Sprinting with Prof G, Media Gangster


E-mail shots are, for the most part, dreary. There is only one I read to the end. Every Friday I wait for Scott Galloway’s ‘No Mercy / No Malice‘ musings to arrive in my inbox, and after a long week, I savour it, simply because they’re a refreshing axe in the drudgery of typical journalism. 

The media became rather soft and flabby in the last decade. The tsunami of self-publishers, who may range in age from 8 to 80, means everyone is a micropublisher. Writers and tabloid columnists may opine with a booming voice, but it’s hard to unearth their validity sometimes. And in mainstream media like print, TV and radio, someone in the C-Suite answers to a political agenda – or ratings and audience figures – swaying the integrity of the final cut. Social platforms are weirdly seen as news services by some and give us our daily bread in a bid to dominate the ‘attention economy‘, with some of us chasing likes with the errant intent of decapitated chickens, then ironically being served more of what we clicked on, narrowing our world view. 

For kids, this has an impact. In the work that I do as a teen digital citizenship educator, one 12-year-old developed paranoia because he believed the computer could see he was clicking on porn and kept sending him more. 

Yes, I am rattling. Of course, there exist a niche of talented and balanced debaters that collect compelling data to propose their case despite what media owners may expect. Maybe this is why Prof. Galloway was banned from CNBC. He isn’t one to flirt with an opinion, he would rather just fucking say it. 

Freedom of speech is all the rage right now. Some of this (much publicised) topic focuses on social media platforms clamouring to protect the current free-for-all on trolling, flaming, shaming, cyberbullying and hate speech. The impossible task to start weeding a divisive online landscape would also oppose the algorithm that had been built to serve more of the same content to people, and help advertisers to pinpoint buyers. 

Playing whack-a-mole with the haters and antagonists would get confusing – who would ‘police’ it? Who says what is ok and not ok? What would be the penalty? The regulators have an agenda, and so do the platforms, and never the twain shall meet, I expect. 

My point? A sharp mind, a crafty pen, and a good research team are few and far between, and Galloway seems to take joy in backing up argument after argument to ridicule the status quo in this most dumbfounding of times. His book ‘The Big Four‘ examines the tech superpowers, but spurred me to summarise my own Big Four – the winning characteristics of deep content:

1. Irreverence

Poker-faced Galloway quietly basks in clarity, and just wants to tell it the way he sees it. He has a blend of razor sharp insights, self-effacing jabs, and an irreverence that‘s like an ice bath. It’s a shock, and it’s challenging, but might open you up to new dimensions if you’re willing to take the plunge. 

2. Memorability

I attended the Prof G’s ‘Strategy Sprint’ – in which he unpacks his ‘T-Algorithm’, offering the eight pillars and winning ingredients of trillion dollar companies – a nice corner of marketing intelligence to focus on. A cohort of business people, entrepreneurs and G-loyalists spend 14 days as a community of seekers who are intrigued by what makes the cogs of these gargantuan brands tick. Some have hopes of building the next unicorn, others are strategists in corporates, while others fancy examining a well crafted case on how they/we got here. 

3. Class

Galloway presents 16 short videos in four sections. In each section he covers two of the eight pillars of the T-algorithm and then shares two case studies to support his point of view. But how it’s executed is the real sweet spot. A triad of animation, Prof G matter-of-facting to camera, and a lyrical female voiceover, are a world-class show. The Learning Management System (LMS) is neat, uncomplicated and clean like many of the brands he explores, but he owns a unique visual identity in how he delivers graphics and this is congruent and sophisticated. There’s a robust team behind The Prof.

4. Structure 

On completion of the videos, which are supported by links, resources and sources, you can hop on to a workbook in Google Docs to interrogate yourself on the suggestions within the videos, and how this affects what you may be doing in your job, or what you are building as a brand. You can also bounce ideas off others in the cohort via a well structured and well-supported Slack Group. And once a week there is a live session with the Prof himself. The final hurdle is to examine a company (it can be your own) using the T-Algorithm to cast a spotlight onto what may be an ongoing challenge in your business, or an opportunity. The end products illustrate there are some seriously bright people out there. Impressive presentations on display.

I teach students about media literacy, digital potential, and performance. I wanted to know and understand more about what is proving to be the secret sauce out there for these monopolies. What’s working? What’s worth sharing as a point of interest to jolt my student’s attention? Many teens are enamoured by these brands. Talking about them with some insight and data offers a stage to speak with a credible voice. If you are going to teach the GenZ cohort, you need to be on your game. 

I deeply enjoyed what I learned during the Strategy Sprint, but something strange unfolded for me in the process. As fascinated as I was, and as hungry as my fellow cohorts were around me, I started to realise that I may be chasing rainbows. 

Quietly, I had also hoped the T-Algorithm might give me the edge as I launch my Digital Life Skills Program in schools in other regions. I was going ‘international’. And, while I will do this with a better set of tools, a bitter truth revealed itself – explosive growth comes at hell’s pace, and requires profound, nauseating, and exciting commitment – but I refuse to trade that level of trajectory in exchange for being present and connected with my kids. Others might be able to pull it off, but I would get lost in the chase.

I always dreamed I could build a big business. I listened intently to The Prof, I understood what he was saying, but, at one point he mentioned that for most business owners, it’s a choice between growth or margin. Choosing growth, you accept less margin and get the edge on price – a race for volume. Opting for margin, you accept less volume but pursue more profit.

The ROI I am most intrigued by is freedom and connection with those that make me smile and laugh, and add real value. It made me wonder what an algorithm for self-awareness might look like, or an algorithm for empathy, or meaningful relationships, and, perhaps most importantly, an algo for how we spend our time. 

Time is crazy valuable. And yet most of us consume voraciously, but rather unwittingly. We watch news and scroll through feeds that help us escape, but add little. The following day, we remember a mere fraction. We think The Big Four or FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) are inspirational. But for most of us, they are really just a distant universe, like the movie stars of old that fans would never meet or touch in their entire lives. A mirage.

I would attend any Sprint of the Professor because I believe that such eclipses come from being challenged, from expanding our horizons, and from finding our own comfortable algorithm that takes us where we were destined to go. 

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