I've noticed in the last few years that those "honest serving men" are getting about a bit. Almost every presentation on a process or strategy is peppered with Hows and Whos and Whats.
However, the debates remain:
Do we mean Who or To Whom? (The grammar fanatics love this one!)
Is that the How or the What?
Is When important?
And in this article by Thomas Kolster the author (previously a proponent of Pupose and Why?) suggests that it's now all about the Who a brand can help people to become (so a kind of Who in the future). A brand is a coach, helping people "be more, do more, see more, experience more!". This Who "focuses on the role you can play enabling their beliefs and dreams, whereas Why focuses on your organisation's beliefs and dreams."
The "honest serving men" have done a sneaky pivot from a circle to an arrow (perhaps still golden?). Why has disappeared and taken Where with him:
This all feels suspiciously like a return to "what's in it for me" - or a simple statement of what your brand does for people - benefit, if you like.
Kipling's poem continues - and this is not often quoted -
But after they have worked for me, I give them all a rest. I let them rest from nine to five, For I am busy then ...
I think he had a point, and don't intend to discuss the Whys and Wherefores ;)
One description of the current "coming out of COVID" phase that particularly rings true for me is that we're all teetering on a tightrope between hope and anxiety. The anxiety is a form of constant fear of the unknown, acknowledging that we simply aren't as in control of anything as we once thought we were.
I felt this tension as I booked up my first trip back to the UK recently. Travel and tourism is a category that is arguably the most disrupted by COVID, and also one of the most disrupting to the planet. That brings a double tension into play - should I really be making this trip, not just for my health, but for the health of the planet?
I've had flurries of emails in the last few weeks from airlines, rail companies and hotels. These all take much the same form:
Inspiring the hope: talk of renewal, freedom, reopening. New journeys and destinations. A world waiting to be discovered. Wanderlust. Beckoning pictures of azure waters, golden beaches, midsummer mornings in the far North.
And at the same time, reassurance to calm the anxiety: #WeCare, worry-free travel, safe and comfortable, relax, protection, well-being, flexibility, hygiene, Bring Me Home promise.
I suspect the way we travel will change permanently, as it did after 9/11, and there will be no going back in terms of the new safety measures introduced. But I also wonder if there will be a going back in the way that travel is regarded - instead of "jumping on planes" and "ticking off the bucket-list" I agree with James Bidwell of Springwise who says that travel and tourism will continue to contribute massively to diversity, cultural understanding, education, a global outlook and to contribute to a more harmonious and peaceful world for all. I see a future for travel and tourism which is more conscious, and goes back to a certain degree of exclusivity - that travel becomes a privilege, not an automatic right. And if the excitement and magic of discovery returns, that can only be a good thing. I paid double what I would have done last year for my ferry crossing and don't begrudge the price. I'm hoping it'll all be plain sailing and will see you on the other side!
When I first came to Germany, back in 1996, one of the strangest aspects of culture shock was what I called "unspontaneous dancing". I'd been alerted to this to some extent in Austrian ski resorts, but this still couldn't prepare me for the weirdly robotic and joyless spectacle of what the Germans call Disco Fox. The low point had to be seeing a couple grimly going through the mechanical motions to Smoke on the Water. It was enough to make me want hail a taxi to the airport and hop on the first plane back.
Of course, these days, hailing taxis and hopping on planes seem like quaint memories of the past. We have all read enough articles showing how the COVID-19 crisis has accelerated trends in behaviour that were going on anyway. I commented already some years ago about the reduction of (positive) surprise in our lives, both online and offline.
It's apparent in communication and keeping in touch, where phone calls are scheduled, both business and private, and even meetings with friends are organised with the precision of a military operation - aided and abetted by all sorts of apps and software as well as both virtual and real assistants, planners, coaches and organisers.
Even before the crisis, the entire travel, hospitality and leisure industry was going this way with all-important checks on TripAdvisor, and extensive online research even for a trip to the pub. Serendipity was already on its way out of the window for many people who pooh-poohed the "real god of travellers":
All the strangeness, all the distinctiveness of a country will utterly escape you as you are led and your steps are no longer guided by the real god of travellers, chance. - Stefan Zweig, 1926 'To Travel or be Travelled' After all, who needs strangeness? These days, "stranger" equals "danger" more than ever.
As the world emerges from lockdown, it's clear that chance should play as small a role as possible. It's a world where everything should be controlled, scheduled and traced. Safety and security have become idealised virtues: stay safe, safe spaces. Safety is what is known. Or what we think is known, that is, predictable. And we are armed with templates, frameworks, algorithms and tools to box in, clarify and capture anything that might care to be numinous, elusive or inexplicable.
But, I wonder. While jumping on planes with gay abandon and merrily ticking off bucket-lists might become a thing of the past, maybe more conscious travel and the knowledge that things don't always go to plan may just open a door to discovering things off the beaten track?
And with social distancing the order of the day could those standardised dance moves foxtrot their way back to the 1980s and make room for something a little more inventive and expressive?
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: