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


Why Wrong Reveals The Systems Limitations Rather Than The Participants …

I recently saw this piece of brilliance …

Isn’t it awesome?

Of course some people will think it’s cute … but wrong.

Whereas others may think it’s cute … and smart.

Putting aside the fact the responsibility for clarity of communication is with the communicator, not the recipient – which means the exam board have to accept their role in the answer given – it also highlights how one persons ‘normal’ is another persons ‘lateral thinking’.

I know that sounds a big leap for what is a young kids incorrect/correct answer to an exam question … but at a time where the British PM wants to kill the arts and freedom of expression for kids in schools – in favour of even more logical and rational studies – it’s a sign how early we try to destroy/control/devalue the imaginations of the young.

What I find ironic about the British PM’s stance is that he seems to be of the belief that having people study maths for longer will make everything better.

Putting aside the fact that much of the UK’s global influence – ignoring the violent invasions of other countries – has come from the arts, that’s a big call to make.

Even more so when you consider the financial mess the UK is in right now, has come from the hands of the very people he wants to encourage more of.

As a parent this situation is very difficult.

Of course we want our children to be set up to embrace life. But if they’re all being taught the same thing … in the same way … without consideration of what their own personal talents, interests and abilities are … then are you actually preparing them to thrive or simply survive?

Recently Otis got diagnosed with a learning difficulty.

I say difficulty, but really it’s a complication.

It’s called Dysgraphia.

While this doesn’t affect his ability to learn, it does affect how he does it and what he may be able to do because of it.

We are incredibly grateful the school he goes to – Birkenhead Primary – not only embraced this situation by changing the way he could engage and present his schoolwork. They did it by specifically tailoring their classes and approach to ensure Otis could participate in ways that actively played to his strengths while maintaining the pace of everyone’s learning. And if that wasn’t impressive enough … they were the ones who first noticed there may be an area of challenge for him and were proactive in acting on it.

The impact of this approach on Otis has been enormous.

Not just in areas of his schoolwork that were being impacted because of dysgraphia, but in his overall confidence, enjoyment and willingness to participate.

He has always been a kid who tries hard and wants to do the right thing [so definitely more like Jill than me] … but thanks to his teachers, he now feels he can express himself fully rather than having to become a smaller version of himself in an attempt to find a way to get through certain areas of class that challenged him because of his dysgraphia rather than his ability.

Frankly I doubt this would have happened if we were still in the UK.

Not because the teachers aren’t as good, but because the system doesn’t allow the sort of deviation of approach that Otis’ school created for him.

What’s scary is Sunak’s attitude towards education will only make this situation for kids like Otis, even harder.

Either actively leaving them behind or setting them up for a life of anxiety, guilt and feelings of inadequacy. And yet it doesn’t have to be that way.

So many of these complications aren’t barriers to learning capacity, just accessibility.

A bit of flexibility can unlock the full potential of a child, especially with the power of technology these days.

But the schooling system is increasingly about ‘targets’ rather than learning.

Preparing you for exams rather than life.

Systems rather than needs.

And while I totally accept creating an education system that caters to the masses as well as the edges is incredibly difficult, having a one-dimensional system that ‘succeeds’ by forcing compliance and oppression is not the solution either.

What the British PM needs to understand is making kids study maths for longer isn’t going to solve the UK’s economic woes. But maybe designing an education system that enables teachers to help kids learn how to play to their strengths, is.

Or to paraphase Sir Ken Robinson … see creativity and imagination as a strength, not a weakness.

We’re so lucky Otis’ school values potential rather than parity … but I can’t help but wonder how many other clever kids are out there who have been written off simply because the system would not allow for them to be recognised, embraced and helped.

When will certain governments understand an educated generation is a successful nation?

Probably when they understand school should be about learning not teaching and it’s an investment rather than a cost.

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Big Enough To Matter, But Not Big Enough To Count …

Recently I was reading an article on Brexit when I came across a comment that stopped me in my tracks.

The reason for it is that in a few words – literally a few – it not only highlighted the issue with many of the shortsighted fools who voted for leaving the European Union – and likely voted for the election of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – but also could be used to explain the decline of so many companies, institutions and individuals.

This is it …

What a perfectly constructed sentence.

A devastating set of words that places you perfectly in a corner you can’t get out of.

It’s almost a Hollywood movie line it’s so crafted in its underlying viciousness.

But of course, the people it challenges won’t accept it.

They will continue to refuse to acknowledge their complicity in the situation millions now face.

Because as I’ve written before, people has difficulty understanding something when their credibility and reputation depends on them not understanding something.

It’s why they will continue to cast blame on everyone else.

Why they will continue to claim the opposition are more dangerous than the government they voted in … the government that has brought an entire nation to its knees.

But let’s be honest, the reason for their attitude is even uglier than not wanting to own up to what they contributed to. Because for all their claims of wanting a ‘better Britain’ … the real reason behind their choice was to create a barrier between them and people they think are beneath them.

A way to feel socially, morally, professionally superior to those around them, while conveniently choosing to ignore they were either given great advantage from birth over the vast majority of people or seek to mitigate their situation by blaming everyone else for what they have not achieved, despite starting from greater advantage.

I get it. It’s kind-of human nature. It’s also the unspoken truth of democracy – where the reality is we tend to vote for what works for you rather than what’s right for the nation.

Of course the unspoken truth is still better than the alternative … however given the way politics and business are increasingly allowing spin, vitriol and lies, it seems we’re seeing ‘post truth’ as an accepted and embraced business strategy.

And that’s why the independent voice has never been so important.

Not just in the public domain, but within organisations, governments and individual groups.

Not to attack, destroy or dethrone – as is the current trend – but to protect.

To ensure the people making decisions – or the people asking to decide on the options – are aware of the range of possibilities and outcomes that could occur rather than just blindly following a blinkered promise of what will happen.

Not delivered with hyperbole or exaggeration, but with quiet, informed context and facts … delivered by an individual or organisation without political affiliation and respected for their independence.

It doesn’t mean it will stop things like Brexit happening, but it will ensure people who knowingly bend the truths to suit their own agenda or were deliberately ignorant to the choices they made are held to account. Because without that, we carry on down this sorry path where governments, organisations or individuals can choose to ignore previous choices they made, ignore the passing of time that changes the context of everything and ignore the realities others may have caught up and left us behind.

I am under no illusion that the truth hurts, but delusion damages us forever.

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Welcome To The Industry Of The Deliberately Ignorant …

I write a lot.

It may be rubbish, but I still churn it out.

Every week day, coming up to TWO DECADES.

Jesus Christ.

And yet despite that, a lot of it seems to be popular.

Or should I say popular in relation to the quality of the writing and what I deserve and expect.

Now over the years I’ve written about all manner of topics.

Death.

Queen.

Birkenstocks.

The impressive standing of my best friend’s penis.

You name it, I’ve probably written some rubbish about it.

And yet for all the stuff I put out, there’s one topic that never seems to capture the imagination like all that other stuff … and yet it is arguably, the most important and serious stuff I write.

It’s about diversity and inclusion.

Or more specifically, how we can, need-to and should do more.

Whenever I write about that, there is a noticeable decline in ‘engagement’.

Not just in terms of people commenting, but reading.

I find that fascinating and terrifying.

Why is this happening?

I may understand a lack of commentary but a lack of reading?

+ Is it that there’s so much on this topic that despite the changes not happening fast enough, people are over it?

+ Is it that people know they’re not doing enough and don’t want to read something that reminds them of that?

+ Is it that people think I’m trying to position myself as some sort of expert and don’t respect my opinion?

+ Is it that people think I’m just trying to be ‘woke’ and don’t want to encourage me?

+ Is it people just don’t give a fuck?

A few years ago my beloved friend, Chelsea, noticed this also happening on my instagram.

Same situation as this blog …

More likes/comments than I deserve up until I post something serious about race.

Then – at best – a murmur and – at worst – silence.

I don’t know the reason for this, but it is happening.

It even happened recently on two articles I wrote for Little Black Book, promoted on Linkedin.

The first – about the process of strategy – received a combined 1121 likes, 99 comments and 55 shares. But the other – promoted exactly the same way, but about the importance of making space for People of Colour to be themselves and respecting that value that brings – received 17 likes and 2 comments.

SEVENTEEN!!!

A topic far more important than how strategy is up its own arse got seventeen likes.

I am not an expert in this stuff.

I’ve made – and make – more mistakes than I should.

But I am committed to change and creating change and for all the talk of the industry wanting to do the same, it seems it only suits when they decide it suits. Of which there is no better definition of privilege.

None of this will surprise People of Colour.

They face this two-faced bullshit everyday of their lives.

I don’t care if people think I’m being woke.
I don’t care if people don’t read what I write.
I don’t even care if people don’t respect me.

This is about people talking a lot about the most serious issue facing our industry but doing practically nothing. Or worse, doing a small thing and then deciding it’s a big thing because it suits their agenda, even though they haven’t once asked the people it’s supposed to be there to help. It’s pathetic. Fucking pathetic.

I’d rather hear people say they don’t care or believe in D&I than talk earnestly about its importance but don’t do anything about it. Not even use their platform or position to keep the topic, top of mind.

The problem with our industry is it’s increasing lack of relevance and resonance with business, creativity and culture. The great irony is the most influential, interesting, and commercially powerful things in business, creativity and culture are born from People of Colour communities, especially Black/African American culture.

At the very least white culture should care because it can keep them earning a living.

But no. They think they are good enough to do it. Good enough to understand things they can never quite grasp as it comes from a lived experience they have never had to face. So they miss the nuance, the heritage, the soul.

Or maybe it’s not that at all.

Maybe it’s something else.

Fear.

Fear of being left behind by the knowledge, understanding and context of People of Colour.

Because unlike them, People of Colour see culture from the inside, the outside and deep within its creative soul. This not only helps them understand what’s influencing culture better than most white people, it means they understand white people better than white people.

So they can offer more insight and understanding.

More creativity and opportunity.

More openness and authenticity.

Giving them knowledge that not only puts most white people to shame, but can put most white people out in the cold.

That’s probably the reason.

White people want to keep People of Colour down.

Not all. But that doesn’t matter … because that many do creates this situation.

Continues this situation.

And while I’m not saying everyone who reads my posts – or should I say, doesn’t read them – are racist, I am saying maybe we all need to think about what we’re doing … because we can’t say we don’t know about the issues regarding diversity and inclusion just because we avoid reading about it.

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Welcome To Lord Of The Flies …
October 14, 2022, 8:15 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude, Culture, England, Mum, Mum & Dad, Social Divide

I’ve talked a lot over the years about a lesson my Mum drilled into me – ‘care about what others care about’.

Looking back, that lesson has played a huge part in my life.

It’s influenced how I do my job.
It’s shaped how I work with others.
It’s encouraged me where I have chosen to live.

I say this because recently I saw a photo that stopped me in my tracks.

It was this …

For me, that sums up everything wrong with society right now.

Selfishness over selflessness.

Of course it’s always been that way, but right now the division within society is insane.

In the past people at least pretended to care about others, but not any more.

We hear so many talk about the loss of community but witness more and more only caring about things that directly affect them.

Or said another way, acting in a way that is the absolute opposite of community.

Of course, a big part of this is because of how many governments behave and act.

Creating policies that actively divide a population.

Forcing an attitude of selfish survival.

Right now, the UK government has to be one of the worst at doing this.

Pandemics.

Poverty.

Wars.

Unemployment.

Energy prices out of control.

Inflation at levels not seen in 40 years.

Schools underfunded and uncared for.

Youth with less opportunities and hope in generations.

And yet, if you watch their reactions and responses, it seem their attitude is to either turn a blind eye or blame everyone else for what is going on.

That’s right, the people who are supposed to represent us, prefer to divide us.

Of course times are tough.

I appreciate there is no silver bullet to sort it.

But cultivating an attitude that if it doesn’t happen to you it either doesn’t happen to anyone or the people it is happening to, somehow deserve it … is utterly destructive.

Humanity is stronger and able to deal with more when it is united and compassionate.

A nation is stronger when everyone feels they are seen, heard, valued and educated.

That we continue to think the structures that got us in this mess will get us out of it, is mad.

Which is why the older I get, the more grateful I am to my Mum … because when you care about what others care about, you don’t just gain understanding, you build community.

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The Future’s Bright, The Future’s Neon …

One of the things I’ve found fascinating over the past few years is watching consultancies AND platforms mock the value of advertising and then increasingly try and enter that space.

And while you could argue it’s because they saw an opportunity to do it ‘properly’, the way they have embraced it – and executed it – has shown they seem to want to be more like the beast they wanted to slay than the beast they are.

What do I mean?

Go to Cannes and the whole place has been taken over by corporations.

All the best locations, beaches, hotels are the domain of tech, consultancies and platforms.

Now you could say that’s because they’re the ones with all the money – and that’s true – but what is amusing is WHAT they do.

Because rather than reflect ‘a better way to do what those ad agencies used to do’ … they seem to be doing the same thing ad agencies used to do.

Parties.
Give-aways.
Celebrity talks.
Expensive dinners.

In fact the only thing that is different is how desperately bad their attempts to show ‘they’re creativity’ actually are.

Nothing brought this home more than a poster I recently saw promoting an advertising festival.

An advertising festival representing the ‘modern’ world of the industry.

This was it …

What. The. Hell?

Seriously … what is it?

I’m not just talking about the design and colour palette that could make a 1987 acid house party feel embarrassed … I’m talking about all of it.

The email automation masterclass.

The ‘scale your YouTube’ talk.

The $15 million ad storytelling formula class.

And let’s not forget the ‘thumb-stopping’ direct response scripts.

Look, I get small business may get something out of some of this.

And I appreciate there are many elements to run a successful business.

But this all comes across as used car salesman shit.

Worse, used car salesman shit where their office is a portacabin on a muddy industrial estate in Slough.

In all seriousness, what I find astounding is this must be what the people behind this conference must think is creativity. And don’t get me started on what it says about the people presenting there.

I include Scott Galloway who said ‘brands are dead’ and then not only invests in elevating his own brand, but starts selling courses on how to approach better brand strategy.

[For the record, I respect Scott Galloway hugely but when he said that – like when Mark Ritson said his advertising course was a ‘mini MBA’, when it is nothing at all like a MBA – I couldn’t help but feel their focus was becoming more about building their own cult than building better marketers. In fact, given their approaches have now been so optimised, systemised and codified … you could argue it’s actually undermining brand building because everyone is following the same approach and the result is passive corporate conformity. But I digress …]

I guess what I’m saying is that for all the smarts of modern marketing, the people behind this conference – and potentially the people at it – are revealing they know jack-shit about creativity or culture.

And you know what? That would be fine if they didn’t pretend they otherwise.

But for all their big Cannes events … agency buy-outs … and talk about advertising, the reality is they view creativity as a ‘wrapper’ for their engineering type processes.

A belief there is a singular approach to engage and grow – regardless of audience or category. That the features around a brand are more important than the brand. Or as I told WARC, that the condiments are more valuable than the steak.

Do not get me wrong, advertising has a lot of problems.

It’s got a lot it can learn from platforms and consultancies.

But at our best, we know how to use the power of creativity and culture in ways so many of thehaven’t got a clue about.

Now some may say that statement shows how out of date I am.

How contemporary business doesn’t care about all that.

And maybe that’s right … but while I could point out the vast majority of brands who are infectious to culture were not born anywhere near a ‘consultants proprietary marketing playbook’ … all I have to do is point at the AdWorld poster and say, “Look at that shit”.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there will be a bunch of valuable stuff at the conference.

I am sure it will attract tens of thousands of people.

It may make the organisers a shit-ton of cash.

But for all the smarts appearing at Adworld, they sure as shit don’t have any appreciation of style. And I would like to point out that I say this as someone who was wearing an ironic Celine Dion T-shirt when I typed this.

And with that, I wish you a good weekend … which only gets better for you when I let you know there is a national holiday here on Monday so there will be no post till Tuesday [I know, I just had 2 days off for national holiday – deal with it] … so with that, I leave you with a sneak-peak of the Adworld virtual after party dance floor.