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


Whose House Are You In?

If you work in a company that claims to have D&I systems and processes in place, I’d like to try and explain why I believe that might not be enough.

And if you don’t have D&I practices in place, I’d like to try and highlight why you could be part of the problem even if you think you‘re open and none-racist.

If you find it useful, then please share it or steal it.

You see while I wrote it, it’s not my property – I learnt this from my life in China and specifically in America where the brilliant, amazing and wonderful Maya, Chelsea and Breanna [not to mention some spectacular people of colour] helped me see things I was previously – and arguably consciously – blind to.

And while this came from experiences in China and America, the reality is this situation happens everywhere so hopefully it will have some use wherever you are.

Now obviously I don’t have all the answers – and it means nothing if we don’t actually do something to change something – but thanks to conversations I’ve had with my friends, it is clear some of the problems people of colour face in our work environments are problems we create and cultivate even if we‘re trying to do the right thing.

OK, here we go:

‪When you walk into someone’s home or office for the first time, there’s always that feeling of needing to hold back.

To play to the hosts standards.

To ‘manage’ your authentic self.

Conscious they’re looking at your every move. Judging.‬ ‪

The clear but invisible line between you & them … reinforcing you’re in their space, not yours.

Uncomfortable isn’t it?

That feeling of your presence being squashed. Less valued. That the only way to be allowed to stay is to act like you’re them rather than you. The distinct feeling of being tolerated rather than welcomed. ‬ ‪

This is what people of colour face and experience EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Entering white spaces with white expectations and white rules.

And even if you don’t think that’s what happens at your place, ask yourself – who owns the house you are inviting people into?

What colour is the CEO?

Who created the company?‬

How many people of colour are there?

What levels of authority do they have? ‪

Diversity and inclusion isn’t about allowing people of colour to act like white people.

It’s about allowing people of colour to be themselves. Their authentic self. Not judged or devalued for who they are, but welcomed, respected and rewarded for who they are. ‬ ‪

So instead of pointing at your D&I practices and thinking that is enough, ask yourself one question:

Are you asking people of colour to step into your house or are you going to let them equally own, create and build it?‬

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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.



The Bigger They Are, The More Fragile Their Ego …

I appreciate I’m the last person to be saying this, but recently I’ve been exposed to some people who can only be described as having a very healthy ego.

You know the types … they say “I” instead of “we”.

They claim sole ownership for everything they’ve been a part of.

They talk about how their way is the way everyone will eventually adopt.

They are very in your face, view anyone who has a different point of view as the enemy and tends to align only with those who are of a similar make-up or are unfiltered in their adoration.

This does not mean these people are not good or clever.

They are.

Whether they are as good or clever as they think they are is another thing altogether.

But here’s the thing, working with them can be a nightmare.

You either play their game or you get discarded and slandered.

The amount of people who have written about these sorts of people on Corporate Gaslighting is incredible … and yet, because of their ego, they see their actions as ‘decisive’ rather than bullying and because they get stuff done, companies often view them as stars rather than grenades.

But here’s the thing …

The bigger the ego, the more they’re hiding.

An insecurity.

A past wrong.

A lack of knowledge in an area they should know.

At this point I should say you shouldn’t try to find what they’re hiding and then exploit it because then all you’re doing is being as bad as them, but there are also times when that is the only alternative.

And here’s how to do it without being a complete dick.

Listen.

Listen very, very carefully to what they’re saying.

Ask for clarification on points that may be ambiguous.

Give examples of situations where a different approach was successfully used to hear their perspective on it.

Don’t attack.

Don’t antagonise.

The point is there are always alternative ways to approach every problem and anyone who suggests otherwise is wrong.

The bully may believe their approach is the best. They may think that what they did had greater effectiveness than all the alternatives. But the reality is so much of that is subjective so if you let your ears do their job, then I guarantee you they’ll hear things that will allow you to offer an alternative that they themselves, will have created.

It’s not easy.

Even done gently and calmly it can be intimidating.

But it can work and the beauty of the egotist is that as much as they want the spotlight, they’re petrified of anyone who has the power to take it away from them, so they ensure that in the future, they’re also given a starring role.

And if none of that works, then you can always try Tom Hanks advice which is pretty good.

Or leave.

Because there’s never going to be enough room in any company for anyone if an individual believes they are the company.



School Should Never Be A Place For Fear For Anyone …

So this is the last post until next Thursday as I’m traveling for work.

I know you all think this means I’m going on a ‘free holiday’, but I am going to take the high road.Ahem.

Yesterday I wrote a post about media helping kids grow up too fast in ways that drives complicity and pressure not independence and individuality.

It’s a subject close to my heart now I have Otis.

Protecting your child is a weird thing.

You know you want to, but you know there’s only so much you can do.

That’s part of the reason I never felt comfortable living in America.

Despite having our house in an incredibly privileged area – the reality that gun crime is everywhere there – never made me comfortable. I would feel uncomfortable going to the cinema. I would look for exists every time I went to the shopping malls. And while you may think I was being over-the-top, the reality is these things happen … in fact, the week after we left LA, there was a shooting at the mall we used to go.

Anywhere where you get a leaflet through the door warning you about violence and guns in schools needs to take a long hard look at itself in terms of what it values more than a life … which is why this video from the Sandy Hook Promise organization makes sure everyone knows that the best way yo protect your child in America is teaching them how to deal with the environment that surrounds them.



Growing Old Stupidly …

When I was in my late teens, I would go to Rock City, every Friday night.

Rock City was a mecca for heavy rock music fans.

From 9 till 2am, it would play none-stop tunes at eardrum-busting volume.

There would be the classic songs by the classic bands – Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, Whitesnake – but the best bit was when they would play something that was just breaking over in the US.

It was at Rock City I first heard Guns n’ Roses, Cinderella, Love/Hate, Badlands and countless others.

Eventually, Rock City gained an international reputation and so bands would not only send them copies of their new album before they were released, but they would ensure they visited and played at the venue as part of their World Tour.

I went to that smelly, sweaty, cramped and pulsating venue for absolute years.

Starting at the Tap and Tumbler pub round the corner before queuing up for entry in the sort of clothes a stripper would balk at before hanging around the edges of the club to say hello to the friends and acquaintances you knew before finally working your way through the heaving, throbbing masses to get into the middle of the dance floor so you could be swept up and pushed around by the intense energy of hundreds of people all loving the same thing at the exact same moment.

They were, quite frankly, some of the best times of my life.

I made friends.

It forged and influenced my love of music.

I discovered what being part of a community was really like.

It pushed me to experience and experiment with things I may never have done.

Which is all my way of justifying why – when I heard they were changing the floor after
40 years and were selling the old one off in pieces – I happily paid them £40 so I could own a piece of my history forever. [See pic at the top of this post]

Yes, it’s tragic.

Yes, it’s pathetic.

But as mid-life crises go, it’s less expensive than a Porsche.

Or an affair.