Monday, 30 November 2015


     Walt Disney with the fawn Bambi that was kept as a pet at the studios and studied by the artists, 1942.1

What do you see when you think of data?

Do you see excel, soporific powerpoint or hackneyed pen portraits?

Do you see pre-testing debriefs driving brands towards persuasion based communications, a methodology that creates less effective work?2

Do you see Facebook and Twitter distorting reality by counting 3 seconds of muted auto-play as a view?3

I don’t. That’s just noise.

When I think of data I see cab drivers, novels, fields, footballers and a fawn called Bambi.

Data starts with what you want to know.

As Einstein said, “I believe in intuition and inspiration. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.’4

Go outside and you will see pen portraits of great depth and meaning.

Pick out a cab driver. He will look to you very much like every other cab driver. But study him… [and he will be] seen in your description as an individual, different from every other cab driver in the world.”5

If you want to understand situations you’ll never be in, read.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”6

If you want to see how people behave, look in the right places. 

Koolhaas did this for the hallways of his McCormick Tribune Campus Center. Before the building existed there was an open field. Koolhass observed that the students had carved out fairly substantial ruts in the grass from walking the same paths. The result was a highly irregular plan with diagonal hallways.’7

Stop leaving competitor research to the work experience.

Don Revie created one of the most powerful football clubs in Europe during the 60's and 70's, dragging Leeds from the brink of Third Division obscurity to become the most successful football team in the country. "He compiled elaborate dossiers on our opponents, and for an hour or so on the morning before a match he'd analyse every one of their players."8

Approach every question anew, don’t be lazy and expect a one-size fits all formula to give you an answer.

‘In a world becoming more and more this, and more and more that, but above all more and more meditated, the only thing you can trust is the direct route to your own experience.’9

P.S. If you enjoyed this article and would be kind enough to share it on Twitter I'd be extremely grateful!!

1. @ClassicPics
2. Les Binet & Peter Field, The Long and the Short of It
3. Facebook, Twitter
4. Albert Einstein, On Cosmic Religion and Other Opinions and Aphorisms
5. James Webb Young, A Technique for Producing Ideas
6. William Styron
7. Quora, Rem Koolhaas
8. Jack Charlton
9. Martin Amis, Experience