Lessons from The Mousetrap

Last week, I invested time and money in retreating to The Mousetrap, on the North Norfolk coast, to launch my business. I might come to regret that £300, but I don’t think so. Three full days of planning and fresh air brought a clarity to my thinking that I would not have found at home.  I set off with a list of tasks, gleaned from books and training A view of Wells Harbour in North Norfolk, representing calm and thinking timeabout marketing and PR. I did not quite expect to have summarised a personal strategic approach at the end of that time.

I also enjoyed the adrenaline buzz of doing four live Periscopes, three of which can be found on my YouTube channel (I didn’t figure uploading out in time for the first one). They are amateur, raw and hopefully entertaining – and have had an astonishing number of views so far (thank you). It was a great experience, to do something that scared me so much!

What follows intends no disrespect to people who have spent a lifetime studying and communicating what ethical marketing might look like. Practically and philosophically there is material to be found if you look for it, that in its detail and rigour will shame my ‘back of a fag packet’ thoughts. But sometimes you need to just get on and do.

(I got to this thinking through a posthuman lens, a way of working that Kay Sidebottom and myself have been getting to grips with over the past couple of years, fundamentally shifting the way we think about the world. You can read more about this here and elsewhere on Kay’s excellent blog. Not for the first time, a Whatsapp conversation with Kay provoked the suggestions below.)

Figure out your Purpose I went to Norfolk with the intention of distilling 25 years public service into a number of ‘products’, to populate the pages of this website. I’d already been provoked by #soulfulprhour discussion (Sundays 8pm-9pm) to consider my Green colours of the coastal marsh in North Norfolk, representing big sky thinkingpurpose, and these thoughts had percolated on the journey down. Thinking through purpose brought the different elements of my offer into a coherent whole, and I’ll be simplifying the website. I’m really looking forward to that, and to finding out the words for why I do what I do.

Refute the idea of ‘Competition’ Yes, there’s really no need. There’s every utility in a stakeholder analysis; mapping out the landscape for your work. But a competitor analysis feels wrong when the work is rooted in social purpose principles, of working from your values, reflexion, seeking mutual wins and foregrounding diversity. In a Thinking Environment, the core value of ‘encouragement’ is about going beyond competition to the creative edge of collective thinking, and the ‘courage’ encapsulated in that word has always been powerfully resonant for me.

Smash your Filter Bubble We all have one. We talk to people who think like us, which is literally an anti-diverse practice, since all that happens is that we reconfirm our own thinking. Diversity takes effort and its worth it not only because its an equalising force in the world, but because diverse perspectives are what generate fresh and creative thinking; as Salman Rushdie once wrote, they “…let the newness in.” I don’t yet know how to get my ideas out to people who don’t think like me, so I’m not learning as much as The Albatros boat cafe in Wells, representing space and time to thinkI could from other views at this stage. But I’ll figure it out.

Find Constellations of Practice One of the joys of last week was connecting and reconnecting with people I might work with in the future. This is finally my opportunity to work in a truly rhizomatic way, project-based not centred on an organisation. The rhizome metaphor is an apt one, because this is going to be an organic, shifting process full of surprises and refreshingly free of hierarchies. In conventional marketing speak, these ‘prospects’ are going to be key to the future, even if they are not offering cash on the nose at this point. Plus this is a great way to contribute to diversity too.

Follow the Energy of your Integrity Like a dancer or yogi finds a spot to focus on before each balance or pirouette, I plan to use my integrity, something I’ve trialled and learned to trust in recent months, to guide me on my travels. I have learned that if I feel tired about something, there are values not being satisfied for me; conversely an excited feeling is worth investigating. If it checks out values wise, it’s a path worth following.

Be Organised Last week was very much about this for me. Freedom is intoxicating but, Attractive coloured houses against a blue sky, representing time away from homeas I’ve always found, it needs boundaries, or it lacks focus and in my hands (at least) becomes chaotic. A modest investment in Google’s pay-for G-Suite (a fiver a month), plus some time spent messing about migrating data, is already helping me establish healthy practices. I’ve been experimenting with bullet journalling over recent months too, and this is providing structure to my day, meaning that I don’t have to get into a fizz trying to do everything at once. I’ve still got work to do, mapping and recording money, work and ‘prospects’; still have some practical tasks connected with the legalities of start up, but I’ve got a framework now and the important stuff won’t get forgotten in the excitement of pastures new.