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Lifecycles, phases, obsessions

I’ve always been through real phases with things.

In recent times it has been mountain biking (no longer an obsession), CrossFit (current phase, but not the white hot obsession that it once was), looking further back, rugby, outdoorsy stuff.  I wrote the book in a kind of obsessive bursty way too: 3 months of disciplined writing, done and dusted from start to finish in 6 months. 

From a work point of view, it was marketing, then entrepreneurship, then digital, then social media, then culture and organisations. Now it’s my new role. I am noticing as I immerse myself. So is my wife.

These phases or cycles last different amounts of time. But the patterns are similar.

I devour everything on the topic. With mountain biking I subscribed to two magazines, read a forum daily, rode when I could, lovingly washed the bikes, took photos of them, ate and slept biking. It is obsessive. These things become ‘my thing’. It has been the same in work. When a world catches my interest, I immerse myself, I turn almost all of my available attention and energy to it. There’s both a learning energy and a doing energy.

Quite funny really.

Family and friends seem to be less cyclical, fortunately. But some of the people I love to be with the most are newer friends. That said, nothing compares to people I’ve known and who’ve known me for decades.

So for me, cycles are interesting.

It’s the winter solstice today (I just remembered, as I write). Another cycle, another turning point. In my work, I am seeing cycles and phases – as Brandwatch becomes a bigger company, with bigger international teams, moves into its next and most ambitious (yet) phase, as our market moves into a new phase, as I move into a new phase, as my team start a new cycle. We are all shifting.

These cycles are irresistable. They just are.

The best advice my mum gave us when we had our first child was that, now matter how rough things were at any time, to ‘remember that everything is a phase’. She was right. And not just about coping with new borns :)

Questions

Question 1:
What will it take for women to be equally represented in senior management, and do we think it will happen?

Was chatting with a senior exec of a company where there are many more women than men in the general workforce, yet in senior management there was an equal balance. Broadly in her industry this is true, with many CEO roles being held by men.

I have noticed this in both PR and publishing, and I expect other industries (retail?).

It looks like the ranks get thinned when the roles get bigger. And of course there’s maternity and choices influencing this but is that all? And what is the world of business losing through this lack of balance?

We talked about the usual stuff about some of the characteristics more often found in women that make them great leaders – achieving with people rather than over them, dialogue, willingness to share, emotional intelligence etc.

But the question is what will it take for these profound imbalances to change? And do we actually believe it will happen?

Question 2:
What is the environmental impact of obese people exercising more and eating healthier?

I know this is random. But I keep thinking about healthy living, obesity, health inequality here my home city of Brighton, CrossFit and how that helped me gain control of my body.

And I wondered, what would the net effect be, from a sustainability perspective, of many more obese people exercising more? Because morally it’s a no brainer if there are ways to help people be healthier and happier.

Crudely, we’d use less much resources in healthcare caring for all the consequences of obesity, but I’m imagining that people might eat more (?) to fuel exercise, certainly more unprocessed foods, and they’d also live longer so more years would need resourcing…

If we’re all healthier, do we finish up or down – globally – in terms of calories consumed?

Notes from SF

On a 7 day work-explore week in San Francisco this week. Speaking at a great event out here and feeling privilieged and grateful to my team for being able to be here.

What I done did so far:

  • Flying this way is weird – previous long haul to India and Thailand has taken me into time zones further ahead than GMT – flying into the past, into sunlight all the way as the British day reached 11.30 pm, was quite head-mashing
  • It’s raining and misty here :)
  • Walked to Pinecrest Diner and had a fantastic all-American breakfast – sat at the counter, which was fun
  • Then walked up Nob Hill – fucking massively steep in a fun way! – and dropped down into Chinatown, and then looped back to my hotel
  • Did some work, some Skype
  • Then walked up Mission trying to get Mission District – it got a bit rough and suddenly I felt like a proper tourist twat miles out of his depth
  • Ended up around Valencia and near Castro – LOVELY
  • Was hoping to hit La Taqueria but didn’t get that far so serendipitously popped into Super Duper Burger for THEBESTBURGEROFMYLIFE. Photo.
  • Walked back down Market to my hotel – nice couple of miles all in (on top of whatever this morning’s walk was) – with the calories I’m consuming I’m gonna need every bit of that.

Observations from a naive country boy:

  • BRAND USA – at customs they had screens up playing ‘aspirational’ lifestyle videos of cleanly scrubbed people living lives in the great American dreamworld; ambulances and fire engines look like they’ve been designed by toy designers; trucks and vans generally are super designed – this whole country (so far) just feels BRANDED, quite odd and interesting
  • Holy shit the roads are steep – would love to drive down some o’ them :)
  • There’s a LOT of homeless people about, much more than I expected – don’t know if this is me unable to filter out a different looking type of homeless person or whether SF actually has a lot of homeless people – wikipedia mention
  • The food is dangerously tasty
  • AUTOS – what’s up with the size of these cars and vans especially?! Monster trucks! One had ‘Fresh Air’ written on it, lulz. It does raise an interesting question though about USA’s ability to adapt in a changing fuel environment, or at least highlight how exaggerated things have been until now
  • Working in a different time zone to your team and clients creates a different kind of productivity – easier, perhaps, to batch tasks and not get sucked into a day of email and meeting zombie-ness
  • Money – all those dollar bills is a bit odd for me, plus it all looks the same, must be hard when one is pissed :)

That’s it so far. Fun, different.

Very good marketing outfits?

Question (from one of my business partners Pete Burden)

Can you tell me: if you were working in a big corporation or govt. organisation and you had a terrific totally new product that you thought was going to rock the world – a real game changer – not just a another washing powder to add to your already long list of cleaning and household products, which marketing agencies would you trust to help bring that to market in a stunning exciting way?

(Could be brand agency, could be advertising agency etc; but unlikely to be one of the big guys because this is so damn exciting that you wouldn’t trust one of the really big guys to do this in an exciting enough way…)
I didn’t have a particularly strong answer.
I said:
Really can’t think of anyone… 

I like people like Anomaly, Frog, IDEO and so on.
But they’re pretty established.
http://www.anomaly.com/
http://www.frogdesign.com/about/

The guy that created Gu (those chocalate puddings) used Big Fish.
http://www.bigfish.co.uk/

So I was wondering: who would you choose? Thanks in advance.

Tracking my internet addiction

The Christmas and New Year holiday was wonderfully restive and felt everlasting.

But one thing I didn’t do was disconnect from the social web (I usually do on hols – and am well ready to forgo the Twitters and the Facebooks :).

In fact, I borrowed the company’s iPad, and found myself spending mindless hours almost every evening after the kids went to bed, just cycling between Facebook, Twitter, my favourite mountain biking forum, my second favourite mountain bike forum and a few bikey ecommerce sites. I found that the iPad is the ultimate sofa device.

These were, I’m afraid, empty hours. 97% pointless. And I slowly became more conscious of how I was rotating between each site, searching for something new and alive to pique my interest.

Coming back to work was always going to be interesting and yesterday I felt totally disorientated. I also felt angry about my cravings to check to see the new on the web, so I started a little tracker.

Here it is so far:

So yesterday morning, as I started the important job of pulling my thoughts and then slides together for the Brighton TEDx in about 3 weeks time, every time I felt the physical urge to go check the internets for something new, I scribbled a tally on a post it.

The black ink is yesterday between 8 am and 11 am, and the red ink this morning between 8.30 am and 10 am.

The research I’ve read seems to vary about how distracting or what the time cost is of each distraction (that is, each distraction indulged in), but it seems to be something between 15 minutes to get back to the same level of concentration upto 45 minutes [1].

It’s really scary to me – I feel like I’m facing up to a habit that doesn’t serve me, the truth of something that controls me more than I control it.

Especially when I think about how much I want to get this talk right, which has been the sole task of these two morning slots – my most productive in a given working day.

In some small but real way, each scrawl feels like a bullet dodged, a computer virus snaffled, a cigarette or burger not consumed. There’s a superiority that comes with avoidance (little victories!).

But isn’t it addictive, this thing we do? I know the research is out there, but this is me, my attention, my life.

Further reading:

[1] http://www.pr2020.com/page/the-unplugged-experiment

The Four Hour Work Week, and all that other GTD / work/life hacking type stuff.

PS. I know my views on this are a little tradition, someone like the awesome Stowe Boyd might encourage the always-on-ness, and celebrate being an inforvore. I see truth in that too, but still feel the above – the two feel directly opposed, in tension.