Monday, 27 February 2017


I worry about today’s role models. Are we creating mini-Trumps , Farages and Beyonces by allowing and even accepting as normal their strange, rude behaviour? I don’t think our children are stupidly impressionable but they are influenced by those they see on TV. Not only influenced they also learn their words by heart and mimic their actions.

Take the Peppa Pig family. I’m very concerned by the laziness of Daddy. Not only does he seem to do little but he lounges around and says he’s worked hard so he must relax. He spends a lot of his life goofing off and mucking up. He falls out of trees and is a general incompetent. He’s a shocking layabout of a role model who should be spending more time sorting out that ghastly cry baby George whom I suspect is crying because he thinks he might end up like his father.

Topsy and Tim have a father who constantly seems to be coming back from work in the middle of the afternoon. The twins and their oh-so-nice parents live in blissful sunshine with never a cross word.  Their ambition to “be friends forever” makes ‘Love Actually’ look a rather grim movie in contrast. Their sense of entitlement is affirmed in the words of their theme song
“We can be anything 
If we close our eyes and dream.”

“Oh no you can’t!” I want to shout “you have to work really hard to get anywhere at all.” The absence of any work ethic here fills me with despair. I was brought up on a diet of westerns where the relentless mission to succeed was huge. This was Rawhide:-
“Keep movin', movin', movin'
Though they're disapprovin'
Keep them doggies movin', rawhide
Don't try to understand 'em
Just rope, throw an' brand 'em
Soon we'll be livin' high an' wide”

On such stuff were men made and “gals” had their place
“Wishin' my gal was by my side…”

My slightly satirical view of our world has a few serious thoughts underpinning it. We are creating the future by the kind of images we show now and we have a polarised choice between the pastel world of Enid Blyton and the extreme right wing of Breitbart.

We should, of course, show people what a better world looks like but for sure don’t frighten the beejeezus out of them by creating visions of a terror-threat-future but don’t get too soppy either.

 I quite like Peppa Pig as it happens. It has a pleasantly good natured set of ethics bar one. Unless Daddy starts working really hard and appearing only briefly - “got to get this website ready it’s really urgent” - the next call he’ll get will be this:-

“Hallo, It’s the Danish Bacon Company. Can you pop by there’s something we want to talk about”

And no Daddy, it’s not a new website they want. Check out the next episode “Daddy Pig brings home the bacon after another hard day’s work.”

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


From "Sedition, a Free Press, and Personal Rule" by President Theodore Roosevelt, May 1918

"The President is merely the most important amongst a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as it is to praise him when he does right.  Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him, or anyone else.  But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else."

This caught my attention as a tweet from JK Rowling. 

Monday, 20 February 2017


Tom Goodwin is an Executive Vice President and head of Innovation at Zenith Media. Here’s what he said last week on Linkedin:

“Living in New York and working in advertising I rarely see people over the age of fifty.  I'm never exposed to, let alone have the pleasure of working alongside them. This is one of the worst things about working in marketing right now.  As an industry we're obsessed with youth, we're endlessly trying to get "upwardly mobile Millennials" or "hard to reach youthful influencers" or some nonsensical and largely broke crowd who can't afford the premium SUV we have on offer. Meanwhile we've not looked around the BA First Lounge or the Hyatt Hotel lobby, or the Emirates Business class cabin to see that all the people with money and influence are actually rather old. And wise.

Occasionally, on the rare events where I get to listen to some of the wonderful old folk of advertising, it quickly makes me realize how much we as an industry suffer from a lack of wisdom. We have incredible levels of vision, an abundance of precociousness, brilliant creativity, but as an industry we pretty much have no wisdom at all.”

Personally being one of those “wonderful old folk of advertising” I found myself in profound agreement with Tom who is still in his 30s.

In Japan where the concept of mentoring has always been taken more seriously, “senpai” is someone of a higher age, or senior and “kōhai” is a protégé or junior. Wisdom there is a prized commodity whereas here it’s all over when you hit 50 or 60.  Yet watching Liz Truss our Justice Secretary, a gangling 42 year old and clearly out of her depth, I lamented the lost wisdom of predecessors like Ken Clarke and  Jack Straw, Poor, young Liz. There was no justice in putting her in that job without the gravitas and wisdom to clothe her naked inexperience.

Cats like the aged have a problem too. They kill allegedly 55 million birds a year in the UK.  Their DNA is shockingly obvious. They are predators and pretty selfish creatures.  But the most successful pets in the world numerically.

Their relaunch comes in a new design. The more sedate pussy. Welcome to the “sausage cat” - apparently it’s a fashion wow (or miaow) in America coming your way soon - slowly.

Cats and the aged are not much alike but like cats we aged need to become more visible. We need to review how we’re perceived and relaunch ourselves if our “wisdom” and thoughtfulness is to be treated more seriously. Too many of us are grumpy, petulant lamenters of lost youth - critics of the young rather than enthusiastic spectators and coaches of a youth potentially better than we ever were. We need to get out of BA First lounges and start working again to show how useful we can be and how we can complement the skills of today’s dynamic leaders.

TOMORROW - an additional blog from Richard.

Monday, 13 February 2017


Increasingly what defines our lives lies in the execution of stuff. A great recipe badly cooked and carelessly served is a disaster. An ordinary recipe beautiful cooked and lovingly served is a triumph.

We are living in a world of change, innovation and contradiction, a world where nothing is quite as it seems, where long held assumptions about civil rights, equality and being nice to each other were just taken for granted.

Let’s consider gastroenterology and the state of chronic constipation. That’s how the EU bureaucratic has felt for some time as has the US dominated by its MBAs, Silicon Valley and its Financiers. Enter the two best laxatives known to humanity - Donald Trump and an elixir called Brexit.

Here’s how Dave Barry a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for the Miami Herald described his own laxative moment:
“On the day before my colonoscopy, I began my preparation. In accordance with my instructions, I didn't eat any solid food that day; all I had was chicken broth, which is basically water, only with less flavour. Then, in the evening, I took the MoviPrep. You mix two packets of powder together in a one-litre plastic jug, then you fill it with lukewarm water. (For those unfamiliar with the metric system, a litre is about 32 gallons.) Then you have to drink the whole jug. This takes about an hour, because MoviPrep tastes - and here I am being kind - like a mixture of goat spit and urinal cleanser, with just a hint of lemon.

The instructions for MoviPrep, clearly written by somebody with a great sense of humour, state that after you drink it, 'a loose, watery bowel movement may result.' This is kind of like saying that after you jump off your roof you may experience contact with the ground.

MoviPrep is a nuclear laxative. I don't want to be too graphic, here, but: have you ever seen a space-shuttle launch? This is pretty much the MoviPrep experience, with you as the shuttle. There are times when you wish the commode had a seat belt. You spend several hours pretty much confined to the bathroom, spurting violently. You eliminate everything. And then, when you figure you must be totally empty, you have to drink another litre of MoviPrep, at which point, as far as I can tell, your bowels travel into the future and start eliminating food that you have not even eaten yet.”

In political terms that is what we’ve just started to go through.

In years to come we’ll describe not draining the swamp but emptying the body of its waste so we can start to behave sensibly again. Neither Trump nor Theresa are permanent fixtures - they are watery movements and they’ll pass on quite soon.

Am I unduly optimistic? We are - I suggest- going through a curious phase as this cartoon suggests. Time to use these laxative tools and then get back to down to earth again

Monday, 6 February 2017


Maybe I’m tired or maybe the world really is falling apart. My day had started badly. I’d read the papers and the name Trump was getting me down.

He loves breaking eggs but does he know how to make omelettes? And with omelettes in my mind I started worrying about France. Marine Le Pen? They can’t, they won’t … will they? According to comedian Andy Hamilton they won’t because she’s a fake. Never served in the armed forces and has certainly never been a marine. Truth will out. But I’m no longer sure of that

Life is all smoke and mirrors. Take this morning. I bounded happily from the house and clicked my key at my silver, shining beast of a car expecting that welcoming beep, flash of lights and wing mirrors opening like a butterfly’s wings. But nothing happened. I tried again. Peering in I saw the lights had been left in the ‘on’ position. Flat battery. A vivid torrent of language flowed from my lips. First Trump and then this. Fate had taken advantage of me once too often, once too often. This was payback time. I kicked the car’s tyres and vowed vengeance. I called Jaguar and shouted a bit. And then I sulked. After a while bored with sulking I went out to whack my car again. And when I got to it I realised it wasn’t …my car that is. The same make, the same colour, the same interior but different number plate. Looking up I saw my own car further down the road. My blameless silver beast.

Laughing at myself my mood lifted. I thought about grandchildren and great nieces with whom everything seems so much simpler. Their games are more fun. I’d played shops with my two year old granddaughter whose pricing concepts are strikingly at odds with dynamic pricing. Everything seemed to cost £30 although everything my wife bought seemed to be cheaper. Tea, wine, Eurostar rail tickets all £30 until I trumped (sic) her strategy by asking “do you sell trumpets?” She gazed at me saying “I think I have one - can you ask your friend there what the price is?” My wife chipped in with a price “£12.50 will do” and so off I trotted with an imaginary bargain trumpet.  This interlude compared favourably with our grown up world.

Donald has a certain bully-in-the-playground, childlike quality as have virtually all our politicians. Last week they meekly voted “yes” despite most of them strongly disagreeing with it, to the motion to action the Brexit article 50. Jazz fan, portly, Tory Kenneth Clarke stood alone in saying “No” and therefore representing the 16,000,000 who voted remain. First past the post referendum politics has served us very badly.

Yet the country’s economy is outstripping expectation. So all is well then? Not exactly, no. However fast we go there’s still an iceberg ahead. And there’s a farcical belief that we can avoid it. As our granddaughter would say “oopsy.”

Monday, 30 January 2017


In the recently compiled global “2016 Happiness Index” compiled for the United Nations the UK comes 23rd (we were 21st in 2015 and 18th in 2012 when the report was first published.) No one can be happy to see us sliding down the table but nor can they be surprised. We’ve become a grumbly society dissatisfied with our lot. Denmark on the other hand comes consistently top.

Apparently the UK was at its most content in 1957 the year in which Prime Minister Harold McMillan won the election with the slogan which was true for most

“You’ve never had it so good.”

But you can’t keep on saying that (even if it’s true.) Broadly speaking everything, despite newspaper headlines in the Mail and Express, is actually getting better. Yet research in the workplace for instance would say otherwise. FT columnist Lucy Kellaway wonders why. Offices are nicer, with better, cleaner facilities, and bosses are more civilised and attentive, trained in empowerment, delegation and being nice. Despite there being less bullying and harassment people are nonetheless less happy.

We aim to delight our workforce yet that is unlikely to happen. Quite simply their expectations are never quite met and they never have it as good as they’d like. What makes it worse is those at the top of companies are earning disproportionately more and the sense amongst the rest of us of exploitation grows in line with that.
So are we pursuing an impossible target? In Julian Barnes collection of short stories, “The History of the World in 10 ½ Chapters,” “The Dream” is about his dreaming of heaven. Everything is perfect there. He can do anything and everything, eat as much of what he wants, play impeccable golf, see his favourite football team win the FA cup and yet after a while it becomes boring. Perfection is dull. Beauty relies on slight misalignments to be striking, happiness often happens in adversity rather than when everything is just so. We need rain as well as sunshine, ice as well as warmth, tears as well as laughter.

 What makes our world so fascinating is we still don’t understand the human brain. In his book “Homo Deus” Yuval Noah Harari reflects:

“As long as we have to decipher the mysteries of consciousness we cannot develop a universal measurement of happiness”…

Yes - not just a measurement - nor a way of creating happiness consistently either. Neither more money, nor more leisure nor more anything can be guaranteed to work.
Our life spans seven conditions:

  • Rapture
  • Happiness 
  • Contentment
  • Apathy (“whatever” mode)
  • Discontentment
  • Unhappiness
  • Misery

On any given day we could go through several phases and the more we do the richer the first three states will be.

Stop trying to be happy, start trying to be more interested and engaged. Happiness is only ever a phase so trying to be consistently happy is to be consistently disappointed. Sorry about that.

Monday, 23 January 2017


“The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

Those were the words of President Trump at his inauguration.  Yes those were the words of President Trump at his inauguration. Have you noticed, whether for emphasis or whatever, he repeats himself….constantly saying the same thing twice.

“The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

There you go again.

So is the USA embarked on four years of blood, sweat and toil? Will Trump be dragging people back to sweaty manual labour like coal mining whilst the rest of us are in driverless cars moving towards the inevitable digital economy?

In Japan this week there was something of a panic surrounding people working too hard. 50 hour weeks, they say, are killing people. They’re considering stopping work at 3pm every Friday so people can go shopping and stimulate the economy. Yet 50 hours is only a five days from 8am to 6pm. Every executive I know does at least that.

The myth that any work in excess of 40 hours a week is counter-productive is as arbitrary as the weekly alcohol limit of 14 units for men and women unless you’re Spanish and male when it’s 35 units. “Aclamaciones!!”

Hunter/Gatherers in the distant past only worked a 22 hour week. And now some of us are envisaging a virtually work free life waited upon by good looking robots. But I actually don’t get what all the fuss is about. If you get it even vaguely right there is hardly any distinction between work and play.

But there are times when being a workaholic just seems misplaced. I recently heard about a friend who had undergone heroic surgery on his heart. I asked how he was doing to be told he was not doing all that well especially as his recent promotion meant he had to work even harder.

Like that lady in a senior post in Intel saying: “I have this work/life balance thing nailed.
It’s work, work, work.” But acting busy rather than enjoying being busy is tiresome.  Alpha Go is an Artificial Intelligence system owned by Google. Against expectation it beat the “Go” World Champion Lee Sedol recently. Philosopher Mark Rowlands got it perfectly when he described the game at its most intense:
“There is the joy of focus, the experience of being completely immersed in what one is doing.”

And that’s what real work is like.

Leisure on the other hand can be rather boring. Read a Jane Austen novel and reflect on how tedious having nothing much to do in 1800 was for many of what are the now-busy middle class. Certainly small town social politics in places like Chawton where she spent the last twelve years of her life seems rather depressing.
The real trick is in wanting to do what you have to do. Because involvement is always better than being disengaged.

Just as Barack Obama will already be discovering.