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


How A Toilet Can Upset Alpha Males …

So recently I went to a semi-posh restaurant in Auckland with some clients.

I know this is too much info, but I needed the loo and off I went.

As I walked in, I saw this …

How brilliant is that?!

I bloody loved it and actually burst out laughing.

Fortunately I was able to take a photo without someone walking in and then rushing out to call the Police … but I can imagine Alpha Males seeing this and claiming it is a blatant attack on their human rights. Which – if you ask me – makes it even more perfect.

Of course, whether a restaurant should be happy one of their customers is raving over the interior design of their male loos rather than their food is another thing altogether … but hey, at least I’m raving about something of theirs.

Many companies talk about how brand experience, well … when you make sure your loo leaves a lasting impression on customers for all the right reasons, then you can say you really understand what experience really means.

Not many can.

🔎 🍆



And They Say Planners Aren’t Smart …

Some people say planners are a waste of space.

That they don’t know what they’re doing.

That they have egos is writing cheques, their talent can’t cash.

To be fair, there’s a lot of truth in all of that.

But recently I came across a bit of planner genius that deserves applause.

Have a look at this …

The handsome bastard in the photo is Henry.

Henry is one of the brilliant planners in my gang.

And while his brain can take you to places normal minds can’t see, let alone reach, I can’t help but think that as subliminal cues go … showing a client your thinking while standing under a light bulb – to reinforce “this is a brilliant idea, you must approve it immediately” – is next level impressive.

Well done Henry, you have single handedly make planners ask their agencies for lightbulbs to be hung down in meeting rooms all over the world.



Obstacles Inspire Creativity …

I am a big believer in putting as few boundaries around creativity as possible.

That doesn’t mean it can ignore the problem it is trying to solve.

I just think the focus should be on solving a clearly defined problem rather than piling on a bunch of additional ‘mandatories’ that are often for no other reason than satisfying someone’s ego within the organisation.

The main reason for my view is because I know when creativity is given the freedom to solve problems, it can do it in the most imaginative and powerful of ways. In my opinion, too many companies are dictating the solution they want from their agencies – which not only means they are robbing themselves of the possibilities creative people could add to their business, they need to take some of the blame in terms of the lack of traction so many of their ads have in culture.

However, as we all know, when it comes to being able to save a client money – they suddenly become far more open to changing their behaviour. The digital and data industries have profited from this approach more than most – and while some of the things they have done are phenomenal, a lot is quite simply, flawed thinking … designed to drive short-term growth at the cost of long term profit.

Please understand, I am not saying digital and data are flawed. I’m saying many of the things digital and data agencies are doing is. From D2C models that are ore about driving commoditisation than distinctive brand value, to CX practices that are often designed to reduce transactional friction than reinforce brand experience through to user-journeys … which are sold as fact but are designed for mass convenience.

I’m not saying there’s not great value in this … when done well, the impact on brand and business can be huge. But too much isn’t done well. Sold as transformative but executed in productised form.

But I digress

You see I recently read a piece about some incredible lateral thinking.

Where creativity didn’t just overcome a huge obstacle that was eagerly embraced by clients with an open mind, but created an outcome that was better than they ever thought possible.

A few years ago, the US Air Force was facing huge budget cuts.

Their technology was out-of-date and the cost to update would place huge pressure on all the other things that needed investment.

Rather than sacrifice, they explored other ways to solve their challenge.

To cut a long story short, they discovered the answer was a SONY Playstation.

1760 Playstation 3’s to be precise.

1760 Playstation 3’s the came together to build the most powerful supercomputer in the entire US Department of Defense.More than that, it was the 33rd most powerful supercomputer in the world.

At the time, it’s performance was unparalleled … able to perform 500 million mathematical operations in one second and analyse over a billion pixels in one minute. Because of this, the Air Force used it to process high-resolution satellite images, identify unclear objects in space and deepen their research into artificial intelligence.

At the time, the Playstation 3 cost about $400 each.

The cost of buying approximately 2000 of the machines meant the entire project was approximately $2 million … which was between 5-10% of the price of a regular supercomputer of similar capability.

Of course to pull this off required a lot of incredibly talented engineers and computer programmers – not to mention open minded senior officers – but the reality was the end result was something that actually advanced their capabilities.

Not an optimised solution.
Not a short-term benefit at a longer term cost solution.
But something better than they had before at a price that enabled them to do the other things they wished to invest in.

So much of what we do is impacted by systems and processes that are designed to validate remuneration.

There’s value in that.

But when it ends up killing possibilities of effectiveness and value … simply because it doesn’t fit into their pre-determined evaluation criteria of an organisation, then you have to ask who is really mad.

The people who can see ways around the impossible, or the ones who want to stop them.



When Nothing Is Something …

Otis LOVES McDonald’s, so before we left the UK, we decided we’d have some for dinner.

He’s a bit particular about how he likes his Happy Meal, so with that – and the social distancing rules – we used their app to order.

As I was customising his burger [no sauce, no pickles] I discovered the option of having no sauce was unavailable.

THat’s right, you couldn’t, couldn’t have sauce.

Of course it was just a glitch in their system but it did remind me of the time I was in Xiamen in China on a NIKE get-together.

It had been a long and challenging day.

Not with work, but because we had stupidly left our bags, computers and passports in the back of the cab and needed all our powers of deduction and negotiation to get them back.

Trust me, in a city of nearly 4 million people and no details of the cab that had our stuff, that was a pretty big task, but thanks to the brilliance of Charinee and Jenny, we achieved it … so after that drama and then running a workshop for the NIKE Running team … we went back to our hotel tired and hungry.

We decided to have a drink in the bar and order some food.

After looking at the menu, we quickly ordered 2 cheese and tomato pizzas.

“Sorry …” they said, “… we only have pepperoni pizza available”.

By that point, we had set our heart on pizza so I looked at the waited and replied,

“Could we order the pepperoni pizza but without the pepperoni?”

They nodded yes and soon we were munching on our pepperoni pizza … without the pepperoni … with smug smiles on our faces.

And now I’ve told that story, it’s reminded me of the time I used the same logic to get one over on IKEA Hong Kong, who were trying to fuck me over with a new sofa we bought.

Which all goes to show, the best way to beat a process is to use the process against itself, because for all the ‘experience design’ processes that is all the range right now, most of them are built to protect the company rather than satisfy the audience.



Remember, We’re All Living In A Hollywood Set To Some Degree …

I’ve been watching a lot of movies that made a big impression on me in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

What a massive mistake.

Apart from Die Hard, Terminator and Point Break … everything else has been pretty horrific.

Seriously, either we had really, really, really low standards back then, or someone was putting something in the water.

Face/Off, Bad Boys and The Rock are particularly bad.

I LOVED those movies when I was younger. I thought they were amazing … but zoom forward 30 years and you want to scrub your eyes and brain with a wire brush.

It’s not the bad effects – I can understand them being rubbish – it’s everything else.

The lack of subtlety. The horrific dialogue. The insane levels of over-acting.

It is obvious that directors back then thought audiences were as thick as shit because the way they signpost every moment in the movie with overt ‘clues’ is insane.

From clunky dialogue that attempts to explain the implausible, to off-centre camera angles to highlight the ‘bad guy’, to music that blatantly tries to communicate how you’re supposed to feel or what you should be ready to experience.

One of the worst of all the moves I’ve seen recently is the 1991 Julia Roberts movie ‘Sleeping With The Enemy’.

I remembered this movie as one that tackled domestic violence at a time where it was hardly ever discussed.

That might be the only bit of it I remembered correctly.

Quite simply, it’s pants.

Filled with more holes than Edam cheese and more over-acting than an episode of ‘Crossroads’ from the 70/80′ … the only positive elements are the name of the film, Julia Roberts amazing smile and the house that features heavily in it.

What makes it all worse is the trailer doesn’t give any of that away.

I know trailers are designed to do exactly that, but the difference between what they set up and what you get is dramatic.

Here’s the trailer.

OK, so you either have to trust me this is setting you a false experience or you have to watch the movie for yourself and know it with all certainty … but none of this is actually the point of this post.

You see when I watch movies, I have this annoying habit of having to investigate their history while watching it.

The thing that caught my eye when I was watching Sleeping with the Enemy was that house.

Look at it.

So grand. So imposing. So much a symbol of wealth.

And while I saw places like that when I lived in the US, I was surprised to learn it was made just for the movie.

Of course I know this happens, but they tend to be on a set, not on a real beach … but here we were, with that exact situation.

And while it looks the home of the wealthy from the front, when seen from behind – it left a different impression.

That’s right, it looks like the sort of rubbish they used to make on Blue Peter with some cardboard and sticky black plastic.

And while this shouldn’t surprise me, it does highlight how much of life is an illusion.

From the social media we read to the pitches we embark on to the relationships we forge to the jobs we covet.

Of course, not everything or everyone is like this.

Some are like the famous Steve Jobs quote, “paint behind the fence”. … where their standards, values and attitude means they will do things others may not ever know or see, but is important to them as it not only gives them confidence of a job well done but let’s them feel they’re working for a company they can believe in.

However they are sadly the exception, even if they should be everyone’s ambition.

So as we enter 2021 with our hopes and dreams, it may be worth remembering so much of life is like the Sleeping With The Enemy house. Where what we are asked to see is not a true indication of what it going on.

And while that doesn’t mean it’s all bad, it does mean you can go into things with open eyes, you can avoid disappointment, you can set some boundaries, you can identify the real opportunity that will excite you, you can stop feeling bad if you have questions or doubts and you can be OK if you’re not living up to what others claim they’re living up to.

Because when we talk about a healthy work/life balance, it’s worth remembering it’s not just about time, it’s about attitude.