Five things on Friday #361

Things of note for the week ending Sunday February 18th, 2024

INTRO

Well howdy. It’s been a rollercoaster week. A lot of getting to the bottom of things while also trying to stay on top of things.

And wrapped up in all of that, figuring out what it means to be kind.

The Mrs has been quite unwell for sometime now, and it’s been amazing to see who shows up in those moments. You know?

The kindness of small gestures. The kindness of unexpected empathy. The kindness of friends just being there. Never underestimate the value of asking someone ‘Hey, how are you holding up over there?’ because you never know where or how it’s going to land and frankly, coming from someone who is going to be saying goodbye to an old friend this week (one I didn’t actually get to say goodbye to), hitting send on that message is better than regretting not sending it later.

So with that, how are you holding up?

I hope your February has been better than your January and that Chinese / Luna New Year is holding true to its promise and bringing you opportunities of evolution and improvement.

We remain hopeful.

At the end of last week’s edition I asked:

“Good leaders are defined by the leaders they leave behind them. Good leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way. Good leaders are what you make them. Good leaders are… you tell me?”

Ten points to my good friend (and purveyor of phenomenal lunch recommendationsMarshall Manson who was first past the post with this excellent response:

“Good leaders listen. Good leaders create an environment / atmosphere where people can do their best work. Good leaders motivate.

Great leaders coach, encourage, develop, and motivate so that their people perform and achieve above their own potential.”

It got me thinking about a framework (I think) for leadership.

Like, reflecting on some of the great leaders I’ve had in my career, thinking about what they did for me (and for the people around me) and how they made me feel – and then thinking back on what we achieved together I started sketching out a few components of HOW they did that.

Like so:

Draft 1.

In my head, each of these headers has a page behind it discussing what each one means, along with supporting examples.

The one I come back to the most is Psychological Safety but reflecting on Marshall’s input, I think I’m missing stuff around coaching and development.

Hmm. Still noodling.

What else is missing? (Hit reply and tell me).

What else can I tell you?

Oh yes! Thank you for all the brilliant replies about the Disney x Epic analysis I put into the last FToF (and also some TOP SECRET NODS as well – you know who you are!)

This newsletter is and always has been a way for me to think out loud so getting ANY response to that thinking is absolutely welcome – even better when it’s positive 😁

I’m still thinking about it all and I’m still not done on Fortnite either but we’ll revisit it another day.

Right then, that was quite the lengthy intro wasn’t it? Shall we crack on with the actual things now?

Let’s.

TO THE THINGS!


1. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PLANNER?

aka ‘On Figuring Stuff Out’

Kind of a tangential / follow on point from the data-led opener to this week’s edition – I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a planner.

I’ve been in research mode a fair bit of late. Whether that’s reviewing cross-category creative work to generate provocations for clients or doing a deep dive on the data surrounding the games industry’s ongoing round of redundancies (here’s Amir Satvat doing God’s work).

I’ve been spending a lot of time in effectiveness papers, case studies and spreadsheets, looking at data, and talking to people IRL.

This kind of work, combined with a renewed dedication to getting out there and spending time with other planners (hello APG friends!), it’s been nice to be reminded of what it is I love about what I do:

love figuring stuff out.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when I came across this post about ‘How to know if you’re a strategist’ (the Seven Ps of Strategy) from Sweathead.

You’re a P-word

A post that I kind of agree with? I think? Maybe?

The Ps mentioned are: Problems, People, Prying, Patterns, Possibility, Persistence, and Pitching. It’s a pretty good list.

If I could, I’d probably add (or switch) some Ps in – and maybe switch one out.

Puzzles.
I like solving puzzles – with data, with creativity, with strategic leaps. Problems are a good thing to uncover but getting to solutions figuring out the puzzle – that’s the main draw for me.

As a completely random aside: I once visited the International Intellectual and Puzzle Museum in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. To this day, one of the best days of my life.

Provocations.
I like asking questions, yes. And those questions are always in service of getting to better work. But often-times you find yourselves in rooms (or on calls) where there are questions left unasked. The provocative question. The ‘Hang on, why are we actually doing this?’, or the ‘Yes but does the product actually deliver that?’ or the ‘Have we addressed why consumers don’t like you?’ questions. The hard questions you have to ask. And frankly, sometimes the only questions planners can ask.

Pitching.
This is the one I’d probably switch out. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pitching. We pitched recently and a peer said to me as we were leaving the room ‘James, you were born to pitch’. So lovely. And we won the pitch too. Woop.

The point is, it reminded me that I am lucky to have had the training whereby I now enjoy those situations. So many planners and strategists I meet while, yes, they will at some point have to be able to convince a client of a certain strategic course of action, they might not always enjoy the process of PITCHING. Introversion is a common personality trope among planning folk. Solving that? Well it’s a puzzle.

What I am trying to say is this: if you are a planner and you don’t enjoy pitching, then that’s OK. You don’t have to. You can learn, yes. You can also fake it ’til you make it. But if you hate it, that’s OK too and it doesn’t make you any less of a planner.

I think in writing this thing this week I’ve managed to complete the three-writing briefs I set myself in my various social media profiles:

On writing.
On gaming.
And now, with ^ this thing ^ –
On figuring stuff out.

Guess I should write it up into a separate post for the ol’ blog then really. I’ll get right on that.

PS. ‘So you want to be a strategist‘ is still the best collection of learning materials I think I am yet to find for entry level strats and above.


2. GODZILLA MINUS ONE

I saw this movie right before Christmas and it was incredible.

If you’ve not seen it yet, SEE IT.

If you HAVE seen it, then you might enjoy this BTS look at The Visual effects of Godzilla Minus One.

Absolute [behind the] scenes

I love this kind of stuff.

You might too.


3. THIS WEEK IN… GAMING

We’ve had quite the chunky newsletter so far this week. Unexpectedly. So we’ll keep this brief(ish)?

The ‘biggest’ news in games this week (which ended I think more of a minor tremor vs anything earth-shattering – in this humble observer’s opinion at least), is that – in what seems like an experiment for the future – a handful of Xbox exclusives are coming to Nintendo and PlayStation platforms.

Those exclusives are all but confirmed as: Sea of Thieves, Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, and Grounded.

All solid games.
All well worth playing.

For those paying attention, the writing on the wall for this has probably been on the wall since the Activision deal was announced. One might even draw a dotted line back to Todd Howard’s email challenging the status quo for Bethesda.

That said, given Starfield and Indiana Jones (both Bethesda) are not included in this announcement (yet), I don’t know if that holds much water.

Timed exclusives maybe?

Let’s see how it plays out.

Overall I think it’s a smart move. If your biggest competitors have more lemonade stands, why wouldn’t you start selling them lemons?

Quick News Bites.

Finally for this section, Five things on Friday still thoroughly recommends the excellent Video Games Industry Memo, by George Osborn.

I ‘cover’ games a bit with this newsletter (and a few other agencies try and fail miserably with some terrible attempts on Linkedin). George’s however is consistently as insightful as it is enjoyable to read.

Well-researched, well-written, and well worth your time. Go get.


4. KINDNESS

My incredible other half reminded me of this poem yesterday. Given to me by my therapist when things were pretty tough a few years back I hadn’t read it for a while and re-reading it again this weekend, it felt like a revelation.

One to read out loud:

KINDNESS, Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


5. RELATIONSHIPS

via Strat Scraps.

Related: the diagrams book is an essential tool in any planner’s toolbox.


WELCOME TO THE BONUS SECTION. BONUS LINKS THAT MAY KILL YOUR TABS AND I APOLOGISE IN ADVANCE.

Let’s see what we’ve got in the #5things tag bank this week.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.

Next week is half-term here. The kids are off and it’s going to be… hectic? We’ve got my mum coming to stay, then a funeral, then a hospital trip, then I’ve got my mother-in-law coming to stay, then another hospital trip, an operation, then a trip to the midlands and overall I think probably a lot of driving.

When it’s all done I guess then maybe we’ll play some video games?

The short version is:

I don’t know if there’ll be a newsletter next week. But we’ll see.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, sharing, and subscribing.

If you’re looking to find me in more places outside of this newsletter, these days the lion’s share of my diminishing time on social is spent across Threads and Linkedin.

Maybe see you there?

Until next time,

Whatley out x

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Author: James Whatley

Experienced advertising and communications strategist working in brand, games, and entertainment. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x