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Journal

A few weeks ago a free app was produced which could change your life. Seriously. You’ll know which one, because you’ll have seen everyone using it. I’ll tell you, if you haven’t already guessed, in a moment. But first.

“The past is a foreign country”. Unfortunately for us, so is the future. We see our present self and our future self as different people. The further into the future we look the harder it is for us to identify with that person as being us — we see them as literally different people.

The problem gets worse — we can’t imagine that in 20 years time we’ll be wiser than we are now. We don’t believe in our own evolution. It’s called the ‘End of History’ illusion.

Daniel Gilbert did a study of more than 19,000 people aged 18–68. They completed a questionnaire evaluating themselves now, ten years ago, and how they would answer a decade in the future. In general, the results showed that people knew that had changed a lot in the past ten years, but didn’t expect to change much in the next ten. Which clearly doesn’t make any sense — the results were the same across the age spectrum, so if at 38 you see a lot of changes since you were 28, great, but the same is true of someone at 48. We believe, regardless of how old we are, that this present state marks the end of our personal evolution.

As Leon Trotsky said, “Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen”.

This also explains why we’re so terrible at pensions, exercise, planning ahead. Doing the small things now that will compound to great benefit when we’re older. If we could break this cognitive bias and see the older version of ourselves as us, as a realisation of everything we do between now and then, we could create a better future for our older selves.

I recently read about someone who, as a freelancer, found it easier to work if he imagined he was working for a client — the client being his future self. He found it much harder to waste time on the internet when it was *him* he was cheating on — this future version of himself. Rather than the version of him now, where it didn’t matter too much. Sure you can skip the gym today. What difference does it make?

Which brings me back to the start — last month an app called FaceApp did the rounds (again, it did the same a while ago) which can take a photo of you now, and age it so you look like an older version of you. (There’s a bit of controversy about Russians and data around it — that’s not the point here.)

When I did this I found myself strangely connected and affectionate towards this person. It was me, but it wasn’t. It was a relative I hadn’t met, yet one I had a responsibility towards.

I’ve found this photo to be useful in directing my efforts now. I don’t want to be that person looking back at myself now — as I look back at myself ten years ago — and regretting choices I made and wishing I’d done things differently. I know what I should be doing now — we all do — and this photo from the future helps motivate me to do it. Perhaps it will do for you.

My story or yours?

June 3, 2019

In the Influential Mind, by Tali Sharot, it’s shown how difficult it can be to alter someone’s beliefs and actions by introducing data to prove that we are right and they are wrong. It fails because in the face of facts that clash with their beliefs, people either come up with counter-arguments which then actually strengthen their erroneous belief, or simply turn off from the argument completely and attack something else (ad hominem attacks, perhaps, or the source of the information as being corrupt, or elite.).

Essentially this is a form of confirmation bias – our tendency to cherry-pick information that confirms what we already believe, and ignore that which doesn’t. It’s also why we think that people who think like us are smarter than those who don’t. This bias is most pronounced when it’s anything emotional – vaccines causing autism, for example.

John Stuart Mill in 1869:

“So long as an opinion is strongly rooted in the feelings, it gains rather than loses in stability by having a preponderating weight of argument against it… when it rests solely on feeling, the worse it fares in argumentative contest, the more persuaded its adherents are that their feeling must have some deeper ground which the arguments do not reach”

Just as well he wasn’t on Twitter.

We can see how this plays out in the media all the time – ever tried arguing against Brexit with facts? They’ll just get disregarded, explained away, or ignored as they clash with the stronger, emotional beliefs of the person, and it’s much, much nicer to find the things which confirm we’re right, than have to face the fact that we could be wrong, and what that means to our sense of identity and self when the thing we’re wrong about is so emotional.

This problem is obviously amplified by the internet – we tend to follow people who believe the same as us, and unfollow them if they post things we disagree with. Google itself tries to give us results tailored to what we already believe – creating an echo chamber of self-confirmation.

Turns out the best way of changing someone’s mind is to present things in a manner which doesn’t contradict their baser beliefs; in other words, tell them the story in a way which matches the story they tell themselves anyway. It’s all about stories, in the end, as it’s pretty much always been.

There was a great example of this on Twitter recently, and I’m disappointed to say I can’t find the original source now so some of this will be paraphrased, though the main point remains:

A junior doctor in the US was being mentored by one more senior, and the way this works is for them to deal with the patient alone, and then report back to the more senior doctor what happened and go on from there.

The junior spoke to a patient who was refusing vaccines for her child because she was convinced that this would cause autism, and in trying to talk her round the junior doctor discovered she had similar views on chemtrails, the government, russia, etc. He reported back to his supervisor in frustration; the senior doctor smiled, and went go and talk to the patient, who then repeated all her fears and beliefs about the vaccines, and other theories of a more conspiratorial nature. When she’d finished, the senior doctor said – “Have you ever thought that the talk about vaccines causing autism is just a conspiracy theory spread by the Russians and Chinese to weaken American children?”

She allowed the vaccination.

Rather than trying to argue against what she inherently believed, he used her own story to transmit the message he wanted.

Again and again we can see how important it is to understand the customer, their beliefs, problems, and stories – and then see how we can fit ourselves into that, rather than attempting to push our own stories onto them. More on this to come, as we look at how we can re-work our services and offering to a more client-centric approach.

 

Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Bernadette Jiwa

May 31, 2019

I first came across Bernadette’s work whilst reading the latest Seth Godin book, This Is Marketing. I looked her up and picked up a few books of hers, starting with Difference.

I was on the way to London for a meeting, took it with me, and by the time I got into London I’d decided to buy a pad to work through the examples. I’ve found that if you just read through a book it’s very easy to dismiss them as being light, or to say ‘that’s not going to work for me/my customer/my business’. But if you sit down with a pen and go through the exercises, you very often find things out that are extremely helpful and useful, even if they’re not the exact things referenced from the book.

Just the act of having someone ask you questions – even via a book – thinking about them honestly and then, importantly, having to write them down creates so much value. Making yourself think about why you are doing things, and how you can do them better. It’s so valuable, and something we often don’t make time to do. It’s often not that the questions need to be appropriate, but that in thinking about what the answers might be we find something out.

(The other part of this are when reviewers say ‘Full of obvious ideas’ and ‘Heard it all before’. That’s cool, but just because you’ve heard it before and the ideas are obvious – did you do anything about them?)

Following on from this, I signed up for her course https://thestorystrategy.com. I promised myself I’d go through every exercise, even the parts which weren’t immediately appropriate, and again I found value. Where my immediate first response was – ‘Well this part isn’t about or for me, so I’ll skip it’; I made myself go through something would stand out, and become valuable.

So whilst this isn’t specifically a recommendation from me about Bernadette’s work (though I found it hugely helpful, your mileage as always may vary) it *is* a recommendation to do the work. Those books you bought on strategy and marketing won’t do anything sat on the shelf with the words underlined.

You need to work at them.

And even if at first glance it feels like it’s not for you – just the act of setting aside time to do some thinking; real, proper ‘deep work’ will mean you’ll come up with value. Sometimes the book is the journey, not the destination.

 

Neighbours and local business SK1 records have an in-store event this weekend with our other neighbour, reggae purveyor, sandwich master and general raconteur Dom from Blood & Fire records.

17 Little Underbank, Stockport. Go and listen to the bass wobble.

Is a question my three year old asked me the other day. It’s not such an odd question; it was only a few months ago that we were going round Tatton Park and I was trying to explain how weird I found it that the bulk of a tree just comes out of the air. You can understand how people get bigger – they eat real food which has mass and so you then do. It seems to much more strange – to me – that trees do the same thing from the air.

Anyway, Richard Feynman has done a much better job of explaining this, as you’d expect, and here’s his take.

It’s also another chance for me to plug the posters we did – the Feynman one can be found here.

Northern Comfort Shop

May 14, 2019

Today we launched the Northern Comfort Shop – an outlet for the various pieces of work we like to create in the studio when we’re not working on client work. Some of this work is just for fun, or to experiment with new techniques; some is work with quotes which mean something to us and to our process. All is work we’d like to own ourselves.

 

Do check it out here.

Podcasts.

May 13, 2019

I don’t really listen to podcasts. Not in a ‘LinkedIn I’m up at 5am on the grind #working #dontstop’ kind of way (because I’m not) I just find it really hard to concentrate on one whilst doing anything else. Same with music really, I have to have the blandest music in the background when I work otherwise I end up listening to that, rather than working.

Increasingly though there are tonnes of incredibly useful information available on Podcasts, so the way round this which you may find valuable is https://podcastnotes.org/. Depends on which podcasts you like to listen to – they summarise the most popular (in certain areas) podcasts online with the key takeaways and summaries. I prefer reading to listening anyway, and if you combine this with, say, Evernote and Tiago Forte BASB, you can really build up a database of knowledge about any areas you’re interested in.

Favourite ones for me are Rhonda Patrick, Naval Ravikant, Tim Ferriss and some of the Joe Rogan ones. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Worth email subscribing, and if you do find it useful, support them on Patreon. It’s only a few dollars, and you should support sites you find useful.

 

“I listen” by meolog is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Uncle A-Z Food Posters

April 10, 2019

As part of our ongoing work with Uncle, we often get asked to create posters and other collateral to be used internally in their buildings for their tenants.

At their Manchester city centre location, they wanted
to celebrate the diversity of their tenants with an International Food Celebration, so we created this for them. We had to check the spellings quite a few times.

Next Steps