Taxonomy of learning & Jazz

Years ago in agency life I was in a pitch for a piece of inter-galactically large business. It brought together people from all seven continents. Rehearsals, refine, rehearsals, updates. A super slick pitch. Everyone knew their bit to the nearest minute. Our pitch proposition – “We are jazz not classical – we can ad-lib, flex around your needs as a client” …. The client loved it – so much so that 20 minutes into the 2 hour pitch they said “Great – we get it. Lets try and do it now. How do we reach small business owners? – 5 groups of 5. We can catch up again in 45 minutes and see how we all got on”. The true horror of Jazz had emerged.

What was fantastic was the client (no surprise – a tech business) realised that doing would be a far better way of finding out about us than us describing…. and they called it.

How do we learn, especially when things keep changing? The key is to “do” as quickly as possible

Not being afraid of the unknown. Not trying to create the perfect answer. Having the confidence to realise that there is no perfect answer will get you most of the way there and at that point you will be in the unknown again but moving firmly forwards.

So onto a favourite chap of mine, Benjamin Bloom. A mid century psychologist who held a belief that learning was not so much about content – but how we matched what we wanted to learn and do with how we learnt it. I like to think Benjamin would have let out a cheer in that pitch and probably referred to this as Mastery Learning.

In a nutshell he broke things into 5 states each one being a higher order that builds on the previous. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

Blooms Taxonomy

1. Describe -Describe, tell, list, find name, what is it?

2. Understand – Explain, discuss, demonstrate, interpret

3. Apply – Use, complete, solve

4. Analyse – Recognise trends, identify issues

5. Evaluate – Judge, defend, choose, select

6. Create – Modify, use old concepts to create the new

The exciting stage is when people to start to move up to phase 3 – Doing. Its a word that comes up time and time again when people talk about success in changing markets. If one can move between apply and analyse and back to apply seamlessly, you’re really starting to change culture and approach.

Doing is tough, it takes time. Its not necessarily the most comfortable thing. As we all know it is far easier to sit round a table describing our worlds to each other. It is when we “do” that we really get the “Ahhhhhh – I see”. The challenge for many businesses is how they get people to apply the knowledge, the things we read about, the people we talk to – see if it works – not be worried if it doesn’t at first, but at least start to get up on your feet.


The Desert Island Challenge

You are sitting at your desk and are told you are on training next week. Survival skills. Really? You go, you listen, you may drift a little. You may have a meeting with a customer which you prioritise, which means you miss the session altogether and hope (or not) to go on the next one.

Let’s wind back. All company meeting, big boss is giving a state of the nation and then announces something. You are all going to be sent individually to a desert island. You are going to need to be self sufficient. Some of you may find the going too much (think Hunger Games for the suited …) but he is going to arrange some survival skills training for you. Provide you the skills you need. Do you attend your survival skills training? Listen? Try to understand?

The point being some training really sticks and starts to create the expected behaviour change and some just becomes a nice day out of the office?

For the latter the most common issue is lack of challenge. Training in itself is not some strategic objective for a business but a tool to realise some other goal. Building skills to achieve something that is difficult at present. The key is “Achieve Something”.

Henderson Kite

So what’s a good challenge? What would it look like?

1. Exciting

2. Litte bit uncomfortable

3. Valuable to the business

4. Have a timescale on it

5. Come from the top


“You are going to have to present back to the board in the new year on the future of interactive technology and how it will affect us? – We’ll make sure you get the training on the interactive tech side”

“Within a month I need everyone to update their clients and customers on programmatic and data and what we are doing. There is some training scheduled for those who would like to know what we are doing in that space”

“The Big Cheese wants us to be more open with our customers and involve them in how we get to the answer. He wants ideas and models for how this could work by next month. He’s given you a training budget of £10,000 for you and a team of 5 – you choose team and what training you need”

Support without challenge is the day out training, challenge without support is just a very stressful and lonely place. When the two circles cross – you can really feel the excitement and energy.


Creative vs media agencies

Pop Quiz. So you think you know your agencies? But do you know (or can you remember) where they came from?

I just found this great table in Hamish Pringle and Jim Marshall’s book Spending Advertising Money in the Digital Age which shows who was created when the main agencies split off their media departments in the 90s. I know for one I did creative agency to media dependent to media agency without even changing desks.



2014 New News & Plans

So  the wheels of 2014 are firmly rolling (we even sorted the HK site!). After a flying 2013 the time has come to get some more help and so it’s great news that Phil Dearson from the Tribal Exec has joined up. Last year we continued to work with the likes of SKY, ASOS, McDonald’s, as well as the RAB, Expedia and the mighty MEC. Encouraging curiosity. Creating the confidence to have a snoop round and not allowing people to be intimidated by it all.

Learning and development remains the focus for us and it’s fantastic that we are starting to run open courses from this quarter. The Action Planning programmes have added real traction for clients who are looking to build on the momentum and want to get things moving internally and get broader involvement. The penny has now dropped with most organisations that it’s not what you know – but how one approaches and navigates the new.

So three cheers for curiosity (and one for Phil). More to follow ….




Good Advice

The thing about really good advice is that you never really know how good it was until a while after. If you knew it was good advice at the time you probably knew the answer but were fudging the decision. It’s when you are in the moment, on a track hurtling in some direction when you just think you need someone to reinforce your position.

My old boss gave me a couple of great ones when I left the comfort of the payroll 6 years ago.

1. To be really great you have to make tough decisions when things are going really well

2. Make sure you pay yourself properly

Both fairly intergalactic in their own right. The first we could talk about for along time and something I really believe in, but its the second that I often come back to. For any new business its key that you get to a position where you start to pay everyone their market value. If you don’t its fairly easy to run a business getting a £100k plus people to work for £15k, it just doesn’t last very long. I fell into the trap with a business a while back – thinking I was “reinvesting”, but the reality was that I was becoming more and more detached from the value of the business and the products we offered. The “reinvestment” plan made it all a little make believe vs feeling every penny you spend which is what a small business should be feeling.

Where I see this happening more and more is not so much in small businesses, but big organisations who are looking to change, or innovate with their products.

The advertising industry historically grew by around 3%. Essentially it didn’t. This made most agencies  try and differentiate from the competition – you had to, it was about stealing. Then along came digital. the growth charts were phenomenal, it was the saviour. New products and services were launched things grew like mad, but the independents (media or creative) grew faster and innovated quicker. Why? They paid themselves properly. They charged clients properly, they paid their people properly, they paid their dedicated management properly and they had a crystal cler idea of their product and how to manage it and importantly grow it.

The “traditional” agencies, were trying to protect legacy revenue – TV media or production, the army of planners who sat in mild panic hoping they wouldn’t get asked a digital question by the client. Money was taken from digital to invariably prop up the old model. Why? because clients didn’t feel they needed to pay for this but agencies felt as though they should – so they took the money, thinking the strategic high ground would be safer than the commoditised trading or production. Clients want the job done, not save money on the money they give you. Its lack of belief in we do that makes it start to be about the money.

It all comes back to being paid properly. Having the tough conversation, being clear on what you are worth which makes you focus where you allocate you resource and why.


Is NFC the final link in the chain

NFC of Near Field Communication seems to be the word of the moment. In essence its the technology that allows 2 devices to swap information – payment, data over a small physical distance. From ticketing with an Oyster card through to quick payment with your phone its pretty cool and simple technology. The phone play is where it starts to heat up. At present the new Google Nexus 2 phone has got the technology, but Apple are still holding back. A mistake I thought, but was corrected by someone recently with “Apple don’t make mistakes, Google do”.

Since the web really launched, it has been direct response clients that have really ruled the roost, they made Google famous, responsible for underwriting most of the technology that runs the web and drove the whole ability to pay and transact online. The FMCG market and small ticket retailers have been very much left behind and a little confused. Its tough to sell beer online.

Online DR has been the darling of the web for a long time. It wasn’t just a marketing tool for many, it was a full end to end business from initial touch to sale and service at the other end. Many of these businesses chuckled quite happily at retailers with shops, seeing the ball and chain of legacy.

But NFC seems to be the final link in the chain. We have seen the claiming back of technology by the people through the rise of social and now as smart phones continue to blur the edges of small computers and big phones, the good old fashioned outlet seems to be coming back into fashion. Not only location based services like Gowalla or Foursquare, but the ability now to really start to link into purchase and “on the move” behaviour.

For a long time brands haven’t really leveraged their non cash assets or realised them as a marketing tool. On pack, instore, at event all suddenly seem very exciting and very relevant, all we needed was to wire them up, which is where NFC will come into its own. Bricks and mortar coming back into fashion and if anything being the competitive edge (perhaps this is why the second word of the moment is the “Pop Up Shop”).

I suspect Google will make it work and Apple will inspire us with it. Exciting times ahead.


Will digital agencies continue to exist?

Will digital agencies continue to exist

What are they and what is their value proposition? Super clued up on technology? Spot a trend a mile off? Do the things your current agencies can’t do in terms of building and delivering or as Mark Cridge recently wrote in his piece Are digital agencies the new dinosaurs? more open and forward thinking in how technology remains relevant to people.

We forget that they evolved in a world without natural predators, which is why they grew so quickly and so were able to be broad. As the ad, comms, PR, media, CRM, BTL agencies start to really tool up and get what is going on, there isn’t just one predator now but many and they know their discipline as well as which platform it sits on.

The final threat to digital agencies is that more and more of them are finding that the continual change in technology means that having specific disciplines on their books isn’t commercially viable and so start to out source production and build. Which grows the production market.

So you are now left with the idea and approach. If we had a room of the industry’s finest and someone said “probably the most important bit” everyone would nod rather wisely, but ask them who gets paid for their ideas, without any kind of execution underwriting their fees and it would be small.

Unfortunately businesses aren’t great for paying for ideas and the getting someone else to execute and as  “non digital agencies” are very good at the idea and able to outsource the execution quite openly, it will continue to squeeze the digital agencies.

I continue to believe “digital” is too broad to be given to one supplier and as such I think many of the digital agencies will disappear. Some will die, some will be picked up and turned into departments, but I’d like think there are some who would drop their digital flags be confident of their skills they have picked up and turn and charge the big guys again.