This week on the podcast I had a fantastic opportunity to meet with some of the team from FailBetter Games based in Greenwich, London. Alexis Kennedy co-founded the studio, and Cash DeCuir who joined their team as a writer a little over a year ago.
They are best known for their Subterranean Victorian Gothic narrative online game Fallen London, that was just launched on mobile as an iPhone iOS application. As of now, you can check out Fallen London in the App Store and there’s a good deal of chance it’s right there featured in the best games at the moment. Of course, you can also play the game directly as I used to when it was first released in late 2009 via the Fallen London website.
I found out about the game years ago and immediately loved the beautiful writing and mysterious world to explore, as I prepared my initial lists of people I’d like to talk for the podcast, FailBetter Games were right there from the beginning.
We talk about their gaming and design inspiration including tabletop roleplaying games and video games, what Fallen London is all about, Sunless Sea (another game available in the same universe) and much more during the episode.
Slight warning with regards to language, there is a tiny bit of explicit language so maybe watch out if kids are around.
Information / links mentioned during the episode:
- FailBetter Games & on Twitter
- Fallen London
- Fallen London on iPhone / iOS
- Register interest for an Android mobile version of Fallen London
- Follow Alexis Kennedy on Twitter
- Follow Cash DeCuir on Twitter
- Sunless Sea on STEAM
- Open Brethren, or Christian Brethren
- Fighting Fantasy / Choose your own adventure books
- Ars Magica RPG
- Fate Game System
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Mario Kart 64
- Super Smash Bros.
- Bioware Games Studio
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- PopCap Games
- Follow Lottie Bevan on Twitter
- Mindjammer RPG
- Scrivener (writing application)
- Twine (writing application)
- Greenwich Mean Time
- Cutty Sark
- Greenwich Maritime Museum
- Follow Hannah Flynn on Twitter
- Stella Artois advertising “Be Legacy”
- Extra Credits Gaming Channel about Sunless Sea
- Felicia Day on Twitter
Early in my career, I worked as a production manager for Landmark Worldwide in Paris.
It’s an international personal and professional growth, training & development company.
I first did an adapted version of their flagship course, the Landmark Forum, for young people when I was 9 years old.
I don’t remember that much of it now. The chairs were kind of uncomfortable, and I loved the giant peanut butter cookie I had at lunchtime.
I’ve been considering writing a Sundae series about my experiences with Landmark Worldwide for a little while now.
They offer courses for individuals and businesses, the main intention being that participants create new possibilities for success, fulfilment and greatness, whatever their goals may be.
Over 2.4 million people have participated in Landmark programmes from around the world.
The Landmark Forum is a practical enquiry into what it means to be human, questioning areas we all have in common like how we listen, how we relate to our family or colleagues, or what we complain about. It offers a methodology to achieve personal and professional results beyond what looks usual and predictable.
Many celebrities, authors and famous business people have talked about the benefits they received from these courses, like Neil Patrick Harris, Chuck Pahlaniuk, Michael J Parker or Peter Diamandis (in this episode of the Tim Ferriss Show).
Their business branch is called Vanto Group and their client list boasts names like Apple, Reebok, ExxonMobil, GSK, Microsoft, NASA and JP Morgan Chase. Paul Fireman, former CEO of Reebok, said the company’s price stock jumped “from the $6 or $7 range to $25 to $30 range” after he introduced his employees to the Landmark training.
From my perspective as a marketing & brand strategist, it’s interesting that for the most part Landmark successfully relies on word of mouth marketing.
Word of mouth marketing is the most valuable, cost effective and most likely to drive sales form of marketing.
According a recent Nielsen market research study, recommendations from friends and family remain the most credible form of advertising globally. 83% of respondents across 60 countries say they trust the recommendations of friends and family.
To improve your own word of mouth marketing you need to build a foundation for it, bake it in your product or service (to steal the words from Alex Bogusky and John Winsor from their excellent book, Baked In: Creating Products and Businesses that Market Themselves).
Word of mouth marketing is only as good as the quality and trust customers place in your product, service and brand.
In the case of Landmark, I admire the fact this seems to be designed in from the ground up. When I get great results or achieve new goals in life I naturally talk about it with my friends and family.
For example, I stopped smoking while doing a course with Landmark in Singapore a couple of years ago. I told people around me that I’d stopped smoking, they’d ask me how and so I’d talk about the course and recommend it.
The tried and traditional approach to increase word of mouth marketing is simply asking customers to recommend your products and services.
Landmark is open about the fact that participants are going to be encouraged to participate in another course or invite friends to find out about the Forum.
I’ve participated in a number of Landmark courses; I always learn a lot and receive great value from them.
My mother first participated in these kinds of courses in the late 70s and 80s. If you’ve watched the TV show The Americans, you might have heard Susan Misner’ character Sandra Beeman mention going to her “EST course”. EST stood for Erhard Seminars Training and got pretty big in the United States then. Big enough to be mentioned in a TV show produced now, anyways.
It was designed and founded by Werner Erhard, recently dubbed “The Father of Self-Help” in a New York Times article. As explained in the article above, a controversial episode of the 60 Minutes TV show in the US destroyed Werner Erhard’s reputation in 1991. He stepped down and sold the company to a group of employees who rebranded it as Landmark.
All the controversial content from the show was later proven to be false. According to this other cited article, that 60 Minutes episode was so riddled with discrepancies that CBS deleted it from their public archive.
Growth, training & development companies and performance coaching has been going mainstream in the past 10-15 years.
I talk about Landmark courses and what I get out of them in any number of situations from job interviews to board level client meetings and conversations with friends.
I had lunch with a professional acquaintance just a few months ago and we talked about how interesting it is that openly talking about this kind of performance coaching, training and development used to be a little taboo, while now it’s pretty much accepted across the board.
Meanwhile, other people aren’t interested in this stuff and that’s fine, of course.
What’s less fine by me is when people, or more often the media, go as far as discrediting and slandering this type of work with little to no evidence.
I’m absolutely for objective criticism and rational discussion for everything, including Landmark or their courses.
I trust if you’ve been reading this far you’re smart enough to evaluate this story rationally.
In 2004, a prime time investigative journalism show called “Pièces à Conviction” aired an episode about Landmark. The episode was titled “Voyage au Pays des Nouveaux Gourous” (“Journey to the land of new gurus”).
I was working for Landmark in Paris at the time. We were 4 employees in the Paris office, and we had just moved to a smaller office to save money on operating expenses.
About 2-3 days before the show was programmed to air we received a call from the production company in charge. That’s when we first learned about it.
I think they were legally obliged to tell Landmark they were airing a piece, though I understand they waited the last possible minute to call. No representative from Landmark was invited to participate.
We learned a guy had been filming with an undercover camera for the past 4 to 6 months.
He’d done a few different Landmark courses and came by the office regularly too.
We all thought he was a nice guy, I’d chatted with him a few times.
To this day, I have a hard time believing he really thought there was anything particularly controversial going on in the office or in the course rooms.
A few days later we gathered to watch the show in the office. I was hoping the show would be objective, but the chances seemed fairly slim.
As soon as the Halloween style horror music kicked off, it was pretty obvious they didn’t have rational criticism in mind.
For more on this, this excellent episode of Film Riot explains how music can shape and manipulate a film scene for the audience.
Additional visual editing elements included coloured image overlays with targets. I think this was because the vast majority of hidden camera content wasn’t particularly exciting or offensive (people talking about their lives in a hotel room or in the Landmark office), so they had to ramp up the excitement factor somehow.
Suffice to say the whole show was highly critical of Landmark and its activities.
At some point in the show, I recognised myself with one of those black labels over my eyes, hiding my identity as effectively as glasses hide Superman when posing as Clark Kent.
At 24 years old, I was devastated to see myself on TV, suspected of being some kind of weird cult guru.
It is one of the saddest and most insulting experiences I’ve ever had.
If I remember correctly all I was doing was talking to the undercover camera guy about his career because he’d asked for coaching. At worst I was doing my job and promoting a course.
It wasn’t a very long scene, nor was I the main target of the show.
Still, definitely not an experience I wish on anyone.
I’ve never been the guru of anyone or anything in my life.
If you know me at all, you realise how ludicrous that idea is.
I’m certainly not saying Landmark is perfect. I really don’t think anyone or any company is perfect anyway.
All I’m saying is I can vouch for the quality of their courses from my personal experience as a participant and former employee. If ever you have any questions about it, I’m always happy to talk.
The damage from the 2004 French TV show about Landmark is done but I hope there will be more chances for balanced and objective reviews of their courses in France in the future.
Fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom. Trustworthy media outlets such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Huffington Post, Psychology Today, Forbes,The Wall Street Journal and many more have published objective articles and reviews about Landmark courses.
Thanks for reading, as always I really appreciate your time and attention. I hope you enjoyed it!
Whilst we’re on the topic of word of mouth marketing, please share this with a friend 😉
To finish on a completely different note, if you want to check out more Ice Cream stuff this week on the podcast I had a fun conversation with Tom Williams, the founder of A Door in a Wall, a London based murder mystery treasure hunt gaming events.
Till’ next week!
This newsletter was originally published via email on the 17th April 2016. You can also sign up to receive Ice Cream Sundae with the form on the right-hand side column or here.
We have a very exciting episode of the Ice Cream for Everyone podcast today! I had heard about Cindy Gallop a little while back and contacted her a few months ago to ask if she’d be up for participating in a conversation with me. A few months later and we managed to coordinate schedules to organise this.
For those who don’t know her, Cindy famously describes herself as the Michael Bay of business; she likes to blow shit up. She has over 30 years experience in brand building and creative communications experience, much of it with BBH, arguably one of the best advertising agencies in the world.
She was voted New York Advertising Woman of the Year in 2003, and in 2009 did a TED talk for the launch of her new business, Make Love Not Porn. We talk about it in detail during the show, and I encourage you to check out the TED talk, it’s only a few minutes long.
Cindy regularly talks about the state of the creative communications industry at different events and conferences and is an advocate for diversity in business. We had a fantastic chat, and I hope you enjoy too!
If ever you’re near Sydney, Australia she will be the opening keynote speaker at Mumbrella 360 Australia on the 7th June, and will also be speaking at a User Experience in San Francisco in August.
I should warn the episode has a little bit of explicit language and of course talks about sex, in case that might offend you. I apologise for the line dropping at a couple of points in the episode, I’ve been having trouble with my Internet Service Provider, I’m in the process of changing it to avoid this in the future.
Some of the information mentioned in this episode:
- Follow Cindy Gallop on Twitter
- Contact Cindy via email: email@example.com
- Make Love Not Porn
- Make Love Not Porn TV
- Penang and Singapore Laksa
- Tampopo (Film)
- 3% Conference
- 2015 3% Conference keynote
- Cannes Glass Lions
- Sheryl Sandberg
- Hakuhodo Agency
- Oxford University
- Everyman Theatre Liverpool
- 2003 New York Advertising Woman of the Year
- The Drum: Cindy Gallop on redesigning the Business of Advertising (full talk)
- Cindy’s 2009 TED Talk
- Cindy interviewed in The Black Apartment for StyleLikeU.com
- Crowdfunding, Venture Capital & Angel Investing
- Cindy on Porn, Youth and Brands
- PR Week: The Future of Sex is Social, Unvarnished and Human, Cindy Gallop
- Little Black Book: Why Advertising Needs to Get Over its Sex Issue
- Anjali Ramachandran on the ICfE Podcast
- Ada’s List
- Angel Academe
- Cannabis, Bitcoin, Fintech & #SexTech
- How People Are Making Virtual Reality Porn (Kotaku)
- How Pegging Can Change the World
- Lila Sutra
- Collaborative Competition
- If We Ran The World
- Shared Value + Shared actions = Shared profits
- Harvard Business School case study
- The Black Apartment, Notorious B.I.G. music video
- Speaking at public event in Sydney Australia Mumbrella 360 event – opening keynote June 7-9th
- Speaking UX week in SF in August 2016
- Ben & Jerry’s: Cinnamon Roll, Frozen Greek Yogurt and Core ice cream flavours
- Häagen Dazs Rum & Raisin ice cream
- BBH Häagen Dazs advertising campaign, 1992
I first found out about The Great Football Giveaway thanks to a post in my friend Neil’s blog, I think back in 2008 if memory serves. I was immediately hooked by the simple and compelling idea: 1 ball = £10
Thanks to donations from supporters, The Great Football Giveaway organises trips to go and give footballs and netballs directly to children to play with, in poor and remote areas of rural African countries. I highly recommend watching this short video about the project; it really says it all and more. If your heart doesn’t melt watching it you might be on your way to become like Professor Coldheart, I’m afraid even the Care Bears can’t help you.
Quick parenthesis to give you the chance to read this Sundae along with music; last week my good friend James recommended checking out an event his friend John was putting on at The Social in London. He used to organise large Afro-beat parties in China under the name No Go Die a few years ago. The music was excellent for dancing and appropriate for this Sundae about Africa. Here’s a good No Go Die mix, I’m listening to it while writing this.
Back to our main topic, I loved the simplicity of it: £10 = 1 ball.
Stripping down an initiative to an extremely simple proposition, getting to the essence of a message is exactly the kind of challenges I tackle as a marketing and brand strategist. This is the kind of clarity I aspire to as a result of my work.
You know exactly what you’re getting and what is being done with the money.
Moreover, you’ll be shown. Supporters get updates about each trip as it’s taking place: photos, videos and even their personalised messages on balls. Supporters know exactly what happened the day the ball they donated £10 for was given.
Nobody says it’s going to solve the world’s toughest issues.
It’s not feeding the hungry or curing diseases.
It is however going to make the day of one or several children in rural Africa who likely only had bunched up plastic supermarket bags tied with string to use as a makeshift ball until then.
It brings play and the widest smiles on faces you’ve ever seen. The joy is infectious, whole communities, schools and sometimes even entire villages join the kids to play ball and have fun.
It’s a gift.
It’s sheer happiness.
After all, what else are we after?
And if you can afford it, that’s definitely worth £10.
I also find this kind of project fascinating because it’s a positive difference made on a micro-scale, for one or several kids somewhere in rural Africa.
Of course it doesn’t replace initiatives that I’d qualify of acting at a macro-scale; large non-profit organisations like Save the Children or UNICEF being good examples. I’m no expert on the way they operate, though I understand their goals, infrastructure and methods are anchored in a long-term and large-scale view of humanitarian and developmental assistance. We could say it’s more of the “top down” view of making a positive difference.
This doesn’t invalidate organisations and projects working on what could be called “bottom up” initiatives like The Great Football Giveaway. On the contrary, every time they have an occasion to collaborate, larger charities are delighted to get footballs for kids to play with.
TGFG also focuses on remote areas that don’t have as many visits or activities from other charities, an important point of difference. These kinds of initiatives can also be amplifiers of larger charities working with children who might be lacking in simple and playful fun.
Fast forward to 2010; Neil is looking for volunteers to go to Tanzania with him.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2010 and Neil announces on his blog that he is forming one of the first teams of volunteers to raise money for balls and then go give them directly out to kids in rural Tanzania. He was hoping to find two people adventurous enough to follow him; eight of us raised our hands from a variety of backgrounds: advertising, media, coaching, hospitality and sales. Hugh who appeared on my podcast was one, and later my brother Björn and his wife Justine also joined the team.
We raised money through our personal networks and organised a fundraising event in London. In the end we had about 2,000 footballs and netballs, almost as many hand pumps and just under two weeks to go and give them out. We were given a broad geographic area to cover and a one-page sheet with a few bullet-point guidelines about the best ways to give the balls. Things like: “Always give the ball directly to a child, not an adult unless you’re certain they are in a position to give the ball and let the children play fairly (like a school teacher). Other adults might sooner take the ball from kids and play themselves, or sell the ball for cash.”
The rest of the planning was pretty much up to us. The area was the Southeast of Tanzania, one of the country’s poorest. Most of the international attention and assistance in the country goes to the capital, Dar Es Salaam and Arushanear Mount Kilimanjaro. After a little bit of research I suggested we make the small town of Kilwa Masoko on the coast our main base, from there we’d split out to cover more ground in three separate teams in different directions.
We also took a few days to drive down to the town of Lindi, approximately 150 kilometres to the South, and give balls on the way.
The whole experience was so mind-blowing that for months I didn’t know where to start or what to write in my blog about it. It’s definitely one of the best and most exciting things I’ve done in my life. While we don’t necessarily see each other very often, nor are we necessarily close friends, I know the nine of us on this trip remember it dearly. From the first drink we shared after landing in Dar Es Salaam we kicked things off laughing and taking the piss out of each other as if we’d been friends for years. We formed bonds and memories that will last for life.
We all saw the opportunity to contribute to something exciting and fun. We were also all in some kind of important transition, like changing careers or thinking about it.
We improvised and learned on the go. We had three four-wheel drive jeeps with local drivers to also help us translate and make recommendations about the best places to go. The container of balls had been delivered to Kilwa. Every day we’d stop at the container to fill the back of the jeeps with deflated balls. The two sitting in the back would start pumping them full, ready to be given and played with. At least in my jeep, the person in front usually decided where we’d be going, often randomly, or with instructions from a previously met person.
In the jeep we’d say things like, “Hey look, a dirt path there! Let’s turn left and see where it goes” or “I think I spotted a school to the right, let’s check it out!” Whether we’d come across random groups of children, schools, or remote bush villages each day was filled with joy and surprises.
Online research had yielded little results as to other non-profit organisations we could contact in advance, as we had been told this area of the country wasn’t particularly visible or known. Still, Neil had located and contacted an orphanage South of Dar Es Salaam that we could stop and visit on the way to Kilwa. The joy and happiness of the kids playing ball was beautiful. The establishment specialised in getting orphan children off the streets of the capital to care for them and provide them with an education.
Play is vital for children but with a tight budget essential amenities are of course prioritised; footballs, netballs and hand pumps that they couldn’t afford were welcomed and loved.
We organised playful competitions with the children to “win” the balls for the orphanage. In similar circumstances we’d talk with people in charge at the orphanage or schools to quiz the children on lessons they had recently learned. Other times we’d come across a few kids playing and stop to just throw a ball at them.
We were emboldened and excited by our first day, thinking we’d figured this whole thing out. The following day we thought we didn’t planning, closed the large map Neil had set on a table and just pointed on the map to the nearest town, Kilwa Kivinje.
It was a Sunday morning.
We hadn’t paid attention to the day of the week.
It was a chilling experience.
From the moment we showed up and gave a first ball things didn’t go as hoped – it was immediately was stolen from a larger teen who ran away, we saw adults adults stealing balls and fighting over them It was either mass or market day so the centre of town was busy with people, quickly driving a raving crowd to almost assaulting the jeeps of these crazy Mzungu giving brand new footballs away.
The feeling going on was nothing like what we intended, it was aggressive, greedy, with a hint of violence in the air.
We retreated, a little shaken and confused.
We stopped on the way of the town, close by what seemed to be a makeshift football pitch. Some of us started talking about what went wrong with the drivers. Meanwhile, I think it was Darren and Hugh, took a football from a jeep, walked up to the pitch and starting kicking the ball. That attracted the attention of a couple of nearby kids. They invited them to come and play. In no time we had a several groups of kids playing and having fun with us on the pitch.
The drivers helped us organise a quiz to give away a few balls, having the children promise to play together. The magic was back.
We put more thinking into our planning after that. We organised our days around going to schools in the area as a main objective, and branching out from there if we saw random kids, or heard of other worthwhile establishments to visit.
On our way to Lindi we drove by another jeep with a Save the Children logo.
We flagged them down and learned they were a small unit providing pre and post-natal care to women in remote bush villages. We gave them a bunch of balls so they could give them in the much further away villages we wouldn’t have time to visit ourselves. I’d write messages and take photos of all the balls my friends had donated money for, so I could tell them exactly where the money went.
In the evenings, we’d regroup and talk about our experiences of the day, trying to make sense of it all – from sometimes feeling kind of useless with meagre footballs in the face of so much needed in the country like health care, education, infrastructure, clean water, and more. And the following moment, one of us would share one of the magical moments we kept having of sheer happiness of these kids playing. We also had memorable laughs and stories around the dinner table and drinking the local firewater with the actual image of a fire on the label; Konyagi.
We weren’t helping solve tough issues yet we also knew that whatever we were doing was so emotional and magical that I’m certain it was valuable.
I guess this could be what I’d like to leave you with for this newsletter. As we grow up and become adults, we might occasionally take too much of a serious approach to what’s important. We worry about our work, taxes, paperwork, healthcare, retirement, etc.
Of course these are all important but ultimately not the best indicators of happiness or even fulfilment. In your planning of everything serious and important for your life, make sure to leave room for play too.
Whatever play you enjoy: kicking a ball with friends or children, playing a game, finger painting, playing a musical instrument, or even fun behind closed doors with your partner.
Happiness is never far away from play, and that’s kind of invaluable.
Thanks for reading, as every week I really appreciate your time. If you’ve enjoyed it and know someone else who might, can you forward them the email please? Sharing it on social media also works, look to the bottom and you’ll find buttons to post it on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.
If you’re looking for something to listen to as well, this week I published a fun and fascinating conversation with Anjali Ramachandran for my podcast. Anjali is the Head of Innovation for a global media agency and also co-founded an online support network for women in technology and business, Ada’s List.
To finish, I’ve officially completed my last client project, if ever you hear of anyone looking for a brand & marketing strategist (preferably in London) please keep in touch, I’d be glad to be introduced and find out how I can help.
Till next week!
This newsletter was originally published via email on the 10th April 2016. You can also sign up to receive Ice Cream Sundae with the form on the right-hand side column or here.
I had learned about the murder mystery treasure hunt events organised by A Door in a Wall since before leaving London in 2011 and stayed signed on to their email newsletter so even while living in Asia I vaguely followed the events going on and am still looking forward to participating to one of them.
The live gaming events have been attracting a loyal following of participants, enough for Tom Williams to make this a full time activity and recently the first regular monthly event, called A Veiled Threat.
I met with Tom in London and we had a great conversation about his background and inspiration for the game events he creates for A Door in a Wall. We also talk about arts, Warhammer miniature games, Escape rooms and more. There are a few odd noises in this recording, sorry about that. I hope you still enjoy!
Some of the information mentioned in the episode:
- The School of Communication Arts 2.0
- A Door in a Wall
- Follow Tom Williams on Twitter
- Andy Warhol
- Screen Printing
- Warhammer 40k miniatures
- Epic Miniatures (Warhammer 40k universe)
- Game Theory
- Tim Harford
- Punch Drunk (immersive theatre)
- Sleep No More (Punch Drunk Production, New York)
- Escape Room
- London’s Best Escape Rooms (Time Out)
- Crystal Maze (British Game Show)
- Time Run London
- The Red Church Brewery
- Hammerton Brewery
- The Rake
- Maltby Street Market
- The Kernel Brewery
- Innocent Smoothies (Apple Mac spoof advert)
- Ikea BookBook
- Marmite: Love it or Hate it
A few Sundaes ago I started a series to illustrate my top Gallup Strengths. For those who missed it, Gallup is an American research-based performance management consultancy. They’re particularly known for their opinion polls, and increasingly for their Strengthsfinder test and strengths based coaching.
Based on extensive research and in-depth interviews with over a million professionals in almost any type of field you can imagine, Gallup identified 34 Strengths themes in total. As of December 2015 over 13 million people have taken the Strengths test and found out what their top strengths are. I already wrote about my top strength, ideation.
This Sundae is about my second strength: Futuristic.
This is what it’s about, from Gallup’s short description:
“People exceptionally talented in the futuristic theme are inspired by the future and what could be. They energize others with their visions of the future.”
I just turned some music to listen to while writing. I appreciate mostly instrumental or electronic music while I’m thinking, writing and working. Music with lyrics distracts me. I first thought of classical and started Beethoven’s 6th Symphony “Pastoral” that I love. It only took me a few minutes to realise it wasn’t right for the context of sharing how this Futuristic theme occurs for me.
Tron Legacy’s original soundtrack by Daft Punk popped into mind and is working a whole lot better. You can read and listen along for additional atmosphere and context. Whatever you think of the movie itself, I think the soundtrack is pretty cool. It boasts a great balance of elative tunes and gritty tones.
If you have also found out about your strengths, I recently found out there is a series of discussion videos about each of the 34 strengths and how they occur for people. I just watched the one about Futuristic and learned that so far approximately 11% of the people who took the test have it in their top five, apparently one of the more uncommon ones to have.
Welcome to the future (We have ice cream cookies).
Well not the actual future, more like a few of the many visions I have of the many futures I constantly think about.
Have you ever read Choose Your Own Adventure books? You might have at least heard about them, they’re written from a second-person point of view and the reader assumes the role of the protagonist. As the reader, you are offered to choose the main character’s actions and the plot’s outcomes. At each page or two, you can either go to page x for action a; or to page y for action b.
Of course I loved these kinds of books. Imagine each one of these stories are like decision trees, different actions branching out from one beginning and leading to a variety of different outcomes.
At almost every moment of ever day I envision sights, smells, sounds and flavours of what a multitude of different possible futures could be.
That’s how my mind works, almost every moment of every day. Images, smells, sounds, flavours of what alternative moments to follow this one could be. The scenes I picture are extremely vivid. They bloom and disappear replaced by another faster than I can entirely appreciate them. There’s so much going on it can even get confusing. I need to make a mental effort to focus on one at a time, consciously slow down the flow.
I constantly play out entire fictitious conversations in my head before talking to people, many of them completely hypothetical. More often than not, it’s someone I’m going to talk to or should because I have something to tell him or her. I imagine all the different things I could say, the many different ways in which they could respond, what I’d reply for each of those, etc. On one hand I think it’s something you can identify with and to a certain level we all do, but I wonder if I, or people with similar strengths to mine, do it more than others.
I naturally ask friends what they have in mind for their future; we share and exchange how things might turn out, what could happen. I build and expand on what they’re telling me. I don’t really ever ask where people see themselves in however many years. To me the future is so fluid and bursting with possibility that a thousand answers to that kind of question would barely do it justice. All of these visions are exciting and inspiring.
Once I focus one particular vision of the future, I can share and inspire friends, family, colleagues and clients with what it can make possible.
Fortunately I can also focus on one inspiring vision and share it with others, bringing it to life. This shows up in the way I can take the lead and instigate plans for activities with friends and family for example. I share the excitement and inspiration I have for an event or occasion, I tell people how amazing it’s going to be.
I already wrote about how I love theme parks in a previous Sundae. The Disney connection reminds me of the film Tomorrowland. I thought it was brilliant and unfortunately didn’t get the box office success I it deserved. I don’t want to give away much, I just recommend checking it out if you haven’t seen it. I believe you’ll at least smile. I felt great about the future watching it.
That’s another funny thing about it: future is never here; it’s a conceptual imaginary projection. We create and recreate what the future might hold may it be a few minutes from now, a couple of hours, tomorrow or in a year. We’ll never actually get there. Meanwhile, I draw strength from imagining what could be and sharing it with others.
You probably won’t be that surprised I love science fiction.
I love reading science fiction. I get excited about new technologies and what they can make possible to benefit humanity. I look up to Star Trek’s universe; it’s a positive vision of the future and of humanity, where real global issues like hunger and poverty are no longer in large thanks to technology. Star Trek’s replicator technology can make anything including food; so material objects and possessions don’t have the same value as we give them today. I’m not a specialist Trekkie so I’m abbreviating its fictional history; in short the kind of technology described were precursors to shifting to a moneyless society and paving the way to explore space. The near ubiquitous touch screen devices we own these days owe much to Star Trek and other science fiction stories designers, scientists and engineers grew up with.
A several points in Dan Simmon’s beautiful Hyperion Cantos, we discover different branches of humanities in a far future, people evolved and adapted to different spatial, chemical and climatic environments rather than the other way round.
As a game master or storyteller in tabletop roleplaying games, I share my visions with players and bring these fictional and fantastic universes to life.
I get excited about reading and sharing about the possibilities of the future and visions of other worlds far from our own. It’s likely to be one of the reasons that got me interested in tabletop roleplaying games. As a player interpreting a character, I get to play out different possible and fictional futures of different personas I can imagine. As a game master or storyteller, I share my visions with a group of players and bring these fictional and fantastic universes to life by telling friends around the table how the world around them looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds.
Gravitating towards new technologies was natural. The opportunity I had to learn and work as a designer was of particular interest because I’d be working with 3D technology. When I had the opportunity to start working as a strategic planner, I was and still am fascinated by how digital technologies impact communications and present both opportunities and challenges for brands to leverage. These days Virtual and Augmented Reality headsets like HTC Vive (I’ve experienced this demo, it’s amazing!), Oculus Rift or Microsoft’s HoloLens are one of the hottest topics discussed around technology and video games. The technologies aren’t yet going to be in every household, though possibilities they promise are impressive.
That said I don’t believe technology is an answer to anything in and by itself. In order to leverage them as part of a solution; challenges and opportunities need to be defined. As part of my work as a marketing strategist I often hear digital technology to be the answer before any question was asked. It’s one of the pitfalls of shiny and exciting new technologies.
The usage and democratisation of technology is growing at such a pace it is not just a dreamer’s fancy to quite seriously mention Star Trek or other science fiction franchises as inspiration to build a better future.
We don’t have to wait for negative impacts to make up a different kind of future.
I know there are heavily negative impacts to the way we’ve evolved and the technology we’re using. We are damaging the Earth we live in and large swathes of the global population live in dire conditions, lacking regular access to necessary water, food or healthcare – not to mention education. Meanwhile, I don’t think the kind of prevalent sensationalist and scandalous media is helping build and share visions of what a better future could be, nor is the trend for young adult Dystopian future à la Hunger Games.
We don’t have to wait for that to make up a different kind of future. It’s down to all of us, in every small or big way you can contribute. Consider what inspires about the future you and tell friends, family and colleagues around you. You might be surprised where the conversation takes you.
I had the chance of speaking with Cindy Gallop for the podcast a few days ago; it seems fitting to borrow her favourite quote to complete this Sundae:
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
~ Alan Kay, Computer Scientist
The conversation I recorded with Cindy will be out in a few weeks, in the meantime this week I published a brilliant & fun conversation I had with Luke Crane, an award winning game designer known for his roleplaying games Burning Wheel and MouseGuard. Luke is also the Head of Games for Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding platform.
I hope this Sundae gives you a flavour of what having Futuristic as one of my strengths means to me. If you’re looking for science fiction of fantasy novels or movie recommendations, give me a shout. Similarly if you’d like to talk about how you or your company could be leveraging digital technologies to solve business and communications challenges, I’d definitely be up for talking.
Live long and prosper.
This newsletter was originally published via email on the 3rd April 2016. You can also sign up to receive Ice Cream Sundae with the form on the right-hand side column or here.
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I’d caught up with Anjali at The Story conference back in February and asked if she’d be up for participating in a recording. We managed to find some time a couple of weeks ago and it was excellent to have a conversation about everything she’s up to these days.
Anjali is the Head of Innovation for phd, a global media agency. She also co-founded Ada’s List, an online community of women in tech and business in the UK, now expanding to the US as well. Anjali regularly writes in industry publications and speaks at a variety of events and conferences. As this is published and in case you’re going too, she will be speaking at the Internet Age Media Weekend in Barcelona from the 7th to the 10th April 2016. She also writes a weekly newsletter and curates a website featuring innovation, startups and new technologies from places away from Western countries focus, called Other Valleys.
We had a fun and fascinating conversation about Anjali’s international upbringing, her interest in TV shows, her sociology studies, her role with phd, Ada’s List and more. Enjoy!
Some of the Information mentioned in the episode:
- One Size Fits One, Anjali’s website
- Follow Anjali on Twitter
- PHD Media
- Ada’s List
- Rose Birch (Facebook), Nicki Sprinz (UsTwo) and Merici Vinton (IDEO) co-founders of Ada’s List
- Kids Club Kampala
- Omnicom Group
- Other Valleys
- Angel Academe
- School of Communications Arts 2.0
- The Drum – Digerati 2015
- The RSA – Royal Society of the Arts
- London School of Economics
- Henry Jenkins
- Grant McCracken
- Amazon instant video
- Full House / Fuller House TV series
- The Good Wife
- House of Cards
- BBC Micro:bit
- Atari 2600 Gaming System
- Super Mario Bros. (NES)
- Prince of Persia
- mIRC / ICQ
- DFID – Department for International Development (India)
- Reevoo – customer service
- Mobilize Online Platform
- Unconscious bias (article in The Guardian)
- Tech in Asia
- Quartz Africa
- Guardian Africa Edition
- Techcrunch Asia
- Bloomberg Asia
- 9 dots puzzle (if you haven’t heard of it)
- Thinking outside the box (9 dots puzzle explained on Wikipedia)
- Strawberry Cheese Cake ice cream
- Chilli ice cream or sorbet
- Words with Friends / Scrabble
- Sport England This Girl Can (Video)
- Internet Age Media Weekend Barcelona
It’s Easter weekend, time to eat lots of chocolate!
Some bits of celebrating Easter are glorious, particularly as a kid.
I remember Kindergarten days in America, we painted hard boiled eggs in a variety of colours and other fun activities. We were told a magical bunny rabbit wandered around gardens and hid chocolate eggs for children to find. This was all great news; hunting for chocolate items was heaps of fun. Add the anticipation of plenty of chocolate to eat afterwards and Easter becomes one of the most exciting times of year.
We were told a magical bunny rabbit wandered around gardens and hid chocolate eggs for us to find.
I love how you can explain what seems extremely outlandish stuff to children and they’re candid sponges for information. I was wide-eyed at these brand new revelations.
A piece of research from a few years ago showed three year old kids tendencies to be more trusting to what they were explicitly told by an adult than what they could see. I guess audio scepticism only kicks in later. It was a small experiment, though interesting. There are two plastic cups, a red and a yellow one. An adult would then show a three year old that he hides a sticker under the red cup. The kid has to guess where the sticker is. With some children, the adult would lie and explicitly say that the sticker is under the yellow cup. With other children, the adult would place an arrow on the yellow cup without saying anything.
The kids who were told the arrow was under the yellow cup would follow the instructions and not find the sticker. The other kids mostly managed to figure out the arrow was a false lead. At that age we’re biased to believe just about anything we’re told.
I also listened to a fascinating episode of TED Radio Hour about brain science this week. One of the stories was about how we know what other people are thinking, from Rebecca Saxe. Apparently a developmental stage happens between the ages of 3 and 5 years old when we grasp the concept that others don’t necessarily think or like the same things we do. To introduce the idea, they played a portion of an interview with a small child explaining to him that pirates love cheese sandwiches; the excitement of the kid when he said he also loved cheese was infectious. The kid was proud to be like a pirate. I was grinning while listening to the story and walking around London.
At first I thought there might be a link between the Easter Bunny myth and the Native American Indian cultural hero and legendary figure Nanabozho of the Anishenaabe tribes who live(d) spread around the Great Lakes area of Northern America.
Nanabozho is a benevolent trickster figure and strongly associated with the hare or rabbit. He features in many stories, such as stealing fire for humans or giving the porcupine its pricks to protect him against bears.
It turns out the Easter bunny comes from Germany rather than Nanabozho Native American Indian legends.
I first learned about Nanabozho thanks to one of my favourite Franco-Belgian comics series as a child; Yakari. In the fourth tome, the young hero of the series Yakari is introduced to Nanabozo, a giant and sorcerous rabbit spirit. It was translated into English a couple of years ago if you’d like to check it out.
After some research it turns out the Easter bunny tradition comes from German settlers to America in Pennsylvania, apparently no link with the American Indian legends. The first written references can be found in German texts dating from the 17th century.
I still wonder if Nanabozho has any links with other trickster rabbits like Bugs Bunny; that will be a story for another time.
Both rabbits and eggs feature in Easter traditions as symbols of spring and fertility. Typically birds lay eggs and rabbits give birth to large litters in early spring. Rabbits and hares are prolific breeders. They mature sexually at a young age, they can give birth to several litters per year and females can even conceive a second litter while still pregnant with the first.
The name Easter itself is intrinsically linked to spring and fertility: it comes from the Germanic and Old English Goddess Eostre. She’s a Goddess of Dawn, bringing light and spring. In French the celebrations are called Pâques; Latin languages derived their name for Easter from the name of the Jewish Passover celebrations, from the Greek Pascha or Hebrew Pesach.
Also, I found out you can call a group of rabbits a fluffle. A fluffle of rabbits.
After I moved to France, at first Easter tradition seemed to approach as per usual. Other kids were talking about the chocolates they were equally excited about getting and devouring for Easter.
But then I raised my eyebrows at a few points. I heard classmates refer to bells.
Winged, flying Church bells to be more specific.
I inquired about this new and unforeseen piece of information.
These church bells supposedly migrate from France to Rome in the days before Easter Sunday and then flew back carrying chocolate eggs that they then dropped in gardens for us to find.
I thought these new revelations were completely ludicrous. I was pretty sceptical about them.
At six years old, I knew the truth: A bunny hopped around with a basket of chocolate eggs and hid them around the garden. The bunny had a plan and left us with a treasure map.
I’m sure you’ll agree it is vastly more sensible than these silly winged Church bells dropping their chocolates willy-nilly. I was OK to give consciousness to a rabbit but not to a Church bell.
It didn’t make sense. The clash of Easter myths was pretty confusing.
It’s interesting to see what happens when one childhood held belief is confronted to another. For a smile, check out I Used to Believe, a website where people share the stuff they used to believe in as kids.
This dude Jesus confusingly died and then apparently came back to life three days later.
I was even more confused when I learned some people believed that at Easter Jesus died on a cross, came back to life three days later and then died again – or something along those lines. Later on I learned that for Jewish people, this time coincided more or less with the anniversary of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt for Passover celebrations.
From what I’ve read, it’s usually between the ages of 5 and 7 years old that children start asking their parents about myths like Easter bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Usually another kid at school told them these characters weren’t real.
These kinds of beliefs start cracking around the edges for children alongside the development of logical thinking.
I was still ready to believe in Santa for a while longer but Easter myths had taken a beating.
That said I still really enjoyed the treasure hunting and of course the chocolates so I didn’t ask that many questions, in case the answers might mean less sweets to enjoy later on.
So I’d go and hunt for chocolates, eat them until my belly ached and suspend my disbelief about bunnies and flying Church bells.
The myth of the flying bells comes from the fact that churches in France, Belgium and Netherlands stop ringing a few days before Easter, explained to children by saying they had gone to Rome. I guess they go to Rome because of the Vatican is, rather than where the best chocolates can be found.
I enjoyed the chocolate hunts so much that later on I’d help my parents hide the eggs and make up the clues for my little brother and sister.
Talking about treasure hunts, I recently had a brilliant conversation with Tom Williams of A Door in A Wall for my podcast, they organise murder mystery themed treasure hunting game events in London. I will be publishing that in a few weeks.
In the meantime, you can listen to my conversation with Richard Huntington, who writes in his popular advertising blog Adliterate. Richard is the Group Chief Strategy Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, and one I used to work at while in Singapore.
I attended a great event this week about the skills gap and lack of diversity in the digital industries organised by Digital Futures. Great speakers included Marc Lewis of the School of Communication Arts, I’ve joined as a mentor and will be volunteering there soon, if you work in the industry I recommend checking them out. I also learned about Apps for Good and Supa Academy from their founders, both exciting initiatives the first for students to create applications that will make a positive difference in the world, and the second to help young people create new businesses.
Finally, if you enjoyed reading this please share it with a friend who will enjoy it too! You can simply forward them the email, or share it to your social networks.
Thank you for reading, have a fantastic Easter weekend!
Till’ next week.
This newsletter was originally published via email on the 27th March 2016. You can also sign up to receive Ice Cream Sundae with the form on the right-hand side column or here.