Monday, 30 March 2009

What's the point of fiction?

I remember the first book I ever read. It was called the Little Wooden Horse and when I finished it I cried for days. I was so utterly absorbed I couldn't bear for it to be over.

It was only when my Mum pointed out that I really should be working harder on my A levels that I finally pulled myself together.

I jest of course. But when I was young I really did like books. No, I loved them, and my Mum was a librarian. That's like being a crack addict and having a dealer Mum.

As I grew older I read less and less fiction and more and more non-fiction, mainly because I was so anxious to 'be efficient' and to 'get ahead' that I thought of fiction as a waste of time.

But now psychology tells us that it's my attitude that's a waste of time. Recent research indicates that reading fiction allows us to simulate experiences, situations and emotions so that we can try them out, and therefore learn faster than we would through our own experiences alone. Much as a pilot learns to fly by simulating flight, so we learn by simulating life through fiction and art.

Mar (2007) tested this hypothesis. After randomly assigning people to read either a fiction or non-fiction piece of literature, those reading the fiction piece scored higher on a test of social reasoning, although there were no differences between the conditions on a test of analytical reasoning. Fiction, it seems, is the mind's flight simulator, and I'm off to the library to re-simulate all those situations experienced by The Little Wood Horse.

Source: The Psychologist, vol 21, Prof Keith Oatley.

Friday, 27 March 2009

A reminder from Honda

Clients often ask about finding a meaningful career.

They want work which will satisfy more than their bank manager each month.

Bloom has done lots of research on the subject of meaning, but nothing beats this - my all-time favourite TV ad - as a summary.

It's got everything you need to know.

This advert got me through some pretty dark days when I was changing career; and stiffened my resolve to keep going.

I bet everything on my 'quest' and can now even identify with this man* as he rises in his balloon.


* unfortunately that also includes the hairstyle.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Speed dating with pigeons

I've never been very good at choosing birthday presents, and asking for cheese has usually been a safe bet. This year however, I picked an 'Experience' card, and I was bought one of these by Rob and Amelia.

The School of Life is a shop cum university institution in north London, which offers 'ideas to live by' through an exciting array of courses, seminars and in this case, conversation meals.

Basically, the concept of these improvisatory feasts is that you turn up to a restaurant alone or with friends, you get mixed up (physically, not mentally), and you make conversation with strangers. I suppose you could call it a subtle form of speed dating. The meal was set at a fantastic restaurant in north London, called the Konstam. The restaurant is unique in that 85% of the menu is sourced from within the M25 network. I had pigeon, which I assume was fresh from Trafalgar Square.

Each of the 4 courses was different in terms of the stranger sat opposite, as well as the topics of conversation, which were all determined by a 'Conversation Menu'. Being relatively young compared to my fellow raconteurs, it was particularly interesting tackling the questions 'When did you stop being a child?' or 'What do you find it easier to talk about as you grow older?' but it was great to compare respective similarities and upbringings.

Pudding was accompanied by the task of narrating some pretty obscure postcards, which was an exciting challenge considering their quite obscure nature and the tipsy company.

I would definitely recommended this experience if you want a good meal out, to make spontaneous conversation with random strangers or even simply to try out the magnificent marmalade Champagne.


Friday, 20 March 2009

Post OneLife Live 2008

Friday 13th 2009, the Bloom team assemble at 8am outside a tense Kensington Olympia. Cardboard Signs and double sided tape under arm and with thousands of flyers, we marched into the OneLife space. To our surprise, we were tactically placed between the 'Jesus experience' and a dog pen which was to be used to show off the skills of guide dogs for the Blind. A great strategy for pulling dog lovers into the Bloom stand.

The whole weekend was a great success, for the Bloom team as an experience and also for OneLife in terms of the great variety of stands and presentations.

What set our stand apart?
Eventhough our space was a mere 1x2m wide, we packed it full of informative and interactive posters, Polaroid pictures of our visitors, and ofcourse the odd Malteaser to keep visitors fed. We really valued visitors having a chat about what they were doing, where they were going, or even about studying Psychology.

The highlight?
We all really enjoyed speaking in depth to visitors in depth about their sense of direction, or where they wanted to go next in terms of career or life choices. We found our interactive wall to be particularly interesting, with which visitors could map out their current situation and then work through their future plans with one of the Bloom team. Rob also really enjoyed presenting on Sunday on his research into 'Finding meaning at work' (Pictures below). We had a full house (which was fantastic for a Sunday morning) and all of our handouts were snapped up eagerly. We're aiming for a larger space next year.

Will we go back again?
OneLife has a buzzing atmosphere, bouncing off its eclectic range of stands and offerings. If your interested in watching some inspirational talks covering career change to becoming a flower arranger, or finding out more about travelling or working abroad, then we recommend visiting next years exhibition. They also have great free samples of cheese and chocolate, which is always a winner.

We're hoping to upgrade our stand and presentation space for next year, and hopefully do it all over again. See you there!