Saturday 27 February 2010

If it's measurable it's not worth knowing.

The title is meant to be provocative and counter intuitive though it's more important than business aesthetics blather. 

It stems from something a senior market researcher said to me a while back. He said "if it's not measurable, it's not worth knowing". I was his house guest at the time, so it seemed  churlish to respond that love can't be quantified, that the feelings of pain, elation, euphoria, crying, singing, dancing, winning, losing, worrying and so forth and so on are all deeply integral to our lives and that there's beauty in the unquantifiable. It would be like putting a cost benefit analysis on a spouse to see if we've secured a better deal than our neighbour or colleague. It would be offensive to measure up our respective life partners to see who manages the household better, breeds superior children, has better taste in furnishings or provides a superior quality of sex.

Pathological quantitative analysis of pretty much everything within the corporate environment has led to the dominance of the spreadsheet as a killer predator drone for the decision making process. 

Numbers are safe, numbers are transnational. Numbers are unambiguously intentional, and the numbers add up.

That's why it's really important to know when to count yourself out.

The ability to make decisions based on intelligence and intuition is an important part of what makes a kick ass business, kick ass.

Sure the universe is mathematically coded at a particle physics level and more, but here's my argument. Putting the numbers before the love, is the surest way to to a diminished life. An inferior attempt at living what feels like a bespoke chance to manifest our true identities. One that by another definition, by its slavish devotion to numerical advantage is restricted to making decisions based on what the numbers say and not how they make us feel.

Feelings are more important than facts is something I've lifted off more formidable minds than mine to support how great advertising works more effectively on an emotional level. But here's the irony. You need to crunch the numbers to figure out if it's the numbers or the feelings that work better. Which is my way of saying Im not a numeric luddite. Unlike the Unabomber's target, numbers can't be bombed and are most definitely here to stay.

Nevertheless, the irony of using numbers to verify the supremacy of feelings is a mirror reflection of yet one more of the many enigmas of life that only a fool can fail to encounter. We know so little of where we come from, probably less about where we're going, and all the while we're saddled with a biased processor for decision making.

Irrespective of the numbers the evolutionary biologists know how well our primate brains are embarrassingly backward at dealing with slow moving catastrophes. We all panicked over say the Y2K bug, because it wasn't inconceivable that we might be on a flight the night the millenium rolled over. But the slow moving catastrophe we face from the way we exploit the planet and it's displacement on say the climate or the maths on never ending diapers and finite landfill space feels less tangible. 

Like having a spoon less of sugar in the next cuppa or reusing a polymer bag.

Put another way. It's not the numbers that point the way to figuring out our medium term survival chances. The scientists, those high priests of the quantifiable, the repeatable and the observable-on-demand can't agree on what constants are. Speed of light, boiling points and much more from the contextual variables that can't be repeated and thus we've backed a horse with magically erratic form.

Maybe we need to lift from the mystical language that the quantum physicists are using? They talk with stroked beards of matter coming into and out of existence, of particles being everywhere at the same time but in other dimensions, of parallel universes, dark matter, time as surface and maybe exceptional linear narrative (in this dimension). Ladies and Gentleman the slide rule slides incoherently in space time theory. It's beyond the unifying theory powers of the mathematical geniuses of our day.

But Oh how they would kill for a concise unifying equation that fits on a T Shirt.

If they, our scientists, are struggling with linear and coherent logic to explain how something as simple as the existence of matter actually matters, then why would we sacrifice any potential to embrace chance and circumstance as unpredictable friends of the business environment? Why would we replace them with the dead and sterile certainty of spreadsheet fetishism and the uber conclusiveness of knowing every decision until the grave will be a quantitative and numerate assessment of likely risk over potential gain? 

I yawn melodramatically.

There's a call centre consultancy business I know that I use as a stage setting over determining the right level of quantitative rigour that is required to ensure that work efficacy is given the remit it deserves because the call centre business is one of the most measured and controlled problem resolution environments we know.

And the most reviled.

I'm not binary about this though. I had a sensational call centre experience in Hong Kong booking my flight back to Bangkok (Thank's Emirates). Yet we've all been caught in 'put on hold' hell or endless detours to return to our original call destination through obtuse call management and it's this unfuzzy logic style of problem assessment and solution, that human operators need to be able to pull the rip chord on. To descend away from a higher systems blindness, and on towards an intelligent and intuitive approach that embraces human intuition over standard operational procedure. Whatever that is.

So to round up. While quantitative description of business scenarios and operational decisions will always be the hygiene of grown up business, it's really important to file all those numbers and the spreadsheets they are crunched from, in the proper place. It's the one that knows everyone else is using the same systematic approach to achieve the same unremarkable consistency and mechanistic results. It's a depressing reason for dragging one's sorry ass into work and taking a salary for as it diminishes our purpose as a species and prevents us performing in a manner where the remarkable takes place. 

That's why if it's measurable it's not worth knowing.

Or more accurately. 

If it's unmeasurable. There's something interesting going on.

What else is there to meaningfully achieve during our enigmatic but historically brief stay on this planet?

Friday 26 February 2010

Oprah & Satanism



I did mention back here that the Scandinavians are producing some of the smartest and most creative work on the planet and I stand by it. Particularly digital.

Via Leon

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Klong Toey Market

It took me a day or so to wait for this to happen when I saw it for the first time and decided to film it. Not many people can relate to what it means to be acquainted with a living deity from another culture, but if you can afford to sit out the first minute or so, I think this clip I took in Klong Toey Market of Bangkok makes the point clear.

This may also be among the last authentic shows of respect of its kind unless anyone else knows of an example I haven't thought of (Bhutan maybe?)

Thursday 18 February 2010

Shirt By Givenchy


Seems a few of you quite like my Givenchy Shirt that some girl snapped me in last week so I thought I'd put it up here for your amusement. I bought it second hand on Melrose, Hollywood in 1995 along with some awesome boot cut 70's Calvin Klein Jeans, a real L.A. County Jail Shirt made by the inmates, a bunch of Skateboard wear that I got into during that time (Including my first Vans) and other bits I'd rather not remember from last year when I was robbed in Hong Kong.

 I wish the girl who took this let me take a photo of her. She had incredible skin colour and the type of immaculate teeth that have never seen a dentist. There's just something quite awesome about unadulterated preternatural teeth.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Post War Britain - A Political History

I mentioned a while back that I read so few books now compared to a few decades of stuffing a lot of print down my visual oseophagus that I feel compelled to blog each completed book. The good news is that I'm no longer plodding through publications that I feel obliged to read or just don't really enjoy. So while that copy of Moby Dick is waiting to be read as a gift from Christmas, it doesn't feel right quite now.

I guess it's the sort of book I'd really dig on a long bus ride to nowhere like my own Burmese Days where if it were not for time available, I'd  could not have completed The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy. Something I'd have to say is impossible now given competing distractions but it served well on the way from Rangoon to Ngapali Beach on the Bay of Bengal in Burma and back again to the creaking, decaying capital in buses that I'll never forget.

I picked the book above from a charity book store in Hong Kong for 10 Bucks. I used to cream through this sort of stuff and the book reminded me why. While I'm  no longer as fanatical about politics (don't the Corporations call the shots these days?) this book was a fresh digging of a field left fallow for some time. I'd forgotten the names of the the real political left from the  60's and 70's in the UK. Mick McGahey, Bill Morris, Frank Cousins, Jimmy Knapp and so on and so forth. They don't exist now. I don't know any characters in Parliament. Even Dave looks like the kind of PM who if he does well is a chancer who lucked out.

Those old Labour characters seem so much more authentic now then how I used to perceive them. Nobody could argue that they were in it for the money or the glory. They dressed like shit, looked like shit and paid themselves less than shit. But somehow, they had a vision of working class Britain that never really materialised given the sloth of British industry prior to Thatcher but that doesn't mean that if the UK had inexplicably lurched to the left and say Militant had gotten a stranglehold on British politics, I'm quite sure that the Brits would have made the best hardcore communists in Europe.

Commies to be reckoned with. Don't ask me why and even more importantly don't ask me if that's a good thing.

The best and most gripping part of the book was the narrative leading up to, through and just after the Falklands war. There are so many details I had no idea of at the time that reading it was a joyous and pure lesson in history that I can never quite pay the proper tribute to.

However let's try; apart from Socialist Red Blood pumping through secondary picketing, and war torn limbs pumping arterial blood from HMS Sir Galahad or the Battle for Goose Green the book is a bit shit and pedestrian in parts. Mainly because of its obsession with the electoral numbers which leads me nicely on to my next post....

But in case anybody can spark me into devouring Moby Dick, I'd be interested to hear why. Go on. 

Taunt me into reading it.

Tuesday 16 February 2010


What's not to like about this campaign for the conservative party leader, David Cameron, in the run up to the United Kingdom's general election? There's a bunch of stuff in politics which I find disheartening, as there's so little between the parties in terms of ideology that arguably there's little to take seriously. That's both Stateside and in the UK.

However, these posters hit the spot for electorate participation. They draw the poison on the usual political invective don't you think? There's a more interesting write up on the topic over at Russell's and for an instantaneous slice of sentiment you should go to the #mytorytombstone search hashtag on Twitter.

Augment Your Amygdala

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

Well not unless you really have to. I can see some clever uses for augmented reality with some simple caveats. As little as possible and with the least amount of distraction. Unless you're one of those people who really needs another screen between you and reality. 

Oh you can't hear me? 

Well why not take that bluetooth earpiece out and I'll repeat it for you.

Via Ed.

Thursday 4 February 2010

Visible & Invisible Lines

I've been unpacking some stuff that hasn't seen the light of day for quite a while and I came across this classic email I received from Andreas after a meeting I think about a pitch for the German Railways (Deutsche Bahn) when I worked for BBDO in Dusseldorf. I hope Andreas doesn't mind (he's actually one of the more polished creatives I've worked with and was ahead of the curve on social media circa 2003) but I'm using it because it also highlights one of the pressures of what I've called parachute planning. 

That is, turning up in a new country in a new agency with a bundle of business issues that need to be resolved such as new pitches, saving existing accounts and raising the standard of work in progress, all with a bunch of people who are quite rightly suspicious of what you can do until you deliver. And yeah, in a different language sometimes. It's not for the faint hearted.

I've also got some sweet stuff from Hakuhodo in Hong Kong that will make your hair curl. Expect a few retro posts while I'm unpacking stuff I'd long forgotten about or otherwise.