As Philip K Dick is enjoying a bit of a moment (‘Electric Dreams’ TV dramatisations, and a new Ridley Scott sequel to Blade Runner), it feels a like a good time to credit one of his ideas that never quite made it into a screen adaptation. And this idea helps skewer, brilliantly, an odd business habit that seems to be on the rise.

PKD’s novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ opens with a husband and wife’s conversation about the Penfield Mood Organ. The reader never gets to know how it works, just what it does.

A user consults the accompanying manual, and then dials in the numerical code for
the mood that he or she wishes to experience. It is their habitual choice of moods that the couple discuss. (My own favourite from the book is mood number 888, which is described as ‘the desire to watch TV no matter what’s on’)

While this bizarre machine is a normal – if pricey – part of the future world, the discussion still involves the very human sensitivity that perhaps moods (emotions) are not interchangeable, not options to be selected on a whim.

The wife, Iran, explains that she doesn’t approve of dialing 481 (‘awareness of
manifold possibilities’ – used frequently by her husband, Deckard) because it is an
unearned emotion. And in one graceful exchange, a pernicious and strange business behaviour of our contemporary working lives is illuminated: the ‘let’s get motivated’ away-day!

You know of what I speak.

It goes like this. There will have been a series of probably indefensible and unpopular changes/ cuts/ leadership failures and errors. In the time-honoured manner demanded by management cliché, a newly appointed team leader will quickly insist on arranging a jolly away day to change the mood. Everyone is, officially, to feel motivated and positive.

An away day designed to reflect, analyse, debate, generate, and create is an estimable thing. I design them, and run them, and love them. And truly, it is possible to ‘change the game’ with a little thoughtfulness, good will, intelligence, and time.

But an away day designed to change the mood? (Dialling in 481?)

No. A ‘sense of possibilities’ has to be earned. Time and honesty are involved.

Don’t approach an away day like a Penfield Mood Organ. Think of your away day as a possible ‘game changer’, never as a ‘mood changer’.



I80pxtreet’s taken 12 years to negotiate a deal with Iran. ( They say negotiating these sorts of multilayered deals is like playing chess and bridge simultaneously. How did they do that? The longest recorded tournament chess game is a smidge over 20 hours)

It’s been 12 years since this café in which I’m sitting opened. I’ve been back infrequently but consistently.
And looking around, I feel a bit of a metaphor coming on…image00The walls are now a gorgeously cool range of greys: a soothing hint of healed bruise. On the accent wall is an abstract mural, and the tables glow in their whiteness. A slightly aggressive whiteness. You know that ‘look at me’ smile people flash when they’ve just had their teeth whitened.

My coffee is just a little bit cold. (Espresso snob – sorry, full disclosure – penance will done)

The chair is just a little bit unforgiving. Love the colour and shape. But it is hard to sit still.

The chaps behind the coffee machine can’t be seen. A strange head-bobbing dance was involved in asking for the coffee.

A table with coffee bean blends for sale – with cheery signs like ‘to bean or not to bean’ – stands where the corner ‘cosy’ tables were once placed.

So what happened?

During those 12 years I recall – just – some phases, like the slightly Moroccan (yes, really), the retro irony (pictures of prawn cocktails), the boho ….

But what I remember much more clearly was why it opened. Because that was why I became a non-local loyal.
They opened because: the tea shop next door (only one in the area- those were the days) was run by the most astonishingly aggressive and shouty owner; because there was no where to put local community leaflets and info; because the anti Starbucks / corporate chain movement had just accelerated in San Francisco; because there was no where in this road to sit, feel welcome, be comfortable, to be treated like a human being and hang out for a while.

I’ve been working on a brand, with the marketing team,that has unwittingly behaved exactly like this café.
Both brand and café started out with a certainty, a conviction.

Over time they have ‘refreshed’ and ‘re-positioned’ so many times that they have forgotten where, or rather why, they started.

Both have become slaves to whatever prevailing wind is currently blowing.

Both brand and café have lost their purpose

And the café’s lost me.