Author Archives: vishalkthacker

About vishalkthacker

I've always been curious and irrational by nature. I dropped out of engineering school, with no clue of what I wanted to do. I discovered marketing, and therein what I love: brands. The world of brands helped me channel my curiosity about people to help make great stuff. I also love poetry, football and cooking!

Content, Form, Fantasy

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Picture credit: John Holcroft Art

There is no content without form.

Neither is there form without content.

Neither one is greater than the other. As both have their unique roles. And as creators, we must take care to ensure that they play their parts to create the world that we’re aiming to create.

As creators, our job is in fact to conduct two equally capable musicians coming together to create a single piece of music coherent to the ear.

We must take care to not present content with no form whatsoever. For form helps content by making it more easy, interesting and appeasing to absorb. Most philosophy is guilty of a lack of form. So is most theoretical physics.

But bring together a fair balance of form and content, and you have the opportunity to bring to the world things that are normally difficult to digest.

Alain de Botton does this with Philosophy. Or Jason Silva.

Carl Sagan did this with Physics. So does Stephen Hawking.

On the other end, we must take care not to glorify form at the cost of content. For we can build several empty things on form, but they shall be just that: empty. Fads are guilty of a lack of true content. So is most pop music.

This is when any creation enters the realm of fantasy. It is when you see that metaphor is greater than meaning itself. Or showmanship, greater than the show.

In a culture that encourages and propagates this, real content is either non-existent or completely forgotten.

And any culture with empty form, is just that. Empty.

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On Breaking Patterns

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“… by a process which C.G. Jung called “enantiodromia”, the attainment of any extreme position is the point where it begins to turn into its own opposite—a process that can be dreary and repetitious without the realization that opposite extremes are polar, and that poles need each other.”

This extract from Alan Watts’ ‘The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are‘ has been one of my highlights from the book. I have thought on several occasions how the strange nature of opposites creeps up on us when we least expect it, and have seen it play in my own life.

I had an interesting chat with a friend once. She mentioned that she doesn’t have an extreme point of view on anything. She’s somewhat neutral about most things, without taking a very strong stand. She went on to explain how she thought it was futile to have an extreme point of view on anything.

We soon realised that this itself was an extreme point of view. It was an extreme position against taking extreme positions.

It had become its own opposite.

I was fascinated by how we cannot escape the nature of opposites in our personalities and behaviour.

This led me to think about attitudes, behaviour and by extension, culture. If culture can be seen as shared attitudes and behaviour: then it can be construed that any culture that takes any perspective too far, becomes its own opposite. Even if that was a good perspective to begin with.

For instance, a culture that promises to be constantly ‘creative’, does ‘creativity’ over and over again and soon the ‘creative’ process becomes rote. It becomes the very impediment to true creativity. This; I fear, is the true problem with most ‘creative’ industries and why true creativity has been reduced to a label for rote.

The same is true for any culture that tries to be constantly ‘innovative’. For  true innovation to exist: the uninspired must exist too. And when ‘innovation’ is all one does, it becomes repetitive and leads to very little true innovation.

Any culture, individual, or group that is driven by a philosophy manifested in action must constantly question its own action. It must ensure that its philosophy does not become merely a label to a process of repetition that then becomes a mockery for what the philosophy truly represents.

It is essential to break our norms. Break our patterns. In order that our action be truly aligned with our philosophy. In order that our actions be truly fulfilling.

Image credit: Alain Jaquier

All Kidding Aside

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All jokes are inside jokes.

Just that some circles are bigger than others.

Comedy is always contextual.

If you understand the joke, it is due to context.

In fact I would go so far as to say that a joke is only funny, due to its context.

A joke in Germany is merely an anecdote in Italy.

A joke in my circle of friends, is meaningless to your circle of friends.

Comedy; like language and culture, is shared norms and meaning within a group of people.

If anything, comedy is often used as a means to bring to light what is wrong within a group. What is questionable, detestable and discomforting in the meaning that is shared.

Humor does this by exaggerating that which is obvious, and saying that which nobody is willing to admit.

The concerns that plague a group of people who share meaning, are often reflected in it’s comedy.

Hence we can use a group’s comedy as an indicator of the meaning that this group shares.

Any group.

A group of friends.

A country.

A company.

Through humor we can learn much about them.

Hang by culture’s metaphorical water coolers, listen to the comedy and you will learn much about your culture. And by extension, yourself.

And if you wish to change the culture of your company, don’t ask people what it is they would change in management.

Listen to what it is they choose to laugh about.

Picture courtesy: nerdwriter1: Louis CK Is A Moral Detective

On Putting Yourself ‘Out There’

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I recently had someone come up to me and tell me that I had inspired them to start their own blog.

To say that I was taken aback, would be an understatement, for several reasons that I shan’t dwell on here. We went on to have an interesting chat on the importance of putting yourself out there.

This is something I have always felt strongly. I have sensed in people, a fundamental fear of putting ourselves out there: whether it is at a personal level in pursuit of romantic and platonic relationships; or professionally in the act of sharing our thoughts and our work.

While the professional market is structured that way; in that we have to sell our abilities, it is not surprising to find many young professionals uncomfortable with the act of having to do this. Putting ourselves out there is often a result of necessity, than choice.

Is it fear of rejection, disguised as humility?

I have often wondered what implications this has for the way our lives pan out.

So, dear reader, thank you for putting yourself out there, and reminding me to do the same. You know who you are!

What Questions Does This Raise?

 

I am not going to make this another post about how bad 2016 has been. We’ve seen those already. And frankly, one less reminder is better.

But I will only ask: What questions does this raise for the forthcoming years?

I have always believed, that the state of a group reflects the state of the individual. Groups; be it teams, companies, nations – also act like individuals. They have the same fears, the same irrationalities, the same ambitions.

A character that is rooted in fear, seeks freedom. A person rooted in insecurity, thrives in arrogance.

As does a nation. As does a species.

And I fear that our species as a whole; at this point, rests in fear. We are climbing back into our own shells, going back toward our own; in unhealthy ways, seeking affirmations and reminders for our invincibility as we see those around us either crumble, or survive mediocrity.

So while we build technologies to make us an interplanetary species, I fear, this is a temporary solution. History repeats itself, and we will certainly be a destructive species wherever we go. 

Perhaps this is a plea to fall on deaf ears, but I cannot ask world leaders to help us become more human again. But I can ask you, and I can ask my self.

Let’s be a little more human, again. Let’s aim to abandon fear from our selves. And while we’d love to clean up the world or crib about how somebody should, let’s start with our little corners.

OK Google, welcome home!

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I have become increasingly interested in the world of new technologies entering our homes. Particularly in the influx of voice based AI technology such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa.

I guess voice based AIs bring together a subtle mix of things that interest me: humanness, linguistics and communication. It’s perhaps for this reason I’ve been more curious about it than past technologies. Needless to say, my curiosity is further fuelled by the fact that it is also the next big step for us in the brand building space.

It brings to light one tough question for advertisers: With the Amazon Dash button, and perhaps even Alexa and Home stripping brand purchases and brand roles in consumers’ lives down to the bare minimum, what is our role as brand builders now?

But perhaps more interestingly: What does it entail for creators, as they bring these technologies into consumers’ homes? And this is the question I’d like to address in this post.

While I certainly believe that the potential human voice AI presents to creators is interesting, I also believe it is very easy for us to get lost in the what. It is easy to focus on what problems it solves and what users can do with it. And later, what opportunities it presents for businesses and brands.

But, the key to success for any voice based AI would be the how. The key to making one voice based product more successful than the other will really come down to the personality of the assistant.

Developers must be conscious of how they approach the voice AI. We must treat it not as an ‘opportunity’ for tech companies to enter the home in a new way, but as a guest who has been ‘invited’ to the home. And we all know what makes a good house guest. Following these unwritten norms will be key to engaging well with consumers.

Furthermore, there is a fundamental difference between other technologies and the voice technology. Other technologies (decreasingly so) are quite removed from us in the way we interact with them. There is ‘friction’. Voice; is naturally closer to the human interaction than a device that is alien, cold to touch and has perfect design. While the mobile phone is drastically reducing the friction between humans and tech, it’s more from its ubiquity than its ability to lend itself to being so.

Voice; on the other hand, is naturally more familiar and hence more permissive. But we’d have to use this power carefully, and any personality that sounds either like a ‘robot’ or an ‘advertiser’ (in the stereotypical sense of the words) in the near future are bound to fail.

The key to success lies in being human.

Who’re You Bullshitting with “Creativity”?

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In my few years in the creative business, I have learned two lessons more than others:

  1. There are two types of ‘creative’ people in the world: those by designation and those by nature
  2. ‘Creativity’ is the most bastardised word in the business

Both of which bring us to the fated reality of the business in general, that we have a creative product that is more a product than it is creative.

At its core, the problem is that we have come to define creativity as ‘original, out of the box ideas’. Ideas that are interesting to us, and ideas we would not have thought of non-creatively.

But the truth is that creativity; is the ability to create something that does not exist before.

We leave that by the wayside and pursue the use of creativity for mere cosmetic improvement of preexisting solutions. Which are perhaps then filtered through several layers of verification: with sieves large and small, and what we are finally; most often than not – left with, is a substance that has neither content nor personality.

But it does check all the boxes.

The use of creativity for cosmetic and superficial improvements rests in a fundamental fear and incapacity for the unknown, the better and the truly new.

In truth, it is the difference between envisioning a faster horse, or an automobile.

But it is reduced to an excuse for having something that looks new, but is fundamentally the same.

It is an excuse for having nothing extraordinary. But just good enough.

It is your excuse for putting a funny, insightful video in your presentation but never changing the way you work.

It is your excuse for having beautiful slides. That lack in real content.

It is your excuse for having a website that invites the visitor, and speaks of lofty visions with beautiful words but is a facade to an organisation that counts only its bank roll in the end of the month.

True creativity is its own ends.

But it has been reduced to the means of being barely interesting. Almost relevant. Spineless. Or worse yet: just pretty.

Image credit: banksy