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

When McKinsey Turns You Into An Influencer, You Get To Feel Your Privilege, Not Just Experience It …

So a few weeks ago, I saw a tweet that asked about ‘most awkward’ presentation.

Given I’d just read a terribly superficial [and out-of-touch] document they’d written on China, it reminded me of something that happened with me and McKinsey in China a few years ago.

So I wrote this:

As soon as I posted it, I knew it had hit a nerve as my phone was continually buzzing – but whereas it normally stops after about 4 seconds, this carried on. In fact it got more intense. So intense in fact that within 48 hours, it had achieved this:

300+ comments

In addition to that, I got contacted by people in the US, Mexico and China who said I had set off a vibrant debate in their respective countries via their respective versions of Linkedin, Instagram and Twitter.

Hell, I even got contacted by Consulting Humour [which is apparently ‘a thing’] who wanted to post it.


But what’s even more mad is that almost everyone who commented was nice to me.

Even the people who disagreed with what I’d written.

And yet, despite all that, I found it overwhelming … like being in a car that’s on the edge of going out of control.

It got so uncomfortable that I had to delete my Twitter for a few hours so I could catch my breath.

But what was obvious was a lot of people have a lot of issues with McKinsey and consultancies as a whole.

The main issue seemingly being they get paid a fortune for their advice but don’t have to take any responsibility for what they recommend.

This was the message a huge range of people working in a huge range of industries said … from small businesses to multinationals to entrepreneurs to ex-McKinsey consultants.

Now I am under no illusion that McKinsey won’t give a shit about what I said – and I don’t blame them – but I do think they should be a bit nervous that an innocuous tweet could create such a shitstorm of commentary and engagement.

However on the off-chance that last sentence encourages the McKinsey lawyers to come after me, I should point a few things:

1. The talk I referred to in the tweet was not a presentation claiming advertising was better than consultancy. It wasn’t even about advertising … more about how cultural innovation can achieve more distinctive brand growth and business optimisation. I think.

2. And while it looks like I pissing on the value of consultants, I wasn’t. I accept, in the right situation, they offer incredible benefits to business … however, when they have no skin in the game – or are offering analysis on cultural behaviour without ever actually interacting in culture – then the effect of their advice can be called into question.

3. But most of all, while I was a cheeky shit in the presentation I gave in Shanghai all those years ago … I definitely said it with a twinkle I the eye and the audience knew that … rather than looking at me thinking I was purely an antagonistic bastard.

Emphasis on ‘purely’.

So while this viral situation was an interesting adventure, I learnt something even more valuable than ‘consultancies’ are the silver bullet to influencer status.

I’m not talking about the grudging respect I might have gained for social media influencers.

Nor the fact I am worried so many people aspire to be one, without maybe realising the mental anguish they will face and the pressure they will place on themselves to perform even better.

No, it’s this …

There are so many people out there who face abuse, judgement and prejudice just for being who they are.

Not just in social media, but in every aspect of their lives.

I can’t imagine having to deal with that level of scrutiny … hell, I couldn’t even deal with 2 days of it and my experience was good.

This not only highlights their strength, but also my privilege.

Of course I knew I had that – but this situation helped me understand it in a way I could feel rather than just understand.

I honestly think it would be worth every white, middle class person to experience … especially the Karen’s of this World, who have the audacity to claim being in their comfortable homes to protect them from catching a deadly virus is equivalent to slavery.

You think I’m making that last bit up don’t you?

I know, it sounds utterly insane to think that could be true.

But in America, insane is often normal.

25 Comments so far
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I find it amusing how all the attention made you nervous. That the vast majority of responses were positive highlights the distrust business people have towards consultancies, for the many reasons you state.
Am I correct in thinking someone had this tweet turned into a t-shirt?

Comment by George

Well we know Rob has screwed any plans for working for a consultancy.

Comment by Bazza

Maybe they’ll hire him just to torture him.

Comment by George

He would end up torturing them and still be paid a fortune.

Comment by Bazza

That’s a reality TV show I would definitely watch.

Comment by Pete

Well you’ll be happy to know it’s not happening, it’s not going to happen and I have no desire for it to happen. Hope that puts your minds at rest, ha.

Comment by Rob

2020 has been quite the year for you hasn’t it Rob? And yet somehow, unlike millions of other people who have faced challenges, you will come out of it happier, richer and with more opportunities. I don’t know how you do it, I really don’t.

Comment by Bazza

Underneath all that good fortune is talent and entrepreneurship.

Comment by George

I prefer Andy’s explanation that Rob did a deal with Satan.

Comment by Bazza

Yep, it’s definitely that one.

Comment by Rob

You’re a prolific publisher of content but it’s nothing compared to what the people who aspire for the title “influencer” produce. I don’t know how they do it, as your experience has shown, the pressure must be enormous and few make a living out of it. As for your observation about the scrutiny POC get every day, it’s a great one. The thing most aspire to is to simply be left alone to do their thing. Sadly the craziness of America is making that even harder right now.

Comment by Pete

I don’t know if they want the riches … I think their preference is to have some sort of fame.

But I do agree they work very hard for it. Not as hard as many doing more honourable, generous things … but much harder than people give them credit for. And because the social platform algorithms keeps changing, it’s driving them to the edge of a breakdown too.

As they say, beware of what you wish for …

Comment by Rob

love how campbell is throwing every fucker under the bus.martin midget sorrell would be proud as fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

He qualifies for Trump’s government.

Comment by DH

Fame is the focus and fortune is the byproduct. Which is interesting as the individuals who have gone on to achieve great things look like they followed the opposite focus.

Comment by Pete

Having listened to Louis Theroux interviewing KSI last night, I’m not sure that’s true. Fortune is the focus and fame is the acceleran.

Comment by John

But in most cases, they all want to develop their fortune on their own terms – so maybe it’s less one vs the other and they’re simply more entwined than we have given them credit for.

Comment by Rob

Hmm. Well it seems to me to be fortune on their audience’s terms and that can be very problematic.

Comment by John

Did any audience members tweet about your talk? It would be interesting to know what they thought of it.

Comment by John

Well it was a long time ago so I can’t give you a definitive answer on that. Plus it was in China, so they’d have needed a VPN. Maybe there’s a whole thread of weibo slagging me off. I should check … hahaha.

Comment by Rob

if you thought 2020 was fucked before, seeing campbell as a social influencer is the end of fucking days. thank fuck it was at mcshitskys expense or id tell trump to fire up the fucking nukes.

Comment by andy@cynic

22,000 likes? Isn’t that 21,999 more likes than you’ve ever had before?

Comment by DH

No. It’s 22,000 more likes than he’s had before.

Comment by Bazza

Rob as influenced, end of days. In 2020 that’s really saying something

Comment by Northern

His ultimate strategy.

Comment by Bazza

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