How might you review 2017? Thumb hovering between up and down?

The Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute has just published their study into the public’s perceptions of the good and the bad during the year.

Try the quiz. It transpires that perceptions can be a long, long way from reality.  And those perceptions tend towards the negative.

We all systematically over- estimate levels of terrorism, murder, and social ills. The human brain has evolved in such a way that we underestimate the good, over estimate the bad, and constantly re-process our social realities negatively.

It may be to do with urgency, suggests the team.

A danger (even a perceived danger) seems to loom as a larger and more immediate force. A success (even an imagined one) seems to fade and take up less attention or bandwith. The Director of the Institute, Bobby Duffy, points out that improvements often take time. A slow shift is harder to appreciate and celebrate than a sudden adverse event.

Another explanation might lurk in some work done in the early twentieth century. The ‘Zeigarnik effect’ (A Russian psychologist working in the 20s and 30s) describes the phenomenon of our remembering so well all our unfinished tasks, and almost discounting the completed ones. The evolutionary force here is to finish, to complete what we have begun: the incomplete gnaws away at us.

Back in the present day, Mr Duffy suggests that we learn to speak more of things that are going well in memorable, engaging terms: stories and colourful anecdotes rather than statistics.

Which, probably, we should try to do.

But if there is a link between the perception -v- reality findings of The Social Research Institute and Bluma Zeigarnik’s work, might we find the most encouraging and positive truth of all?

Could humans be hard wired …a whisper would be appropriate here… to seek to make things ….better?   And have thus evolved to concentrate on the work still be done, the problems still to be solved?

Perhaps it is true. Perhaps things can only get better.

We’re programmed not to stop trying.


Back to work or school means..…stuff.

From pencil cases to laptop cases, the mood is all about new kit.

It’s irresistible. New start, new tools.

Yet the Christmas de-cluttering books will also be out any day now, so it’s time to prepare a line to take against all that finger wagging. De-cluttering exhorts you to simplify and focus. Lose what you don’t need, go minimal. It’s all your fault.

Watching this ebb and flow of wanting to reduce then acquire (it applies to objectives and plans, too) with clients and teams, I am convinced that there is a natural force at work. This building up of stuff can’t all be our fault.

A brilliant science-fiction brain got there way before me. Philip K Dick used the word ‘kipple’ in ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ set in a post-apocalyptic future.

The word refers to useless junk.

But the special quality of this useless junk is that it reproduces itself when nobody’s around. There is a natural law operating, ‘kipple drives out non kipple’ says the kipple philosopher in the book, and adds ‘no one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot’. (Which does seem to have inspired much of the visual design in “Blade Runner’, Ridley Scott’s take on the story)

The entropy idea feels right, but it’s the ‘temporarily and in one spot’ that has always struck me as so helpful. The word ‘clutter’ lands with a thud of moralistic righteousness. The word ‘kipple’ comes with no such …clutter.

It’s simply one of the many forces at work in the world in which we live. Anything you can do, in any small way or space, to push back the tide of absolute kippleization becomes a fantastic triumph against a force of nature.

It just sounds so much more enjoyable – to try a little conscious un-kippling.


Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsChristmas time doesn’t half mangle the brain.

Have you noticed lots of slips and trips of the tongue in meetings and everyday conversations recently? Perhaps Christmas is a particularly ripe time for Freudian slips.

Sigmund Freud in Penny Hunt's blog

Freud’s thinking is that in the constant conflict between the conscious and the unconscious, small calling cards of repressed or denied unconscious feelings will make their way to the conscious via a ’slip of the tongue’ or a mistake.

But I think what I am seeing around me looks more like a sort of… jet lag.

The two chums in front of me in the queue at the café yesterday were exchanging stories of success and achievement.
Factoring in a teeny bit of over claim, they had both managed to complete just about all their Christmas shopping online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

What might, a decade ago, have taken them a few days physically had been telescoped into a few hours.
Clicking a button sounds so easy.

But a process of weighing up, choosing, self debate, deciding to break that unbreakable spending limit, doubling back, calling to revise.. is still an amazing amount of concentration energy, even if it is expended sitting down.

The mangling begins.

It came to the turn of one of the chums. She pointed at the shelf of flavoured syrups behind the barrista, homed in on the amaretto, and asked for ‘a shot of avocado ‘ in her coffee.

Much laughing.

We think we are gaining time, but it is only a time surplus in the way that a ’plane journey apparently gains time. Jet lag means that you still have to wait for the rest of you to arrive.

Coffee served with a ’70s bathroom suite is just one of many Christmas time slips to have entertained and bemused over the last couple of days.

Penny Hunt's Freudian trip list in her blogA lovely client (a champion of correct grammar) has just reported entering a dental appointment into his organizer under ‘tooth abstraction’.  A colleague reports having a really good ‘inferior designer’ recommended to her yesterday.

I think our individual Random Access Memories are all completely full at the moment.

We’re all doing far too much far too fast.

And the results are a sort of cross between Freudian slips and jet lag.

Freudian trips I guess.


Penny Hunt's blog coffee conversationsA little blast from the past in the café again this morning.

A TV drama had been watched at the same time by everyone there. Just like the olden days.
The talk was of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: White Christmas, a compelling, disturbing, yet plausible futuristic story that had been screened the night before. Plausible, because the technology involved is surely almost here already. Disturbing, because the casualness of ‘blocking’ and cloning each other seemed so heartless A– and yet horribly reasonable. Compelling, because Don Draper starred in the story. (And Rafe Spall)

Our spontaneous TV club found some cheer within the fear.
(Coffee is very good for optimism)

  • How energizing it was to play with dark thoughts and ideas in a Christmas setting.
    We all noted the makings of a rather fine new-year resolution: not trying to find
    sweetness and light all the time.
  • The future did not look a happy place in the story. All these incremental technology upgrades and improvements that we love so much will, little step by little step, lead to some horrible stuff if we’re not careful. But Mr Brooker had left a sliver of hope. Some moral questions were being asked, somenindependent thoughts were being thought, by everyday people living everyday lives even in this frightening future. Let’s hang on to that this week when parts of the world seem to have gone mad.
  • The blocker device. Imagine being able to effect a sort of immediate exile on anyone annoying you. People became vague fuzzy unreachable shapes when ‘blocked’ in Black Mirror. As we compared notes on the places we had worked that week, we realized that ‘blocking’ happens here and now pretty effectively without the help of any yet-to-be-invented gadgets. The Behavioural Psychologists call these behaviours ‘micro exclusions’ – the thousands of hard-to-identify ways we find not to acknowledge or include another person.

The impromptu drama critics were as one in their resolve. We would spot any blocking pattern wherever we worked, we would assume positive intent wherever we went, and we would look for the dark as well as the sweet.
And with that sense of achievement we wished each other – all – a very merry Christmas indeed.

John Hamm in Black Mirror.