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


Whoever Said Crime Doesn’t Pay Hasn’t Heard Of McKinsey …

Monday.

God it’s hard isn’t it.

If this is the point of the week where you have the most energy, how the hell will you be feeling on Wednesday?

Well I’m going to help you with that.

I’m going to give you a surge of energy that will see you through.

And that energy is going to be created through anger.

Remember last week how I wrote about McKinsey and their moral compass free attitude towards making cash?

That they thought nothing of putting in proposals that allowed their client to continue killing people as long as they made money?

Well, I guess there was a small chance that someone could say it was all a mistake. A misunderstanding. A misquote.

OK, so no one really thinks that, but I may have been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

OK, I wasn’t … because there was no way they ‘made a mistake’.

McKinsey doesn’t make those.

Every single thing they do is deliberate.

Everything.

Thought out. Considered. Evaluated. Proposed.

Their driving force is optimising profit. For themselves as much as their client – especially as they never execute what they recommend to clients. Implication free advice … morally, ethically and, in some cases, legally.

And why am I being so harsh?

Because of this:

Nothing highlights McKinsey’s knowledge of what they did – and what they didn’t do – than shredding files in relation to their client.

A long time ago there was a book called The Corporation. In it, the author argued that corporations are basically psychopaths on a relentless quest for money and power.

It’s literally why McKinsey are in business.

Who else would want to work with a company that charges huge amounts for work they don’t execute that encourages illicit or even illegal behaviour? And yet so many of the companies that work with them go on about their ‘purpose’, their ‘focus on the community’.

While there are exceptions, Joel Bakan – the author of The Corporation – was generally absolutely correct in his judgement.

When Arthur Anderson was caught shredding the files of the illegal work they did for Enron, their reputation was so tainted that they went bankrupt. That McKinsey continues to walk around like the Masters of the Universe should make you furious.

Absolutely furious.

And with that, you now have the energy to get through your week.

You’re welcome.



Teamwork Makes The Screams Work …

Teamwork.

A word used so much, by so many, to ironically control others into doing what they want them to do. It’s often got far more in common with production line subserviency than teamwork.

Then there’s the other version.

Where people spout teamwork with a big smile on their face while openly trying to fuck others over so they look better to the people who matter most. The boss, for example.

But what is even worse is when people are called out for not being a team player simply because they have a different opinion.

The great irony is they’re not doing it to be a pain or problematic or to express an ego. It’s to try and offer a viewpoint they think may help get an even better outcome so literally everyone wins.

But no.

They’re criticised, belittled, undermined and made to feel like they’re the problem.

Of course teamwork is important.

It can make a huge difference to the end result.

An exponential difference.

But to do that it’s not simply telling people to practice teamwork.

It’s about having the right people in the mix – by discipline, standards and character. It’s about ensuring everyone has clarity on what they’re all working towards beyond their individual discipline. It’s about ensuring everyone knows what is expected of them and how that works in relation to those around them. It’s about giving them the freedom to use their talent to push the standards and capabilities of what they are responsible for creating, while remaining true to the overall goal everyone is working towards achieving.

I learnt that last bit from the film director Michael Mann.

I found myself with him in a meeting so asked him how he makes films given the amount of different people and disciplines involved.

He told me he starts every project by sitting with the entire production team and explaining his vision for his movie.

The story he wants to make.
What is really important to him.
What he wants people to feel watching it.

He then added this vital element:

“I want everyone to use their talent to make this film better than I could imagine. But it’s has to be my vision of the film. Not one they think I should be making.”

I love that. I love it because his version of teamwork is encouraging everyone to play up to a standard rather than down to a tick box. Which all goes to show that real teamwork is so much more than just sticking a bunch of random people and companies in a room and expecting them to “be a team”.

But that’s what so many companies and managers do.

Either because they’re lazy or just want overall control.

Once upon a time a very good friend of mine went into his annual review.

He had done incredibly well and was hoping he would be recognised for it.

Instead he was bollocked …

Bollocked for having opinions.
Bollocked for asking questions.
Bollocked for not being a ‘team player’.

He listened patiently before replying with what is still the best fuck you, power play I’ve ever heard to that accusation.

“Oh I’m a team player …”, he said, “… I’m just the captain of the team”.

Forever proving – as the pic at the top of this post shows – that as much as people may try to tell you otherwise, there is most definitely an ‘I’ in team.

Legend.



Why Being Starstruck Stops You Seeing What You’re Saying …

The celebrity endorsement.

Favoured by brands who have nothing interesting to say.

Or by companies who want to look more important than they are.

Of course they’re exceptions.

NIKE for example … because at least their choices are directly connected to the category they operate in, which is more than can be said for Clooney and Nespresso. Or the new entrant. Another handsome, old, white male actor – who, according to his ex-wife – may have domestic abuse issues to answer for.

Maybe that’s why Brad Pitt agreed to do one of the worst ads I’ve seen in a long time. To pay for any legal trial … whereas at least Clooney does it to raise the money for the films he personally wants to make.

In the old days, celebs went to Japan to top up their pension – safe in the knowledge that no one would see their stuff. Then the internet happened and not only could everyone see the rubbish they’d do for a big pay day, they realised they could do it now in their home country given everyone had seen their willingness to sell their credibility for cash.

Which leads to this …

Neymar.

For a financial investment firm.

If that isn’t weird enough, they’ve weirdly made Neymar look like he’s the financial advisor.

What the fuck?

Are they suggesting he is so rich he can give people expert financial advice?

If they are, is his advice, “become a professional footballer for PSG”.

Or is something else …

Is he paid so badly he’s had to get a second job selling financial advice?

That would at least make some sense as Neymar HAS BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF TAX AVOIDANCE!!!

Yeah, this financial company decided that the best celebratory endorser they could use to promote their company internationally was a convicted tax dodger.

Did no one think about that?

Did no one question what that would say about them?

Did they think that because Qatar – where QNB is based – don’t charge personal tax, it means Neymar’s crime basically doesn’t exist?

Did no one ask why were they photographing the football star as if he was a financial advisor?

Nope.

And was that because they were starstruck?

Or was it because they didn’t think about it?

Or care?

Or think anyone else would care?

Or was it all of the above … because let’s face it, there’s enough examples to show many investment firms don’t give a damn about rules, customers or tax obligations … so maybe using Neymar was the most truthful and inspired choice they could make.

How nice of QNB to make it so much easier for the authorities to find people exploiting the financial rules for personal gain, because now all they have to do is ask one question:

“Do you use QNB?”



Listen To Yoda …

while back I read an interview with film director, voice of Yoda and countless muppets and expert puppeteer – Frank Oz.

It was a beautiful interview … a story of friendship, loyalty, creativity and compassion, so I urge you to read it … but there was one thing that really stood out to me and it was this:

Now it’s fair to say it’s no longer just corporate America who don’t understand the value of the things they’ve just bought. In some respects, we see it every day from clients who dictate and demand changes to a piece of creativity that an experienced professional has custom made for their specific situation … right through to companies who blame talent for circumstances and situations that they were directly complicit in creating and encouraging.

As I see it, the problem is three fold.

1. People judge output without any appreciation of how it happened.
2. People wildly overestimate their own talent.
3. It’s easier to look like you’re doing things than doing things.

None of these should be a surprise.

It’s why we tend to lavish our attention on individuals who are associated with ‘results’ rather than recognize the people around them who made it possible. It’s why we talk about wanting to follow similar paths to others but dismiss the pain, hardship and conflicts they endured to get there. It’s why companies build in-house creative departments without understanding the importance of objective viewpoints that lead to the work they want to replicate. It’s why people dismiss what others have done despite never having done anything of note themselves. It’s why companies talk about the importance of experience but see them as an expense. It’s why industries talk about D&I but don’t change the situations and contexts that make it an issue. It’s why companies talk about teams but have departments of exactly the same sort of people. It’s why companies become obsessed with proprietary processes even though the work and results it produces is nothing special. It’s why many consultants tell you what is wrong but never take responsibility for making it right. It’s why someone I once worked with on an airport project said – no word of a lie – “why don’t we push out the architects, because we could do a much better job”, despite the fact he wasn’t an architect and our role had little to do with it.

I could go on.

And on and on and on.

The reality is we’re all complicit in some way.

And the irony is if we learn to value what it takes to get the results we want – rather than simply focusing on the speed, power and control of ownership – then we’d all stand a much greater chance of achieving the things we want.

Or said as the wonderful Lee Hill once said to me …

Hire well.
Pay well.
Brief well.
Value well.
Trust well.

Have a good weekend.



Finally A Brand Experience That Stands Out From The Crowd …

As funny as the photo above is, the reality is it’s still a better brand experience than much of what passes for good brand experience these days.

Hell, if I was shopping there and saw that sign, it would make me smile, which is more than a lot of brands and their experience strategies achieve.

I’ve said it before but too many companies mistake basic interaction as brand experience. Or worse, think that by simply removing friction from the purchase process, they’re building a good brand experience.

Seriously, how boring and self-centred must their lives be to think that?

If done well, brand experience can be a huge thing.

And by well, I don’t mean making bad, average – or creating a consistent base-line standard across the company – I mean making the things that actually matter to audiences, personal and valuable … or focusing on the key things audiences think you actually do well and pushing that so the experience can become something that is almost seminal so people want to share, repeat and shout about.

I wrote about this a while ago [here and here, for example] … but it still blows my mind how many companies and agencies approach experience in terms of not getting left behind when they should be seeing it as an opportunity to move ahead … a chance to leave their competition looking slow, rather than themselves.

And before people say this approach would cost more money, it doesn’t. Or it doesn’t have to. It’s all about defining the experience you want to create.

Given a badly placed store sign next to some condoms gave me a better brand experience than so many of the systems, processes and strategies brand experience promotes, it’s safe to say the discipline may need to start understanding what people give a shit about rather than what they wish they did.