I'm not making any specific resolutions here. I'm not going to run a marathon, or do 1,000 press-ups or anything crazy. None of the following resolutions are really quantifiable. Maybe they're a little too abstract. Maybe the cynic in you is thinking that there's no way I can possibly fail because of the inexact and unmeasurable nature of what I'm proposing...
I used to write this blog because I ‘had’ to as part of a previous role. When the requirement was no longer there, I just sort of stopped. Not because I don’t like writing – I love it. But because I never really had the time for the thought and processing and research etc required to put together a half decent 1,000+ word piece on something. So when I didn’t ‘have’ to any more, I stopped. This was a mistake. Not because I enjoyed it, but because I realise now that I need that thinking time, and research and processing time to continue to stimulate my cerebrum. Even the simplest fact checks which take 30 seconds can result in a segue into some very useful titbits of data or knowledge which can be useful later in the day job.
When I was a lot younger (although not necessarily less wise) I remember seeing the launch of Facebook and thinking about how lucky I was to be working in an era where new technology had created platforms, the like of which we’d never seen before. And how these platforms would change everything about how we communicate and consume content. I was so lucky to be at the coalface, and working with these platforms on campaigns for my clients, before most people had even heard of them. As an ‘early adopter’ I remember telling my friends and family about them, and seeing how cynical and reluctant they were. My Mum in particular clearly initially viewed social media as not something that ‘her generation’ need trouble themselves with – and now she’s a huge advocate and very active. She’s reconnected with old friends and family and has a great community of friends and followers.
I also remember vividly thinking ‘someone’s going to make a lot of money out of this’. And when the IPOs came, I didn’t invest. It just wasn’t something I did – invest in stocks etc. Any spare cash I had (which at the time, wasn’t much) was going into ‘the house fund’. And I’ve sat and watched FB shares go from $38 on IPO to $182 at time of writing. Google was at $50 at IPO and is now at $1,082. Now I don’t regret my investment. I bought a house for my family instead. And that’s appreciated quite healthily too. But, in the last few months we’ve also seen Bitcoin mania grip the internet. Trading at $985 this time last year, Bitcoin hit a high of $19,783 in December 2017. Here’s what I wrote about Bitcoin in March 2015, when it was at approximately $300 a coin:
So, why on earth didn’t I put a few quid in? I don’t really know. Probably because that was the sort of thing that ‘other people did’. People who were professionals in the investment business, or who were ‘really knowledgeable’, or had loads of money. It’s taken me a while to understand that against the average man on the street, when it comes to technology I am ‘really knowledgeable’. (Please be aware that this is all relative – I’m no expert in early stage silicon valley start-ups, or some sort of cryptocurrency analyst, but I’ve probably got enough knowledge to spot the next Facebook when it’s punching me in the face in my day job.)
LinkedIn used to be a great place for getting a new job, showcasing one’s talents, and even, (dare I use the word) ‘networking’. For a long time, it continued to evolve nicely, adding layers of useful functionality along the way. The creation of Pulse allowed for simple blogging and sharing within a professional portal and even though this was years after we all started sharing our most intimate thoughts on the internet, it worked, and it gave the 99% access to points of views from ‘Influencers’ – prominent professionals, experts in their respective fields.
But something happened, and LinkedIn is now a quagmire of bullshit. Some people decided that job titles like ‘Social Media Rockstar’ and ‘Guru’, ‘Evangelist’ etc were perfectly normal and acceptable a way to describe their 9-5 that pays the rent, and then everyone started copying Dave Trott’s writing style.
Dave Trott is a genius.
He has spent 40 years in the Advertising Industry.
He has created some of the most famous ad campaigns this country has ever seen.
He’s also run agencies and has a huge amount of insight and knowledge to share.
So when he writes a blog post in this style, that’s because he’s telling a story, and this style is the best way of getting his message across.
He’s not doing it because he’s got 18 month’s experience in media sales.
And thinks his basic common sense observation about who in the team makes the tea has some deeper meaning.
Stop it you idiots.
The LinkedIn algorithm is borked, because it’s now totally dominated by people liking or sharing content that I saw 4 days ago. It thinks that on a platform with 500million users, that only about 12 ‘influencers’ are worth constantly pushing into my feed. My LinkedIn is literally 90% recruitment consultants and sales reps touting their wares. If anyone can tell me how to prevent Oleg Vishnepolsky’s nonsense showing up in my feed then I may reconsider this resolution, but until then…
*Yes, I appreciate that my feed is personalised based on my history, connections and industry etc, and what I describe won’t necessarily be reflective of other sectors, however I’d imagine that a) you’re probably not reading this if you work outside of Digital/Media/Advertising and b) the algorithm will be working in the same way for any other sectors, and will probably be curating stuff with a similar outcome.
Excuse the anglo-saxon vernacular, but I think ‘bullshit’ perfectly encapsulates what I’m talking about. (I don’t necessarily think swearing in a professional context is a bad thing if it helps you get your point across and you’re talking to like-minded adults. See also this post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-work-from-home-cara-mackay/ ) I have a healthy scepticism, but in an industry where everyone’s looking for a unicorn, but 90% of tech startups fail, and where we’ve created a 6 second attention span with a raging thirst for new news and new content, 24/7, 365, there’s a pretty good chance that some/a lot of what’s written, published, videoed, tweeted etc, will be bullshit.
Even if it’s not bullshit, it’ll probably be so far removed from the reality of 99% of people’s lives, outside of the bubble in which we exist. Bullshit is draining. It’s exhausting. Having to critically evaluate every single source of information to decide whether it’s a factual, well considered logical point of view, whether it’s a terrible piece of content written purely because of some unscrupulous click-bait reason, or if it’s a well-intentioned but ultimately poorly researched, is something that I wish I could spend a lot less time doing.
It’s not easy to avoid though, and requires a tightly curated selection of information platforms and sources, and an avoidance of many high profile peddlers of bullshit (see previous point re: LinkedIn)
I’m not talking about travel from a ‘travel broadens the mind’ perspective (although no doubt that it does). I’m talking about business travel to solve problems. I’m a big fan of flexible working. Working from home (I’m doing that right now), working from coffee shops, working early and/or late so that you can go for a long gym session in the middle of the day etc. The internet and networking technology have made it possible for us to interact in real-time with multiple colleagues and clients in multiple continents. Email, Whatsapp, Slack, IM, video-conferencing, Skype, Facetime, Hangouts etc etc.
But sometimes there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting. Recently, I was tackling a challenge which was rumbling on, and no number of internal meetings, phonecalls, emails etc seemed to be working to fix it. There was a certain amount of frustration and finger-pointing building, so it was agreed that the only solution would be for a group of us to travel to Paris to ‘thrash it out’, so to speak. I was reluctant to set my alarm for 5am for a 15 hour round trip in order to have a meeting, particularly (as we saw it) because it was a relatively simple situation that the other party just ‘wasn’t getting’.
When we got there, I quickly realised that much of the problems had been caused by simple breakdowns in communication, context being lost in translation, information that I had been fed by third parties turning out to be incorrect, and my own assumptions based on the status quo being wrong as well. We had a great meeting, solved the problem within 3 hours, and have subsequently had a far better working relationship since.
So I’m going to go and visit far more of my colleagues this year, to ensure that we also understand each other and build better relationships which will be conducive to better work in the future.
Roll on 2018!