A Word, from Adele Nazeem, to the Wary/Wise

Part III of our “…To The Wise” Triptych

…To those currently at the top of their game.

Wanna stay there?

Well then; in the words of Adele Nazeem*, “Let it Go!”

We’ve talked about the New Kids appreciating how much experience yet remains after graduation in order to season and weather them into the amazing Creative and Technical resources they are going to be; we’ve addressed the danger to our industries in bestowing lofty titles to the unseasoned and the damage that represents to quality of product delivered by these industries as well as to the crimps and obstacles that puts into the aforementioned developmental pathways of the New and NextGen.

So, part three of this set is for us Old Guys; those who’ve been around and working for a while and aren’t in any way ready to leave…and who may feel just a tad threatened by the Whippersnapper Brigade. All those irritating, bright eyes and fresh, unwrinkled skin and ability to pick up any digital device and just freaking use it…

Buncha know it all’s…

Except; they’re not know-it-alls…more to the point, they’re want-to-know-it-alls…

In Illustration: A Personal Anecdote of a Key and ultimately Pivotal Moment in my own, Professional Life that enlightened me to the fact that ageism can just as often be in the mind of the Older than that of the Younger…

After the Crash of ’08 and returning to NYC in ’09, in Survival Mode, I ended up being brought on as a Specialist @ Apple SoHo. Entering the store on my first evening, which happened to be an all-store meeting; my already-low spirits plummeted. I was clearly the oldest person in the place by at least a factor of two, and for the most part very nearly three.

So, it had some to this. A grey-haired old guy amongst this Ocean of Youth. At that moment I felt that I may as well have become a Walmart Greeter, I felt so immediately irrelevant.

But. I. Was. Wrong.

Grey is just another hair color; and the dynamic on the floor is collaborative, organic, supportive teamwork; playing to everyone’s strengths and interests. The level of curiosity emanating from pretty much everyone in the place as to what others bring to the proverbial table is a powerful force; giving me the opportunity to call forth and apply my own tenets of Experience Creation in the creation of my own experience at Apple…and everywhere.

The most salient of the five being Exploration of Assumption.

I’d assumed a lot about how I’d fit.

What I learned was how curious and willing to explore, how intrigued and hungry to learn were all these nimble minds with which I was now surrounded. How could anyone not be open to learning, with the myriad, disparate minds in Collective?

The population consisted of everyone from the Ohio fratboy to the Arizona Cheerleader, the blue-haired Dancer from Denver to the toughass dyke from Brooklyn, the Irish lass from Boston, the nerdy music guy from Houston, the German, the Dutch, the Theatre geek, the Beauty Queen, the Singer, the writer, the former nurse, the marine, the never-even-thought-about-the-closet Downtown boy, the jock…all on the level playing field of technology… Sharing and teaching all at once on the level playing field of technology and teaching.

Historically, I’ve always tended to pick out YPP’s (Young People of Potential) on my teams and give them more than they might think they can handle, though what I know they can; tossing them in with me as safety net, giving them opportunity to discover what’s possible.

I now seek and embrace every opportunity to be around, to teach and enlighten, mentor and guide younger men and women, especially students, because

  • a) they are so hungry to learn and apply what they know and
  • b) one cannot help but Learn Right Back!

So, back to our conversation and context:

New and NextGen in our workplaces and on our workforces are a huge opportunity for all concerned. They want to learn from you, from us.

At the same time, no one wants to look stupid: and, this is Key…

Remember; on the one hand, these YPP’s come with a fresh body of knowledge from whatever institution or experience brought them to your company or context. They know a lot…of what they’ve been taught. They also know they haven’t actually done anything, yet; put anything in the field. That being said; they don’t want to look clueless to you.

So don’t let ‘em feel clueless.

Allow that these kids (sorry, guys; you’re still “kids” to us…) actually do Know Stuff.

Offer to show ‘em how you do something, and remember to ask them how they might do it. See what they know, appreciate what they know, share what you know and – lo and behold – more times than not a better approach can evolve from the combination of the two.

The more welcoming we are, the more willing to show curiosity and the less afraid to look stupid will be the YPP’s; and that is the portal to developing and mentoring new talent and skill.

Fear is what stands in the way of any progress, anywhere. Our fear of what the kids might represent with respect to our own futures; their fear of screwing up and blowing their First, Big Shot at doing something.

They don’t want your job…not today. They want it, someday (probably sooner than is reasonable, but Youth is Youth – whattaya gonna do?). We don’t want them to not enter the workforce, do we?

We want them to join the team; and we certainly want them qualified to create things…Experiences of which we have not yet even conceived as we prepare to depart.

[And, btw kids; for us veterans, “leaving the work force” is not merely the “equivalent of dying” …it is the same thing, and will very likely happen at the same time. Most of us will work ’til the day we die. You are the same. Get that: we get it.]

The way I see it; we have an opportunity to impart what we know and have learned through doing the work together; to evolve our own processes and enhance our creativity by partnering in mentorship with YPPs.

The YPPs, on the other hand, have the opportunity to Learn From the Best while the best are still around.

That, and as they become executives, these kids’ll be in positions to hire us all for those wonderful, Consulting Fees we see, just beyond the horizon; justifiably inflated by our Evolved Relevance in an industry that is rapidly evolving in it’s own right.

[And: just a hint in that area… Probably best not to boast of being technologically deficient. That’s not really seen as an asset, anymore, and – in case you missed it, up above – these are the guy’s who’ll be hiring us, at some point. Best you be able to operate your iPhone without cursing, know how to create a pdf, be facile with digital conferencing technology and just get over your fear and frustration with the pace of technology.]

Avoid troglodickery (look it up ); have these kids teach you how to work your technology. Just sayin’.

So, as we encounter the New, we can embrace and welcome, evolve alongside and remain relevant far longer in collaborative partnership borne of mentoring.

The suggestion is to let go of any resentment and fear; embrace the YPPs and allow them the freedom to be themselves with you. Everyone will win.


*(if you don’t know who this is, get Googling… )


“IMHO,” the iBook on the basics of Creating Compelling Experience with Emotional Connection, is a free download from iTunes and iBooks and readable across the spectrum of OS and iOS.

SPECIAL EDITION: Missed Opportunities in Glasgow

For those intending to create spectacle for a living…

…Those interested in and inspired by the prospect of creating Spectacle to engage and move crowds would be well-advised to study yesterday’s Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremonies in Glasgow…

Not, however, as exemplary concept execution.

Rather, as egregious example of missed opportunities, dropped balls and what would seem to be poorly thought through approaches to storytelling and pageantry.

The full ceremony on YouTube, here.

At the outset, it must be acknowledged that the simple presentation of the athletes is a powerful and moving component of such Ceremony, in and of itself. Beyond that, these Ceremonies had Moments, here and there; momentary tableaux of beauty and near-compelling breadth. These moments, though, were few and far between.

IMHO, the producers and creatives responsible for this Ceremony have let down their audience(s), significantly; leaving it to the audience to infuse the experience with more substance than was actually there out of excitement at the fact of the phenomenon and their own patriotism and sportsmanship.

Having more than three years to plan this Spectacle, it could have been done so much better…without spending an extra dime. What was missing is:

  • thought,
  • creativity,
  • heart,
  • energy,
  • a sense of connection with a live audience and
  • the focus on the experience in the stadium…and, it would seem…
  • rehearsal.

Last one, first. 

A powerful and exciting in-stadium experience, well shot, will translate to the remote audience. This Ceremony, especially at the outset, leaned heavily on pre-produced and inauthentic media; draining energy from the stadium and giving the audience at home no sense of spectacle.

The point of being in a stadium for a Spectacle is to be where the spectacle is happening. Presenting video after video disengages the audience; or, at best, doesn’t engage them as fully or as personally.

In fact, throughout the Ceremony, it seemed that most of the money had been spent on media, animation and graphics when – for my money – just a fraction of that spent on rehearsal halls and staging might well have made for an exponentially-more-compelling Experience. The result was a relatively energy-free, intended-extravaganza that ultimately failed to fully engage.

Even the Hosts were speaking to the Cameras.

Being present in the stadium is the only opportunity for the audience to be immersed in the Experience. When what is delivered in the stadium is designed for close-ups to be telecast to the remote audience – as was a basic mistake of Danny Boyle’s London Ceremonies – everyone is shortchanged…especially the people in the seats.

Some specifics:

In the Positives; the flag entrance was very cool. Nicely done. For the most part, the Put Children First (see below) live segments were solid (though the onscreen talent could have made an appearance in the stadium at the culmination), the international chorus was pretty fantastic and the musical talent was superb.

Beyond that, though…

The very first speaker, Ewan McGregor (love the guy!), wasn’t even in the stadium and was pre-recorded. That entire set-up would have been far more compelling were he to have been live and present. Throughout his moments, he would introduce by video, another video. Lifeless. Not exciting.

Despite John Barrowman’s efforts to infuse energy into the opening number, that segment was focus-free and scattered; launching the evening with little foundation or gravity. Just a moment of pageantry to settle the audience and create a feeling of portent could have made all the difference; followed by something similar to what was attempted as a light-hearted “tour” of Scotland; it’s history, culture and place in the world.

The Scottish Regiment might have been better and more effectively placed, right up front; setting the stage with Legacy and Portent, making a powerful, emotional connection at the very outset without a word being spoken.

Starting the show with one person in the stands is derivative of televised awards shows and dismisses the presence and priority of the Live Audience. This is fine at the Oscars, which is a televised event with a live audience versus such Ceremonial Spectacle, which is a Live Event that is being televised.


So many slow and sloppy walk-ons of principals and performers. Wherefore?

So much ragged choreography. In three years, even volunteers can be rehearsed and deliver crisply.

(And god bless ’em all for their visible and infectious enthusiasm, passion and commitment; many a show of mine has been carried by volunteer talent, onstage and backstage; I deeply appreciate and respect them all.)

The massive field stage pretty much won the battle for attention in the first segments.

So much space, so few people on it. With successive segments on that field, the space underscored the sparseness and looked underproduced and under cast.

Further exacerbating this effect was the poor choice of a “wooden” stage. The blandness of that surface offers no contrast with whatever is to populate that stage; thus what is on stage cannot be effectively articulated with the lighting…a technique that can effectively “hide” the vast empty space(s) and keep audience focus on the points of action. This is especially pertinent to the small groups that were running around the surface.

Too, a contrasting surface would have greatly enhanced the beauty of the “500 miles” ballet; giving it more drama. As it was, it just looked naked. What lighting effects there were was distracting and diffuse.

Alongside the field stage, the vastly underused Main Stage that stretched the entire length of the field, backed by the massively distracting video screen, served to underscore the relative small physical size of the performers as well as their numbers. Rather than supporting the onstage or on-field performers with these features, the screens and stages effectively fought with and overpowered the live performers…until the addition of iMag on the big screen was finally used with Rod Stewart, et al.

Speaking of Nuance: Rod Stewart…

  • Truly needs no introduction; his voice and presence would have been a most effective and more exciting “introduction,” and
  • He might have been better used only once, after the Procession. Using him twice dilutes both Moments.

Back to the field-long screen. This could have been used for far greater effect than to have been filled with all those expensive and often seemingly meaningless graphics.

  • It could have been used interactively; such that the performers and the screen worked in tandem, collaborating for effect far greater than the sum…
  • Rather than compete with the Processional with it’s big, colorful, distracting animations; perhaps successive and kinetic picture-in-picture images that paralleled the athletes proceeding across the field would have kept focus on the athletes and enhanced the intimacy.
  • Using the relatively tiny, up-high screens for iMag pulled attention from the field and the main stage. Not a good call, imho.

The processional was sloppy and slow. 75 minutes for 6500 athletes is too long. This is where that fantastically-long stage down the side of the field could have been put to great use; introducing each team, shoulder to shoulder and marching them onto the field.

We do know from experience that, with this “Broadway” technique, over 11,000 athletes can be brought onto the field in Procession in about 45 minutes with great, sustained excitement, pageantry and dramatic energy.

Another Missed Opportunity.

TelePrompTer. Next to and hidden by the onstage monitors? Susan Boyle? Just asking.

Put Children First. Nice segment and undertone with the potential to be very exciting; though the ball was dropped. How great it would have been, as we’d been set up for this Big Moment throughout the first part of the show, to see the numbers rocket upwards as the entire world SMS’d their donations to UNICEF. Instead, it was Everybody Do This and On To the Next Thing with no follow-through.

Left hanging, we were.

The cameras were a little out of control. During key moments of the program, when actually paying attention to the speaker was probably of the most importance (for The Queen, perhaps; and Malaysia…), cameras were roaming the crowds, seeking Candids, which inspired the athletes to watch out for themselves appearing on the iMag screens and wave to them…

This probably would have been a good time to not do that.

The baton. What happened to the baton journey? All that pre-produced footage of the seaplane arriving in Glasgow, the staging of the baton exiting the plane and the ten-second Pyro Thing as the Baton began the final leg of the journey to the stadium…then, nothing until it showed up in the Stadium on the main stage.

Another incomplete thought, another broken narrative. Why not just save all that video for the introduction of the baton to the stadium and forego what became the throw-away Riverside Moment? It didn’t serve to move the evening forward; rather, it served to break it up with no payoff.

Was there a rehearsal for the opening of the baton? Her Majesty seemed UnAmused.

To be fair (and I always strive to be so); by the end, the stage(s) were full, the audience and athletes where happy. In such events, the very fact of them happening generally mitigates many failings of the production. Pride in the athletes, nationalism, just the exuberance of all that Youth can come together to create an Evening of Fond Memories.

My point is that were it more fully thought-through, with consideration for the audience and engaging use of the venue; the experience would have been profoundly more resonant, compelling and viscerally memorable.

The Five Tenets, “The Original Five” would have been effectively applied to this project. In fact, I am inspired to build a Master Class around the video of this ceremony. There is a lot to be learned from it, IMHO.


“IMHO” remains available from iTunes and the Apple eBookstore for iOS and OS. Incorporating the basics and examples of application for the Five Tenets of Creating Compelling Experience, it is a free download.

A Word to the OtherWise

We’ve all seen it, we’ve been there…

Gathered around a conference table, being briefed by a young, prodigious hotshot at the screen; a little too smug than is warranted by actual experience, speaking with sophomoric certainty of things that may not be quite so Definite and, as s/he speaks, revealing a vast absence of experience to back up the brains and talent so proudly on display.

The guy next to you says, sotto voce, “…that kid’s never actually installed a project in the field…”

The “kid’s” in over her head, the audience is disdainful and distracted by the evident disparity between Position and Experience on display at the head of the room. The young presenter isn’t even aware of the effect s/he’s having on the audience…as s/he’s likely unaware of just how much s/he doesn’t know…of how much experience s/he doesn’t actually have. While thinking s/he’s connecting and enlightening, directing and Impressing; what’s actually taking place is a dilution, a falling far short of the implied respect that was in place before the presentation began.

A passion for the work, entry into the Best School(s), studying with the Iconic Men and Women who Created an Industry, Interning with Disney Imagineering then hired into a popular, sexy Concept Development, Creative or Production company and, finally, plopped right into a high-visibility role with the lofty title of Creative Director or Senior Producer…

…with no, real experience to back it up…

…isn’t enough.

So. Who’s at fault, here?


We received a lot of feedback from our last post, A Word to the Wise, suggesting the focus be turned onto those who employ and present these prodigious young people in roles for which they are not ready; bestowing lofty titles and vast responsibilities to the eminently unprepared and inexperienced.


I am not a “you gotta pay your dues” guy.

Talented, groundbreaking individuals have been and continue to enter these industries from all quarters for decades; enhancing all our products with the disparate backgrounds and perspectives brought to the mix.

No. Not everyone must start in the proverbial Mailroom. Not by a longshot.

I am a fervent believer in recognizing nascent Talent and offering challenge after opportunity after challenge to refine and season said Talent and launch a successful career. I keep my eye out for Brilliant Youth because it fulfills me…and hey: I want these kids to hire me as they Mogul-upwards…

That being said; it is imperative that Talent be seasoned…that young skill be honed in the realities of the field and trench. Without the practical knowledge of seeing and experiencing one’s actual relationship with and to reality, appreciating one’s effect and effectiveness in communicating with others, building teams and projects, managing, motivating, problem-solving on the fly, balancing cultures from corporate to corporeal … one is simply a collection of untested skill and theory.

Don’t do this to these young people; don’t do this to your industries!

Giving a false sense of accomplishment to otherwise brilliant individuals sets them up for failure and crippling, confusing disappointment, down the line. These bright-eyed young people enter an industry for which they’ve hankered and lusted for years; now, they need guidance and mentoring as they learn to Fly; a sage, safety net.

This also costs the industry money, across the board. Inexperience in key positions threatens to lessen the quality of initial result, protract the problem-solving process, likely call for re-do, retrofit and redesign…and it undeniably, insidiously and sometimes irrevocably undermines the quality of camaraderie and teamwork that is imperative for us all to do our best work.

Title Inflation

Offering a young person, fresh out of school, the position of Creative Director or Producer or Leader at any level smacks of Title Inflation. Are these people being paid, concomitant with that level of executive with fifteen or twenty years’ successful experience; or, is the title being used as bait and in lieu of actually paying the salary of a seasoned professional who can mentor this raw material into the valuable and worthwhile talent, worthy of the (hopefully) big salaries they will (or may) someday pull down?

A few months ago, presenting a workshop to an about-to-graduate group of graduate students at The EMDI Institute of Media & Communication in Dubai, I was struck by the number of these men and women who were about to leave school and planned to open their own businesses. It was only as they kept asking about getting clients and navigating the gig market that it dawned on me that they all planned to jump right in as business owners.

While I embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of this multinational group; I took immediate pause and turned the conversation to the reality of learning the craft. No amount of book, study, practical exam and internship prepares one for actually doing the work. Don’t be responsible for this misconception.

What followed was a long and, to many in the room, frustrating conversation about the imperative need for and value of working for someone else, first. Of learning every detail of what a production job entails, from making sure there’s a place to park the generator for nighttime construction lights to securing and placing water for the Talent. The “grunt” work is key to the success of the project, and a good leader needs to be familiar with what it takes to make every detail materialize properly.

That means working for someone else.

One may graduate at the head of the class and leave school with the brightest, shiniest toolbox and the greatest, most creative or organized (or both) brain on the planet. S/he’s still not ready to run the show, or even lead a team.

Give these people a workbench beside the best you can recruit. Allow them the opportunity to watch the woman on the right and the man on the left assail the unique, daily problems of the formless, shapeless work we do and learn reflexive dexterity, to practice practical, unstructured problem-solving not manufactured in the vacuum of a classroom.

And, Ladies and Gentlemen, pay for the Leadership needed and that should be sought to lead and develop these Next Generations of brilliant artists and creators and producers and businesspeople who will take our industries where no being has yet gone.

Don’t saddle the industry with the Brilliant Unprepared. Don’t needlessly risk incomprehensible disenchantment when, given leadership roles bestowed too early, these valuable neophytes find themselves ineffective, not respected, not followed. We all – new, veterans, clients – deserve better.

Paying with titles undermines us all. This shortchanges our clients, dismisses actual experience and implies that School is Enough.

School is just the beginning.


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“IMHO” the ebook, remains a free download from the eBookstore and on iTunes. Check it out.