We live in Soundbite City

Posted: June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

A like.

An icon.

A meme.

An infographic.

140 characters.

A status update.

A 6 second Vine.

A 5 minute Ignite.

A 90 second video.

A Tumblr blog post.

A 3 minute Flippagram.

A Haiku Deck presentation.

We live in #SoundbiteCity.


Longitudinal research? #WTF?

10 year strategic plans? #getouttahere

White papers? Where’s your Powtoon dude?

A 3 day conference? Just give me the Storify.

A week long management development course. Where’s the bar?

I’m part of this.

Read that 360 page report? Nah, the exec summary and the TED talk will do me.

Do 3 months of interviews; desk research and surveys? Nah just take a random sample of people over the next few days; some Googling and a book summary.

We COULD argue that the days of longitudinal research are gone anyway. As soon as you’ve researched something, it’s moved on and the deductions that were relevant then aren’t relevant now.

Everything seems quicker.






I don’t have any answers, I don’t have any particular enshrined preferences. I don’t even know what questions to ask.

All I know is, I consume lots of little bits of information.

Maybe these are the trojan mice Euan Semple coined and which Laura Overton and Simon Heath mentioned only this week?

Maybe Malcolm Gladwell and his Blink philosophy IS right. Data is useful; but too much data and it becomes what Magnus LIndkvist calls “infobesity“. No longer useful and actually a hindrance.

Snap decisions and badly researched conclusions aren’t good either are they? Clearly.

Want to know how to rehabilitate offenders and get them back into work?

Needs some expertise, research, study, challenge, debate, creativity awareness, tests, results, analytics, interviews, more studies and then replicated application. Not going to happen in 3 months that one is it?

Want to change the way the physical work space is structured?
Go to Google, Innocent and IBM, label everyone else luddites and ask them to politely GooBMcent themselves.

See, we can’t even be bothered to keep words separate anymore. BRomance; BrAngelina.

So have we become lazy on research and can’t be bothered anymore or actually is it that the research and deduction process itself is flawed, out of touch, not expedient enough and inconclusive?

Do we need meta research on research methodologies or by the time we’ve done that we’ve crowdsourced our way into something much more meaningful.

As I said, I don’t have the answers.

Right – moving on – and an over generalisation alert.

Ford and Apple past / present mantra – “don’t bother talking to consumers – they don’t know what they want anyway”.

Ford and Apple. I don’t always buy your products because you DON’T give me what I want.

In fact no-one gives me what I want. I make do on your assumptions of what I want.

I could give you, Samsung, Google/Android, O2, ASUS, Toshiba, Ben Sherman Michael Kors, Amazon, or whoever something useful every day thoughts on your products and services.

Would you listen? I don’t know. You might need to use your technology to help you with my insight and opinions and that of others.

So on the one hand Henry Ford and Apple say “product development research with customers is futile” and do OK on it…others do samples and have panels and base it on that.

So research is flawed. Data and statistics can be useful but not as much as some think. The time taken to research is too long and things change too quickly for it to make any sense.

Information is king. Or Content. Context is kingdom then.

My deduction is thus.

I get a feel yes a biological reaction – to things I DEEM are important to me, my spirit/soul, my intellect, my loved ones, my business, my profession or my civic duty.

I could listen to a wisened old veteran that the MBA way is great and this new fangled social business stuff will fizzle out. Here’s the data that proves it. Here’s the history that corporate behemoths are simply different forms of structure that have always prevailed and things will always be like this.

Yet my BIOLOGY is telling me different. That democratic organisations who are smaller, agile, more human-centric are the best and can provide economies of scale and large impact over massive corporate machines.

I am NOT won over by your status; your statistics or your soundbites.

I might listen to a bright new professional who is telling me that the Millennials will want to carry on with status-driven roles and short-term posting as they are career hungry and don’t care about legacy. And they will show me the Social Media posts and blogs that proves this beyond doubt. They will tell me about the 4000 people who turned up at an event in the US and all declared just this same thing. Greed is good and commercialism will save the world.

And yet my BIOLOGY tells me people are less and less motivated by greed and status and more by purposeful, societal good and are in need of a return to some communal ways of living.

I am not won over by your hyperbole; your heuristics or your “hip” thinking.

Trends, hot topics, A lists, theme of the day, proven, logical, methodologies, practices, tested, qualified, mapped out, tagged, counted and verified.

Research and insight is there like never before. As Clay Shirky said – and here’s a soundbite – information overload isn’t the problem, it’s a filtering failure. I believe that so deeply (without the need for any research to back it up) and here’s why.

Take music. We no longer sit and listen to a full concerto – hell we don’t even need to buy albums anymore. Instead we Spotify-playlist a random selection of songs with predictable lyric patterns, similar chord structures and barely distinguishable singing styles and bounce along happily to forgettable flippancies through the songs of our sub-conscious.  I over-generalise. Of course we still have Puccini and Gershwin, Curtis Mayfield and Paul Weller.


And the charts – well, they tell us what’s most popular. And the festivals, they tell us what headliners are the biggest draws.

Not in my world.

I filter out most of that crap and live resplendently in what I know is best for me. I’m happy with Pharrell but more ecstatic about early Joe Tex. I have my musical filters well tuned so that music is NEVER an overload for me. Nor do I buy badly – I know what I need and like and so I am rarely, if ever, disappointed with my choices.

As it is with insight. I know what I need, some of it is soundbites, some of it may seem trendy to others and it may not have academic rigour that others seek. But they’re my soundbites and I love ’em, need ’em and use ’em.

We ALL live in #Soundbite city and I think we ought to get used to it.

I’ll see you down on Mnemonic Avenue sometime. DM me…

Drawn image from liveyourtalk.com

  1. Tracey Kench says:

    I have to be honest and say that I don’t normally make it to the end of a blog – I skim the first paragraph and look at the associated quotes or pictures for relevance. BUT on this occasion I read every word – you really make sense, and tell it like it is, and that is very refreshing 🙂

  2. changinghr says:

    Need a lie down after that 🙂 Only joking, superb stuff. I cut through all the data overload and usually go to Katie Hopkins and get her view on the matter. Research tells me that 83.2% of the time she’s on the button !

  3. Tim Scott says:

    Yessir, we do indeed. It goes to show that the more information that’s out there, the shorter our attention span becomes. To continue the musical analogy, we are the “shuffle” generation, we want everything immediately available and in the easiest possible way… and sometimes the best things only happen after some investment of time and effort. That’s the bit I worry we are missing – as much about my own life as anyone else’s. Top blog work.

    • perrytimms says:

      Thanks Tim, you are right. Being on shuffle is one thing and yet I know how useful that is I am a DJ / playlister so I prefer time to out my OWN shuffle lists together. So by not earning the right to create a playlist and defaulting to shuffle are people missing out on stuff because the machine does the work? And does anyone care? I agree about investment and effort and I suppose that investment and effort doesn’t mean “the same as we had to do”. It is more you get what you deserve and the spoils should be congruent with the battle you fought to get said spoils. Not OBE (other buggers’ efforts). Thanks for the comment.

  4. Simon Jones says:

    I tweeted the link for this excellent article by Laurie Taylor earlier, which seems to show the “soundbite” generation is even reaching academia: timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/laurie-taylor-on-the-endangered-art-of-ethnography/2013946.fullarticle …

    • perrytimms says:

      Thanks a lot Simon – I am not sure it’s something to be always derided and as Churchill once said, I’ve sent you a long letter as I haven’t got time to write a short one. Anyway, I will check our Laurie’s article now thanks.

  5. […] Perry Timms writes it as he thinks it in a look at the ‘Soundbite City’ we inhabit. Who needs Pharrell when you’ve got […]

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