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Nicole Yershon

Nicole Yershon

Nicole Yershon is a consultant, speaker, mentor and connector with a broad experience of bringing organisations into the 21st Century.

She is a radical entrepreneurial spirit with a vast International network of startups, a ‘why not’ attitude and ability to translate business problems into innovation opportunities, delivering real value to businesses faced with transformation wrought by digital disruption. Nicole founded Ogilvy Labs – the dedicated Innovation unit of Ogilvy & Mather Group – where she worked with brands such as Amex, IBM, BP, Crimestoppers, Selfridges, Unilever, BA and Wetherspoons. Nicole works in the startup ecosystem around the world with the likes of Appear[Here], Microsoft Ventures, IBM Smartcamp, Cisco Big Awards, Collider and Blippar, to name a few. Nicole sits at the creative intersection between advertising, media, technology and marketing.

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Success! Rough Diamond sold 136 pre-orders by Sept. 14, 2017, was pitched to 62 publishers, and will be published by Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press.
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Nicole shares her life experiences in a keynote format for the benefit of the whole audience. With 3 decades experience working in the world of advertising, and as Founder of Ogilvy & Mather's Innovation offering, Ogilvy Labs, Nicole knows what it takes to be the entrepreneur. How to make disruption work for you and your firm and the true meaning of innovation. Nicole shares her story and the life lessons learned. (Travel and accommodation not included)

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Rough Diamond

Turning Disruption Into Advantage in Business and Life

An Intrapreneur’s Guide to Getting Shit Done

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Business Self-help
London, United Kingdom
50,000 words
100% complete
8 publishers interested

Outline

Chapter 1 - Directing Traffic

Chapter 2 - Startup Mentality

Chapter 3 - The Irresistible Force Against Immovable Objects

Chapter 4 - There Is No No...

Chapter 5 - Bigger, Better, Stronger, Faster

Chapter 6 - Ask For Forgiveness, Not Permission

Chapter 7 - Hunting With Hunters

Chapter 8 - I'm Making It Up As I Go Along...

Chapter 9 - Measuring Success as an Intrapreneur - The 6 R's

Chapter 10 - The Black Book - It's All About People

Chapter 11 - How to Innovate Successfully - Semesters of Learning               

Chapter 12 - The Rough Diamond

Chapter 13 - Regrettably and Sadly, The Labs Have Been Shut Down

Chapter 14 - Intrapreneur Becomes Entrepreneur

Chapter 15 - Life, The Biggest Disruption

Epilogue 

Sample

Endorsements

“Nicole has not only be an invaluable member of several Innovation Juries, but has also become a great friend of the Festival, offering her unique advice and phenomenal insight into the world of start-ups.”

— Rob Dembitz (Global Head of Innovation, Cannes Lions)

“Among many other virtues, Nicole is a superconnector. Somewhere out there is someone who already has a solution to your problem. You could spend months trying to find them. Nicole has them on speed-dial.”

— Rory Sutherland (Vice-Chairman, Ogilvy)

“I’ve not come across anyone as articulate in describing the nuances of our digital worlds.”

— Maz Nadjm (CEO, SoMazi)

“Nicole has been a key supporter of IBM’s work to engage the startup community in London. She has been a mentor and advocate of IBM SmartCamp London for several years and a champion for women in technology.”

— Angela Bates (Leader Startup Programmes, IBM UK and Ireland)

Introduction

Statistically speaking, at the end of your life, you are most likely to regret that you didn’t do more of what you love. You will likely feel as though you spent your professional life getting up, going to the office and living the same day over and over, week after week, year after year, decade after decade. Ironically, it’s the same people who wind up regretting not doing more who spend their careers resisting change and shutting down creative ideas. I know, because I spent nearly two decades as a change agent in a large advertising agency.

If you found your way to this book, chances are it’s because you have a fire in your belly, a hunger for change, and a belief in the transformative power of disruption. If you found this book, it’s probably because you know it’s time to shake things up but you’re not quite sure how. This book puts you on notice.

You have it within your power to do more and be more, and I’m going to give you the tools to start. This is your opportunity to change your destiny, so you are the statistical anomaly - the Rough Diamond - who shines bright, even if unpolished, and savors each day for the opportunity it presents to innovate, connect and disrupt the status quo

As I was doing the research for this book I asked a lot of fellow travellers on the journey to send me their recollections. You will find many of them written into this book. Every one of them a part of this story because they were witnesses to what happened as well as important contributors to the impact we had.

One of the first people on my innovation labs team, who really knows how to lead the charge on innovation, summarizes it perfectly like this:

“Acknowledge that fire in your belly and change the status quo. Yes, there will be challenges in front of you, but if there weren't, someone else would probably already have done it. So find people who share your passion. Make a plan, or just wing it as a starting point. The worst thing you can do is have a meeting about a meeting about it. Don't wait around, you have got to start somewhere . . . so JFDI . . .” - Shannon Vaughan

This book explains how to live with disruption and how that’s a good thing. Disruption is a word on everyone’s lips right now. The dictionary explains it as the ‘disturbance or problem which interrupts an event, activity, or process.’

I find the word disruption particularly useful as it suggests a strong and powerful force. A force that can single-handedly wreck a business in days and can screw your life if you let it. Or you can delight in disruption because it creates opportunity and you get to do something new and valuable with it.  So, this is a book of learning, my learning through the inevitable disruptions of life.

It's a rough guide - a manifesto for those who want to fly above the ordinary. Yes, it's my story but it applies to everyone I've ever met. It’s a book about the inevitable things that happen to us and what we choose to do about them. Some are small and you just take them on board and some are large and blow you off course. You can be defeated by them or you can use them as fuel to fire you up.

Dave Trott, a legend in the world of advertising and a great influence on my life, said of me that I was ‘an irresistible force against immovable objects.’ His words have been a constant soundtrack to my life but they also describe my mission to help people come to terms with disruption.

My experiences have been no different to millions of others but it's what you do about them - these immovable objects - that can turn things to your advantage.


Chapter 1 - Directing Traffic

GGT & Dave Trott. Fearlessness. Being 19 years old, having a self-assured confidence about what needs to be done and no wavering. A strong sense of self.

“When Maggie Thatcher said “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman,” she was talking about Nicole. We got double the work out of our creative dept when Nicole ran it.” - Dave Trott[2] 

I was 19 years old. I was inspired by the advertising on the TV. At the time there were only two channels that showed advertising. They were known as ITV and Channel 4 in the UK. The ads that were on all the poster sites were hugely inspiring, and I wanted to get into the business.

My dad had been on the media side of things, but I wanted to go to the creative side of things.

So, I wrote letters to the top 100 agencies of the time. This was the late 80s, and out of 100 written letters, I got maybe 30 responds, 20 thanks but no thanks, 5 “keep me on records”, 5 interviews - and, thankfully, 1 job at GGT!

When I first got there, I noticed that everyone was scared of Dave. Dave Trott was the Founding Creative Partner of the agency - His role was Executive Creative Director. Dave was, and still is, a legend in the Advertising Industry.

A small amount of creatives were working on many different ads. There was fear mixed with excitement. I discovered it was crucial to do my job without emotion. I saw that the way through was to just use logic. I saw that something needed to get done and we needed to get to the end of it.

I became an expert at understanding and interpreting Dave's personality. This proved extremely important for me to do my job efficiently. I wanted to do a good job for Dave, he was such a great leader within the company and always managed to get the best out of us all. I remember thinking he was very firm but fair. I could deal with that because there was an honesty about it. All these years on, Dave is still a mentor to me. I have always followed his mantra ‘simple is smart and complicated is stupid.’

And so, over the years, I started to get to learn the many different personalities and how to get the best out of people. As an example, if Dave was wearing his dark glasses one day it would mean he was tired and couldn't get his lenses in. I would try and get as much done as possible without people going in and irritating him. I learnt to get a lot of stuff done this way. At the time I didn't know it was my introduction to emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence, now that was a new expression on me. I thought it was a strange but interesting phrase and went and checked it out. What I discovered made complete sense.

The first thing I found out was that people with average IQ’s outperform those with the highest IQs 70% of the time. Really? That was no news to me for some reason - to me that was common sense and nothing much to do with intelligence. Back then people often seemed to assume IQ was the sole source of success. Decades of research now confirm that emotional intelligence - EQ is actually the critical factor. It’s what sets rock star performers apart from the rest of the pack.

Emotional intelligence is the intangible bit inside every one of us that means we can relate to what’s going on in others. And that’s what mattered to me. It affected how I operated most of the me and drove me much more than anything else. It informed how I managed my behaviour - it was how I made personal decisions - it was how I showed up socially and in those early years how I got results.

Playing In The Traffic

Within two years, I'm running traffic at one of the top agencies in London. Just like a soccer team if you're a goalie you wouldn't be going up to score goals; I would figure out who did what and who was best at this or that - understanding people's strengths and getting the best out of them.

Traffic within an agency is like the proverbial cog in a wheel you simply made sure that things were done on time, didn't go over budget, the right people signed off, the right work came out on time with everyone happy.

It meant I was involved in every facet of the agency's work - not just the creative production but also the media department. All this at age 21!

It was incredible - it was a pretty glamourous industry. GGT was what was known in the industry as a hot shop. The advertising industry in those days was in high regard as a profession. For those of you who aren’t that familiar it went like this: Clients, brand owners mostly, would want their product promoted on TV or the big outdoor posters or newspapers - or all of them simultaneously. TV was always the star of the show so it was high profile and sexy. There was only one channel in the UK in those days ITV - everybody would watch and everybody knew.

It was pretty cool to be able follow a ‘job’ through all of that. To see what started as a sketch on a notepad to being filmed and then brought to air. You would see something you had a hand in everywhere and hear everyone talking about it. Literally everybody would comment, laugh or cringe at the output of the industry so you really cared - everyone cared and everyone wanted to win the awards. That was a sign that we had done a great job.

Clients wanted to be with the agencies that won the awards. The best talent wanted to play for the best agencies. Just like the soccer team. Clients paid bigger money to the better agencies - the brief was always the critical part of the process - get that wrong and it was never going to end well. Ideas would be sold in by very smooth account directors and the pressure to get the client to buy the idea was a big part of the art.

Then it went crazy to get what was an artists impression or a bunch of storyboards turned into a real thing - a TV commercial or something that could be printed.  I learned enough intricacies to be dangerous in under a year. In this era it really was about craft and art. Ideas and copy still is a very particular talent but back then things were literally stuck down with glue and everything visual was - well art. In the early days at GGT, many of the Directors of the TV commercials soon became famous Hollywood & British Film Directors, from Ridley & Tony Scott, Lord David Puttnam, Alan Parker and many others. They cut their teeth within the London Advertising scene.

You have to remember, there was no digital technology in those days. If you had to get a poster out, you had eight weeks to get the artwork done, copy approved, and then print and post it. With some poor soul having to paste the poster onto a billboard, climbing up on this huge ladder.

Today you would just do a quick upload. Not then.

The Apple Mac was only just coming onto the scene. Everything had to be done by hand. There wasn’t luxury of mistakes where timing was concerned. It was beyond important to make sure things happened on time. I became finely tuned to what you needed to do to get things done. I worked out that some people I would give more time to - some needed a rocket up their backside. It was only by deeply understanding people that you could get all these things to happen.

One day, I had to ask a very senior creative that he needed to do some copy on a print ad. We needed it done by 12 o'clock and for Dave to sign it. The creative copywriter was writing scripts & producing TV ads, so he wasn't interested in doing copy for this.

The first time I walked into his office and asked him to do the copy, he told me to ‘fuck off’. Dave Trott's presence was weighing heavily in the corner office. I couldn't not have that copy or we would have a blank page in the newspaper. I went there again. I approached his office a second time. He screamed at me fuck right off. This happened six or seven times.

I had to process this somehow to get it done. I didn't try to figure out whether he was being mean telling me to fuck off, or because I was young or whatever. That didn't really matter; I just needed to get it done. It just wasn’t personal, I needed to always remember that.

I couldn't imagine the idea of not solving the issues - saying I couldn't get this out of this creative and asking if he (Dave) would have a word with the creative, then having him say to me, “Are you not strong enough to do your job?”

So therefore I just kept going.

By the seventh time, the creative said okay I'll do it. I stood behind him while he typed up the the copy. I said nothing. I was very gracious. And then I stamped the copy. Dave got to sign it off by the time it needed to be done. He walked out of the office and went to his meeting. The client approved it; it went into the studio, and then it was out the door - ready to go to press.

This type of thing happened every day! Often many times.

It was quite a time and at such a young age a baptism by fire. The key to me was knowing my own strengths. I realized I had a talent to compartmentalize things. I was able to keep many projects in my mind at once. Here I was, 21, running traffic at a top London agency. At that time one of the most creative agencies on Earth.

I got myself in a position where I had just enough information on hand to spin many many plates. I found I could sift out the information that didn't mean anything. I retained enough information in my brain to compartmentalize what mattered. And in turn that gave me the ability to connect what needed to be done and connect all the dots.

I discovered and then built for myself the reputation of fixing stuff. From there, I grew the wider ability to find others like me - other fixers. And as a gang collaboratively we were able to get any amount of stuff done.

As someone really smart once said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” In every company I've worked with since, I've had the good fortune to seek out the other doers and fixers.

I developed a sixth sense for people who represented my tribe and at the same time systematically removed the word 'no' from my vocabulary.

I increasingly surrounded myself with people who shared both honesty and transparency. I focussed on and attracted people who got all this. I would collaborate and work only with people who wanted the same thing. The right result at the right time.

Throughout it all I sharpened up on that quality that allowed me to pre-empt problems and give us enough time to to find better and better results. I became very solution driven.

Traffic meant everything to me because it meant doing everything - and that meant really doing it.

I'm 23. I'd had a remarkable time. I didn't realize how much I had had to learn in such a short time. I only came to appreciate just how much far later. You will see in the next few chapters.

I had a growing appreciation and respect for the people I worked with. They had taught me how fearless and brave they were. I learned the importance of developing the right kind of culture. Stuff was always out in the open no one got to hide behind meetings. Nobody dared say they were going to do something for me and not do it.

Dave Trott was the most unbelievable leader, and I was so lucky to have been that close and learned through watching what he did. He rewarded his staff well when they did the right work, and that meant working hard at the right things. He was always firm but fair, honest, transparent, and open-minded to new ways of doing things. He was a total gentleman, holding doors open for you and extremely family oriented. During those early years, I got to know his family, especially his wife Cathy. Dave always gave you complete backing, and there was an excellent example that will remain with me forever.

The chairman at the time was Mike Greenlees. It was a high pressure moment, so the following story has to be seen in that context. We were pitching for Fosters Lager. Mike Greenlees was practicing for his big moment the following day.

It was around midnight. A lot of people are involved in preparation, and we were all working literally at fever pitch - running tight to the challenge. There were 12 scripts required for the pitch the following day.

I remember it vividly - eventually the scripts had been typed up, stamped, and signed. I went down to the boardroom to hand them over to Mike. In a throw away way he said to me, in front of everyone, “Just leave them there,” like I was some piece of rubbish.

I said No.

This was because I knew they had to get into the document. I couldn't stay much longer. Dave had signed them, so he could sign them. This was important, and it was an agreed part of making sure stuff got done. He had an attitude that just made me react. He said again, “Just leave them on the side,” and again I said, “No.”

It was quite a moment.

He barged past me and everyone else in the room. He stormed up to see Dave. He said, "Who the hell does she think she is?" It was the classic - "Doesn't she know who I am?" I had followed him, and by the time I got to Dave's office I just heard him say - "Mike, she's just doing her job - and you need to appreciate that."

Dave just knew what was right and never wavered - no matter who it was. He always gave us his total backing if you were doing what was right. He didn't care whether you were the post boy or the Chairman.

I will always cherish his remarks about this episode in an article he wrote a while later:

“Another girl who wouldn’t stay a secretary was Nicole Yershon. She developed and ran the first real Traffic system anyone had. What everyone calls Traffic nowadays started there. Nicole was north London, and unstoppable. She wouldn’t even let Mike Greenlees, who owned the agency, take the ads if they hadn’t been signed off.

We had a department full of stroppy northerners. They wouldn’t do anything anyone told them, except Nic. It was like watching that TV programme about how sheep dogs herd sheep. For the first time anywhere, the entire agency workload was run by Traffic. Not just the creative department.

Everyone was part of the traffic-system: account men, planners, creatives, right through to production. Every timing plan, every briefing, every debrief, every piece of work on every client was reviewed on time, every week. Small problems were highlighted and solved before they became big problems.

A lot of people confuse inefficiency with creativity. It isn’t. It just looks like creativity. [3] ”

He taught me many things, but when it came down to the wire, in real life and in business, there were no different personas; it was just one thing - be a good, kind, decent person. He taught me to do my job with an honesty and a purpose that I could live and die by.

There was no other agenda. Simple.

All good things come to an end and a final lesson for me was one of sheer integrity. By now GGT was highly successful but owned by different shareholders.

The management moved to a more financial and profit-driven mentality. Dave was beginning to be seen as difficult. He would never compromise his values around creativity.

This is true not just in the Ad Industry but in every industry. The economic drivers all too often take precedence over the creative and the pursuit of value.

Dave was ousted from his own company.

But Dave wasn't to be beaten. As you can imagine, he went on to greater and greater things.

He is a prolific author of 3 books, Predatory Thinking, Creative Mischief and One Plus One Equals Three. He's still a big part of my life today.

Problem faced: How to make a multifaceted organization run efficiently

Solution: Fearlessness, tenacity, a self-assured confidence about what needs to be done.

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The author hasn't added any updates, yet.

  • Maurice Ashkenazi-Bakes on Aug. 3, 2017, 7:40 p.m.

    Looking forward to reading it😊

  • Michael Litman on Aug. 3, 2017, 7:40 p.m.

    Go Nicole! Well done! Mike

  • joseph oliver on Aug. 3, 2017, 8:03 p.m.

    Shout it from the rooftops!

  • Sadie Joy on Aug. 3, 2017, 8:20 p.m.

    Look forward to reading it! Well done you!

  • John Caswell on Aug. 3, 2017, 8:30 p.m.

    I'm sure you've turned the pages into insight as much as you've turned disruption into advantage. Can't wait to read!

  • Jennie Muskett on Aug. 3, 2017, 9:25 p.m.

    You are brilliant and I look forward to reading your book!

  • Julie Doleman on Aug. 3, 2017, 9:45 p.m.

    MAZEL TOV!! YOU DID IT. XO

  • Nigel Rushman on Aug. 4, 2017, 8:52 a.m.

    Very cool Nicole - read the first chapter on the site - loved it! Hope this goes super well for you

  • mike yershon on Aug. 4, 2017, 10:15 a.m.

    an irresistible force

  • Natalie Sutton on Aug. 4, 2017, 1:57 p.m.

    Hey Nic! Mine’s on order 😊. Nats xxx

  • Greg Collins on Aug. 4, 2017, 9:53 p.m.

    Yaaay 27th! See you soon!

  • alison owen on Aug. 5, 2017, 9:02 a.m.

    Good Luck Nicole! Looking forward to reading it x

  • Mark van Stratum on Aug. 7, 2017, 7:35 a.m.

    Thanks Nicole! Looking forward to reading!

  • Gemma Milne on Aug. 7, 2017, 8:53 a.m.

    Exciiiiiiiiiting! x

  • Jody Orsborn on Aug. 7, 2017, 10:38 a.m.

    Can't wait to read it!

  • Alexandra Deutsch on Aug. 7, 2017, 2:30 p.m.

    Good luck with your project !!!

  • Andrew Morgan on Aug. 8, 2017, 7:42 a.m.

    Good luck with this Nicole, cant wait to read it

  • Ben Cooper on Aug. 8, 2017, 10:16 a.m.

    I'm excited. Access to your brain has got to be a good book. Ben x

  • Mariana Marquez on Aug. 12, 2017, 7:54 a.m.

    CAN'T WAIT!

  • Anushka Sharma on Aug. 13, 2017, 7:31 p.m.

    So excited to read #RoughDiamond to think you conceptualised and wrote this all in a less than a year is so awesome! I absolutely love working with you on #LabForHire and can't wait to for the adventures ahead. Nush x

  • Claudia Salador on Aug. 14, 2017, 8:58 p.m.

    So so proud xxx

  • stacy katz on Aug. 16, 2017, 1:36 p.m.

    Can't wait to get my hands on this epic-ness!

  • Lenerd Louw on Aug. 16, 2017, 4:21 p.m.

    Look forward reading it Nicole! ❤️
    Lenerd Louw

  • Jane Milne on Aug. 16, 2017, 6:59 p.m.

    Really looking forward to reading your book Nicole, and learning lots from it! Many Congratulations again! xx

  • Lee Constantine on Aug. 17, 2017, 12:40 a.m.

    Can't wait to receive this in print form :)

  • Maya Bogle on Aug. 17, 2017, 7:31 a.m.

    Congratulations again - can't wait to read it. So pleased to see you so happy - you deserve it....
    Maya x

  • Anton Adekoya on Aug. 21, 2017, 9:11 a.m.

    You helped me prep the start of my career, now this book will help me jump to the next stage and be ahead of the competition! Can't wait.. :)
    Well done!!!

  • Sophie Bishop on Aug. 21, 2017, 9:31 p.m.

    So proud Nic xxxx

  • Sulaiman Khan on Aug. 27, 2017, 11:03 p.m.

    Dear Nicole:

    Congrats on the book! Super excited to read it.

    ONWARDS and UPWARDS, my friend.

    Take care and speak soon.

    Cheers,
    Sulaiman

  • Chris Sutcliffe on Sept. 1, 2017, 3:27 p.m.

    Congratulations Nicole. I can't wait to read it. See you soon xx

  • Tracey Murray on Sept. 2, 2017, 11:30 a.m.

    You're a powerhouse. Can't wait to read it! X

  • Will Hudson on Sept. 13, 2017, 10:38 a.m.

    Looking forward to reading this – great work Nicole!

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