Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Round up

1. 26 recommendations for May here.

2. The petite sizes are disappearing from certain stores in the US, according to the New York Times. In a similar, and as yet unremarked upon event, men's shoes size 6 are disappearing from the high street in the UK. I am, of course, not a disinterested observer of this happening. But why? Are UK men getting taller, and therefore bigger of foot? Is there a conspiracy against the daintier of us? I am reduced to taking a 7 in a trainer at the moment. It does mean that I can kick a football better, however. Can't explain that.

3. So it seems that you can...

punch a man
have an affair with your diary secretary
have all your departmental responsibilities stripped from you
mangle your grammar on a regular basis

but it seems that what you can't do is take any time off to play a game clearly designed for your superiors in the class structure. Click here for Steve Bell on John Agonistes.

This compares well with the travails of Il Caviliere, who is reduced to claiming foul play and aping Arnie - in letters to other world leaders, no less. What, all the TV stations playing a different show now Silvio?

4. And now a request from our 'Whatever happened to...?' department:

Whatever happened to... 'warchalking'?

I remember the summer of 2002 there was a whole buzz around symbols and codes, chalked on walls by urban renegades who'd cracked a private network where one could hook up, or where a benevolent soul had left their network unencrypted. But it seems to have disappeared as a movement. Which is a shame, especially as there is disgruntlement bubbling up that the coverage of free Wi Fi across London is not as extensive as it could be.

That's it kids. Move along; there's nothing more to read here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

On confessions one might be well advised not to make

"Let me sleep so I can dream of you..."

1. Does one actually broach the subject? I mean, should I mention to V that I did dream about her last night?

2. Will mention of the fact that it was an entirely platonic dream a) be accepted as that or b) be viewed as a hasty cover-up for much deeper, much naughtier nefariousness?

3. Does it symbolise something deeper, a perhaps unexpressed longing that the platonism should be consigned to the winds?

4. And if it does, how should one react? Especially if 5. one doesn't actually consciously (or at least within waking hours) recognises that longing as being one that does actually exist?

6. One can't really do so by email, can one? Especially a work email? Who knows might be reading over her shoulder.

7. And might it not be taken in entirely a wrong, but a differently-wrong sort of way, in a "How come you didn't dream of me in a non-platonic, sexual way? I mean, don't you find me sexy/alluring/attractive...?"

8. And moreover, does it not mean that I'm sub-consciously pigeonholing her as someone who I can't see in anything but a working/colleague relationship/partnership? Which means 9. that I'm not giving full vent to her as a person outside of the office confines?

10) And does it matter that all I can actually remember of the dream was that we working together, it wasn't in London and it was for quite a sexy/funky brand, and not at all dull and boring like the stuff that we did/do/might in the future normally collaborate on?

Right. Text it is then.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The magic of the rolling ball: Old Trafford, 27 May 2006

No doubt the first of many as we gear up towards Copa Mondiale, but tonight's Soccer Aid match was an unexpected treat. Not least the moment when Diego Maradona (that's Diego Maradona) put a penalty past Jamie Theakston (that's Jamie Theakston) by fear and reputation alone.

That's the magic of the rolling ball.

You can still give, although the site is down at the moment. It's for Unicef, so well worth it.

(An explanation of the quote is provided here, btw. It is possibly the most profound thing said by a sportsman ever.)

... and a flip-flop full of yellow

I've been privileged to know JT for well over 10 years now. But to my knowledge, he has never completed a caper quite like this. It is, Hall of Fame material. (Be quick; after three days you'll need to give Tony O'Reilly some money.)

A head full of green

To South Kensington last night, where the V&A were hosting the latest of their Friday Late sessions. This month's theme was gardens, and involved the Society of Garden Designers, celebrating an anniversary of sorts. The Madjeski garden was opened up, a barbecue and bar installed, and as we settled down with vino rosso and a Peroni, we espied from over the other side of the pond...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Some notes towards (another) manifesto

In part prompted by G asking me, "What do you really believe?" when we had a final dinner at The Abbeville a few weeks ago; but also in ruminating on the Big Blogger contest this week - what would I actually say if asked to write? Or, more accurately, what fundamental principles would underpin what I would write. A draft looks like this:

  1. I believe that the market is the best way to match scarce resources to infinite wants; but that man can be made to use those resources more efficiently.
  2. I believe that markets work best within a framework of rules.
  3. I believe in meritocracy; but that an adequate safety net needs to be provided for those left behind. I also believe that for it to be a true meritocracy then everyone has to have the chance to become head of state.
  4. I believe that liberty trumps equality; and that precedent and tradition are not as good a guarantee of our rights as a written constitution.
  5. I believe that businesses are as important agents of social progress as charities and NGOs.
  6. I believe that the triumphs of the commons more than outweigh its tragedies, and that we should value our public realm more.
  7. I believe that not everything of value is counted in numbers.
  8. I believe that technological change is mostly positive, and in the main improves lives.
  9. I believe that words matter; and that you need to say what you mean, and mean what you say.
  10. I believe in glasses half-full, and that things in the UK are not as bad as all that.
  11. I believe in progress not perfection: hence the state of permanent beta.
  12. I believe in the uplifting glamour of old Hollywood films and the revelatory insight of cheap pop music.
  13. I believe that happiness is obtained obliquely.

For Skipping Stones

You'll know that I discovered Heather at Skipping Stones this week, and I've been captivated by her prose and various ruminations. Well, when re-arranging some pictures this week, I discovered a postcard of a still from 'In The Mood For Love', on the back of which I'd copied out a chunk of Carol Rumens', 'Once, after Pushkin'.

Heather, the following fragment is for you.

I loved you once. D'you hear a small 'I love you'
Each time we're forced to meet? Don't groan, don't hide!
A damaged tree can live without a bud:
No one need break the brances and uncover
The green that should have danced, dying inside.
I loved you, knowing I'd never be your lover.
And now? I wish you summers of leaf-shine
And leaf-shade, and a face in dreams above you,
As tender and as innocent as mine.


1. Partial success in the great 61 brand quick of last night (that's 26 +/vs 35, hence the number... oddly there were 63 questions though.) The Crown and Anchor team came second by one point, a heroic second-half turnaround. Our reward was a bag of goodies from those nice peeps at Diageo. Reverting to type, I opted for the Bailey's. Creds to Sarah and her penmanship.

2. Sub editor's fear of the semi-colon: Headline from New Scientists's email news flash service:
Artificial penile tissue allows rabbits to mate normally.

I had to lie down for a bit after I read that particular title.

3. I've (against my better judgement, and perhaps inclination) been drawn in to the whole Big Blogger stuff that is happening at CiF. Particularly there's been an exchange with Liam Bailey of War Pages. For the record, my latest - and hopefully final - word is reproduced below. My response to Liam's challenge is here. He has responded. Frankly, I lack the energy. Good luck, Liam.


Oh Liam, I could argue and argue and argue and argue and argue with you all day, but I might collapse into a never-ending spiral of despair at the futility of it all...

For the record:

"I'll wager you're at least middle aged, and still writing comments on the Guardian CIF so you're obviously a writer that never made it."

I'm 28, and I've been published. I'm being published again later this year. I write as a hobby, but my day job is something corporate, and it keeps me in clover. Am I spiritually middle aged? Almost indisputably.

I nominated Mr PB yes: but that doesn't make me a 'supporter' of him. As I've said before, I hold no brief for any candidate. (And it's hardly as if those of us who have nominated him are 'cronies' or in cahoots over email, or indeed here, thinking of ways to prevent you from entering and winning this competition. [I don't think we've ever *conversed* directly, have we PB?].) I nominated him because, out of the cacophany of voices here, he's the one that stands out the most. I like reading him. I disagree with him sometimes (actually, often), and violently. I think winning will denude him of a lot of his impact. But for me he best meets Georgina's criteria. And I feel no apology for stating that.

Where I do apologise is for not seeing your words of thanks at my (and I do admit it) patronising attempt to correct your grammar. And I am not deliberately, or intentionally, picking on you. But as you are putting your head above the parapet with such insistency it surely should not be surprising that people might take note of what you are saying, and then try to dig a little deeper.

"Everything I send to editors is checked thoroughly and mistake free. I have a note in my daybook to go through all my blog postings and check for mistakes but I just never get time"

Quite. And as I've said before, it's fab that you are young, restless, determined and ambitious, and that other people have spotted and are promoting your talent. But I really fail to understand why you don't take your writing for this forum as seriously as your writing for others. Why isn't what you put in front of us as worthy of being 'checked thoroughly and mistake free'? And to ask me as a reader to excuse you and your mistakes on the basis of a lack of time is not good enough. I might: but I can assure that other readers won't. And will this continue to be the case if you do win?

If you get a chance have a read of what Simon Jenkins has written today:,,1783336,00.html and in particular note this para:

'Journalists have one thing in common with historians, a residual obligation to truth. It may seem hard to credit, but if a serious journalist gets a fact wrong it hurts. (Last week I regrettably confused Maundy Gregory with Horatio Bottomley.) Facts should be taskmasters. They must be sought out and checked, not just made up. An entire profession is supposedly devoted to gathering and assessing them. As Tom Stoppard joked, "Comment is free but facts are on expenses."'

There is no reason why readers and particpants at CiF don't deserve the same committment to facts, correctness and good writing as that you give to your other readers, and that we get from other columnists and posters here. To say or imply we don't demeans us as an audience.

Did anyone ask me or others to pick you up on your grammar? No. But here's why it's important (and apologies if I do sound like a Lynne Truss-style fogey at this point): writing well, correctly and clearly means that people understand you, without ambiguity, without confusion. It means that they get what you're trying to say. And what for a writer is more important than that?

Overall, your casual disregard of those fundamental truths of the purpose of writing and communicating makes me worried for your future success as a writer, a success which your energy clearly deserves.

But (and God knows why I'm wasting my day off in this way), to show I'm a good sport, and I don't mean you any harm or ill will, I'll take you up on your challenge at War Pages. No doubt you'll 'win'. But I hope I've shown you that it's not about winning and besting others at CiF - it's about giving us all illumination and insight. And dare one say it, doing so with grace as well.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lamentations, Lamentations, Lamentations

(but definitely not a commentary on Book 29)

Lamentation No 1: for language

The OhMyGodWhat? dept of the Clear English Society would like to nominate this communication, FWD'd on a few weeks ago:

Hi [name] - Can you liase with HPmF on the feasibility of utilising the FnAT environment for this access that [name] requests? This work will contribute to the R9 Requirements, so FnAT environment is the only likely environment given out NIT Acceptance Testing activity.

[name] - The FnAT environment (at HP) has the current 8.1 build installed, and I hope will meet your needs. We are in a very intense phase with Acceptance testing the 8.1 Release within HP & VF, so that must take priority. However, hopefully FnAT will suffice.

Lamentation No 2: for beer

Young's is to merge with Charles Wells, which means that London is now left with one brewer. The psyche of the city will take years to recover: how can a city as large not support more beer makers? The main hope here is that the fabulous Young's Chocolate Stout does not disappear. Worryingly, Wandsworth suggested that the sale will mean that the area can become regenerated. Which will no doubt mean, in some circular irony, that a brewery will be replaced with vertical drinking factories, alongside the inevitable loft apartments.

Lamentation No 3: for contradictory ambition

The logical conclusion of some of the last week's frenzied activity on CiF has arrived. Riddle me this - for all the criticism of the MSM, plenty of people still want its paychecks.

and a bonus:

Lamentation No 4: for how things were

I discovered the other night Heather of Skipping Stones. She is immaculately sensual about those pressures, confusions, and longings that characterise the start of adulthood: shafts of insight mixed with defiance, pity, and huge heart. Read, and then remember that these things used to matter to you this much. And that that feeling is worth (re)finding every so often.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tour: Stanmore (or some random thoughts after being back for three days)

1. It took half an hour to be able to get on a northbound Northern Line train this evening. 30 minutes! Who knew it was emptier when going south?

2. I think CiF is draining me of, if not the will to live, at least a lot my creative juice. Plus it is endlessly dispiriting to read endless posts that pounce upon well any form of celebrity, or brand, or attmept to do something. Turns out that Graun readers do just want to wait for a perfect world and not get their hands dirty. My overwhelming reaction has been: I resolve to take a more waspish attitude, and sting with only humour/lateralisms now. And the nakedness with such some regular posters want/need their columns, well, somehow cheapens their posts - if it's being treated as an extended job audition, who exactly can be trusted and is being sincere?

3. Made my first Skype call. Woo-hoo! Even if quality was a bit patchy though.

4. Why has Uruguay been left out of the BBC's excellent World Cup Stories show? History doesn't deserve to be treated so contemptuously, just because they're no longer sexy/interesting etc. I mean, they've won it at least once more than England.

5. According to the New York Times, even Leonardo Da Vinci is a brand. I mean, I almost cried. As Bill Hicks did despair, "Quit it." And hell, I work in the industry. Even if I can't afford a Red Amex.

See, told you they were disjointed.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fiction: One in 200

I am the last remaining alpha male.

Do you feel that is a bold claim for me to make? An inappropriate one, perhaps? An unsustainable one?

Maybe you believe that someone other than me has a better claim. Someone not of my type. A sportsman, what are they called, jocks? All muscle and poise and ripple, oozing testosterone. No no… a businessman, all cunning and rapaciousness and greed masquerading as taste.

I can see you are married to one. I can see you fuck the other.

Do you not believe the evidence sat here before you? Or perhaps the claim is contradicted by that file in front of you? You believe that a man of my learning, my education, my undoubted accomplishments in academia render me ineligible for the title.

Or my choice of bedroom partners, perhaps. That because I chose to indulge in the finest of specimens that were placed in front of me, cropped hair, concave chests, limbs kneaded with muscle, a downy fuzz instead of stubble, youth untroubled by doubt… you think that it cannot be macho, if you and I might have happened to share the same tastes in the past. That my choice was once your choice and therefore makes me in some way, like, you.

And yet you smirk at me. When others have come, they are repulsed, or at least pretend to be, by my proclivities and my articulation in defence of them. You are not.

Maybe this is you showing your prime status. Your masculinity in this job. That you will not be out-ballsed. It is a false supposition of course. For in showing me this, in demonstrating it, you lose what makes you you.

But I have no care of this. You are only another interlocutor, sent by an authority that pretends that it needs to know, when of course it would prefer to forget. And when you crack, when your essential weakness reasserts itself, another will take your place. And this loop will begin again, with someone else labouring under the pretence that through conversing with me you will understand me and understand why I did what I did, and that through conversation I will feel redemption, remorse, pity, disgust, self-loathing. And every time, as I’ve told you and those before you and those after you no doubt, such considerations do not apply to me.

Maybe you are smart. Maybe you will start to see why such normalisation and socialisation tactics are useless with me. And not just useless because of the inherent fallibility of a judicial system that preaches that all can be saved – did no one foresee that I would not be interested in being saved if I will never see the outside world again?

But more importantly, not one, not a single one of your colleagues – how many doctoral degrees in psychology are there in your department? – found the obvious. Or perhaps they did, and considered it so outlandish so as to be beyond the bounds of possibility.

Maybe your department needs to broaden its sight when recruiting you and your team. An evolutionary biologist would fit the bill. Because that person would start to tell you something about where I have come from. And even why I did what I did, and would do what I do if I had the chance again.

You composure stays calm, and yet your eyes betray you. You are now confused. And you hanker after a clue. Not the answer outright. Because you still persist in the notion that you don’t need that.
Well, roll this around your salivating tongue: Temüjin.

Oh dear, did you not take ancient history 202 as part of that expensively-assembled education of yours? Standards have slipped at Stanford.

Shall I tease you some more? Or maybe you can venture a guess? Oh of course, in your line of inquiry there is never guesswork involved, only hypotheses proven against theories, and deduced – inducted sometimes – from data, all finely assessed, sieved, recorded.

Well, let me read to you this gobbet. Yes, it’s not entirely barbarous in here; I am given access to some decent reading material. This clipping is from The Economist, your preferred house journal of rationality:

“And there were few males more alpha in their behaviour than Genghis Khan, a man reported to have 500 wives and concubines, not to mention the sexual opportunities that come with conquest. It is probably no coincidence, therefore, that one man in every 12 of those who live within the frontiers of what was once the Mongol empire (and, indeed, one in 200 of all men alive today) have a stretch of DNA on their Y-chromosomes that dates back to the time and birthplace of the great Khan.”

And now there is flicker of recognition. But do you know fully what it means, its implications? Well, the main one is this.

That no one joined the dots.

Your system is blind. Colour blind. You pride yourself on this. All are equal before the law, race, creed, tribe all unconsidered. And that is its problem. Because we are not all the same, not from one race, creed, tribe. If you had looked, had chosen to look, you would have found all you needed to know.

That my blood was spilled over 815 years ago, half a continent away. That from Henity outwards, we have become the men of the modern world. We are who we are because of what we… no no, what he overcame. Father murdered by Tartars. Nomads. A diet of marmots. A half-brother who needed to die as he did not recognise the authority vested in the Khan.

And what he did. The vision to unite ethnically diverse people, build an empire, conquer the world. People could submit without a fight. But if they chose to fight, if they chose to resist, then they could expect no mercy.

And the obvious. A chronicler, Minhaj al-Siraj Juzjani, observed this, if memory serves me correctly: “A man of tall structure, of vigorous build, robust in the body, the hair on his face scanty and turned white, with cat’s eyes, possessed of dedicated energy, discernment, genius, and understanding, awe-striking, a butcher, just, resolute, an overthrower of enemies, intrepid, sanguinary, and cruel.”

Can you now see? Not understanding, not exculpation. But this is me. This is why.

I don’t believe in free will. I believe in determinism, biological inevitability. Someone once said that all men are flawed. How can they not be? The Y is just a broken X, and so are all men broken, and seek to break others around them.

I accepted this, and went a stage further. I gave in to the two-hundredth of me. I chose to be dominated by a fraction, the stem of the letter. Others don’t, others fight this, because they are fools.

And I am aware of the ironies that perhaps – what perhaps? – that you are definitely not aware of. That the empire, that the yasa, in its flexibility, in its strictness, did not stress the importance of biological and cultural ethnicity and race. Turks, Arabs, Chinese, Russians, even some of your European forebears, all as one. That all were equal, including women.
And of course the ultimate: that a Tangut princess castrated him, and the great Khan, husband and lover to 500 wives and concubines, never recovered.

You remain confused by my choice. Not concubines in the accepted sense, the traditional one. Concave chests for me, not convex. But remember: intrepid, sanguinary, cruel. Power.

Pitiful to you, no doubt. You are the pretty, thin black line between order and chaos, respect and deviancy, power and submission.

I am the last remaining alpha male. Until you find the next of my brothers. We are not just on the Steppes. We are in this world, your world, this modern world – we are the challenge that reminds you that it is not as modern as you think. That savagery, injustice, inhumanity are part of who we are, what we do.

I am one in 12. I am one in 200. I am everyman.

Friday, May 12, 2006

In memoriam: Grant McLennan 1958-2006

I only found out today, and I can't believe it took me a week to do so. I am stunned.

On The Go-Betweens' message board, the shock is still palpable. The tributes are warm and heartfelt. The Guardian has the best of the obituaries I've seen so far.

What I have in mind right now:

1) Jo and 'Twin Layers of Lightning', but perhaps it should be 'In The Core Of A Flame', because that was the straight ahead love song, instead of the oblique.

2) I was that teenage Rasputin taking a sting from a gin. I still feel like I am.

3) Shepherd's Bush, in about 2001, with Shane; seeing them as they'd just reformed. I never thought I'd see some of those songs brought to life again. I'm so glad I did.

4) Love Goes On!

I still haven't played 'Bellavista' yet - it feels like it would be too painful. But maybe now.

Here's what I wrote about them nearly seven years ago now: GWMcL, we salute you.




the go-betweens

Shhh... I'm going to tell you a secret. About some unassuming heroes who didn't want it that way. Stars in their minds, but the charts disagreed with them over nine years.

The Go-Betweens were the best band you've never heard of. Throughout the course of the Eighties the reverential reviews they received pondered on the moment when the public would finally get it. At one point in 1986 it seemed as if they would take off into the stratosphere, sewing up the market for intelligent, heartfelt, melodic guitar rock with it. Some group called R.E.M. did instead.

And you have to wonder why. For one The Go-Betweens had not one but two charismatic front men, who happened to be the best songwriting partnership since some overrated Scouse chancers called Lennon and McCartney.

Grant McLennan was the realist, the passionate earthy one who found the very real drama in mundane situations and headstrong women. Robert Forster was the poet who knew it, the lanky dreamer who refused to be tied down to, whose distance from anyone and anything manifested itself in startlingly obtuse yet beautiful imagery. Ably supported by a changing cast of rhythm sections, they set the standard for a generation of singer-songwriters to come, and have very rarely been matched since.

Since their spilt in 1988 in the face of overwhelming commercial indifference, their reputation has grown steadily, and epithets such as Australia's finest export hang easily around their necks. The 'greatest hits' collection out soon, Bellavista Terrace, is a great introduction to the bright and breezy sound of some of the best love affairs you'll ever have. Trainspotters will quibble with the running order and omissions (no 'Twin Layers of Lightning', bastards) but, as ever, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Maybe it's best they stay a secret - that way the romance will never end.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tour (putative): Of shellfish cocktails

With thanks to Claire for revealing the existence of these two fine places in New Zealand: Kiwi 360 and Prawn Farm. Who wouldn't want to spend some time in either or both? Especially if you can play 'killer prawn golf', after meeting Grumpy the prawn.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Capsule: Dance. Design. Delight

Some random and/or assorted thoughts upon having broken my contemporary dance cherry last night courtesy of Jacky and the Henri Oguike Dance Company:

1. The Britten Sinfonia really clear the palate, although the piece (Edward Gregson's 'Stepping Out', brilliantly played) highlights why people struggle with contemporary classical music, in that in its rhythmic intensity and cinematic scope, it could be said to have neglected melodic certainty.

2. 'Front Line' is all squares and right angles, and then suddenly morphs into what I thought was a Nordic West Side Story, especially when the stage is flooded with red and the action is framed within a grey shadow on stage.

3. I really lack a critical language to engage with this stuff. Which is refreshing and liberating.

4. There's a fair percentage of 14-16 year olds behind us, and it's thrillingly exciting to hear their reaction. I feel like I have discovered the new rock and roll: 'Front Line' is on the GCSE Dance syllabus (hence the youngsters, and who knew one could study that?) and yet instead of a grudging trduge to London to wade through a set text, there's whooping and cheering and hollering. Wow wow wow wow wow wow wow.

5. I want to see what they'd do with music by Sonic Youth.

6. As much as when a woman dancing with a man is about seducing each other, it is also about seducing you the viewer.

7. Reading the programme on the way back I discover that these pieces are 'designed' rather than necessarily choreographed. Figures why they might appeal.

8. Jacky tells me that this isn't the best stuff that she's seen by a long way.

9. I think I have a new favourite thing.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Commercial: Bitching pop

Having read this excellent piece this morning, I'm not sure what to think. Hovering between despair and an existential shrug at the pointlessness of it all. There are interesting reflections on brand (and how quietness and not being overtly commercial can strengthen it), celebrity (obviously), but also the absence of community and how ambition for those who can now no longer goes into a desire to run the country, but to subvert popular culture and (despite denials) parade a skittish snobbishness about it. 'Democratising gossip' sounds like a pretty poor substitute for an uplifting culture.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Listorama: Uisge beatha

The cardinal flavours of single malt whisky, as found by Dr David Wishart of St Andrews University, reported here:


You might notice that some of those flavours could do with a degree of, um, definition. What does 'body' taste like? And indeed 'medicinal'? That sounds like drinking single malt Listerine.

However, it's a lovely phrase if you run it all together:

Smoky honey body; sweetness medicinal. Tobacco spicy, winey nutty, malty fruity; and flora.

Which reminds me, now would be a good opportunity to plug both the 26 Malts book from last year, and Stuart Delves' forthcoming great brand story on scotch. Raise one for me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Commercial: Skunkworks

What is this document?
A response to this statement:

“Know we’ve talked about this before… how to make money out of ideas… think this is definitely something we should explore.”

Who else is ‘making money out of ideas’?
Advertisers, for one. For example, BBH have launched a ‘brand invention’ or product development agency called Zag. See,,1761758,00.html

So, can we do it as well?
No reason why not. We have generated a fair number of ideas which, with a bit of time, care, research and attention, could come to fruition, either as businesses or brands in their own right, or as complete pieces of IP that can be sold or traded on.

What sort of ideas?
Well two spring immediately to mind:
  1. The ‘spectrograph’ developed as part of MIA p-design – that could be flexed into a product (a toy?) sold under a proposition of ‘design your own device’

  2. the time management software project that is currently being investigated
In addition to larger ideas we’ve had like Teaden; or the possibility of taking MIA forward should VF not.

Can we really do it?
Between us we have relevant skills in positioning, branding, design - product, service, UE – as well as systems expertise. What we perhaps lack are legal and financial skills, as well as organisational building capabilities. But we can always explore more collaborative methods to plug those gaps, either through venture capital, or more ‘open source’ business models as recorded at We can also get more skills on courses such as that run at the London Business School on ‘Building the creative business’: There are also resources we can use such as the British Library ( as well as studying companies such as First Partner (

How would we do it?
The most obvious way would be as an ‘agency in an agency’ model: ie part of Seren, but with a separate management and staff (who could be seconded on a project by project basis). The model I have in mind was most clearly summarised as:

In this type of skunkworks, geniuses are not just left to breathe pure intellectual air, as they often were in previous incarnations; they are also constantly brought into contact with designers, marketing people, production managers and accountants. The idea is not that they emerge at the end of the day with something that makes their competitors say “wow”. It is that they come out with something that makes their competitors' customers say “wow”. (

And hence the title of this document.

What next?
I would suggest:
a) taking the time management software project as a test case, and seeing if we can formalise both our software needs and the initial research about competitors into something that can become a solid product concept
b) developing a full-blown business plan for the ‘Skunkworks’.

RD 02/v/06

Monday, May 01, 2006

More 26

Recommendations and news about Common Ground. Must get that bibliography finished as soon as.