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


Fail Yourself Forwards …

Once upon a time, Dan Wieden was giving a presentation to a bunch of executives from one of Wieden’s big, global clients.

Dan was talking about the power of failing and asked if anyone in the audience had ever been fired from their job.

Nothing.

Not one person raised their hands.

Dan surveyed the scene for a moment before leaning into the microphone and saying:

“Cowards!”

There was a nervous ripple in the audience before some people laughed … but Dan wasn’t saying it to be nasty – or to be funny – he was saying it because he truly believes in the mantra of ‘fail harder’ and the positive impact it can have for both creativity and commerce.

Fail harder is not about seeing how bad you can do something.

Fail harder is about …

+ the quest to push yourself.

+ the desire to challenge limits.

+ the goal to provoke change through complete openness.

And while many people get the concept of it … even agree with it … not everyone can bring themselves to participate in it.

Now that’s totally fine until you start criticising or judge others who are doing it.

Especially if the only reason you’re criticising or judging them is because they’re doing something you didn’t do.

Then that’s a dick move. An insecure, dick move.

I say this because lately there seems to be a lot of people doing exactly that … especially on twitter and especially in the planning/marketing groups.

Judging … dismissing and insulting people who are trying different stuff.

Not because they think it’s wrong.
Not because they think it isn’t valid.
Not even because they don’t think it’s clever.

But because they’re cowards.

Sure, some will have valid reasons for it.

Family.
Mortgage.
Others relying on them.

But what is disappointing is – like the people in that conference – many of these people throwing shade are seasoned, senior individuals.

People who have the experience to push boundaries.
People who have the smarts to challenge the status quo.
People who have the knowledge to be more than capable.
People who have the voice to champion change.

And while it is absolutely their prerogative to not do it, sending our snide comments or subtweets about those who are, is pretty pathetic.

Ridiculing the way someone talks about their colleagues.
Questioning the ability to be taken seriously by clients.
Looking down on what they’re trying to do and what they’ve done.

Hell, some of these people have actually started their own company, so you’d expect them to be a cheerleader for the new … but instead it seems they see them as a more interesting competitive threat, so keep throwing out their barbs.

Oh they probably think they’re being so clever.

That the people can’t see what they’re doing.

But it’s so transparent you could grow plants in it.

However here is where it all goes wrong …

Because not only are many of these people pioneering a great business out of what they’re doing … everyone can see these insults are simply a way to distract thems from the fact they didn’t do what someone else has had the courage to try. That someone is trying to create their own story rather than simply follow someone else’s.

Personally, I think that is an incredible thing to do.

And thank fuck we have people willing to do that.

Not just because the old way isn’t working that well, but because the definition of ‘Fail Harder’ is the realisation that even if you fail in your attempt to do something audacious, you’re already further ahead than those who simply have followed the path of ‘achieving safely’.

There’s a few people I know who are victims of this.

They say it doesn’t bother them, but it obviously does.

Of course it does … it’s shit … especially when coming from people in the industry who are supposed to be ‘senior voices’.

So fuck those guys [and it is nearly always men]

Make them cry tears of regret, because regardless what happens next, you’ve already gone further them most of them could reach.



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.