Evidence of a maturing Society

Is it me getting older or are we all becoming more, well, a bit more sensible?

Two things passed through my world recently that led me to believe perhaps, just maybe, that an outbreak of common sense was starting to envelop us all.


I filmed Paul Skinner at the launch of his book Collaborative Advantage a few weeks back. Paul, the embodiment of breeding, education and intelligence, has gathered a troupe of followers (many senior marketing and communications businesspeople) who together, represent the belief that collaborating is more powerful than competing. And the benefits are not just commercial (he promises) they spin out into health, finance and society as a whole.

Along similar lines, I was recently made aware of a new start-up ad agency unfeasibly called Uncommon who “want to help build the sort of brands that make the world a better place”. They don’t want to make ads, actually, that’s so last week. They want to create culture. Wow.

The cynic in me detects the possibility of spin masquerading as innovation but then, when you stop and think, it’s a pretty good kind of spin, isn’t it?

Taking business and commerce and society as a whole there will always be goody-goodies at one end and ne’er-do-wells at the other but I sense that there is a shift in the distribution towards the goody-goody end and I welcome it. We are waking up to the value of our world and finding ways to protect it for ourselves and future generations.

And these two things are not lonely examples. If you look, other reflections of our maturing responsibility are manifested in Trump’s unpopularity, the rise in importance of brand trust, the Weinstein #metoo workplace revolution; these are all positive changes in our society and may there be many more.


Seedy boarding: why priority status means back of the queue.

Short break. South of France. At Nice airport, heading home to Heathrow. It’s hot.
The airport is busy and as we tango past stray travelers with heads tilted towards distant departure boards we see what no traveler wants to see – a mammoth queue at Gate D. Armed with our Priority boarding passes we stride confidently to the front of the queue to exercise our privilege where the grim realisation sets in: this queue IS the priority boarding queue. We cross-check with another traveler already queueing and in a broad Scots accent the worst is confirmed.
angry-crowd-700x432So with a comfortable two hours until take-off we resign ourselves and stand in line behind Scotty who is now muttering about disgraceful service and the diminishing minutes he has until his flight is due to leave to anyone who can listen or understand.
We watch as fresh arrivals make our mistake. They slow to scan the queue, raised eyebrows, dropped jaws, head to the front, are appraised of the situation then shuffle despondently to the ever-receding back of the growing snake. Their assumed superiority deflating visibly as they do.
More fresh arrivals gather at the head of our queue and start to form their own queue. Priority-priority status is catching on. The new branch grows and the arguments start. Scotty is having none of it. He strides over to the super-privileged, his Crocs squeaking on the marble floor and his baggy cargo shorts swinging generously around his pale legs and he lets them have it.  He explodes, pointing to the back of the queue, waving his gold card and the new queue mostly dissolves.
But the fight is not over for one Well-Heeled Couple and we watch as they enter negotiations with the front of the queue. This couple are not giving in without a fight and against all odds we see them merge and finally disappear into the top of the line.
Scotty is now on the phone to British Airways, his glasses balanced impossibly on his sweating snout which he wrinkles to keep them there, baring a cargo of yellowing teeth. BA, who are a thousand miles away promise unconvincingly to look into the matter.
So, finally, we are ten check-ins from the front and Scotty is looking happier. But the cruelest cut is yet to come. The desk attendant raises an arm and asks the queue for Gatwick passengers who break out from behind us like lottery winners and charge past to the check-in desk pushing us from 10th to 30th in a flash.
When we get through (an hour later) we see Scotty and well-heeled couple standing eagerly among others at the boarding gate. The flight is announced, their tickets torn and they head towards the bus.  Now, arriving first on a bus puts you at a disadvantage. You get a seat, yes but when it comes to disembarking, it’s first on, last off.
Scotty and Well-Heeled Couple only realise this when the bus is full and lurches towards the plane. After what appears to be an eternity, the closed doors hiss open releasing many passengers who checked in way later than them.  They burst from their seats, necks craning towards the now fully-stacked boarding steps as if unwilling to accept their very public relegation.
On board, we all settle in, bags are loaded and we are embalmed with a cocktail of humid air and perfume.  Karma is served in the form of a 90-minute delay on the scorching tarmac. Some read, some chat, some drink and kids scream.  Scotty, meanwhile, is back on the phone to BA.
But we do leave, albeit late, and the waiting becomes history.  Priority boarding queue issues blur into the pleasure of returning home. Tired but on terra firma, we collect our bags from the carousel.
As I leave the baggage collection area I smile at Scotty and Well-Heeled Couple, who, hot, cross and expectant, are still waiting for their bags.

Want to win in business? Love, don’t fight.

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Paul Skinner this week as he prepares for the launch of his book Collaborative Advantage: How Collaboration Beats Competition as a strategy for success.

Paul tells us how we have we now reached a turning point in history from which creating competitive advantage is no longer in our best interests. He describes how Collaboration Beats Competition as a strategy for success and explores how we can re-think the fundamental assumptions on which business strategy is based, driving a greater level of success that can be better for business, better for customers and better for society.

The book is intended to show how Collaborative Advantage can be applied to grow any business or non-profit and is brought to life with examples of businesses that are putting the principles of Collaborative Advantage into practice around the world.

Rory Sutherland, Vice-Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK and The Spectator’s Wiki Man, said ‘[the book is] a valuable contribution to the vital task of getting people to see the business world as a complex, interconnected ecosystem rather than as a sharp-elbowed race to the bottom’.

The book contains contributions, feedback and relevant examples that illustrate Collaborative Advantage in action.

The book will be published by Little, Brown Book Group on the 22nd of June and is now available for pre-purchase on Amazon.co.uk. On the morning of the launch he’ll be celebrating with a breakfast event at the Museum of Brands. If you would like a free ticket to the book launch, let me know. There are limited places, but I’d love to see you there; I’m filming the whole event.



Nostalgia; an investment paid off.

Two things happened to me recently that prompted me to reflect on Nostalgia.

  1. I went to see former Pink Floyd man Dave Gilmour’s Live in Pompeii gig streamed from a Roman Amphitheatre to the Watford Vue cinema
  2. I went back to my old school; after 40 years

Image result for dave gilmour pompeiiGilmour’s guitar playing just gets better and better. He played tracks from Dark Side of the Moon (which I bought in 1973) alongside Comfortably Numb (which I loved as a student in 1979) and newer, fresher pieces like Rattle That Lock (2006) Base notes scoured depths I thought impossible for a guitar and the highest notes found perfect pitch right off the top of the fret-board. His lyrics provoked and his astral solos reared and soared like a big bird on the wing.

smokeAnd School: Your education and your teachers shape you much more than you realise.  I don’t think I was a perfect pupil but I was well taught and well cared for by a fine community of monks.

Forty years on, they greeted us like heroes; the living product of their efforts.  And after a tour and a very good lunch they listened to stories of careers and family details, glowing with pleasure in what they had helped us to achieve.

Both events were, in their own way, nostalgia trips.  Both experiences were more pleasurable today than I remember them being all those years before.  Nostalgia is a powerful aphrodisiac, it teases out emotions that have lain dormant for a long time.  It is the opposite of a bad memory.

The lesson I learned from the emotions these events triggered was that it is what we do today that will or can become nostalgic tomorrow.  Do a thing wrong or badly and we’ll only want to forget it.  Do a thing right and do it well and we’ll reap the reward of a little nostalgia in days to come.

Mykonos in 60 seconds

Lighthouse skyMrs G. and I are just back from Mykonos, part of the Cyclades group of islands that pepper the Southern Aegean Sea about 100 miles south east of Athens.  But enough geography.

Like so  many Mediterranean Greek islands it was invaded by Romans, Venetians and Ottomans all of whom left numerous cultural and archaeological graffiti before heading off to plunder somewhere else. Fully restored to Greek ownership, the streets are now thankfully back to Cerulean blue and white.

More recently, it’s become a tourist honeypot with cruise liners paying £50k for a one-night mooring.  Each day, their numerous overloaded tenders plough over to the quayside looking like Albanian refugee boats bristling with selfie-sticks. They disgorge flocks of currency-laden day-trippers who quickly become prey to the patient yet adept local restaurant hustlers.

Mykonos town is a maze of tiny cobbled streetlets barely two selfie-sticks wide.  Maps exist but are unhelpful due to the irregularity and similarity of every corner.  Invaders, I was told, found the town impossible to attack for this very reason.  Today, between a cacophony of jewelry shops there’s big-brand shopping and super-fine dining at sky-high prices – think Bond Street, shrunk in a hot wash.  With selfie sticks…

But it’s a pretty island; offering more photo-opportunities than a royal wedding. The sunsets are heroic, the beaches are clean and the locals are genuinely very welcoming. Food-wise we found and loved Kounelas a courtyard fish restaurant in central Mykonos town (choose your own fish from the kitchen) and Kiki’s Taverna in the more remote North of the island, no power, no light or broadband, just a fire pit with sizzling chicken and unfeasibly big pork chops plus a salad bar all overseen the big man and owner Vasilis who gives you free booze until a table becomes available.

If you’re on a budget go to Paragas, the fishnchips end of the island with 25 euro sunbeds and a few nervous nudists. Pale and probably from Sheffield, they glower at you until you take your kit off.  If you’re loaded then go to Panormos and after hiring your bed for the day at 90 euros, shop in Principote where I was offered a pair of sunglasses for 600 euros. No thanks.

Visit in May (sea cold) or September (sea warm) to avoid the crowds and enjoy Mikonos for three days max then catch a ferry to nearby Ikaria, Paros or Naxos to become an island hopper and broaden your Cyclades knowledge.

See also Bruges in 60 secondsRome in 60 seconds, Barcelona in 60 secondsCyprus in 60 seconds and Mallorca in 60 seconds

Bruges in 60 seconds

Bruges in 60 seconds

How come Belgians aren’t fat?

Bruges, Belgium’s medieval jewel, “Venice of the North”, is home to a thousand chocolate shops, too many famous artists to mention and Wally de Backer, better known as the pop star, er, Gotye.  (no, nor have I). Here, when you are tired of chocolate, you eat chips, mayo, waffles, cream, egg nog (Advocaat),  drink copious amounts of Trappist Beer (around 6-14% alcohol) or a bewildering variety of locally made Gins, Vodkas and weirder spirits.

We stayed in The Dukes’ Palace, super-central, flawless 5* Gaff.  Actually, most of the multiple hotels and BnBs are super-central; you can walk from one side of town to the other in about half an hour.

Bruges is small, pretty, ancient, friendly, free of crime, with confusingly planned cobbled streets connecting the many churches and squares all of which are delicately lit at night.bruges shops night.jpg

Art: we stood in awe before Hieronymus Bosch’s Last Judgement, a kind of Dali-esque depiction of both Heaven and Hell and we admired one of the finest collections of Bruge’s own welshman Frank Brangwyn. God: We genuflected before the Blood of Christ himself in the Basilica.  Food: we ate at Patrick Devos (fabulous and expensive) and Poules Moules (fun and cheap) and drank Brugse Zot beer (6%) with three brothers from Leeds whilst watching Scotland beat Wales at rugby in Delaney’s Irish Bar.

It’s hard to find fault with this lovely little town only 3 hours away by Eurostar (via Brussels).  But like the taxi driver said, watch out for cyclists and above all the horse-drawn carriages who could all use an visit to driving school.

See also Rome in 60 seconds, Barcelona in 60 secondsCyprus in 60 seconds and Mallorca in 60 seconds

Does good tech make you better?

Does good tech make you better?
This is a really interesting topic actually, so good it’s goaded me into writing another blog – after far too long.
Does enhanced tech make for better or more users?
I’m thinking mainly about videographers, editors and the photographic community but actually it relates to most areas of skill, service and business.
Frinstance: I’m in the market for a new car. I call a car retailer and he sends me a video of a new car he has on the forecourt right now, shot on a smartphone. He’s not a good presenter and he’s certainly not a videographer but I get the film just the same. It’s the sort of stuff I’d expect from a 6 year old who thinks (s)he’ll get squillions from a youtube channel he has yet to create. It’s rubbish, but I do like the car, and I like it more for having seen it. But does that make it a good video? No, it makes it a useful one.
Some time later, I’m browsing a post from a colour-grading software company on Facebook and I got a post from a snapper who says “everyone’s a photographer these days – they use lots of tech but if you’re rubbish you’re always rubbish”
Not exactly.
We humans (photographers and others) and our skills do steadily improve over time but as new tech becomes available the market gets wider, more competitive.
When Michelangelo put down his pencil and picked up a brush, he adopted a tech that took him from a jotter who liked  to draw over-muscled Romans and fancy flying machines to the originator of the Sistine Chapel.
Rubbish photographers and videographers will always remain just that. Really good photographers and videographers and one or two really good techies however are getting smarter at making standout films and images but you bet they all use the software – perhaps they have just become good technicians?  Maybe so, but they are still good at spotting, capturing and processing great stuff.
I measure the quality of this stuff by the output.  I hope the work I do is useful but I also hope it’s good.  With film and photography, when I judge something I think looks great, I don’t usually ask what college they went to or what software they used, I look at the quality.   When I’m done, I ask myself if I could do as well as that.
Usually the answer is no, but I’ll keep on trying.