Untangling Time & Energy

Somewhere along the way you’ve probably been asked a question along the lines of ‘where are you spending your time & energy right now?’

You may have asked it yourself.

Time and energy are often paired together.

The answer to this question may contain a few elements, or it may contain one.

If we take a moment to think this question through, there are almost definitely multiple answers.

Time and energy may be connected, but knowing where the differences are is important.

And even if on face value the answer is the same, splitting these apart allows something else to appear that we may not expect.

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3 elements of a successful entertainment venture

Last week I got a call from the founder of a new podcasting company.

As he explained the concept, I noticed there were 3 things he kept coming back to. They felt familiar.

I thought back to a meeting I took several years before with the CFO of a sizeable entertainment company in the UK.

At the time I was exploring options in the ‘buy’ side of the business (I’d spent the previous few years on the sell side as an agent).

As we discussed various nuances and fine points of building live event properties and marketing to millennials, the CFO took a pause and said;

‘You know what; there are only really 3 elements that matter. Talent, production and marketing. We can cut them up any way we like, but that’s what it all comes down to.’

This is reflected a number of times by CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz in his memoir ‘Who is Michael Ovitz?’ – from his formative work at CAA, to the ill-fated spells at AMG and Disney, and onto his roles with technology companies in Silicon Valley.

Whether it’s movies, festivals, podcasts, TV, eSports, conferences, or just about any creative endeavour that’s being put out into the world, you need that blend of Talent, Production, and Marketing.

And the real magic? Finding the alchemy between them.

From Code School to Podcast School

Think back a decade or so.

How many kids did you see coding computers or hardware devices for fun?

Maybe you happened to be around a passionate engineering community, or instilled this curiosity in your own children at a young age, but chances are it was a pretty rare sight.

There were IT classes at school of course, but a lot of the focus was on learning how to use Microsoft Office, or perhaps writing some Perl or PHP script.

For the majority of young people, this was mandatory stuff to be done in their early teens. Something to tick off on the list of subjects to be studied and the grade to be acquired. Miles away from Final Fantasy and Football Manager.

And the barriers to owning your own computer were still pretty high.

Now it’s different.

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Why you should say less than necessary

In Robert Greene’s best-selling, controversial book ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ is the law ‘Always say less than necessary’.

Whenever I think of this line, and the book more generally, my mind jumps to Marlon Brando in The Godfather, or Niccolo Macchiavelli.

But it runs more deeply than just being a power play. The more important lesson to be heeded from this rule is about listening.

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The rise of Edutainment

Education as business development (and beyond), teachers becoming more than just the new DJs, and the foundations of a big shift that’s here to stay.

 

At the start of 2018 I drafted an article entitled ‘Education is the new business development’.

It sat in my draft posts folder for way too long (this post explains why).

Here’s a taster of what I put together:

 

Media publishers can no longer rely on display ads, and a brand are less interested in just the media buy.

As a B2B sales software startup you can spend months trying to explain the benefits of your offering succinctly, let alone closing a deal.

If you’re tasked with heading up innovative ideas in a large company, a significant part of your workload is putting together information for internal teams to understand just what you’re up to and why they should care.

It’s tiring.

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Company Name* (required)

We see this all the time.

On event registrations, job applications, and the contact forms where we’re encouraged to get in touch.

Fill out your company name, it’s mandatory.

But what if you’re a company of one? A freelancer? Someone who’s part of many rosters?

You can put your own name, or ’n/a’, or ‘many’, but inside you know this will screen you out, lessen your importance. It sows a seed in the recipient’s mind that this person isn’t right, they don’t fit, they’re ignoring the way we do things here.

Or what if you have a company but it’s just a trading name, a way for you to do business? It’s not relevant.

Just like many other parts of the old system, this little field on the form doesn’t really make sense any more. Sure, it can be useful, but should it be required?

It boxes us in, forces us to conform. We have to follow the rules.

On LinkedIn, the ‘Projects’ section of someone’s profile is all the way down at the bottom of the page.

For many of us this is the most important section of all: the work we’ve done, the things we’ve made, the projects we’ve put out into the world.

It’s far more important than listing the bullet points of a job description we got hired to do, with a company name against it.

The old system and its various components are still the standard most of the world works to.

If you don’t fit this system then things can be very frustrating.

The good news is that this is changing.

The changes are sometimes hard to see, but they’re happening, one component at a time.

Sometimes the components just need refining or polishing. Other times they need completely rethinking. And occasionally they’re completely defunct, grinding against what works, not making it better.

Which components are now defunct for you?

What’s not *required any more?

Introducing season 2 of the ‘Tickets’ podcast

In the middle of 2017 I had a conversation with a media lawyer about the commonalities and differences between the worlds of live music and promoting boxing.

There was so much to share from this conversation that it led me to creating a podcast series to connect the dots between disciplines and explore the world of live experiences.

I called it ‘Tickets’ – partly to reflect the method of admission to said experiences, and partly in homage to a rather good restaurant in Barcelona of the same name.

Initially my focus was on the media & entertainment world, but through various introductions, happy accidents and my burgeoning curiosity the scope of the series broadened out to include real estate, tourism and sustainability.

Tickets was my first foray into hosting and producing (and editing, curating, marketing…) a podcast.

The learning curve was steep, getting guests took some hustling, and my presenting style was pretty cringe-inducing at first, but I endured. Thanks to some wonderful guests Season 1 finished with 16 episodes and over 12 hours of stories, ideas, learnings from the past, and glimpses into the future.

As I had a big project over the summer it felt like a good time for Tickets to take a break, with a view to coming back in September.

But despite its success I thought that it may be a one season wonder. It was a pretty big undertaking and with so many podcasts out there now was it really worth continuing?

After looking at my own career path’s evolution over the past year or so, I decided it was.

Season 2 of Tickets will be looking at the future of education. At first look this may appear to be a significant departure from season 1 and the podcast’s raison d’etre, but I sense there is a fascinating shift happening – namely the rise ‘edutainment’ and the concept of lifelong learning now being a lifestyle choice.

Live experiences and emerging forms of technology and entertainment are changing the ways we learn, and having touched on these areas in season 1 with the New York Times, Sonar Festival and several others, it feels like a hugely rich and important area to explore further.

Some of the questions we will seek to answer include:

  • How can immersive learning experiences be delivered at scale?
  • What does the university of the future look like?
  • What can the worlds of education and entertainment learn from each other?
  • Do experts really make great teachers?
  • How will conferences and festivals evolve their learning tracks?
  • Could teachers become the next wave of celebrities?

The first wave of guests are now confirmed, and I have plenty of other ideas and conversations ongoing, but I’d love to hear your suggestions for guests. Do leave a response below or send me a message if you have someone in mind.

In the meantime, make sure you subscribe to Tickets via Apple Podcasts, Acast or Stitcher so you’ll be first in line for season 2’s opening episode.

Shipping, Unshipping and the Creative Handbrake

It’s now happened more times than I care to remember.

That feeling.

The shame. Frustration. Even self-loathing.

The impotence of not shipping it.

Not publishing, saving as draft, ignoring, deleting.

Holding it back, adding something else, flip-flopping.

The voice of the inner critic who’s seen all those other majestic experts effortless put their fluid, pithy or sophisticated work into the world.

The creative handbrake.

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Mind the Gap: A primer on Biases and Mental Models (slide deck)

Here’s an annotated and somewhat abbreviated version of a talk I did back in May for Hyper Island’s Learning Lab in New York City, focused on biases, decision making and mental models.

It wasn’t my initial intention to do this as a talk; I’d just collected a few snippets around the topic for my own learning purposes and had begun adding a few metaphors and examples to help build my understanding.

The area of biases and mental models is something I’ve long understood, but only to a very rudimentary level. Up until recently I’d never thought properly about what a confirmation bias actually is (or what it means), how Occam’s Razor can be used to help make a decision, or why we overly focus on the victors in business, sports, arts and life.

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How to facilitate your first class, workshop or training session

My most recent collaboration project launched last week at New York Climate Week.

Sustainable Foundations is a workshop series and email course helping to unpack and demystify sustainability for modern business.

During its creation I took some time to think about things I’ve learnt putting together similar education experiences [1], and also go back to a Beginner’s Mind approach.

I returned to the feeling of my first few sessions as a facilitator. It wasn’t pleasant but it was important to go there again, especially as someone who long detested any kind of public speaking and the exposure that went with it.

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