The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


If They Were Able To Manage A Space Disaster, You Can Learn Management From Them …

There’s a lot of talk about management techniques.

A hell of a lot.

And while many are good … a huge amount take something that could be about 10 pages long, and stretch it into a book that is about 300 pages.

Recently I read an article about management that I thought was amazing.

Not just because it wasn’t meant to be about that subject, but because it highlighted that great management has nothing to do with age but everything to do with leadership, trust, empowerment and delegation.

It’s the story behind the disastrous Apollo 13 space mission.

You should read it, if only for the story that leads up to the last line:

“If you spend your time thinking about the crew dying, you’re only going to make that eventuality more likely.”

Read it here. Happy weekend.



Remember, Newton’s 3rd Law Relates To Emotions, Not Just Actions …

OK, so now we have got over the fun and frolics of yesterdays April Fool post, I want to bring it back to something serious.

Recently we decided we would have a day where Otis could make all the decisions.

He immediately went for it big time by asking to go to a local builders cafe for breakfast, where he ordered chips, drank a Coke Zero and watched Paw Patrol on his iPad.

You can see him in the photo at the top of this post.

Living the dream.

Anyway, I mentioned this on Facebook when someone I’ve not met but vaguely know wrote:

“We practice ‘good choices’ day, you should try it”.

Now while I was sure it had come out more condescending than intended – this person does have form in being judgemental from their self-appointed pedestal – and Jill decided to inform him of this.

She replied:

“You don’t know me or my son.

Your comment comes across as judgmental and condescending and makes me uncomfortable because it implies my son was making ‘bad’ decisions.

Perhaps if you did know us you would understand our parenting style more and that we aim not to use words like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because of their unfortunate side effect of creating shame.

Decisions are just decisions, and I believe that kids need space to make a whole variety… nobody makes ‘good’ decisions all the time and I want him to grow up knowing that that’s ok, normal and part of life.

Perhaps your comment really was just about sharing what you see as a fun idea, but your way of expressing it missed the mark…”

As I am sure you will all agree, that was a pretty awesome response.

But more importantly, it highlights how we are attempting to bring up Otis.

Coming back to England has been wonderful, but the one thing that has surprised us is the pretty draconian approach to instilling certain qualities into our kids.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it’s being done for good reason, but the overt shame/reward approach bothers us. A lot.

There are many reasons for it – and of course, each to their own – but this poster sums up the one we fear the most.

This situation applies to all.

Not just kids … but family members, friends and colleagues.

What’s worse is this tends to stick with people.

It is one of the elements that has driven so many of the Corporate Gaslighting stories.

I get situations can make us angry.

I get people can do stupid things.

But when your approach to correction is shame, you’re trying to improve the outcome of one thing through the destruction of another.

You might not mean it.

You might not want it.

But you are doing it.



It’s Not Very Often You Get To Be At The Start Of Something Incredible …

As many of you know, I love technology.

I also am a huge advocate of talking to people.

Really talking … spending time with them, listening to them, understanding them.

And that’s why I am so happy that I’ve been able to bring both together through a project we’ve being doing at R/GA in London and Tokyo for the last 7 months called Human Technology.

No, I don’t mean the old Nokia saying, I mean literally meeting at the intersection of human curiosity and technological capability.

Over a long period of late nights and long weeks, a group of brilliant colleagues have been developing a new way to talk to people – a way that will allow us to conduct multiple interviews at the same time – enabling, for the first time, to get scalability on the nuance of conversation that I value so highly.

Now I know what you are thinking … this sounds awfully like a focus group and you absolutely, totally, passionately hate focus groups.

And you’d be right … there is a similarity between them.

But the beauty of this is that we are addressing the specific thing I don’t like about the way focus groups are approached.

You see the real issue I have is that focus groups are …. well, focused.

They don’t allow you to understand context … they don’t really care about having an appreciation of the audiences backgrounds or motivations, they just want to get to the answers they need answering.

So it is far less about understanding and far more about efficiency, which means you lose all nuance and authenticity, which is the difference between making work that is resonant with culture and relevant.

OK, it’s not perfect, there has definitely been more than a few occasions where things went a bit weird – similar to the AI Christmas Card experiment we did last year – but I’m over the moon to introduce you to Hans.

Look at him.

LOOK AT HIM.

He’s good isn’t he.

I admit it has taken a very, very long time to get here.

There has been a lot of mistakes, disasters, frustrations and questioning … but Hans [which stands for Human Android Nuanced Screener] is something we are all super excited about.

It’s all very well saying you want to create a new method for revealing insight and nuance, but it’s a very different matter getting there … and that’s why I’m so proud of the team as we’ve had to explore every single detail to get here.

From how we wanted the AI to behave, to what movements the robotics needed to have to feel as ‘human’ as possible … to his look, feel and sound … all in the quest to replicate the energy and aura of a none-threatening, but constantly interested person.

While there is still stuff to go, I think we’re doing pretty well, as the videos below show in terms of how we went from developing realistic hand movement robotics to building a model that allows for realistic human interactions.

[Excuse the terrible music, we’ve done these as part of film detailing the various stages of the project with one of our partners, Mert Arduino]

Creating The Hand

Creating More Human Interactions

The Different Faces Of Hans

Now the sad truth is we won’t be able to finish this to the level we want on our own.

For all the talent in the building and the network … time, technology and cost are all a hindrance to seeing this through to how we envision it can end up, which is why we are going to open this up to the creative technologists around the World, in the hope they want to be part of this project and see where they can help it go to.

Of course, few will do this without some sort of benefit, which is why I’m so happy to announce that anyone who takes part will have an ownership % so that if the technology takes off, they will directly profit from it.

We will soon be announcing how to get involved – as well as issue all blueprints and coding that we have already created to allow people to quickly add to the project rather than do things that have already been create – or we would if this wasn’t April 1st and a total load of bollocks.



Corporate Gaslighting Is Still On Fire …

Hello there …

Recently I spoke to a couple of people who told me about the experience they were having at work. Or should I say the bad experience they are having at work … and when I told them about Corporate Gaslighting, they looked at me as if they had literally found safety.

Unsurprisingly, this is not only because they were enduring the slow, systematic destruction of their confidence by a bad boss. but were being made to feel this was all their own fault.

While there are quite a lot of stories on the Corporate Gaslighting, it has not had many new stories come in.

I get it, it’s hard and scary.

But what I will say is this.

Not only is everything totally anonymous – and if you ever change your mind, I’ll do whatever works for you – the reality is sending in your story has 2 really tangible benefits.

The first is you feel a release in letting it out.

Part of the horror of being made to feel worthless at work is you keep it to yourself.

Of course you do, you’re made to feel you’re the failure so why would you ever want to tell anyone that.

That pressure can be hugely debilitating so letting it out not only helps you breathe again, it helps you start being in control of your situation rather than having that situation control you.

Second is your story will help others going through it.

Everyone who has written in has expressed their gratitude to read other stories like theirs.

It helps them know they’re not alone.

It’s not them.

It isn’t right.

So if you – or anyone you know – is facing this horrific situation at work with a bad boss, can you please point them to theytriedtokillmebuti.live … because even if they don’t want to submit their own story, reading others might help them feel they can get out of this, and for that alone, it’s worth it.

Thank you.



I’ve Started A Cult. Apparently …

Another day, another post about my love of China.

So a few months ago I was there for the opening of a clients latest venture.

You should all check it out because it’s a luxury fashion mall THAT LOOKS LIKE MARS!

Literally.

It was specifically designed to feel like you are on a space station on another planet.

It features everything from luna modules to robot sheep to video screens that look like skylights that show you in outer space.

It is utterly mad and yet truly amazing.

A place that is like no other I’ve seen anywhere else in the World.

But then, without wanting to sound a corporate toadie, the client is like no other I’ve met anywhere in the World … even when I was living in China, which tends to have a lot of brilliantly ambitious folks than anywhere else I’ve lived.

I have to do a post about him soon because not only is his influence on the fashion world almost unparalleled – and I am comparing him to people like Anna Wintour in that statement, let alone the heads of Gucci, Prada and countless others – but in the time I’ve worked with him, he has taught me to look at strategy in a completely new way.

Given I’ve literally been working in this discipline for more years than you care to mention, that’s pretty amazing … so I am sure you would find him pretty fascinating too.

Anyway, as part of the project, I was interviewed about what we have been doing for him and how we have worked together.

I talked about how much I love China and how much of an honour it is for me and us to be able to go there and help with a once-in-a-lifetime project. This may sound like I was a total crawler, but the fact is it’s all genuine.

We have been allowed to influence and shape at the highest level – strategically and creatively – and that’s been amazing, especially when there have been times you’ve disagreed with some of the things they wanted to do.

That’s hard for companies to hear at the best of time, but when it’s the billionaire founder of an international fashion group, that’s a whole other level of sensitivity and yet he has been nothing but open to us because he knows we’re not doing it for any other reason than wanting him to win better.

And when you’re talking about creating Mars on earth, ‘winning better’ is going to be crazy fun, whatever way you look at it.

But back to the interview.

So off we head to China for the opening.

It was packed with press and celebrities.

Billionaires mingled with paupers – errrrm, me – fashionistas rubbed shoulders with fashion disasters – errrrm, me again – so imagine their surprise when the start of the official opening included this …

Yep … that’s me.

Yep … that’s my interview.

Yep … no one understood why I was there or what I was saying.

I’d love to say I was all cool, calm and collected, but I – along with my colleagues – were pissing themselves laughing.

It was madness and awesome all at the same time.

I didn’t know whether it was like a remake of the classic 1984 Apple ad. or my attempt to be the leader of a Birkenstock cult … but it was like nothing I had experienced in my life.

Which is another reason I love this project and miss China.

Because when you are working with someone who believes anything is possible – and has the drive to make it happen – the journey is equally as much fun as the destination and I feel massively fortunate to be on it.

Even if there are people all around the World asking themselves …

“Who the fuck was that old guy in the camo Nike hoodie?”



If You Know Who You Are, You Don’t Have To Say Much About Yourself …

A while back, I wrote about a chef we met on a research project for Tabasco, who said something that had a big effect on me …

“The more confident the chef, the more simply your dish”.

I love this.

It captures so much in so few words.

As you will be able to tell from this blog, I find it hard to be succinct in pretty much everything and anything I do.

I spend ages thinking about things … what is important, what isn’t, what might be that I haven’t thought about yet and what I just want to try to see what comes out the other side.

This is incredibly annoying for almost everyone. Including myself.

But after I’ve messed about with it all and got an idea about where my energy lies, I can eventually get things down to their bare essential – by which I mean reduce it down to the most important thing I need others to understand and feel.

I must admit, I used to give myself a really hard time on how long this process took – especially when I could see others pull it off in the blink of an eye – but the reality is it takes a lot of hard work to be simple and rigour means what you do is right rather than just fast.

I say all this because I recently came across Apple’s marketing philosophy from 1977.

Look at that.

LOOK AT IT!!!

One page. One single little page.

Now I know some will claim it is simplistic.

Or it features words that people may not get, like ‘impute’.

But when you read it – which at one single page, means you definitely will – you quickly understand the 3 essential values that the brand stands for, believes in and values.

They give a fuck about their audience.

They are brutally focused on what they do.

They place great value on how they communicate themselves.

But there’s a couple of other things.

One is they openly talk about ‘creativity’.

To do that in 1977 is amazing.

To do that in 1977 when you are in the computer business, is almost unheard of.

But what I like is they link creativity with professional.

Because not only does it mean Apple don’t see these as being mutually exclusive – which was definitely not a commonly held belief back then, maybe even now – but it’s a clue to the work they want to be known for.

Not creativity for creativities sake, but how they look at the world.

What being professional looks like to them.
What the values of being professional means to them
What the word professional represents in terms of how you live and act.

And given they placed huge importance in understanding their audience, it meant they could do work that moved away from the typical suit and tie, business communication of the day and make work that spoke human to human … acknowledging the creativity in all of us and talking about human values not just corporate efficiency.

And if that wasn’t enough, there is one more thing I love about all this.

They talk about how, if they do it right, their customers will feel about Apple and their products.

Not a bunch of words … but emotion.

Of course this is all very obvious, but there are way too many clients who try to define the exact words they want people to play back to them.

Generic … overly-defined … corporate-talk … words.

It’s as if their bonus is linked directly to the quantity of words a focus group plays back to them.

Which is probably the exact reason why they do it.

But Apple in 1977 didn’t follow that path – and still don’t – because they, like NIKE and countless other brands who have a huge influence in culture, appreciate the simpler you are, the more powerful you become.



Proud To Be Chinese …

As you all know, I lived in Asia for a long time.

And as much as I loved it all, the time I loved most were my 7+ years in Shanghai.

Of course there were moments that were challenging – but that happens wherever you move, even if it’s just down the road from where you have always lived – but without doubt, I can categorically state it was one of the absolute best times of my life and I still miss enormously.

Part of this was because I was in China at a time of great change … where the country was starting to realise its own potential and power. Because of this, I got to witness the character and creativity of the culture came together to start creating something new … exemplified by the ‘coming out party’ of the Beijing Olympics to the rest of the World.

Part of this was because I was working at Wieden+Kennedy at a time where the business World had woken up to the importance of China as a market. What this meant was I wasn’t just part of work that I still feel immensely proud of, but my team had direct exposure to a level of client that few people ever get, with an opinion that has rarely been so valued.

Part of this was because of the people and places I got to meet, go to and work with. In almost every case, everyone was generous with their opinion, compassion and hospitality. In many ways, it is the place where we felt we were part of a real community – where everyone genuinely had everyone’s best interests at heart. The impact was so great on me, that I did a presentation in Australia on how living in China had made me a better person, let alone a better professional. The impact of those years still influences and drives me today.

Part of it was because of this guy …

I am so proud he was born in a country I weirdly regard as ‘home’.

And I am so so happy he feels the same way.

It’s for this reason he wanted to wear this top to school recently.

The symbols are the Mandarin characters for China – or more specifically, Zhōng Guó.

China has been going through a tough time.

Not just because of the Corona Virus, but because of the incredible prejudice being shown towards it and their people.

I get its scary and people aren’t really sure what to do about it … but I must admit I have found the open hostility shown towards it unbelievably offensive.

How the Chinese government have reacted to this situation has been unprecedented – in fact I doubt any other nation would ever react with such pragmatism.

Yes, there have been mistakes, but compared to the terrible way they handled SARS, they have learned their lesson and are actively doing all they can to stop the spread under incredibly complicated situations – exemplified by the fact they basically banned all travel during Chinese New Year when that is the very moment where 300+ million people go back to their homes across China to celebrate with their families.

And how did the World try to help?

By banning and being outright hostile to the people and country.

The paranoia has been incredible.

People claiming to be frightened of Chinese products.
People claiming to be frightened of Chinese services.
People claiming to be frightened of Chinese people.

The bit that upsets me most is that even now – as they are closing their borders to all – the narrative towards the Chinese is aggressive and fearful … which is very different to how they have reacted to other countries going through it.

Why?

Is it because of a language barrier?
Is it because of a lack of awareness?
Or is it because of an inherent prejudice towards China and their people?

Look I get no one wants to go to a place suffering with a dangerous respiratory virus and I get borders of nations needed to be protected [as they should be always] but at a time of struggle you would expect some compassion.

That governments have shown open hostility to a country and its people who they need for their own financial wellbeing is incredible – yes, that’s you America – and they should be grateful that China as a nation does not like conflict, because if the tables were turned, I don’t think other countries would be responding in the same way.

But whatever happens, I will always love and visit China and am grateful to the country for so many things – the main one being that my wonderful son Otis was born there.