Stop lying to yourself and open up your mind to destigmatise mental health says Dave Birss

People should stop lying to themselves and open up their minds says Right Thinking's Dave Birss

Three years ago, Dave Birss, chief thinker of Right Thinking, and Gordon Young, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Drum, came up with the concept for Do It Day. The dream was for people in the marketing industry, all over the world, to spend one day a year applying their skills to making the world a better place.

This year, Birss is back to help the teams come up with great ideas to destigmaitse mental health. The Drum caught up with him to find out what attendees can expect at the Hack Day on Tuesday 10 October.

What can attendees expect from your session?

Think of me as the B&Q of problem-solving. I'll be providing the tools that teams can use to generate ideas for each of the briefs. Some tools will help you think about the brief in new ways, some will help you access ideas you wouldn't normally have, some will help you judge your ideas and some will help you develop them. It's all about giving you a better chance of having a kick-ass idea at the end of the day.

I'll be explaining these tools and demonstrating them on stage first thing in the morning. And I'll be walking around the room to offer help and advice throughout the day.

As attendees have a very tight brief to work on, what would be your advice for them, to get what is needed done for Do It Day?

Remember that it's about finding the best idea not about sprinting to the finish line. Your job is to explore the issue from lots of interesting angles to find the non-obvious ideas. If you get stressed about the tight deadline, you're likely to spend less time exploring and pursue an obvious solution instead.

It's also really important that you enjoy yourself. And I know that might feel difficult when you're dealing with a serious issue like mental health. But if you're all serious-minded and conservative, you're not going to come up with very interesting ideas. Many of the best ideas come from joking around and being facetious. So, it’s important that everyone has a sense of humour. If you're overly serious and worried about offending people, you’re more likely to come up with a boring idea that will be ignored and forgotten by everyone. And that's a waste of everyone's time.

What advice would you give to a DID attendee who is not so creatively minded?

My advice is to stop lying to yourself. We all have the ability to come up with creative ideas.

Sadly, most of us learn to be uncreative from a pretty early age and that only gets worse over time. We worry about what others will think, so we stop sharing our ideas. Then we become out of practice and the idea-generation muscle atrophies from lack of use.

The exercises I'll be demonstrating on the day will help you exercise that neglected muscle and encourage you to bypass your fears.

And you won't be on your own. You'll be part of a team that'll be working together to find the best ideas. Just relax and enjoy yourself.

How important is it for employers to look after their employee's mental well-being?

It's not just important, I believe it's vital for the long-term success of businesses. Let's look at it from a few points of view.

We'll start with the business case. Studies show that companies with happier staff also have happier customers. And - unsurprisingly - that results in better performance and more profit. They get better work from their employees, they hold onto them for longer, they turn them into advocates. Other studies show that 13% of employees in an average company are actively engaged, while 24% are actively disengaged. That means they have nearly twice as many people sabotaging their business as they do striving for its success. Businesses that continue to treat their employees like soulless cogs in their corporate machine will suffer. And they'll deserve everything they get.

Now let's look at our responsibilities to our fellow humans. If I gave you a choice of two buttons to press - one would make half a dozen people happy for a whole day and the other would make them feel crappy and worthless for the same amount of time - which would you choose? I'm hoping you picked the happy button. The management style we choose to adopt has that exact effect on everyone who is subjected to it. And it affects them for every single day that they work for you. Plus, weekends and holidays. Management can choose to operate in a better way that’s the equivalent of hitting the happy button. And they have a moral responsibility to do so.

Now let's look at it from a healthcare point of view. The miserable management techniques don't just affect how people feel from nine to five in a superficial way. They take that feeling home with them. And that has a knock-on effect for their health, their relationships with their families and everyone they interact with throughout the day. Collectively, our businesses are affecting the mood of our nations and are putting a burden on healthcare providers. And - let’s not beat around the bush here - they’re often taking years off their employee's lives.

Things aren't going to get better if we continue to ignore it. I’m hoping Do It Day produces ideas that can change people’s lives for the better.

How important is the role of marketers/advertisers/creatives in pushing social change?

It’s the responsibility of everyone in every industry. It just so happens that marketers have a skill that can really help.

When Gordon and I came up with the idea of Do It Day, we did it because we believe in the power of marketing. We believe it can change the world and we wanted to harness it to make the world a better place. Anyone who wants to have a positive impact on the world should make sure they join us on the day.

Do It Day starts with a hack session in London, New York and Singapore, bringing together marketers from brands, agencies, tech companies, publishing companies and anyone who loves ideas on Tuesday 10 October, World Mental Health Day to devise a strategy around mental health. You can get involved now and help destigmatise uncertainty around mental health.

Do It Day hack will be followed by a fringe week from Monday 13 November to Friday 17 along with the Marketing Can Change The World Awards on Thursday 16 November.

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