There's a link to a great piece by Katie Harris in Anthill on her Zebra Bites blog. She makes some very powerful points about the dangers of customer satisfaction surveys and the culture of quantitatively researching KPI-driven metrics. I won't say it better than she does so give it a read...
I caught twenty minutes of The Towering Inferno last night on one of the movie channels, and I watched the scene where Steve McQueen's fire chief rescues a group of people from a scenic elevator.
There's a great moment at the end of that scene when McQueen's character is helped down from the top of the scenic elevator (which has been winched safely to earth by helicopter). He briefly shakes the hand of a fireman who has helped him before jumping into the back of a car and racing to the next crisis.
Despite all the nonsense of the plot, there's something very true about that particular moment...about the hero always being in motion, always moving on to the next task, never pausing to celebrate their success. Because the job is rarely (if ever) done. Success is almost always fleeting and partial. There's always something else to do. That's life. We can either embrace it (heroically) or not. There's no shame in the latter. It's just that you can't be a hero and expect to have the time to bask in it.
I've just spent the day reviewing my agency's work from the past twelve months. There's a lot there, and a lot has happened since I was doing the same thing last year.
Talking to my creative parter Philip, one of the things we are most proud of is the lack of sameness from one job to the next. Instead of seeking a sense of internal agency consistency and house style, we have tried to do the right thing every time...for each brief, each brand, and each audience.
And that's what we take most pride in...doing the right thing for our clients, not us...and being consistent in our approaches, not in our solutions.
There are plenty of successful companies out there who are rewarded by customers for the consistency, reliability, and homogeneity of their products and services. Good luck to them. But there are also companies that want to be seen in a different way...as bespoke and knowledge-led. I guess the key is to know which you want to be and commit stick to it.
Are you making the world a better place? The truth might just surprise you.
It's easy to assume that only people who work in a limited number of fields (like healthcare, education, and charity) can answer categorically in the affirmative. But this question is actually a great compass for almost any individual and almost any organisation, regardless of what they do.
Almost anyone, in almost any job, and as part of almost any organisation, can choose to have a positive impact on the world. More importantly, they and their organisation will almost certainly be more successful as a result of that choice.
So here's a tip...think about what you do, identify the part that has the most potential to make the world a better place (more fun, more friendly, more thoughtful, more aware, more dynamic, whatever), and focus on doing more of it. Try it, try using this question as a filter for ever decision to take...it can be amazingly powerful.
In short, be determined to do whatever you can (as an individual or as an organisation) to make the world a better place. It will make you stronger too. I (almost) guarantee it.
I work for a company that creates experiences for brands. It's a fascinating world...live and immediate, with no second chances.
One of the most curious things about our world is that the stuff that makes the biggest difference to an experience is often the stuff the audience/client never notices until it's not there.
It can make for a frustrating existence when your best work goes unnoticed and un-praised. But sometimes that's just the way it is. And the only acclaim you can hope for is that of your immediate colleagues and your inner voice.
It got me wondering...how can we measure and reflect (beyond profitability) the cultural and nostalgic value of businesses? If the worlds of art and business are forever converging, how (beyond spending more money) can people like Russell and me contribute to the survival of an icon we value?
I don't really know what I'm arguing for here. I just know I agree with Russell...I will miss Woolies too, even though I rarely ever spent money there.
I'm putting together my Christmas holiday reading list right now, and these two books are right at the top...
Thanks to the Tom Peters blog for alerting me to “Enough. True Measures of Money, Business, and Life”. It’s by a guy called John Bogle who founded the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group in the US. Tom lists the chapter headings to summarise the book…it sounds bang on…
"Too Much Cost, Not Enough Value"
"Too Much Speculation, Not Enough Investment"
"Too Much Complexity, Not Enough Simplicity"
"Too Much Counting, Not Enough Trust"
"Too Much Business Conduct, Not Enough Professional Conduct"
"Too Much Salesmanship, Not Enough Stewardship"
"Too Much Focus on Things, Not Enough Focus on Commitment"
"Too Many Twenty-first Century Values, Not Enough Eighteenth-Century Values"
"Too Much 'Success,' Not Enough Character"
The overarching theme, "Enough", is captured in this anecdote…
"At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, 'Yes, but I have something he will never have … enough.'"
Thanks also to my colleague Philip McDougall for recommending a book he's currently reading, "The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm". The author, Kenneth W. Gronbach, describes his central premise...
"Large and small generations, alternately moving and aging through the marketplace, determine many a company’s success or failure...The core idea of this book is quite simple: Smaller generations buy less stuff; larger generations buy more stuff. When a large generation, such as the Boomers, leaves the market and is replaced by a smaller generation, such as Gen Xers, sales are going to drop...[but] people (executives, entrepreneurs, salespeople, marketers, advertisers, etc.) just don’t accept this clear-cut concept until you beat them over the head with it."
Interesting stuff. And also interesting is this list from the Guardian of the best viral ads of the year.
To repeat how I began this two-part post a couple of days ago...it's amazing how much you can learn, and how much thinking you can stimulate, just by looking (and reading) around. So I thought I would share a weekend's worth of quick thoughts, observations, and learnings...there were four on Monday and four more today...
FIVE. Talking to a friend who works in law, she described to me the challenges she was having with her boss who was willing to say "yes" to any client request. "Ok, but does he carry some of the burden himself?" I asked. "No" came the reply, and there's the problem. In becoming effective at delegating (the secret to amplifying your value-add), her boss has lost his sense of personal accountability and is at risk of mismanaging the workloads he's imposing on his people. The opposite is no better (your highest-value people entangled in the minutiae), but there has to be a balance.
SIX. Shopping around the big department stores looking for presents for friends' young children (one two-year-old and one four-year-old) my wife and I were overwhelmed by the dominance of toys linked to a TV or film franchise. At the risk of sounding like a nostalgic old man raging at the changes in the world, it's pretty disappointing. I'm not knocking the obvious emotional resonance created for children by linking much-loved characters and shows with toys. I'm simply frustrated at the lack of specialism, the lack of craft, and the lack of quality...in other words make a film-related toy by all means (after all, the Star Wars toys of my childhood were gold) but make them with love and care. Don't use the halo of a film franchise as an excuse to knock out second-rate tat at inflated prices. And take a lead from Nintendo's Wii...surely the ultimate recent example of how quality and usability is the best route to true, lasting commercial success.
SEVEN. Waiting around for a taxi on Saturday night (a common phenomenon in Sydney, especially during the Christmas party season) I watched an old-school green and white VW Beetle drive past. The car was a Mexi Taxi...a dedicated 'limo' service for to take customers to and from Guzman y Gomez (funky taco joints). GyG have proudly built a brand in no time at all, based on creating great relationships with their customers, encouraging feedback, and not wastingmoney on advertising. I thought the MexiTaxi was a great way to extend the reach of that story while not losing focus on their commitment to put their customers first.
EIGHT. I read some books very fast and dip into others from time to time, meaning I take them in slowly. Malcolm Gladwell's Blink fell into the latter category, meaning I only finished it this weekend. One of his final examples focused on the need to create the right conditions to do good-quality fast thinking. In short, it's easier to think fast (and use your intuitive skills of rapid cognition) when you aren't under pressure to think fast and when your abilities aren't compromised by pressure and panic. That's not to say we should encourage procrastination (a phenomenon which was recently explored in an interesting piece here) or that we should think about things for too lone (which can be damaging too), but simply that you do your best fast, instinctive thinking when you have the time and freedom to do so.