Archive for the 'Humans' Category

Crowd sourcing your mastery of money

Social media is awesome. Especially for a self-confessed voyeur like myself. I love checking out what folk are up to without the actual hassle of human engagement. All the stalking, with none of the small talk. Win-win really.

It’s also a fascinating window into people’s spending habits. From new sports gear and kick-ass shoes, to the endless parade of pretty coffees, social media tells the truth about where all the money goes.
And as for the hashtags. Lol.

#yolo #worthit #bling #swag #therapy #shoppingspree #need and, of course, my all time fav #girlswillbegirls (oh, sisters, you’ve drunk the kool-aid).

I think it’s time for a new #hashup. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could start humblebragging our money cunning. I can see the tweets now:






Jokes aside, one of the things I’ve absolutely loved about living in the digital age is the always-on access to other people’s smarts. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and all the myriad others are awash with really cool ways to not only save money, but to really make it work. To think about it differently. To use it as a tool, not be owned by it. It’s also been a real eye-opener about how different people relate to money.

Social gives us access to serious, accelerated learning, or what Chris Anderson, curator at TED, calls Crowd Accelerated Innovation. That is, we can see how other people do things, learn from them and then try them ourselves. Multiplied exponentially by the size of the community of other experts and / or experimenters you’re tapped into.

Anderson references dance and TED talks and the upward spiral of improvement both experienced as people engaged with content online, and then adapted what they watched and learned with ideas of their own.

Personal finance is no different. It’s evident in the explosion of innovation in money-related services (think SnapScan, Kickstarter etc.). And it works on the individual level too. If you seek out interesting, money clever folk online, the learning by osmosis is almost inevitable. And social media gives you the quick in to some of the smartest minds in the industry.

This quickly googled list, for example, offers a range of experts on twitter who deal exclusively with the subject of money, from advice specifically for under 30s to accounts that facilitate chats on personal finance topics like debt reduction and savings. It’s a pretty North American list, but a lot of the links and stories and personal testimonials have application here at home too. Spend some time finding some local voices you respect, and pay attention.

But like all industries, there is good advice, and bad. So here are four thoughts to consider when you go social…

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The only people who get rich quick are lottery winners. And even they bought tickets for years. Every worthwhile success is built on a foundation of some good old graft. Don’t be caught in the next Ponzi or pyramid scheme. A healthy dose of scepticism is vital when sourcing info in the social web.

Look for the themes. You’ll start to get a strong sense of what’s worthwhile as opposed to what’s suspect by looking for key, consistent themes. If everyone is saying you need a budget, then do a damn budget. If everyone is saying don’t leave your spare cash under your mattress, then maybe it’s time to invest. That doesn’t mean that the outlier advice isn’t valuable. Just treat it with a little more care and don’t trust your whole financial stability on a lone voice.

Avoid information overload. There is SO much information out there that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I’ve often been paralysed into indecision by reading one too many articles on the pros or the cons of a specific action. Usually then, I stop. Leave it a couple of days. And then go with my gut (or the advice of someone I really trust). Getting trapped in the indecision is not awesome. But not doing anything is not really an option either.

Don’t only trust the timeline. Looking to negotiate your salary? Want to invest some money? Want to save for your kids education? Sure, go online and research the heck out of it. Ask those online experts questions. But also, ask your folks, your friends, a financial advisor you trust. The internet can be a wonderful source of information, but as the old saying goes, don’t believe everything you read. Talk to people who’ve been where you are for some real life balance.

Originally written for 22seven

8 tips for boulder bashing (aka keeping projects rolling)

click image for source

There is nothing worse than a project that makes you feel like Sisyphus.  You know, the ancient Greek guy who was condemned to an eternity of rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll down the other side.  We all know the feeling.

I do a lot of work across countries, timezones and operational teams.  Keeping projects moving is one of the singular goals (and joys and banes) of my existence*.  These might be no-brainers, but these are my 8 tips for keeping projects moving, even when you’d rather give up and just go home.

1. Be realistic about timelines
Projects always take longer than you expect.  And there is nothing more demoralizing and energy draining than endless delays and missed deadlines.  Think…really think…about what (and who) it’s going to take to get your project done. And plan accordingly.

2. Talk about roles and responsibilities
In tasks that require a group, don’t assume you know whose going to do what.  Be explicit.  And be accountable.

3. Catch up regularly
This is particularly relevant for teams spread across locations or online based teams.  Keep a basic work in progress document or action items and hold a weekly or bi-weekly catch up to keep the team on track and motivated.  Weekly accountability, even informal, keeps momentum and makes problem solving easier.

4. Make the goal real
If the team knows what they’re contributing to, it helps.  Particularly on internal projects, where deadlines slip the most.  Seriously.  Being a cog in the machine is utterly soulless if you can’t see how deadly important your specific cog-i-ness is the smooth functioning of the machine (and if you don’t know what the machine is doing in the first place, then you’re really borked).  Metaphor tortured enough?

5. Empower your team to make decisions without you
Every project hits a wall when a decision needs to be made.  And if oneperson (usually busy) is the only decision maker, you’re basically waiting around until they can get to you.  If your team feels empowered to make the day-to-day decisions, but know to come to you with the big ones, you’ll have far more momentum.

6. Put a deadline on the big decisions
If you’re not able to reach consensus quickly, ask the senior member of the team to make a call and put a time frame on the final decision, whether it’s an hour or a day or a month.  Endless debate stagnates a project, but appropriately swift decision making can really move things along.

7. Call time
If a project isn’t going anywhere, take some time out to think about why.  Either have the courage to shut it down and move on to something new.  Or consider what – or who in the team – needs to change to get it back on track.

8. Look back
This is probably the one step that’s most underrated. At the end of each project, look back.  What helped move the process forward and what held it back?  Which were the bad decisions – and there are always bad decisions – and what might you have done differently (with more time, or less pressure?) What can you take into the next project?

Any to add to the list?  How do you help to keep your team on track?

*particularly because these lovely people are generally working on my projects over and above their day jobs.  Did I mention how lovely they are?

A case for leaping about

Two things have totally revved my motor this week.

Firstly, news that Nick Haraway‘s new book, Angelmaker, is finally on Amazon’s pre-order list.

If you’re wondering why this is exciting enough to blog about, read this blurb:

Joe Spork spends his days fixing antique clocks. The son of infamous London criminal Mathew “Tommy Gun” Spork, he has turned his back on his family’s mobster history and aims to live a quiet life. That orderly existence is suddenly upended when Joe activates a particularly unusual clockwork mechanism. His client, Edie Banister, is more than the kindly old lady she appears to be—she’s a retired international secret agent. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine. Having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the British government and a diabolical South Asian dictator who is also Edie’s old arch-nemesis. On the upside, Joe’s got a girl: a bold receptionist named Polly whose smarts, savvy and sex appeal may be just what he needs. With Joe’s once-quiet world suddenly overrun by mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realizes that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she abandoned years ago and pick up his father’s old gun .

And then if that doesn’t convince you, read this.

I. Am.  So. Excited.

The second thing was this fab little film of the people of Burning Man 2011 performing Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”.   Based on Dr. Seuss’s final book before his death, the piece is about the journey of life, complete with the dark and the scary and the lonely bits.  And the people of Burning Man bring it to life with all the appropriate Cat-in-the-Hat madness it deserves.

It makes me happy.  And happy is short supply.

In a week of meh, this little gem lifted me right out of myself.  I’ll take Dr Seuss over navel-gazing any day of the week.

10 things I learned at Tech4Africa

Herman Chinery-Hesse, SOFTtribe Co-Founder and keynote speaker at Tech4Africa 2011

“What are you doing here”, at least three people asked. “I didn’t know you were a geek.”

I’m not. Well, I am in a loose sense. I don’t code, but I know enough about HTML to occasionally end an email to mates with “</rant>”. I’m not techy, but I do spend a lot of time stalking the interwebs. And I’m in a highly iterative learning curve with part of my day job and the business’s digital strategy.

I am, though, a very enthusiastic geek stalker. I hope, a lot, that I will somehow absorb ‘geek’ by osmosis. Because the tech world turns me on. Like a chav Christmas tree.

The level of innovation, the adoption of failure as a critical precursor to success, the liberal and generous sharing of stuff and the collaborative and accelerated learning that happens as a result fills me with a peculiar glee.

In that context, absolutely no surprise then that I was bouncing around Tech4Africa with ill-concealed delight. And this is what’s surfaced after two days of mulling it over: Continue reading ’10 things I learned at Tech4Africa’

Thinking about leadership

In a recent conversation about whether politicians’ private lives are relevant to their public office, I was playing my usual devil’s advocate role, and asking if Bill’s penchant for interns really affected his ability to run the free world.  At this point, Dave Duarte did his usual thing, and brought the argument to a compelling end by pointing out that leadership and ethics are not about delivery, but about inspiration.  He pointed out that under Mandela, we all wanted to be better South Africans, while in other circumstances, with other leaders, we see less reason to ask more of ourselves.

This may seem like a pretty obvious observation, but it shifted something in my understanding of leadership.  I’ve always understood that truly great leaders do more than just their jobs.  But I’d never considered how important good leadership is to our collective social consciousness. However subtle, the cues our leaders give us become benchmarks of a sort.  A view to what we could be.  There is a ripple effect of repercussion in that idea that is in equal parts thrilling and depressing.

This, I believe, is why the whole world is currently mourning a CEO.  Because Steve Jobs did what truly great leaders do.  Only passing reference is made to the bagillions Apple earned under his tenure.  But practically every eulogy, blog post and social media stream is filled with stories of how he inspired people.

And so to me it’s no surprise that Apple and Tim Cook have been under scrutiny since Jobs stepped down from his leadership.  Because the kind of leadership Steve brought to the company is rare.  And while I think Apple will easily ride on the equity of its past success, we all feel that something has been lost now in Steve’s passing.  Something intangible and almost impossible to replicate.  And that will have repercussions for the business long into its future.

And in the meantime, I’m thinking a lot about who I turn to for leadership in my own life and what that is really saying about who I want to be.

On selling out and driving a tazz

This tweet has been bugging me all day.  I don’t know which bit bites me more.  Our ‘issues’ about selling out?  Cashing in one’s “cool”.  Or the quip about girls not respecting a man for driving a Tazz.


Ok, let me caveat this briefly.  Twitter as stream of consciousness is a given.  Sometimes our collective conscious throws up some pretty dumb stuff.  It’s hard enough to share layers of thought and meaning and innuendo and subtlety, let alone in 140 characters.  And I don’t know CapeTown_Girl in the real.  Or how much of her online persona is mixed in with who she is.  So I have no idea as to her intent.  Flippant?  Deeply ironic?  I’m going with both.

So this here rantlet is purely my own reaction to the words as they stand, in my very own frame of reference.

I work in marketing.  I work in the very industry that finds new and ingenious ways to flog more stuff to people.  I have no illusions about any great altruistic contribution to the world.  The gift of my graft to the greater good.  I’m frikkin’ PR, for god’s sake.  But I like to think I have integrity.  I’ve said no to clients who’ve thought spin means finding nice ways to tell lies.  I’ve turned down high-paying work because I don’t support the category.  I find it hard to write drivel about stuff that’s not important.  And I’ve found a place to work that supports my values, even when we occassionally disagree on the exact shades of gray.

It’s bloody hard being a marketer these days.  No one believes advertising any more.  Trust is out the window. The pursuit of the advertising budget means the only worthwhile reads are the Daily Maverick and the Mail & Guardian.  You can’t just say you’re better than the competition, you have to prove it.

And that’s just the corporate machine.  The whole world seems to be finding ways to cash in on the almighty brand.  The clutter is beyond comprehension.  Students branding their cars for petrol money.  Okes selling their foreheads as advertising space.  Women selling their unborn children as brand ambassadors.  Ok, I made the last bit up.

But the point is, we…at least I…want some things to remain unstamped by the big green money making monster.  I want to be inspired, moved, touched, motivated, embraced…but not (always*) brought to you by Big Brand, selling brands since 1863.

So when people like artists and poets and dreamers can be bought….when their whole aim in life is to sign that next big sponsorship deal…my heart sinks a little.  How can I trust you, what you say and what you stand for if I know that even a percentage of that ‘supports the message of our sponsor’ or whatever.

I get that there is nothing sexy about starving for your art.  Freezing garrets are not great real estate.  But surely there can be patronage without being patronizing?  More Medici and less McDonalds?

As for men in a Tazz.  I knew a man who chose to drive a Tazz instead of an Audi.  Let’s call it a lifestyle choice.  A choice that meant he made less money, but he was home every night to put his kids to bed.  I respect the hell out of him.


*Of course, for all my ranting, I’m not sure why I’m ok for Lady Gaga to be a brand bitch, but I’m disappointed by The Parletones?  The subjectivity of art?  My own aesthetic as a form of prejudice?  All of the above?  Either way, it reminds me that it’s always a little more complicated than that.

How I became a fangirl


This is my own little social media FTW story.

I’m rather partial to books.  I collect them.  All over the house, it appears.  Mostly, I don’t remember authors.  Of course, if I fnd an author I like, I read everything they have ever written. Preferably in order, if I can manage it. And if I find something I like, I share.  With my coven, my bookclub, my friends…and now with Twitter.

Standard bibliophile behaviour, I think.

Earlier this year I tweeted that I’d just found a cracking book; Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World.  To my astonishment, Nick Harkaway replied to say ta.

I think I shrieked like a girl.  The author.  Of that book.  Replied to *me*.

I promptly stalked him on every known social networking channel and he was gracious enough to reciprocate.  That alone impressed me enormously.  I cranked the fangirl recommendations up a notch, told the story whenever I did, and left a lot of people with a brain hook with Nick’s book hanging off it.

I thought that was the end of it.

Fast forward a couple of months.  I was sitting in Athens airport with a *very* long wait for my next flight.   Bored and frustrated, I was frootling around on the interwebs, poking people with sticks, hoping they’d play with me.  I sent Mr Harkaway a tweet implying that if I had his next book, I would have something which which to occupy myself .

And then a little personal magic happened.  Nick replied asking me choose five words at random and he’d see what he could do.  I gave him handbag, carrot, daisy, flagellation and hairnet.  For the next 4 hours he live tweeted and blogged a writing process to turn five words into a starter piece for a story.

The results, in three posts, are here…

I think it’s safe to say I was completely blown away.

The point of this little Twitter tale?  I will read every book Nick Harkaway ever writes.  Even if they are shite.  I will tell every book reader (and then some) to read The Gone-Away World.  (Which is, incidentally, very, very good).  I will be a Harkaway fan for life.

The fact that he’s a fan of our own Lauren Beukes is just a bonus.

This is the power of the social age.

This moment when acknowledgement and connection turns an ordinary and largely commercial relationship into something more.  That moment of warm fuzziness when a muggins like me feels like a contributor and co-conspirator to something more than just bond repayments.  Feels special.   Its the holy grail.

Marketing theory calls this the ‘surprise and delight’ factor.  And there are millions of every day moments on the social web to delight people.  Millions of opportunities to create connection.

My final thought on the matter?  Read Nick Harkaway’s book.  It’s freakin’ awesome.

Regretting social media

I had a particularly good conversation today about mining for insight online.  People put their lives online, so from a qual and quant perspective, there is literally bucket loads of information up for grabs for (respectful and careful) brands to sift through for insight.

We were talking about how digital is shaking things up and how terrifying that sometimes felt because there’s no rule book.  No step -by-step guide for what works and what doesn’t.

That’s what got me really thinking.

I wondered what the implications will be for this always-on, over-sharing generation?  Will they (we) regret hanging it all out there.  Like the free-love generation of the 70s, will we realize there are consequences to the kind of anarchy we’re attracted to when we’re young.  When we’re pushing boundaries, discovering ourselves and making massive cock-ups along the way.

20 years ago, if you made an utter arse of yourself in public, you were relatively safe.  Friends or colleagues might mock you for a few years, and there might be on cringe-worthy pic out there on celluloid film to haunt you, but that was the extent of it.  The world moved on and it’s memory dimmed.

Today, you’re a lot more exposed.  Every mistake can be filmed, photographed, annotated and shared with the masses in a nano-second.  And it never goes away.   It’s there, cached, somewhere, for the rest of your natural life.

So when you’re applying for that job or chatting up that guy or applying for that loan, it could all come back to haunt you. Out of context and larger than life.

Will we regret it?  Or will our new order just usher in a more transparent, humans-as-flawed-beings era?  Or will we become so bored by the tabloid machine social media will make of our lives that we just won’t care.  We won’t flinch when the headlines reveal that the new president of the nation was once photographed in the nude with cigarettes up her nose and her knickers on her head? Or worse, smooching a poster of Edward Cullen!

My jaded self thinks there are going to be a lot of opportunities for ‘cleaning services’ in the not too distant future. Nice agencies that trawl the net for your embarrassing stuff and make it disappear.  Or negotiate with the Facebook Emperor Supreme for the quashing of those high school photos.

Maybe we’ll see the rise of the personal spin doctor for the average Joe.  An industry of unctuous individuals who’ll rewrite the past as only so much photo-shopped propaganda.

I think that this generation, just like every other, will want to hide it’s youthful indiscretions.  The question is, how?

Image from here.


Part of my role includes administering a grad programme.  It’s work that I love.  It’s work that keeps me up at night.  I waver between feeling a huge obligation to the amazing young people who are part of the programme and a kind of hurt surprise when they don’t grab every opportunity the programme offers them with both hands.

But I’ve only recently realised that in most cases, what I’m registering as reluctance (at best) and an attitude (at worst) is just fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of not making the right choices.  Fear of success.  Fear of letting people down. 

And so I’m learning to address the fear first and the attitude later.  To take a lesson from Ben Zander and speak only to the best of their possibility.

And to remember all the great mentors I had and be grateful (damn grateful) for their own patience and guidance.

Those lessons and this one have taught me this; when starting something new (a job, a project):

  • Be enthusiastic (even if you aren’t).  People, even difficult ones, respond to positive energy.  And people will remember that energy the next time they’re putting together a team.
  • Be willing.  Follow through.  And communicate.  (This is just as true for senior team members as it is for the newbies.)  People who are willing, who put themselves forward, often get a stab at choosing good tasks.  But delivering on even the boring parts, brings you attention.  People want willing participants.
  • Be brave.  Even if you think you can’t do something, volunteer.  The quickest way to prove yourself is by doing.  And the rush from nailing a task you didn’t think you could do is always worth it.
  • Ask for help.  People love to share their knowledge, it makes them feel good.  So use it.  Get in there.  And the more you ask, the more you learn who gives the best answers.  And so you find your natural mentors.
  • Embrace failure.  If you’re aware and open to learning, you’ll never make the same mistake twice. 
  • Ask for feedback.  Ask specifically for one thing you did well and one thing you could have improved.  Develop a thick skin.  And be prepared to take action on improvement areas.
  • Use your fear.  Challenge yourself to use the emotion as an impetus to move forward, rather than letting it hold you back. 

It’s strange, but I was afraid to take on this role.   I’m still scared.  Scared that I’ll make mistakes that will affect the trajectory of someone’s career.  But the fear is my prod to do better, to try harder.  And it’s taught me more about myself than I ever imagined.

The G.O.D. Theory

My lovely lover has a theory about his plants.  He waters them once a week and they must either Grow. Or. Die. 


I’m delighted.  I’ve been feeling guilty about my plants.  I often forget to water them.  They get droopy and pathetic. But with this theory, all bets are off.  As long as I manage once a week, they’re on their own.


And I was thinking.  I’m rather partial to this theory for real life.  In fact, its one of those big obvious things that you were just waiting to name.  The G.O.D theory. Grow. Or Die. Grow, or you’ll end up a withered, dried-up stick.    


Critical information this. 


And if I believed in an actual God, it would be its theory too, I’m sure.  Grow.  Or Die.  You ungrateful humans.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10 other followers

Follow on