I first met Vincent Nolan some forty years ago. He came to teach Synectics to a group of us at Garland-Compton (shortly before it morphed into Saatchi and Saatchi). I was in my late twenties and had risen quickly in the advertising business, but learning from Vincent undoubtedly transformed my life.
It dawned on me that one of my main skills up to that point was in identifying weaknesses in other people’s thinking and wielding the scalpel, and that this approach, while it had helped me to be successful, was of very limited value in promoting real creativity and innovation (the lifeblood of marketing communications). Vincent taught us that a better approach was first to articulate the value in emerging ideas, then going on to identify the key issues and problem-solve them.
This may seem simple, even obvious, but it required some complete personal rewiring in myself, changes that have lived at the heart of my life and work ever since.
Following that early encounter, I brought Vincent into each successive new role I found myself in – training my new teams in the whole Synectics bag of tricks. Perhaps most powerfully this was achieved at Lintas in Sydney, where, in a succession of visits from him, most colleagues in the agency were given the treatment. This was a major factor in enabling us to work together more effectively and creatively – and as a consequence we were able to rise from eighth in the local league table to second in just five years, quadrupling profits in the process.
Eventually I joined Synectics myself, as Vincent gradually wound down his life's work, concentrating more on his cello and his golf.
At 85, Vincent Nolan died last Sunday, 17 August.