Perot had it right, “find a snake kill a snake”… 


The full quote, as I recall,ended, “don’t convene a committee on snakes”.

There’s a refrain I hear, almost every time there’s an internal delay or glitch in any piece of work my team do with pretty much any corporate customer.

It goes like this…

“It’s not worth trying to get this changed, we all know it’s wrong, but, it’s just too hard to fix”.

If you’re in a business and you are apologising to me as a customer, (or a supplier), for some evidently awful internal process that impacts on your business (and mine) you’re not just part of the problem, you are, for me at least, the problem.

La Fontaine's Fables

Vintage engraving from La Fontaine’s Fables, Illustraed by Gustave Dore. The Countryman and the Serpent


Sure it’s tough standing up for what you know is right, sure it’s tough being the one bold person who says what everyone is thinking, sure it’s tough to take on the pedestrian procurement process, the accounting anachronisms, the resourcing rubbish, the shibboleths of sales, the malaise of mediocre marketeers. It does take courage and integrity to challenge the corporate inertia, to take a risk, to fix the big stuff but hey, every other bugger is playing it safe, going with the flow, making no waves, keeping below the parapet.

You know it’s corporate bollocks, you know it needs fixing, if you don’t do it, it won’t ever get done.

Make a difference, make a mark, make a stand. Kill that snake

NB: No real snakes were harmed in the writing of this post.


Why marketing will be responsible for the death of democracy …

Voters ballot close-up

No, you can’t always get what you want … 

I’ve blathered on for years to anyone who’d listen (and many who wouldn’t) about the value to our democratic process  of  instantaneous communication, the benefits of being able to express our individual opinion rather than have our elected representative express our opinion (as long as it aligns with their own, and their political masters’) current stance.

I’ve been loquacious around my view that it’s extremely rare that I, you, or anyone will actually share a world-view that’s well aligned to whichever mendacious under-achieving power-seeking slimeball appeared less repulsive than their opposition last time we all trooped into a cubicle and (despite this being the 21st Century, “the Digital Age”) placed our stubby pencil cross on a piece of paper.

But, perhaps inevitably, I began to doubt myself. The media, the cognoscenti, the chattering classes were truly surprised by the result of the recent UK referendum on which bunch of untrustworthy political animals should make important decisions for us. And then, our chums in the obese former colony across the sea astounded us all by choosing the more ridiculous of two people for whom the idea of integrity and honesty seem to be irrelevant concepts that don’t apply to them.

And the pollsters, the media, the cognoscenti, the intellectual elite, got it wrong, again!

And I realised where my thinking, (that instant and ubiquitous communication was a good thing for democracy) was going wrong, and would only get worse.

It’s about information.  In order to make informed and inclusive judgements, we need a big-picture view of the world, many opinions, many cultures, broad-brush data, challenge, diversity… and that’s not, increasingly, what our digital world offers.


When I was a lad there were a few newspapers, the radio, television was in its infancy, there were literally a handful of information sources, sure the papers had editors who chose a broad political line but generally we all worked to a fairly common view of the world, common sources of information, the only filter bubbles being our personal circumstances and prejudices, and they tended to be similar to the other folk in the street.

It’s that filter bubble effect that will hurt us, filters now driven by algorithm. As I read the FT (or, let’s say the Daily Mail for the sake of balance) online, it’s identifying my interests, and presenting the stories relevant to those interests, my news feed is getting increasingly niche.

My Facebook feed is not your Facebook feed, my Twitter feed is not your Twitter feed, I see a different Linked-in than you. Increasingly, as the marketing algorithms identify what I like, I’m likely to get less and less randomness, less surprise, less exposure to other’s views, every interaction with my world of information will become increasingly affirmative that the way I see the world is the way the world is.

We get to see more and more of the stuff that we already agree with, to the exclusion of different opinions.  Is this partly what’s driving intolerance, misunderstanding, prejudice and divide over understanding and caring?

And if that’s true, then our ability to see the world through others eyes, to engage, to understand and empathise with those unlike us will wither and atrophy, division will grow and we genuinely won’t understand why.

Filter bubbles, you get to see what you are used to seeing, or, more and more often, what an algorithm decides is like the things you already like, there’s no value for Amazon in showing you stuff that doesn’t give you that warm comfortable, “oooh I like that” feeling.

Filter bubbles, good for marketeers, bad for a true world-view.  An increasingly narrow set of information delivered uniquely to each of us as the social media algorithms work really hard to make themselves attractive to us, telling us more and more of what we know, delivering diminishing levels of challenge, less randomness, we miss the ambient intelligence of exposure to a whole newspaper, not just the bits we already like.

We’re being spoon-fed our own preferences.

Unhappy Baby Being Fed In High Chair At Meal Time

So, how does anyone get an objective view of the world as we increasingly get an algorithmically-curated information stream designed to make us easy for advertisers to target, not to share, explore or explain how the world might look to a third-generation unemployed chap in Derbyshire or Illinois?

I wish I knew… do you?

Bäuerin Frühstück* as a sales review tool, why not… it works


*(Farmers wife breakfast)

Talking last month to a sales director of my acquaintance who raised two issues, not necessarily linked but I thought that the solution might be…

Firstly he found it tricky to get his sales folk together in a social sense, the traditional pub gathering or team dinner didn’t seem to gel with a group of lone hunters, with lives of their own, young families and already working long days.

Secondly he found the regular sales reviews to which he summoned them were transactional, factual, data-driven, defensive.

The team were performing well but he just didn’t feel they were a team, working together and he wasn’t sure how to change that.
I remembered a couple of things, well three, my father-in-law telling me how as a young farmer, after milking, as the sun rose, the farmer, the family, the workers would all gather for a big breakfast, discuss the forthcoming day, share laughs, banter and good food, start the day in a positive way.

I recalled, from a former life, running a series of high level events for senior execs, breakfast-based briefings on critical subjects but the key was that these busy folk turned up, they could enjoy an excellent meal, learn, teach, share and network and still be in the office at start of play, they loved it.

iStock_000018247691_DoubleI remember working for a great consultancy  where one of the founders decided to turn the interminable board meetings into a breakfast event, one of the management team cooking for the others, taking it in turns, it got competitive, it became fun, it engaged everyone, the meetings were better attended, better natured, more constructive.

So I suggested that my chum rebadge his sales reviews as a breakfast meet, schedule them early, restructure them as a way to start the day in a positive way, conversation amongst peers, a round table not a star chamber, an opportunity to help each other, we’re social animals.

He tried it, they liked it, it worked.

He found that decisions and actions got done (or at least started) that day, and that it’s hard to be defensive with a mouthful of bacon.

Go on, try it, get your team to go to work on an egg.

Here you go, history, power plays, philosophy, emotion and relationship based selling.. enjoy

A long time ago a very clever chap called Adam Smith came to the conclusion that, inherent in almost all humans was a desire to make others happy, to feel good because somebody else does.

I was reminded of this during a recent meeting with a chap who needed my help, who wanted my help, but also wanted me to very clearly understand how important, powerful and impressive he was, I felt no rapport with him, couldn’t get past his performance, for performance it was, and ego. I left the room feeling sorry for his staff, his suppliers, his customers and probably his family. I won’t be helping him.


It’s an interesting (but rarely considered) measure for how well a meeting, a conversation, an interview has gone, I’ve observed that as someone is leaving, a room, a workshop, a meeting, shaking their hand, making eye contact and asking “did you enjoy that?” produces some really interesting reactions. It’s not what people expect, they’re primed for a platitude, a “we’ll be in touch”, a “thanks for coming”. A genuine query about their happiness invariably produces a slightly startled pause, a quick self-assessment and (mostly) a genuine reaction.

Crucially they leave actually thinking about how they feel, not their performance, not the next steps. And if I enjoyed it I tell them so.

We’re quite simple creatures, you and I, we may be awesome intellectual giants, (Well, you may be) but we still evaluate and build our relationships based on emotional responses, and I don’t know about you but happy works better for me.

Did you enjoy that?

Paint a propositional picture

William Sidney Mount [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m prompted to put digital pen to digital paper by a challenge surfaced recently by a couple of valued but disparate clients, but in truth this is a conversation which pops up on a pretty regular basis.

Both asked for our help in addressing what one might think would be a pretty basic business task, described, by them, in terms such as “defining our unique go to market proposition” or articulating our differentiated client value offering”. Can you see the problem?
Personally I’d prefer to describe the task as “showing clients what you can do for them
But that seems a bit simple, after all we’re really clever people, we need to show just how clever to potential clients, so we tend to use big words, lots of them, and we find ourselves unable to agree internally on which big words we should use.
Even if we can agree on the words, even if we invest valuable time in producing collateral it’s typically ‘thoughtpieces’, ‘white-papers’, ‘position pieces’ and frankly it’s really hard to get busy clients and prospects to find the time for us to share these world-changing truths with them.
Time is precious, attention spans are short and getting shorter, it’s hard to grab attention, let alone keep it long enough to explain something really complicated.
So what’s the alternative?
Well, let’s make it simple…
Don’t spend a day workshopping a new market-changing paradigm with your brightest and best, instead…
  1. Choose a client engagement that went really well
  2. Tell us what you did, we’ll question you all the way back to simple.
  3. Tell us why you did it, again we’ll question you back to simple.
  4. Tell us what the result was, for the client, firstly in financial terms, (if you can’t do that, no-one will give you the time of day), next identify the side effects, the “unquantifiable benefits”
  5. Then we turn that into a storyboard, 6 or 7 slides, minimal words, powerful graphics, understandable, linear, a story, that all can tell, all can agree upon, and all can understand.

That’s it, we’re not trying to change the world, we’re grabbing attention, we’re not explaining every aspect of our paradigm-shifting approach, we’re creating just enough interest to get the permission to have a conversation.

Get the picture?