“I am? I am. I am!”
I’m 55 and now live near Chichester in the UK. I’m an only child. I was brought up in the UK, my Mum was a teacher and my Dad, who I didn’t meet until a little later was a talented creative director in advertising. Mum had very humble beginnings and that always made me appreciate things.
I was lucky enough to go to a private school and then to Oxford University where I read Human Sciences and got an M.A. in Human Sciences that covers psychology, semiotics, genetics, and anthropology. It was all about understanding people and that’s been a lifelong obsession. More than that it gave me the lifelong ability to see any problem from multiple perspectives. I believe firmly if you do that, you can see more solutions than by just looking at the problem one way.
Personally I love surfing and DJing, playing trance music. I’ve surfed all over the world, it’s just a totally magic feeling, it makes me feel part of something much bigger and at the same time tiny and insignificant! People tell me I’m kind, original, mischievous and creative. I suspect they are being nice!
When I was 29 I moved to New Zealand and worked in Australia and Asia. While I was there I set up my own businesses which I’ll describe a bit below. In 2016 I returned from New Zealand to the UK to be closer to my folks as they got older.
I’ve always been into understanding people – it’s very hard to predict how they behave. At first I was in Market Research. I found it a bit frustrating because you don’t really do anything other than provide data. You don’t really, unless you are lucky, create any change in the world. I’ve always been arty and into science.
I was very lucky in that I went to work for Europe’s first innovation agency – I loved this as it required creativity (creating new concepts) and science (would these ideas work?) The agency was called Added Value and was based in the UK but soon became global. I was a young Director there.
When I moved to New Zealand in 1998 I worked in advertising as what’s called a “planner”. Essentially, you have to understand the market, understand the brand and work out how to communicate it. I was head of strategy/planning for an ad agency, the position was pan-Asian. I became a bit frustrated with it over time, because, often, an organisation’s purpose fights the brand. How often have you seen an ad, only to be frustrated with how an organisation behaves? If you’ve ever used a large telcos, you’ll know what I mean! I realised that an organisation’s purpose needed to be distilled properly in order for ads to be real.
So while I was frustrated with the job, it gave me an interest in purpose. At that time talking about an organisation’s purpose really didn’t have any currency. And certainly not from an ad agency “just make the ads and shut up” was the kind of long-handed moniker this line of thinking was given. So I set up an innovation agency which I sold. After that I went into property and financial trading, waiting to see if uuness would have currency.
I’m so grateful I did innovation as it helped uuness. One of the great things about innovation is often people don’t know what they don’t know. So many new ideas do badly in research but really well in real life. For example when I first told my Mum about the mobile phone her response was “ why would I need one, I’ve got a phone at home!” Innovation work taught me what people say they will do and what they will do are often very different. You need a strange mix of intuition and the science of behaviouralism ( essentially predicting how people will behave from their existing behaviour) to know if a new idea has legs. This skill played directly into uuness, people often haven’t thought of a potential future you need a blend of intuition and behaviouralism to nail it.
In about 2005,I got a hugely lucky break. An award winning author was stuck about their next book. I realise the real problem was she didn’t know who she was, we are human beings not human doings, if you don’t know your purpose it’s very hard to know what to write. For me it was a moment of revelation. I asked myself a simple question. Was there a scientific approach to life purpose? I was astonished to find there wasn’t one, there were exercises, some life coaches you could talk to about it but a dedicated process? No. I resolved I had to change that. The issue was timing so I applied my innovation training to myself, was it too soon?
In 2005 I took a beta process to New York. I was very lucky in that I had an existing relationship, via a critical early supporter Simon O’Shaughnessey with TEC/ Vistage the largest CEO development training organization in the world. Mark Taylor in New York was an amazing supporter. Without these two people, uuness would not have been born. When you are a pioneer you need a few people to give you the courage to keep going. They make you a leader, without that you are just mad. They both did that and I’m eternally grateful.
I came back encouraged that the process was nascent and on the right lines and utterly deflated that the baby was born too early, even for New York. It was a passion but not a business. I resolved to wait, I just knew it was about time.
Over the next five years I learned to trade international markets and did property. I took a job in planning in Perth with a great agency called Meerkats which kept me going. In my own time I was doing what became uuness with friends and colleagues for free, I was refining the IP. By 2010 purpose science was really starting to provide multiple data points that showed the benefits of finding purpose and psychological evidence regarding how to do it.
By 2016 uuness started performing. The IP has been enriched by colleagues, in particular John, Ian and Pippa. And I’m very grateful for my academic journey and career. My degree taught me about behaviouralism and semiotics. Research taught me people often don’t do what they say they will, without it I wouldn’t have got into innovation consultancy. Innovation taught me the ability to second guess what people were really saying they wanted – a skill vital to uuness. It also taught me about futurism, which I adapted to become personal futurism. There’s a process for how you convert “futures” into personal scenarios, which I learned from innovation. Advertising taught me the importance of purpose and how to construct and expose a narrative producing creative. uuness produces communication tools to keep people on track, without my time in advertising where I learned to construct communication I would have been guessing.
It seems like my life, with hindsight, was constructed to give me the blend of skills and experiences to deliver uuness. I love it. I wish someone had given me uuness earlier in my life. I hope you can see my passion and dedication and I’d love to see uuness helping you find your purpose using science.