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

WeDon’tWork …

Warning. This post is topical.

In fact, it may be the most topical post I’ve ever written on here for 20 years.

Please read, while sitting down in case shock overwhelms you.

This is the end of this public service announcement.

So over the years, at Wieden and R/GA, I had a few dealings with WeWork.

And while I admit at the very beginning I thought it was a genius idea – specifically the way they were creating a business that dramatically profited from sub-letting space that was designed to appeal to a particular audience who felt they deserved to work in a particular kind of environment – after I met them, I started thinking something didn’t quite add up.

Please don’t think I am trying to suggest I had any idea of the level of craziness that was going on because I didn’t … I just couldn’t understand why they kept talking about themselves as a tech company and experts in work environments and culture when they were just a new generation of business space renting organisation.

But billions were poured into them and they were the darling of so many – especially those investor/companies who love to talk about ‘disrupting categories’, despite the fact most are about as conservative as you can get.

But over time – as numerous books, documentaries and news reports have documented – WeWork was proven to be a case of Emperor’s New Clothes.

And founder ego and delusion.

Specifically one founder … because on the few occasions I met him, Miguel seemed decent and grounded, whereas Adam most certainly didn’t.

Zoom forward to today and the company has filed for bankruptcy protection.

All that money and they still fucked it.

Worse, the delusional, ego-maniac that is Adam Neumann – who took a good idea and killed it with his God complex – got to walk away with a level of wealth that will last a thousand lifetimes.

Multiple billions.


But this isn’t a post about unfairness or WeWork’s craziness – I’ve written loads about that – this is about the challenge to encourage new thinking while not being blinded by it.

We live in divisive times.

Everything seemingly turns into a war.

Those who believe and those who don’t … and that extends to new ideas.

The amount of time I’ve seen people immediately dismiss new concepts or thinking simply because they are not as perfect as something established that has had years to work through issues and train people to conform.

But by the same token, I’ve also seem people blindly back a new concept or thinking because they seemingly want to associate themselves with the topical.

We saw this last one on a grand scale with so many people on Linkedin suddenly announcing themselves as AI experts, in a desperate bid to exploit the market interest and the market lack of knowledge.

Which gets to the heart of this post which is the importance of independent, critical thinking.

Where you are supportive of new ideas and thinking but know it is OK to ask questions about actions and decisions. Not to tear things down, but to better understand what is being done.

Starting from a position of ‘they could be right’ rather than ‘they’re obviously wrong’.

Focusing on the business not the hype … which, as Lee Hill once told me … is often as simply as acknowledging ‘profit is sanity, turnover is vanity’.

Critical, independent thinking isn’t celebrated enough.

Oh we may think it is, but what often we’re seeing is blinkered ego thinking.

Not enough understanding.
Not enough knowledge.
Not enough homework.
Not enough questions.
Not enough patience.

WeWork has cost millions of people billions of dollars … and yet you can’t help but think it didn’t have to be that way.

Their original business idea was a good one.

But the promise of trillions seduced people to lose their ability to think.

Critically and independently.

I wrote about this years ago with a lesson from the master conman, Bernie Madoff:

“I succeeded because when you offer people a deal that’s too good to be true, they never want to look too hard into the facts. They say it’s because of trust. I say it’s because of greed.”

We need to encourage positive pessimism.

The ability to champion new ideas without blindly being seduced by them.

To want to help people succeed without falling into being an accomplice for any delusion or slight of hand.

It’s not hard … but the more we promote blinkered ‘framework and eco-system’ thinking, the more we lose the value of independent thinking and then everyone loses in every way possible.

Especially those who have exciting new ideas that just need our encouragement and time.

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