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The100: Storyhunting, the future of work & research bashing

De/Im-parting wisdom

Tom Callard (soon to leave advertising agency BBH) wrote about the 50 things he’s learned in ad agencies. The whole list is great, but my highlights are:

  • Trust your gut, but also try to prove it wrong. 
  • Hunt for revelations, not ‘insights’ (thanks Richard Huntington).
  • The consumer might not give you the answer, but spend a day talking to them and you’ll probably figure it out. 
  • You’re not the first person to ask this question, find out what smarter people than yourself thought. 
  • Briefs should be brief.

“Reverse engineer your toaster”

Another list I really liked was these 10 tricks for finding stories

It equally applies to how we can uncover knowledge and insight. Suggestions such as using search terms tactically and predicting traffic jams are very helpful nudges:  

So much news coverage is dedicated to the thing that JUST happened or the thing that is ABOUT to happen […] Imagine second- or even third-order effects that seem absurd now but will relatively soon become normal and obvious. 

“research kills EVERYTHING good and creative”

There’s a few threads out there on Twitter by ad folks conducting research on the ineffectiveness of research, for example here, and here. I like the-legend-that-is Paul Feldwick’s story, pictured within this thread

Many agencies are heartily sceptical of [consumer research] or any kind of pre-testing research, but we weren’t – we used it all the time and knew that it often led to better work.

May I suggest that some agencies may be choosing the wrong type of research? Just a little thought. Putting it out there.

The future is simply subtle

The Atlantic recently published an article on the working-from-home-revolution, and whilst Tom Goodwin thought it a good read, there were some aspects he found confusing: 

…everyone I know claims to be more productive but is also feeling more burned out than ever. How can this be claimed to be the ideal future state? Is being exhausted, a little lost over breakfast each day, while being happy at home, really an ideal and sustainable state?

His sense is that:

The working world of 2023 will be more like an adapted, embellished, better version of 2019, than an altered version of 2021.

Work’s not working

I’ve been sitting on a load of longish articles about work which I wasn’t sure where or when to include. Tom has given me the segue, so for your intellectual pleasure, I give you:

  • This, on the burnout epidemic:

    “[…] work to the point of burnout is the promise that if you work hard, you will live a good life: not just a life of material comfort, but a life of social dignity, moral character and spiritual purpose.”

    (Here at Watch Me Think towers, we’re even looking into a way of financially rewarding our teams for not checking email and Slack whilst on holiday. Paying people to not work. Strange times indeed.)
  • This on the age of anti-ambition:

    “The act of working has been stripped bare. You don’t have little outfits to put on, and lunches to go to, and coffee breaks to linger over and clients to schmooze. The office is where it shouldn’t be — at home, in our intimate spaces — and all that’s left now is the job itself, naked and alone. And a lot of people don’t like what they see.”
  • Still want to work? OK. But is a career in Market Research appealing enough?
  • And if you land an interview, then be prepared for this Gobstopper/Jawbreaker of an interview question: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?

How’s your week looking?

Matt Shirley puts together some of the most wonderful tongue-in-cheek charts which I strongly advise you go look at (h/t The Do Lectures). Here’s one relevant to what we’ve been talking about:

Just nipping out for a stroll, dear

If you want to do the longest continuous walk in the world, it’s just under 14,000 miles. I managed 630 miles in my 2 month sabbatical, so it’d take me about 3.5 years to complete. I’ll think on it.

Until next time