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I’ve got big ideas, I’m out of control (Commented on “A VC”) September 9, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in conversation, philosophy, work/life.
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Fred Wilson has an interesting short piece up this morning on failure. After reading it, I left the following comment:

I was doing a review of a (young but brilliant) guy on my team recently, and as we were discussing the feedback he said to me “You know, the thing I worry about more than anything is making mistakes.”

I looked at him blankly and said “That is like fretting that the sun might come up tomorrow. Guess what? It’s going to happen! Don’t worry about making mistakes, worry about things you can actually have a positive impact on. If you spend your time worrying about the possibility of mistakes you’re not going to get anything done.”

Now, being Australian (living in Canada atm), there’s a fair amount of a “no worries” attitude that is ingrained in us, but Fred I think you hit on something really crucial about the States – the fact that success is rewarded and if you fail you are encouraged to give it another go; as fortunate as I feel to be from Australia we don’t have the latter as part of our psyche. I’ve benefited from tremendously from growing up in Hong Kong among other places, and I think a willingness to get it wrong is one of the best things any society can have in its DNA.

It’s probably also the reason I’m a long way from home right now 🙂

Originally posted as a comment
by davidgillespie
on A VC using DISQUS.

Now, I adore Australia and it will always be home. We do have an odd relationship with success and failure though, born no doubt from a myriad of cultural sources others I’m sure have written long and eloquently about, and which I don’t want to get into right now. Instead I’ll just say, as I did the other day when someone asked me what this blog was about, I said “big ideas”.

“Are they the right ideas?”

I laughed and said “That my friend, was never the point.”

So, here’s to the big ideas today. Wherever they lead us.

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I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier October 13, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, storytelling, strategy, Video Games.
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10 comments

When I was in the games industry I spent a lot of time writing and thinking about how to deliver narrative in an environment where the progression of the story depended entirely on the end-user’s ability to navigate the obsacles we put in their path, all under the guise of gameplay. It sounds counter-productive, but some of those games can go for upwards of 60 hours, and running in a straight line while a plot unfolds is fun for about 67 seconds, so you have some space to fill.

One of the other crucial elements is understanding what stories you can and can’t apply. Design is invarably driven by experiences designers believe players what to have, you almost never hear a designer say “This is the story I want to tell, what is the best way to do that?”. Funnily enough, while that was my approach, very few people wanted to make my re-telling of King Lear set during the handover of Hong Kong…I can’t say I blame them. Games are, for the most part, engineered so you play the hero and affect the main course of the narrative (what little there is), so the stories are constructed within cumbersome paradigms of good vs. bad, triumph over impossible odds, saving the day and winning the girl’s heart (because you’re almost always a guy).

This may all sound fairly abstract under the harsh light of day in marketing, but the parallels are there to be drawn and should be if we want to get better at telling stories with and through our brands, products and services. I’ve said hundreds of times now – experiences facilitated by but not about a brand; this is key.

When dealing with brands we need to understand the parameters within which we have the opportunity to engage narrative, both for the benefit of an audience and for the brand itself. I’m proposing that there are three types of story-telling we engage in in marketing, and each one should be employed in different circumstances depending on what the aim is:

  1. A traditional, linear narrative where a single point is meant to be reached, leaving the audience with a very distinct idea of what the brand, product or service is about, what it means and what its intent is.
  2. A narrative with the brand at the centre of the story but with the story being generated by consumers, leaving the direction of it loosely defined, usually through a particular campaign moving in a very particular direction.
  3. Narrative with the audience at the centre of the story, narrative where the story is in fact the customer’s own, one where a person doesn’t inform the brand’s story, rather the brand plays but a part in a much larger whole. Hardest to affect, though I’ll argue the most compelling by a long way.

I’m really looking forward to getting into this. If you have any ideas or if you think there are other categories story-telling with brands can fit into, I’d love to hear from you. See you tomorrow when we tackle the first one on the list.

**Update** Tim Beveridge left a great comment below and then wrote some more on Insight + Ideas. Worth checking out!

Image courtesy of Doğuş Kozal, with thanks to compfight.

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Seven worlds will collide May 13, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, work/life.
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This morning I drove one of my best friends to the airport. He was jumping on a plane back to Germany, he was heading home.
The Definitive Guide to Explore  by Timothy K Hamilton

I’ve been lucky to have an extraordinary bunch of friends here in Melbourne from all over the world. Canada, Wales, Germany, England, Switzerland, France, South Africa, Singapore – even the odd Australian from time to time. Having grown up in Hong Kong, I’ve really responded to the variety of culture and influence around me, not to mention the fact that they’re all incredibly passionate, intelligent and entertaining folk.

This got me thinking about the places we draw our influences from, the points we call on to stimulate thought processes and new ideas. Purely a coincidence, but my set of Method Cards from Ideo just arrived which I’m quite excited about. I’m not even sure what I will use them for, but if even a single insight is there to be garnered from them then it is worth the investment. If nothing else, it is a series of thought exercises from a completely different point of view to my own.

I’m a big fan of unconventional ports of call to find ideas that change the game. Speaking of games, when I was in the video game industry in the midst of ord of the Rings knock-offs, I was pitching ideas based on Shakespear – funnily enough none of those games got off the ground (yet).

The point is the games industry subsists on mediocre sequels and plenty of “me too” titles. So much so that when something like The Sims or Nintendo’s Wii comes along, it completely flips the industry on its head and changes everything we held to be true.

The same can be said for consumer products and marketing. Which is why Microsoft buy their way into the game each generation instead of being the innovator, and why the necessary changes to mass media won’t be brought about by News Corp or Viacom or the BBC. Corporations are more human than we give them credit for, they’re the sum of their parts and history just like us; thus they’re looking at what they already know in order to innovate.

We’re drawn to the familiar, to what’s comfortable. We’re naturally averse to change. But if we want to change the game for our clients, products, services and even ourselves, we’ve got to constantly find stimulation from a place we don’t natively have inside. The people I’m lucky enough to have in my life have made me a much better human being and a hell of a lot smarter.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people make a great living out of keeping the wheels turning. But if you want a whole new way of getting around, you’re going to have to re-think a few things…

Photo credit: Timothy K Hamilton, with thanks to Flickr Storm.

8 for ’08 – Random Bio April 22, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in work/life.
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So I got tagged in a meme that circulated the web back at the beginning of the year. It of course went completely over my head and I didn’t realise I’d been tagged, even as I watched it pass from site to site thinking “Hey that looks like fun!”. Chris Wilson over at Fresh Peel is the culprit, he and I got talking on LinkedIn one day, amazing how these things start. Chris, thanks for the tip!

Without further ado, the much-belated eight facts about me that weren’t common knowledge:

1. The first game I produced was an ice skating game called Barbie’s Sparkling Ice Show. Obvious drug/bling references aside, it did quite well, and was a great lesson in brand management and dealing with third-party IP.

2. I grew up in Hong Kong before a short stint in the US rendered my well-spoken Queen’s English accent marred with rolled Rs and “mom” replaced “mum”. It’s much softer these days, though I still don’t sound remotely Australian.

3. Basketball was the only sport I was ever any good at, but I was quite good at that. I once single-handedly scored more points on my own than the opposing team did in the entire game. It would end at that if there was a legend to be made; sadly the other team only managed 13 points, so a Herculean-effort it was not.

4. My first guitar teacher refused to teach me on account of being left-handed. I subsequently stopped learning guitar with him…

5. The first song I ever performed live was The Doors’ Roadhouse Blues. I bought a harmonica the day before to play the solo in it. That was 13 years ago, I am a marginally better harmonica player than I was that day (suffice to say I’m crap).

6. My first girlfriend’s name was Clare Darby. To the best of my knowledge I cannot remember holding hands or even speaking to her one on one. We were five of course, so I think a little slack can be cut. Funnily enough I never went through a stage where I was bothered by girl germs, though girls seem to remain bothered by mine. Hello to Clare if she is playing at home.

7. In Hong Kong all the grass had signs saying “Please keep off”. To this day I have never been camping and have absolutely no desire to. I’m as big a tree hugger as the next guy (unless the next guy is one of the ones that boarded the Japanese whaling ship, in which case I look like a carbon-positive, nature-hating, tree-felling, seal-clubbing, ice-cap-melting capitalist), but to quote Minnie Driver in Grosse Point Blank, I say leave your live stock alone.

8. British GQ is my favourite magazine on the planet. I wish it was something like The Economist, but it isn’t. I love fashion even if I can afford none of it, the writers it has are extraordinary, the whole thing is endlessly entertaining. Unlike Australian GQ, which is fucking awful. If you’re reading Grant, call me – 0404078686, I can save your terrible, terrible magazine.

So, I now have to tag 8 others in this wee game. I am keeping it very close to home and hitting up Stuart McPhee (the best music writer I know), Scott Drummond (the most insightful person I know), Alysha Sandow (the best dressed person I know, she’s a pretty good graphic designer too!), Simon Chen (he’s at the Web 2.0 conference right now, so won’t reply; odds are he wouldn’t anyway), Andrew Cafourek (smart and unafraid of getting his hands dirty in addition to being an incredibly nice guy), Iain Tait (who no doubt got tagged several times with this while he was in India), Laurel Papworth (I’ve only had limited interaction with Laurel but I like the cut of her jib…whatever that means *Update* Laurel has already done this, hers can be found here) and Skelliewag who I don’t know at all but I really like what he does, and so he deserves more of your time and attention (because I say so).