Arianna Huffington on Creativity

Uploaded by bigtentevents on 19.07.2012


CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: You define the 21st century as the
century of empathy, right?
And I think it's [? happening ?]
to creativity.
What do you mean by this?
What is the century of empathy, Arianna?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well first of all, thank you so much.
It's really great to be here.
Thank you so much for inviting me.
I love the whole spirit of the place.
And thank you for getting up early to get here.
I just think if you look at the world around, it's like a
split-screen world.
And depending on what you focus on, you can be
incredibly pessimistic or incredibly optimistic.
And you can focus on all the explosions of cruelty and lack
and unemployment and austerity, or you can focus on
what is being born.
And I think that what is being born is going to be grounded
in empathy, in our realization that we are all connected.
And so in the way we are all connected through technology,
we are also connected in a human way.
And if we don't acknowledge that and base our decisions on
it, we're going to be in major trouble.
I'm optimistic.
I believe that technology is actually
helping here provided--
and we can talk about that more--
we learn to disconnect from it in order to connect with
ourselves and come from that deeper place
of wisdom and empathy.
So for me, that's the one "provided." That's what I call
the snake in the Garden of Eden.
We have this Garden of Eden of technology,
But if we don't learn to
disconnect from it, to recharge--
we call it Unplug and Recharge-- we have a section
on Huff Post.
The way we plug our devices to charge them, we don't really
realize we have to unplug ourselves to recharge us.
It's absolutely the same principle.
If you don't plug your device, it will
be dead in the morning.
If you don't unplug yourself, you'll be dead.
Maybe not in the morning, but--
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: But Arianna, this is said by--
if I am correct-- a woman who uses four BlackBerrys with her
every day, right?
But you see, that's the whole point.
I'm hyper-connected.
I run a 24/7 news organization.
I'm not saying go and live in the mountains or by the beach.
I'm just saying unplug for however long you need.
For me, it's like seven to eight hours sleep at night.
That requires making certain decisions.
Last night, I would have liked to have stayed up later with
my friends.
But I didn't.
I went to bed.
And so this morning, I'm rested.
I'm happy to be here with you.
I'm not dragging myself.
How often do we wake up feeling like, oh my god, no!
I have to get up?
That should not be the norm.
It will occasionally be the exception.
We are all going to have to deal with that.
You have twins that may keep you awake.
They may be sick.
I may have a deadline I haven't met, whatever.
But as a matter of course, people do not really take care
of unplugging.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: So what are you saying?
That technology eats our time, and you're trying to remind us
that we are human beings somehow and that there is a
sort of clock that we need to--
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Yeah, I'm actually saying even more--
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: The importance of sleep is
something surprising because you don't seem to be a person
sleeping a lot.
Or if you do, obviously you achieve things.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: But here's what is fascinating.
There is now is an enormous amount of medical evidence
about the connection between sleep and health, diabetes,
heart disease, obesity, not to mention
all the stress diseases.
But I'm now studying athletes.

Athletes now have what they call a pre-game nap.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: I didn't know that.
So I was at ESPN last week.
There's an enormous amount of science now behind how can you
be in the zone.
And napping, which is supposed to be a thing that babies do
or the kind of people who are not so excited about life or
don't have as much to do, it can be the difference between
winning and losing.
Let's go back to that.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: He's going to have a nap now.
He's going to leave us.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Yeah, [? it sort of ?]
changes the pace a little bit.
To go back to that, I have another question to ask you
immediately after.
But I would like to start with our masochistic
friend here, Iain.
Iain, my question is very simple.
You have been extremely successful in creativity.
When Arianna came up just 10 minutes ago, she reminded to
you about a couple of successes you had.
So clearly as a creative, you're a successful guy.
You seem also to be a happy guy-- two kids, a wife.
Life's going good.
Why the hell do you decide to go into Google to deal with
technology in the way you do and bring creativity to us?
IAIN TAIT: I have no idea.
The serious answer is I think the point about collaboration
is a really vital thing that's driving everything, that the
whole creative process now has to be about collaboration.

And what I was doing at agencies before was trying to,
I guess, introduce an engineering culture into a
very highly creative culture and introduce some of the
principles of that.
And one of the big principles of that is working together,
and it's about sharing.
And it's funny because when you said, oh, you were the guy
behind [INAUDIBLE], I'm like, no, I'm not.
I'm one of the people that did one of the
things in that thing.
And I'm really uncomfortable being pointed at in that way
because I think if you look at who made that thing happen,
that was a huge team of people.
And I think that's something that, even in shows like this,
that the creative teams and the creative directors are
still the ones that get all the praise and all the glory.
And I think that fundamentally that's wrong.
And so I've been trying to change a creative culture by
introducing engineering culture.
And that's really tough because the creative culture
has been about individual creators getting all the glory
and the success.
And they don't want to let other people in to mess with
their stuff.
Whereas I think if you spin it-- so Google's almost a
mirror image of that.
It's an engineering-driven culture that's looking to
welcome creative people into it.
And my suspicion-- and I hope this is right-- is that
engineers are much more willing to let other people
into the process to collaborate with them.
So I'm looking at how we can introduce collaboration and
creativity from that way around rather
than that way around.
And I suspect it's going to be easier, more fun, and more
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: That will lead me immediately to a
question to Arianna.
I think it's an important point because--
and the question will come in a second--
at Google, we say we love to measure, right?
So when we search, it's about
measuring results of something.
And we introduce things like videos you can--
advertising you can skip and decide to watch.
And you pay only if you don't skip.
So we are very data driven.
But clearly, there are some elements of measurements of
success that are difficult to measure with pure ROI.
So my question to you, Arianna, is you clearly have
to take risks very often.
In what you do, you have to take stances.
How do you measure success?
What is success for you?
How do you measure it?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well first of all, I agree with you about
the importance of metrics in everything.
But I think for me, it's about metrics and magic.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Metrics and magic?
You've got to combine the two.
It's not just about metrics.
And the same goes with life.
I think, in fact, that women have to take the lead here, if
you don't mind my saying so, in helping our whole culture
redefine success, because men have defined success in a way
which implies driving yourself into the ground, getting to
the top because the top is supposed to be the place you
want to be.
I'm tired of this statistic that only 18 women out of the
500 are CEOs.
Why do we think that being a CEO is the best thing in life?
Where did that come from?
It's like the idea that you have to be--
how many people do you have reporting to you?
Because that's a measure of success.
For some people, it could be a nightmare.
So I think for me, first of all, what is success?
We need to own the fact that we need to
define our own success.
And it has to revolve around what we love.
Ultimately, it's what do I love?
What makes me happy waking up in the morning knowing I'm
going to spend my life doing that?
And it may be something that our culture may
not define as success.
And that is key.
And that also implies that success cannot dominate--
our definition of success and getting there--
cannot dominate everything without enjoying the journey.
Ultimately, it has to be about the journey.
Success is not just about the destination.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Success is about the journey.
That's nice.
Please prepare for questions because in two minutes, I will
start going around to ask you.
Build on this, Iain.
IAIN TAIT: On the metrics things, I think it might just
be because guys are obsessed with size.
You know what I mean?
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: We're obsessed with science?
IAIN TAIT: With size, size.
Are you sure you want to get into that, really?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: But you know what they say.
It's not size that matters, it's what you do with it.
IAIN TAIT: Exactly.
We get told this the whole time, but still, it's--.
IAIN TAIT: But we were talking earlier about this, and--
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Can I try to put it into the size,
short term to long term?
Is there something in what you say that--
or it's even worse, maybe.
I'm getting into uncharted things here.
IAIN TAIT: So we were talking earlier about--
you asked me a question about measuring success and metrics
around campaigns.
And I was like, you know what?
In reality--
and this is doing down because I think metrics are vitally
but when you've done something that's really successful, you
can feel it.
You don't need numbers to tell you that it's successful.
You can just feel that something's changing and
something's happening.
And it's great to have the numbers to back it up.
But it's almost like when you have to go hunting for numbers
to prove that it was a success, you've kind of
already failed.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Interesting point.
This brings me to another quote from you, Arianna.
You said that talking rather than listening is one of the
issues we currently have in society, right?
And I think you were at Davos when you insisted on the
importance of listening.
And these people were listening more to each other.
Am I right?
Is there something around this as well?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Yeah, it's actually at the
heart of Huff Post.
At the heart of Huff Post is participation and engagement
and not just talking to our readers.
And that's why, from the beginning, I insisted on
pre-moderating comments because I wanted to have civil
I didn't want trolls and the ad hominem attacks to take
over the conversation.
And that's really paid off through a combination of an
algorithm that we call Julia, the developer's former

And Julia is now being run by Helena, who is his current
Divine justice--
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Is she not jealous?
She loves controlling Julia.

So anyway, basically with the help of Julia plus human
moderators, we now have 160 million
comments since we launched.
And that's part of what is very valuable to us, that we
are listening.
And the commenters are talking to each other.
70% of comments are in response to each other.
They're a conversation.
And our streaming network that we're launching in August is
all based on engagement.
The viewer is at the center.
Everybody now talks about listening.
It's the new thing, right?
And mostly, it means we have the show.
And at the end, we say, oh, here's a tweet from somebody
in North Dakota.
It's like an afterthought.
For me, listening and a conversation has to be at the
center of what we're doing, not just an afterthought.
So even when we're doing long-form investigative
journalism, like our 10-part series on the lives of
returning vets that won us the Pulitzer, each of these ended
with a call to the community to send us videos, to send us
their own stories.
So for us, nothing is complete without a call to the
community to participate, to be heard, so that we can
listen, not just talk.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: And create that interaction?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Create that interaction in
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: And I have immediately another
question because I was listening to you.
And you told me before, it will be nice because, Carlo,
you have an accent.
Arianna, you have an accent, as well.
You are Greek.
You work in the US.
Technology is said to be one of the big enablers of
For you, and for you, Iain, coming from Scotland now
working in New York, how important are the roots you
have coming from Greece and your international element in
the life you live today?
Is it something that comes with you?
And is it important to you?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: I think it's very important.
My mother was a key part of everything I am, was somebody
who could not have an impersonal relationship.

If you went to the farmer's market or to a department
store with her, she would start by making a connection
with the shop assistant, finding out about her,
listening to her.
So for her, there was nothing impersonal.
The FedEx man would come to the house
to deliver a package.
She would say, come and sit down.
I just baked something.
So she had that timeless rhythm, which we've lost.
But it's just incredibly precious.
And in fact, before I launched the Huffington Post, I had my
own little site called Arianna Online.
And my mother was doing a column that we called Ask
Yaya, which is the Greek for "grandmother." And
she could not type.
She would sit at the kitchen table and write the answers on
yellow pads.
And we would transcribe them.
People would ask her anything, about their love lives, about
work, about anything.
So I was brought up--
I mean, sometimes it could be infurating.
You wanted to go and buy some broccoli at the farmer's
market, and it would be an hour-long journey of talking
to everyone.
But now that she's gone, unfortunately, I really
appreciate what that brings to our lives and how often we
just do everything by rote.
And we don't even-- if they ask you, so who
sold you the broccoli?
You couldn't even identify them in a police line because
you did not connect them.
You were probably on your iPhone while you were paying
for the broccoli.
And the idea that by multitasking we're saving time
is one of the things that we need to reassess.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Multitasking, we are saving
time, Iain?
What do you think of that?
IAIN TAIT: I don't know.
A couple of years ago, Adbusters magazine used to run
this thing called Mental Detox Week where you'd basically say
you're not going to use a screen for a week.
And I did my best.
I almost managed to do it.
But I cut out almost everywhere I could for an
entire week.
And it's amazing what changes in your life when you do it.
And say, I wouldn't advocate giving it all up because it's
not technology's fault.
It's us learning how to use it better.
But it's amazing what you see when you take it away.
I was sleeping differently.
I was consuming books differently.
The amount of time when you're going through a book, and it's
like oh, that sounds interesting!
And you just go over here, and you look
a thing up on Wikipedia.
And five minutes later, oh, I should get back
to reading the book!
So actually, multitasking maybe saves some time.
But it also just fragments attention in this really
confusing way that I don't think helps to get to very
pure thought.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: So you say we have to do that quickly
because like with drugs, if you get addicted, then the
sobriety is very difficult, right?
But Arianna, another quote from you before we go to
questions, I think you talked recently about attention
disorders, right?
And the difficulty we have to listen because of the level of
stimulus we are in, how were you defining that?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: I see it really with children.
I have two daughters in college.
But I was talking to Mark Read from WPP.
And he said he has a son who's two.
And he said he wakes up in the morning and
says, daddy, iPhone!
And he says on Sunday, his son goes into bed with
his mommy and daddy.
And instead of cuddling, he wants to play with the iPhone.
We have to watch that.
We may think it's cute.
But it's not cute.

CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: It's scary, yeah.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: It's just dangerous.
And as a result, we have an epidemic of children on
attention deficit disorder medications.
I just do not believe that so many children
need to be on that.
I'm not saying some children shouldn't be on it.
But the epidemic of attention deficit disorder medications
and antidepressants--
I don't know if you know that France consumes more
antidepressants than any other country?
Did you know that?
I'm French.
You shouldn't have told me that.
I thought you were Italian.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: No, ma mere est Francais.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Anyway, you guys, you the French, gave
us croissants, champagne, and afternoon sex.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: And antidepressants.
Right, well, that's not so bad.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: If you are depressed, what happens then
for the rest of us?

IAIN TAIT: Can I just add to that?
I have two nearly three-year-olds.
They love the iPad.
It's constantly, can we have the iPad?
And again, it's about this learning thing.
And the strangest thing, I watched them the other day in
one of the times when they had it, and they don't have any
sense of waiting for anything.
Everything they consume is on demand.
So they watch video on Netflix, and it's like, you
can't have that now.
And they don't understand the notion of not
having it right now.
And it's incredible, even to the point where they were
playing a game, and instead of going through to the next
level of the game, they'd finish a level and then come
out and change to a different game.
So it's not like--
and I'm sitting there going, well, should I teach them
about waiting for things?
Should I teach them about the old world when you had to sit?
It feels really weird to teach them about a retrograde piece
of technology.
But at the same time, I think I need
to teach them something.
And I really think what you're saying about people learning
how to be the master of technology is so important
because right now, I think we're all just running wildly
into it and consuming more and more of it all the time
without asking ourselves questions.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Right, and I think it's not about
teaching them about retrograde technology.
It's not like saying you have to wait until 8:00 AM to watch
Sesame Street.
But it's more about reminding them--
we almost don't really have to teach them because it's inside
them but allowing them the space to say, this is time to
be with daddy, just the two of us.
We're going to be in the park, or we're going to be somewhere
where there are no screens.
The park?
Like outdoors?
We've been there.
It's OK.
CARLO D'ASARO BIONDO: Had to bribe them to come down.
So questions?
Does anyone have a question?
Yes, thank you.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: And tell us who you are, and what you
do, and how much sleep you got last night.

AUDIENCE: I'm [? Laurie ?]
[? Montaigne ?]
from Getty Images.
We have a great partnership with you!
AUDIENCE: We do, yeah, and 7 and 1/2 hours sleep.
AUDIENCE: Juice, croissant, yeah.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: No morning sex, huh?

AUDIENCE: So I just wanted to ask if you'd managed to find
some way of filtering the amount of information and the
amount of data and the expectations
that technology brings?
Because obviously, both of you have sort of a mass of people
asking a lot of you.
And I think switching off's all very well.
But it's the back-log of demands, I think, that scares
us and is why we stay on most of the time.
I haven't found a system.
I'm looking for clues to filter out what's important
and how to manage that.
It's a quite practical question.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: No, but a very, very
important practical question.
You're right.
Often, it is the fear that if we don't catch up, then we're
going to be overwhelmed that keeps us constantly connected.
I heard an extreme case yesterday of someone who
literally sleeps with his iPhone on so when an email
comes in, he gets an alert and wakes up and answers it, and
then goes back to sleep.

That is pathological, but it just shows the extreme of
wanting to deal with something in real time.
For me, the key thing is starting the day with what are
the three things I must get done today and learning to
live with incompletions.
Because I find that the fuller your life, the bigger your
life, the more you do, the more incompletions you will
have to live with at the end of the day.
There is no way-- absolutely no way-- that you're going to
complete everything.
So in my case, as long as I complete the right things--
because very often, if we live from our inbox, we just react.
And we don't act on the base of what we consider the most
important things.
And if you look at all the great visionaries who are
changing our world, whether it's Steve Jobs, as he said to
Walter Isaacson, it was the times when he learned to do
zen meditation, quiet in his restless mind, that he was
able to hear the whispers and get to the next thing.
Bill Gates, spending a week a year in a secluded cabin.
You hear Archimedes--
I love the story of the Greek philosopher--
who was in the bathtub having a relaxing bath when he had
the eureka moment that changed so much around science.
So for people here in Cannes, we're all about creativity.
Creativity needs quiet time.
Creativity needs solitude.
And then, it needs collaboration.
I completely agree with you.
But you also need time to plant the seeds, let them