Three pigeons were perched upon a beam above our conference room table. A late-morning San Francisco breeze entered the 18th floor windows, ruffling their feathers. Our client tilted her head up. Her eyes widened. “There are pigeons up there!” she said, interrupting the presentation. “Are those real?” her colleague asked. They were, in fact, real. Real fake.
To understand the pigeons, you have to first understand the nature of my office. Gershoni Creative, the agency I co-founded with my wife Amy, is located in a refurbished Beaux Arts dome atop one of San Francisco’s original landmark skyscrapers. (It was under construction when the earthquake ravaged the city in 1906.) Besides the fake pigeons in the rafters, there are books of magic lining the shelves and glass jars of candy straight out of Willy Wonka’s factory.
It’s all a bit unorthodox, which is exactly the point.
The sweets aren’t for me. In fact, I rarely touch them. I just love the feeling that a massive amount of candy elicits when a client walks into the space for the first time. “Can we eat that?” they ask. “Are we allowed?” Of course they can. The candy allows them to remove boundaries, to express a sense of childlike wonder. They think they’re asking permission to eat candy. What we’re really doing is giving them permission to dream.
This fantastical space emerged, in part, from the gifts of my dyslexic mind. Infusions of whimsy are necessary to help stimulate the imagination. It is not a coping mechanism but an invention mechanism — a way to inject my so-called “difference” into my environment. We surround ourselves with elements that trigger creativity, insight and comfort — what we refer to as “play.”
The amount of conversation, positive energy and genuine emotion generated by the pigeons and the candy jars is astounding. Don’t we all want to feel like it’s Saturday morning, the whole weekend is ahead of us, and we can do anything we want? That’s the mental space I’m trying to invite people to join me in. Social expectations are lifted. Everyone has permission to relax and play. Everyone is free, mentally, to dance.
Teaching people’s minds to dance is how we bring out the best in our clients. But this creative tool is not only a…