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


Ooops, ‘They’ Did It Again …

In 2019, WARC made the stupid mistake of inviting Martin and I to talk at their event at Cannes. I was so confident that this would be the only time it would happen, I even asked the audience if I could take a photo to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Now, it’s fair to say The Case For Chaos talk went down quite well – hell, I even got a Getty Image of me out of it [number of sales: 0] – but I also think it’s fair to say the reason Covid happened is so Cannes would be cancelled for a few years spot the industry could get over WARC’s shocking mistake.

However, as time goes on, there is more and more evidence that long covid is a thing … where the virus continues to live within people and causes long term negative effects.

I say that because this can be the only explanation as to why WARC have asked us back to present at this years Cannes Festival.

Yep … it’s happening.

June 22 at 3:30pm.

God help us all.

But before you all run off to tell George Bush you’ve discovered a real weapon of mass destruction … there’s good news and bad news.

The good is both Martin and I know we don’t stand a chance of saying anything remotely interesting by ourselves. Because of this fact, we went out and asked/blackmailed/paid if our dear friend – the brilliant Paula Bloodworth – would be a part of this with us.

As anyone who listens to OnStrategy will know, Paula, Martin and I meet up every week on Zoom to put the world to rights. Or bitch. Or ask each other for advice. So we used one of these sessions to beg for her brain and charisma to help make this something people would want to see and would actually get something out of it.

And – because we caught her when she was tired – she said yes!!!

However, it’s because she was tired that we got her to agree what our talk would be called.

Which leads to the bad news.

Because while all the other invited speakers are giving talks about the role strategy in terms of it’s future, it’s role in driving business and effectiveness, the emerging roles, trends and opportunities for the discipline, our talk is called:

Strategy is constipated. Imagination is the laxative.

And while we haven’t written a word of it yet, I’m not joking.

I’m so sorry …

For Paula.
For Martin.
For WARC.
For the discipline.
For all the attendees.

But hey, at least I’ll get another photo op out of it, even if it ends up looking like this:

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Live The Best Algorithm Life …

So I’m back.

I had a lovely time and Croatia is proper beautiful.

I know that’s a big call given I spent 2Ā½ days there, the rest travelling, but it was.

God I miss travelling.

You’d think after almost 20 years of basically living on an airplane, I’d be over it … but there’s something so magical visiting new places and meeting new people.

Of course the environment is even more important – and COVID has shown we can do a lot without having to be in the same room – however being in another country and culture is a powerful and important experience. Especially given all the nationalistic bullshit going on … so having people engage with each other in different environments and geographies – rather than just stay in their own bubble – is probably better for the state of the World than just keeping to your own shores.

Nothing highlights this more than the paranoia regarding TikTok.

All apps are harvesting data, but because the parent company of TikTok is Chinese, governments and business are telling their employees they can’t have the app on their phone.

And yet TikTok, unlike other social media firms, have not – as far as I understand – been caught using the data in illegal ways. And even if they have, I am sure it’s no where near to the level of other companies that have been caught.

But here we go … the classic racism and prejudice towards China.

I know I’m biased.

I also know China has many issues.

But as I’ve said many times, the actions of other governments are equally as bad … they just hide it better, package it better [if that’s what you can call something as sick as Guantanamo Bay] or use the focus on China to distract people more convincingly.

Then there’s the fact some of the stuff the Chinese Government do get away with – and they do – is other politicians wet dream. Specifically the Republican and Tory parties.

Anyway, I don’t know what the problem is because as you can see from the photo above, if TikTok thinks I’m 15, then the data they’re harvesting is nothing to worry about.

Oh hang on, unless that’s my mental – not physical – age, and then we have a lot to worry about indeed.

Sorry for the rambling, jet lagged, post.

I wish I could say tomorrow will be better, but we all know it won’t be.

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Zdravo …

So tomorrow I am off to Croatia to do my Jerry Maguire talk.

That means there will be no posts from me until the 26th.

You lucky, lucky people.

I’ve never been to Croatia, so I’m looking forward to it.

Or I should until I checked the website of the festival and saw the names who will be in attendance and felt massive imposter syndrome … only cranked up to 11 when I saw I was a key note speaker.

Oh jeez.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, I’ll be presenting slides like this:

I know … I know … it sounds like the sort of inner-monologue you’d hear on an episode of Peep Show.

Worse, it sounds like the inner monologue of Mark AND Jez.

I’m doomed … but not a much as the audience in Croatia. Boom Tish.

Have a lovely time without me, see you – very jet-lagged – on the 26th.

[Unless I discover Zdravo doesn’t mean ‘hello’ in Croatian and I’m arrested for indecency]

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The Lost Art Of The Written Word …

One of the most important skills of a strategist is the ability to communicate.

Not just in terms of the spoken word.

Or presenting to others.

But writing.

Actual words.

That should be obvious, but for all the ‘guru courses’ out there, none – as far as I have seen – have focused on the importance of writing.

Thinking.

Framing.

Explaining.

Yes.

Writing?

No.

And yet writing is the most powerful way to help others not just understand your thinking/framing/explaining … but feel it.

A way for them to understand how issues affect people.

The concerns. The tensions. The reasons behind the actions they take.

Wieden+Kennedy always valued the art of writing because Dan was a writer. It was a measure of your ability as a strategist. The skill of writing just enough, never too much. Truth without any hyperbole. Tensions not obstacles. A story not a set of points. A point of view not a range of general observations.

Some were exceptional at this. People like Weigel, Bloodworth and Lindblade to name but three … but everyone knew that while so much of the creative process came from conversations, the written word set the foundations.

Which is why – despite this not having anything to do with advertising, planning or brief writing – I am still in awe of the power of this piece of writing from The Economist that, in just 6 sentences, ignited the process that resulted in the destruction of a Prime Minister’s reign.

It is also the best ad for The Economist in years.

It’s why one of the best ways a planner can develop is read.

Not simply to expand your knowledge, but to discover how to help others expand theirs.

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Some Strategy Leaves The Worst Taste In Your Mouth …

Somewhere along the line, the strategy discipline went from judging what we did by what it achieved, to what process was followed.

I get it, process matters – but as I pointed out a while back, the vast majority of strategic models out there say and do the same thing, just with additional layers of complexity and/or ego huff-puffery.

But as much as purposefully making things sound like it’s rocket science is tragic, it’s the one’s that are patronisingly simplistic that are almost even more offensive.

Recently I saw one that left one of the worst tastes in my mouth.

It’s called, ‘the beef burger’ strategy.

Here it is …

Terrible eh.

I mean, proper horrific.

But that’s only the aperitif, because each one of those shapes is ‘an ingredient’ and the creator of this has written out a recipe of how it ‘all goes together’.

I should point out, I have purposefully removed the name of the person who developed this.

I don’t know them.

I don’t know the background to them.

I don’t know if they’ve come to their senses and disowned this.

Plus I accept their reason to do it was to try to help and that is worthy.

However …

Look at that.

Look at it.

And what’s worse, I can imagine LOADS of people liked it.

Probably said “it makes sense of the complex in ways that are ‘digestible'”.

Well it does if you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. The overly simplistic definition that lets people immediately think they’re experts when they’re literally going to miss the point of each and every ‘layer’.

And what’s worse is there’s a lot of this stuff out there. Portraying accessible expertise when it’s really just Emperor’s New Clothes.

Strategy is in danger of forgetting what it’s supposed to do, which is see the future.

A future of commercially valuable opportunities.

Stuff that’s not been made yet, but can be.

And yet these days, it’s treated like some superficial, ineffective glue.

A superficial, ineffective glue used to lightly hold some creative bullshit ‘wrapper’ on whatever blinkered thinking a company has convinced themselves is Einstein standard of brilliance.

And everyone loses because of it. Everyone.

Especially strategy.

Because instead of helping companies take giant leaps, it’s just shuffling it’s feet and it’s stuff like the ‘beef burger strategy process’ that is bringing it down.

Playing to the lowest common denominator rather than the highest.

Letting certain organisation claim they’re developing their teams skills when they’re really destroying their potential.

Allowing ‘guru’s’ who have built their own brand more than they’ve ever built anyone else’s, churn out Morph-strength, strategy landfill.

Strategy is more than a bunch of bland and ambiguous terminology.

More than a condiment in a sea of condiments.

Strategy is imagination.

A way of looking forwards to see opportunity, possibility and value.

It’s not some shitty, unsatisfying burger made by instructions, regardless of context or hunger … and anyone who thinks that or eats that, deserves all the indigestion they’ll get.

Crikey, that’s some post isn’t it … and I’m not even in a bad mood.

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