Category Archives: Uncategorized

Beyond the #CommsCorner


Today we share a few interviews with communicators that have caught our eyes over recent months.

  • In the latest issue of Harvard Business Review, Alison Beard spoke with lifelong communicator Alan Alda.
  • In a rare television interview, Jennifer Byrne spoke with internationally acclaimed author Helen Garner for The Book Club.
  • The Paris Review spoke with acclaimed television writer Matthew Weiner.
  • Lifehacker gathered 20 pieces of writing advice from prominent journalists.
  • Authentic communication with Sheryl Sandberg


Uber, where to?


UberWheretonowAfter a tumultuous year of corporate scandals at Uber, culminating in the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick, the ride share company has announced that it will allow driver tipping through its phone app. This functionality is to be rolled out in Australia later this year. It’s a stark turn around for the company, which has been embroiled in a quagmire of controversy around the labour rights and pay conditions of its ‘workforce’ (a term that Uber would steadfastly reject in favour of ‘contractors’).

Most see this as part of a PR campaign to mend broken fences between the company and its main constituency of drivers. It’s a complete 180 turn on its previous stance on tipping. On the surface this appears to be a great example of corporate social responsibility – a policy that benefits customers, workers, and eventually the corporate bottom line. It comes at a point when many users in the USA have abandoned Uber in favour of Lyft and other more socially conscious options (as usual, here in Australia we have far fewer alternatives). So Uber obviously sees this as a way to improve its image all round and recoup some of those lost customers.

So how will customers feel about their newfound ability to reward drivers? There are various studies that show tipping has only a nebulous connection to quality of service, and that it is easily influenced by bias. The ‘customer knows best’ tipping mindset, so entrenched in places like America, may be a flawed strategy for incentivising excellent service. In countries like Japan, where tipping is seen as rude, service standards are exceptionally high. These studies show that diners reward their waiters for arbitrary things. Important factors include the weather, the type of tray the bill is presented on, and most dramatically, the gender and race of the waiter. So much for performance pay!

All this has led us to consider a bit more closely the politics of tipping in Australia. As those who have dined out at any relatively upmarket establishment know, come time to pay the cheque, the etiquette around tipping is mired in uncertainty and rife with potential to show oneself up as ‘uncouth’ or ‘cheap’. There are those that are simply oblivious to the custom, having grown up in a country where the practice was not widespread more than ten years ago. You’ll also come across some who steadfastly refuse to tip on grounds that, in this great socialist country of ours, a worker deserves a fair wage and tipping isn’t part of that. For most though, we think of tipping as a way to optionally demonstrate our appreciation for a job well done and to encourage professional standards in our wait staff (misguided though that may be).

There are no hard or fast rules in Australia around tipping. In the US, the standard is 15 to 20 per cent of the bill. In the UK it’s generally set at around 10% and in many establishments this is added automatically to the bill. Here in Australia, we truly are the wild wild west when it comes to gratuities.

Like it or not though, the tipping culture is here to stay. Will Uber’s strategy pay off by improving its service for both customers and its workforce? Uber itself has voiced fears that introducing tipping will encourage drivers to swarm where those tips may be highest (the wealthiest neighbourhoods), while under-servicing other areas of the community.

For now at least, it remains to be seen how this will play out…

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew

Communication critical for #FlexWorkFullLife

Outcomes not hours

Flexibility means tracking outcomes not hours – Flexible CEO Jack Walden

How flexible are you? Today is national Flexible Working Day and we’re proud to be working with the team at Career Inside Track to help facilitate this important national conversation. Share your experiences of working flexible with #FlexWorkFullLife on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Communication is a key ingredient in supporting flexible working practices and the need to improve communication among team members is key to achieving greater flexibility and a fuller life, according to results from a national survey into flexible working practices released today for ‘Flexible Working Day’.

The survey reveals that Australian workplaces and employees are still relatively inflexible with flexible working arrangements, which may be contributing to ‘flexism’ and preventing businesses from realising their full potential.

While more than 80 percent of respondents embraced some form of flexibility in their jobs, less than 40 per cent had formal flexible work practices in place, leaving room for employers and employees to miss out on the benefits of true flexible working and creating an environment for ‘flexism’ to thrive.

The report, prepared by Career Inside Track, aims to support a conversation among Australian employees and employers from private, government and non-profit sectors as part of the first-ever national Flexible Working Day, with participants taking the opportunity to assess their FlexWork maturity level, discuss the benefits of flexible work practices and share their own stories of flexibility.


The report also highlights the importance of celebrating employees working flexibly to demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to flexible working, further highlighting the important role for communicators in supporting flexible workplaces.

Ambassadors for Flexible Working Day, including journalists Tracey Spicer and Angela Priestley, sporting champions Kim Brennan and Tom Faulkner, and chief executives and senior leaders from Diversity Council of Australia, GM Holden, Medibank, FlexCareers and other leading companies, are showing their support through events within their own organisations, sharing personal stories and photos on social media, and speaking with colleagues about how to make flexible working arrangements work for them.

Flexible Working Day is proudly supported by FlexCareers, The Parenthood and Women’s Agenda.

Mamamia, what a mess!


RoxanegaybookFeminism and fat-shaming aside, it might be time for Mamamia to brush up on their interviewing etiquette.

“Now, I would normally never breach the confidence of what goes on behind the scenes of organising an interview, but in this case…”

Well, if you wouldn’t normally, then don’t do it now!

And with those immortal words, Mia Freedman, editor-in-chief and founder of fem-lifestyle website Mamamia, went on to publicly detail the logistics for then infamous podcast interview. The subject was Roxanne Gay, best-selling feminist author of Hunger and Bad Feminist.  Freedman described these details in a manner that upset the plus-size author and which was, in the opinion of many, a gross violation of her privacy. The since deleted description on the podcast they were recording had such choice ditty’s as “Will she fit in the office lift” and “None of this is disclosed with a mean spirit”. Here’s a free tip: If you need to explain that what you’re writing is not mean-spirited, then perhaps you ought to re-think your subject.

In response to the furore, Freedman claimed that she had confused the authors’ own revelations of the personal details of her life with open-permission to reveal further private details. That by opening up about her struggles with fat-shaming and self-loathing, Ms Gay was giving permission to others to say whatever they deemed appropriate about it and her. What rankled most about the comments was the discourtesy and lack of respect shown towards the author. In feminist parlance, it reduced a complex and accomplished individual to a one-dimensional fat girl with special needs.

Fat-shaming, bitchiness and feminism aside, this is just, simply put, an unprofessional way for a media organisation to treat their client/guest. Perhaps Mia Freedman was attempting to hype up the interview by detailing all the extra-ordinary planning that went into it. The unusual and specific request for accommodating a plus-sized guest (requests, it might be added, that author refutes making). Can you imagine if she’d used this tactic with a wheel-chair bound guest? What’s more, as an experienced editor, Freedman should have been aware that her words would come off as rude and insensitive. Instead, she displayed a complete inability to mitigate all the possible interpretations of her comments. An unforgivable sin for the head of a fairly major media website.

On a fundamental level, is the role of a responsible communications professional not to place oneself in the mind of another? To understand them and their point-of-view more clearly, so that in turn they may convey that mind to the world at large. It would seem that an integral part of that is to not reduce your subject to a stereotype.

Jack and the c word crew

And here’s the tweet that makes us totally respect Roxane! Because she totally could have let him on that door!

Meme what you say: Covfefe


The latest meme is a c-word: Covfefe.

If you’ve logged onto your social networks in the last few hours, you will no doubt have seen the millions of memes inspired by Donald Trump’s new c word: Covfefe.

In case you haven’t, here are 11 memes inspired by the President’s new c-word.

Just like genes, memes can thrive or dive in the meme pool. A ‘meme’ is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. They can appear spontaneously and spread rapidly from one medium to another and include captions, catch phrases and catch cries.

While you’re enjoying the memes, here are some of the best from 2017 so far.

Cheers, Jack and the c word crew


Binge on TV for some business lessons


grace-frankie-jane-fonda-lily-tomlin-784414From septuagenarians navigating the startup world to marketing lessons from the pope, television is currently providing a range of lessons in marketing, communications and business.

Not that we needed an excuse to binge on quality television, we are grateful however to have an excuse to blog about it!

Here are some shows for you to binge for some inspiration:

Grace and Frankie, Netflix

In the latest season of Grace and Frankie, the frenemies turned housemates and best friends embark on a startup adventure: launching a sex toy for the over 70s. The characters, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, spend the season meeting with investors at incubators, fighting potential takeovers, conducting focus groups, and watching the counter tick over for their first sale. It’s comedy with a few commercial lessons thrown in for good measure.

The Young Pope, SBS on Demand

young_pope_4Jude Law’s pope brings mystery to the Vatican brand. In the opening episode he shares his insight into marketing: “We all want to see that which is hidden, we all want to stare the forbidden in the face.” With a seductive soundtrack, brilliant cast and equally good writing, the remainder of the season continues to deliver pearls of wisdom from the Young Pope.

Girl Boss, Netflix

girlbossInspired by Sophia Amoruso’s best-selling book, this series follows the rise of Amoruso’s multi-million dollar fashion empire, Nasty Gal. From the initial idea to launch day, we experience the highs and lows of startups. And the best part, the way the show captures the intensity of online chat forums.

House of Cards, Netflix

While the show provides lots of inspiration itself – perhaps on what not to do – the promotion of the show is where House of Cards truly delivers. This week, House of Cards made headlines around the world when they shared behind the scenes photos taken by a real-life Whitehouse photographer; blurring the line between reality and fiction.

Happy binging!

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew.


Expert culture has killed the innovator in workplaces


We thought this article on the demise of innovation in the workplace was worth sharing. Thanks to The Conversation and Joshua Krook for the great insights.

Joshua Krook, University of Adelaide

Over the last few decades, the Western world has had an increasingly specialised workforce, with workers trained in narrow skills, for increasingly narrow positions. However, the more narrow our jobs have become, the less capable we have become in inventing new technologies, products and ideas. The Conversation

Innovative ideas tend to come, not from specialised experts, but from generalists. But in today’s economy, education is focused almost entirely on vocational, specialist skills, creating a dampening effect on innovative thought and creativity.

The more specialised our workforce becomes, the less capable we are of seeing how our industry relates to other industries. We also become less capable of inventing something to fit the knowledge gap between one industry and the next.

Specialisation of the workforce has been driven by a system called “academic inflation”. Where certain jobs used to require only a high school certificate, they now require a bachelors degree, a masters degree or a PhD. Employers have begun demanding greater and greater qualifications even for the most junior of positions.

As educational requirements have increased, jobseekers have responded by gaining more degrees and spending more time and money on education. The aim has been to specialise early, and become an expert in a field.

This culture of expertise has had an increasingly negative effect on the inventive capacity of our economy.

Over the last century, there has been a decrease in the rate of patenting of new technologies, correlating with an increase in the number of experts working in-house on innovation teams. The more people specialise to gain access to these innovation teams, the less creative they become once they get there. The more private companies are engaged in hiring expert inventors, the less inventions are produced.

Along with an overall decline in patenting, there has also been a decline in the number of young people producing inventions. If inventors require PhDs and certifications to enter into companies, then society loses out on their inventive capacity in their early twenties and thirties, adding an extra layer to an existing problem.

An analysis of Nobel Prize winners shows that the average age of winners has increased by five or six years per century. The data indicates that PhDs and other qualifications have had a major impact on the age at which someone is at their most inventive.

Where Einstein was most productive in his twenties, over the last century only 7% of prize recipients were in their twenties. A potential “lost age” of inventions is now evident in the data – where younger employees do not have access to grants, funding or jobs.

A final concern of a specialised workforce is the decrease in “breakthrough” inventions. Over the last century, as inventors have become in-house experts, they have increasingly turned away from inventing something new, and are increasingly recombining old technologies instead. This is leading to a decline in the number of technologies that revolutionalize human society.

To put it simply, we are creating iPhones instead of light bulbs. Where the iPhone simply recombines existing tools to create something new, the lightbulb was revolutionary in creating several new industries.

New research also suggests the usefulness of having generalists on innovation teams, rather than specialised experts. Breakthroughs arise when someone can combine many ideas together.

The key to being one of these generalists is to think broadly (not deeply) about a variety of topics, rather than a single topic. As Bertrand Russel once wrote:

There is something lost, when many authors co-operate. If there is any unity to be gained in a particular idea, there is a necessity to synthesise all the relevant information “in a single mind”.

The solution to our lost innovative capacity might therefore be relatively simple.

Instead of focusing on hiring specialists or experts in a particular field, we should hire generalists of a broad mind, capable of thinking outside the box. Hiring independent innovators outside of institutional structures might be one way of protecting them from the pressures of specialisation.

Funding and grants should also be less tied to how much someone has specialised, and more to how inventive or creative they actually are. Our system should move more towards this kind of merit-based ideal, rather than focusing on expertise and certification.

Beyond this, businesses can consider challenging staff with lateral thinking. The key is to push staff beyond their narrow jobs and into new fields and endeavours that challenge them to think in new ways. Younger workers in particular should play a greater role in contributing to the ideas, products and inventions of a company, rather than being excluded until they have gained the relevant degrees or qualifications.

The benefits of a specialised workforce need to be reconsidered in the light of this new evidence on reduced inventive capacity. If our economy is to be innovative, creative and diverse in thought, then so too must our education, our workforce and our jobs. If we are to have breakthrough technologies, we need to create breakthrough thinkers with the capacity to understand a variety of fields.

Joshua Krook, Doctoral Candidate in Law, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.