make someone smile. Cause that to me is what it’s about. If you make your customer smile, then you stay in their mind. Maybe just that day, maybe just for that week. And you do that long enough, you develop some form of relationship with them. So when the opportunity comes up to book a speaker, they think, oh, who’s that guy, we like that.

Maria Franzoni (12:15): Yeah, absolutely. Or when you go to your sock draw and you see, you know, St Patrick’s day socks, so always a good, good thing. So, we touched on it earlier that you have a blog, and you recently, posted about, emotional intelligence and diversity. This seems to be a bit of a hot topic at the moment. How does it relate to your area of expertise?

Ken Hughes (12:37): Yeah, so, I mean, you mentioned my accent before, as we kicked off. So post accent, I was paralyzed for a few days having taken this fall and I had a long load back to recovery and then the pandemic hit. And so the lots of happening in my own personal life that, you know, I started re reading and researching and looking at the way the world was going. And again, back to the authenticity and the vulnerability of the pandemic showed us all in terms of leadership styles. And so going back to connection, I’ve become interested in this idea that we tend to recruit our talent into our companies by IQ. In fact, our whole education system, as Ken Robinson, would’ve said is all based on IQ, smarts, cerebral head brain. And so the people that do well in school get good grades. People who get good grades go to university, people who go to university get good jobs.

Ken Hughes (13:17): And so we end up with a very homogenized workforce that are very clever. So it’s great for data and, and reason and logic and knowledge and memory, but we often lack human, emotional intelligence skills. And we’re now very clear that those skills actually are a better litmus test for success. And the research shows us that. So we tend not to recruit very well for those. And so we need to start looking an emotional intelligence in terms of, how people behave. And that goes into the diversity argument. Often we use gender as kind of a proxy for emotional intelligence. So people will say, well, women are generally more emotionally intelligence. Therefore we should have more women in the workplace. It’s actually not true in terms the research women, aren’t more emotionally intelligent. They actually express their emotions better. And we kind of mix up those two things.

Ken Hughes (14:01): Now, if you delve into the research, women of course are better at certain things like empathy and social responsibility, interpersonal relationships, they do score way better than those. And then men score better in terms of assertiveness and confidence. And so there’s a split in terms of the subparts. But I think if you’re running a team, you have to have a diverse team from an IQ and EQ perspective. So your emotional quotient has to be as good as your intellectual quotient and in modern workplace, we don’t see that. And so if you’re looking for innovation and creativity and all those things that we are looking for and diverse teams, you need to start looking at emotional intelligence and say, well, what can we do? And we all need to get better at our own emotion and intelligence. So self-awareness self-regulation, so look what happened in the Oscars a couple of days ago.

Ken Hughes (14:40): So, you know, when Will Smith slaps Chris Rock, he loses his ability to self-regulate his emotion, and he acts out in a negative way. There’s physical violence as verbal violence. There’s him interrupting a show. I mean, as a performer it’s everyone’s worst moment. You’re standing on stage. This is your workplace. You’re doing essentially a one man show as an MC and suddenly there’s an invasion of an audience member and you get struck in the face. If you look at how Chris Rock and Will Smith handled their emotions during that moment’s, it’s fascinating. Cause Will Smith was unable to regulate his emotions when he, so he basically emotional mind took over as opposed to why is mind, which would be why mind is a balance of reason and emotion somewhere in the middle you use both to work out for your, your appropriate behavior.

Ken Hughes (15:21): Whereas looking at how Chris Rock handled it, he just sat in the moment for a while. He let it go. He let Will say what he had to say. And he recovered perfectly. And he went on with the show, which is obviously ultimately, as we do as professionals, but he was able to regulate his emotions. And in emotional intelligence, aware of being aware of your emotions, being able to regulate your emotions, motivation, social skills, they’re all really, really important things that we have. So I think emotional intelligence is gonna become more and more of a hot topic on leadership in recruitment, in HR, in diversity. And also in terms of personal development for ourselves as leaders.

Maria Franzoni (15:58): Absolutely. I’m a hothead Italian. I’m not very good at controlling my emotions. So I, would’ve probably been sort of, you know, with a person that overreacted. Yeah. Anyway, let’s not go into that. The other, you say that love is a verb and in fact, it’s the title of your latest keynote? What has love got to do with it, Ken?

Ken Hughes (16:18): Love has, love has got what’s love got to do with it showing our age in there, the ’80s. I think love is everything to do with it ultimately. So I’ve become again, fascinated by connection. And this idea of love is a verb comes from a place where, you know, you can’t just tell someone, you love them, you have to show it and you have to show it on a daily basis, a weekly basis. And even when you get to marry, you know, just, it’s not over then it’s in fact, it’s beginning. Then you need to put the work in and going back to the customer experience and the employee experience. We often don’t put the work in every day. And so I’ve, what I’ve done is I’ve designed a keynote around personal relationships, the 10 aspects that make a healthy, personal relationship. And we go through each one, I get the audience to write down the name of the person that’s most important to them.

Ken Hughes (16:57): And as we go through them to keep that person in mind. So then they really understand it in their heart as to what I’m talking about. And then we project it immediately into either the customer experience, the employee experience and say, well, what could we do with that in our work lives to build deeper relationships? Cause ultimately we talk about customer lifetime value, run loyalty all the time. And these are words that we just throw around in customer, in our corporate world, but we do nothing about actually deepening them. And so if we genuinely want a customer for life, then we have to show maximum effort as you would in a relationship. And you have to look at the love languages of intimacy and of gift giving and acts of service and quality time, and making the person feel special and all those things.

Ken Hughes (17:35): So it takes effort. So this keynote, and actually it’s only probably about maybe six months old at this stage. It’s becoming one of my most book keynotes, cause it’s kind of quite high in corporate intelligence, but also quite high in personal development. And so the audience, when they go home have not only got up kind of a kick up the ass for their own personal relationships in terms of being a better human, they also then understand actually look, you know, we need to activate some of this in our customer experience or in our employee experience to increase retention. And so, yeah, it’s really interesting. I mean, and because I’m a behaviourist, I do like to talk to humans about human, human behavior and relationship theory. Again is one of these things that is growing in society, people are curious about relationships.

Ken Hughes (18:12): People are curious about being better humans inside their relationships and as e-commerce and AI and digital grow, we actually lose human connection more and more. And so the next five, 10 years is going to accelerate that in e-commerce again, we’re gonna become a much more digital society again, even before more than we are now, but that unfortunately loses us connection. You’re never going to build relationship via digital at the moment. It’s just kind of convenience. So the question is how can we, as we go forward, keep a strong eye on the nature of relationship, both in B2B and B2C and maximizing those pieces. So the love is the verb is a phone entertaining, kind of look at that, but it does kind of again, shake B by the shoulders and thinking what we’re not doing enough.

Maria Franzoni (18:52): Love the fact that you say that you’ve got is a balance of corporate intelligence and personal development. I mean, that’s the ultimate speech really for an organization.

Ken Hughes (19:01): Yeah, I think at the moment, actually, considering, you know, I had a speech called the big takeback too. Which is about the psychology of recovery, but what I’m finding back on the live circuit now. So we’re kind of, in the last three months I’m back touring the way I was in 2019 pre pandemic, you know, on the planes in the States, Europe all over the world. And I noticed that the people in the room now have to be given a real reason to be there. So we’ve had two years of webinars. We’ve had two years of virtual. And now if you expect me to get on a plane, a train, a car to come to your event and sit there for the day, you better give me a good reason to do that. Both from an experiential point of view. And so I think the days of our industry of kind of, you know, hiring a conference center, there a stage here’s a few speakers have some cross-on, the networking break are finished, cause that was the old model.

Ken Hughes (19:43): Whereas now you need to give me an experience, which is why all the glass walking in the firewalk, in the other stuff I do has been booked more and more and more cause people want to give an Instagram moment, a memorable moment to send people home. And the personal development angle is really interesting. ‘Cause if you expect me to come for six hours, eight hours to an event, not only do I want to bring something back to my business and my team, to, for professional development, I kind of wanna take something away from it for me too personally. And so we need to make sure that every event that we plan gives people, both of those things, that they have something private to put up on their Instagram that makes them feel better. They’ve grown themselves as a person and also cooperatively go back to their teams and their businesses and they’ve got learn this, let’s apply this. I think we need to deliver both. I think if we’re just delivering one, I think we’re not maximizing the experiential element of the event.

Maria Franzoni (20:29): Excellent. Now in your introduction, the introduction that you gave me. I mean, what a lot of tongue twisting you have me have and do, so you mentioned, oh I mentioned in the introduction, you’re interested in psychology, sociology, anthropology, all the ologies, basically. How have they helped you as a speaker?

Ken Hughes (20:47): I think, yeah, my interest in humanity allows me to kind of go down different route. And so they’re kinda like different lenses that you put on to look at something. So if I look at something from a cyber-behaviourist point of view, I’m looking at the impact that digital is having on our real world interactions. So the impact of attention spans and expectations from a consumer point of view, because everything is immediate and digital that obviously carries into your real world and you expect everything immediate and up to date there as well. And so, cyber-behaviourist will make you look at one thing, but then anthropologically, you look at something like, I mean, so in the pandemic when you know, everything went digital. So we were ordering our food and was delivering delivered from to home via delivery just eats. We were doing our online shopping.

Ken Hughes (21:25): We were, you know, for me, we were working from home. We were traveling from home. We weren’t able to go anywhere. So we were VR and YouTubeing and traveling. And then suddenly we had this, you know, poker night, family quizzes, wine nights, all via zoom. And to me as an anthropologist, that’s the moment where you think, oh, social interaction, which is a very physical thing for humans has just gone digital and it’s gone acceptably digital and that’s a tipping point. There’s no return now. There’s no return to where. So we now live in a digital first world, a world where you reach for digital first. So if you’re going to a dinner on Friday with some friends, that journey starts digitally on WhatsApp, are you around Friday? You’ll talk, have conversation digitally, you’d use voice notes. Then you, someone will say, let’s, let’s choose a restaurant.

Ken Hughes (22:05): You go on to Yelp and you’ll use an engine to choose a restaurant to look at the reviews. Then eventually book your restaurant digitally. I mean, you eventually go into the physical restaurant to eat the food, but the digital journey is all first. And so now looking at that and how important digital is first allows you to understand, you know, digital anthropology and how society is shifting towards. And that’s brings us back into that loop of what, what does that mean for human connection? And then you look at psychology and you look at the mental health chaos. That’s coming down the line for a generation that are being reared right now on dopamine driven social media. And obviously once they hit their twenties, if you’ve had a human brain for the main years of development between 12 and 25 being used that dopamine drip of TikTok and Snapchat continuously to that will have to be replaced by something else, chemically from an dopamine drip point of view.

Ken Hughes (22:52): And you’re looking at huge addiction problems and huge mental health issues. Self-work issues. We already see them on Instagram. So, you know, there’s all this stuff going on that digital is great. Digital is evil. And, and what does it mean? And so the all the ologies allow you to look at the various lenses. So I do that for my clients as from a branding gonna be business point of view and a leadership point of view as say, what are the challenges coming down the line? So it’s all about the future of consumers and the future of work and the future of organizational structure and what we can do now to prepare ourselves for these good and bad things that are coming. So I think it’s just a fascinating space, and no matter what happens, whether it’s a pandemic or whether it’s Chris Rock and Will Smith big having a fight, you know, we look at them through the various lenses of those, as you say, allergies, and think about, well, okay, this is what this means. This is what this means. This is what you need to do as a business, maybe to prepare for the change.

Maria Franzoni (23:38): Right. Okay. And yeah, I hadn’t considered that dopamine hit and the repercussions further down the line. That’s something that’s that we’re going to be seeing. That’s, that’s scary stuff too. And you’ve mentioned when we were talking earlier, you mentioned creativity and innovation, and I know you personally are really passionate about it. Could you close for us with some tips for any event organizer listening in any client that’s planning something, how they can use creativity and innovation, maybe some tips for the audience?

Ken Hughes (24:08): Yeah. I mean, I did a Ted talk famously years ago about creativity and innovation. And I did a personal challenge where I did something new every day for a year. So for 365 days in a row, I did something new that I’d never ever done before. And it rewired the way I worked, the way I lived, the way I launched new businesses, it changed my life forever. And look, and it’s great. It’s a talk that keeps on going and every week or so, I get a message from a random place in the world, India or the States or Australia, and someone starts with themselves. And so, what it is, is you can’t expect to be creative and innovative, unless you train. It’s like the gym, you can’t, you know, signing up to the gym. You don’t just get abs immediately. You have to do the work.

Ken Hughes (24:40): And so the kind of the, the creative spirit I find is the same. You actually have to work it, you it’s like a muscle. And so you have to do small things every day. And they cumulatively build to having an open mind and a new way of looking at things. And so I think, my advice to anybody is firstly watch my Ted talk, get that in there. But it is about training yourself every day to open your eyes, to say yes to opportunities, to try new things that you might not always try because ultimately we all know, you know, trying, doing the same thing all the time doesn’t get you anywhere. So again, a recent blog I wrote was about the innovation sludge, the idea that because we were at home for two years doing the same thing all the time, we’re lacking external stimulus in the top of the funnel.

Ken Hughes (25:18): Usually when you travel, even when you go to an event you might travel for two hours, three hours to get there. There’d be accidental conversations in the business lounge. There’d be stimulus that you’ll see all that stuff is continuously going the top of the funnel. So when you sit down to face a business problem, subconsciously you’ve got all this material floating around in your brain that you can draw on. Whereas what the pandemic did is took all that stimulus away. And so we were surrounded by the same people in the same environment of the same stuff. And understandably, we got a bit kind of jaded. We got creatively jaded. Our innovation engines have slowed down. This is what’s driving some of the great resignation. So really this is a, and no one can fix this except yourself. So what I would say to people is restimulate yourself, you know, get out there, listen to more podcasts, go on, more walks, travel more, join more networking, events, go to more events.

Ken Hughes (26:01): And so some people are a little bit nervous still about going back to events. Event planners are certainly nervous, whether should we do them? Absolutely because people, the audiences are hungry to be at the event. We’re hungry to reconnect with our audiences as sponsors, as speakers. And so there is a desire out there to get back going. And unless we grab that, we’re kind of remain in the same place, like a hamster, a wheel running, but going nowhere. Where it’s, so it’s all for me, creative innovation at its heart is about exposing yourself as much stimulus as possible. And often the stimulus that you least expect triggers an idea. And so it’s very difficult sometimes to draw a straight line between the thing I saw or the thing I read and the idea I had ’cause often it’s a bit like it’s kind of just, it just bubbles up over months and weeks.

Ken Hughes (26:42): And so exposing yourself as much new stimulus as you can, beyond the, what you’re used to, the people that are used to, it’s why a lot of new organizational structures are looking at sprint teams as opposed to functions. So instead of bringing someone in as a marketing person or an engineer, they bring them in as a sprint team player. And over 90 days you deliver this project and then you change and you change and you change. And in that actually, you’re surrounding yourself with different people all the time. Different environments often maybe collaborating with competitors and giving yourself exposure to new ways of doing things. And that to me is the heart of creativity and innovation.

Maria Franzoni (27:14): Great. It’s a muscle you need to exercise it. That’s really excellent advice. Ken, thank you so much. You have given us so much value so much great input here. I hope you enjoyed yourself.

Ken Hughes (27:24): Had a great time. Let’s do it again soon.

Maria Franzoni (27:26): Okay. Fantastic. And thank you everybody for listening to The Speaker Show. And if you enjoy this episode, please leave a rating on Apple Podcasts. You can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is ( or your favorite podcast app. And if you would like to invite Ken Hughes to speak for at your next, please make sure that you get in touch with Speakers Associates in plenty of time. So you won’t be disappointed and make sure to watch his Ted talk. Okay. I will see you all next week. Bye-bye for now.

Live interview

Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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