[Photo of Ted courtesy of good for nothing.]
So here’s my first short interview with a friend, as part of April’s personal project.
Ted Hunt runs this is helpful, which in his words is a ‘creative strategy focused digital, marketing and engagement consultancy’. He also creates regular personal projects, ranging from playful web apps like Wisdom Tooth and Now & Then to micro-art exhibitions and new essay formats. I first met Ted in person when he was in charge of social and emerging media for innocent, and we were both presenting at an IAB event. Our paths crossed again in the good for nothing hacking-for-good community. We’ve stayed in touch and I regularly bother him for his opinion on my own personal projects and many other things. Lately, he’s also been one of my beard inspirations. Thanks, Ted!
What is this is helpful, and how did it come about?
this is helpful was born from my desire to move into consultancy, but having a severe dislike for the title/term ‘consultant’. I wanted to strip it back to something more meaningful and timeless, and figured there has always been a need to helpfulness, and helpful people, even before the whole consultancy phenomena. So that was going to be ‘my thing’.
On top of that I realised the people I’ve worked with in the past and would want to work with again/recommend to others are always the most helpful ones. They don’t look at projects and see potential for money, awards, personal kudos, or networking opportunities, they just try and help out and add some value. So I figured that would be a good strategy for my venture into independent business, if I go home at night and have been helpful in the day the rest (hopefully) will look after itself.
Do clients still think of you as ‘Ted who used to do social for innocent’? …and is that a good/bad thing?
Less so now. I try to play it down, rather than up, as much as I can these days. People like to know other people’s story and innocent is a good story so it was a good association in that regard. In other regards it can lead to some distinct pigeonholing which isn’t so good. A lot of businesses would love to harness the ‘innocent effect’ so can be a good door opener.
You also do a lot of personal projects (or contributions as you call them)…why? Do you have a particular favourite?
I think I got started with them while being involved with good for nothing. I started to re-address the way I worked on personal stuff, mainly doing shorter, sharper projects. Most of them were done in a day in reality. The I saw Stef give a talk at another good for nothing-esque thing called ‘find better problems’ where he talked about his own website being a long list of personal projects, some worked, some didn’t, some became businesses. So the next day I replaced my old website with a list of personal projects, and kept trying to build them up whenever I had an idea for one.
I’m not sure I have a particular favourite. The most recent one, attending a Wayne McGregor dance workshop, was one of the most enlightening, as it was the further stretch outside of my comfort zone. And I suppose a big part of the reason I do the projects is to get enlightened about stuff I otherwise wouldn’t have.
It seems like your personal projects fall into a few different categories: the playful ones, the craft ones, and the ones that set out to fix a problem or improve things. Do you see them that way, as separate types of activity? or is there some kind of interconnectedness?
I don’t set out to have any rhyme or reason to them to be honest, they’re pretty much all ideas that come into my head that I then set out to make tangible in some kind of way. The ‘tangibleness’ is probably the key thing really, I used to have ideas and do nothing about them whatsoever, which never got me anywhere. So committed myself to actually realising some of them about a year ago. I suppose they all help to solve a problem, even if that problem is just how I personally understand something. There’s a huge amount of interconnectedness in all of them, but that’s probably only apparent in the wires in my head most of the time. The Pilgrim’s Way one for example was about concentrating on something that’s normally mundane (walking), this led to more thinking on the theme of concentration, which I’m now drawing upon for a bit of client work I’m doing at the minute.
Lastly, as a one-man lean/agile consultancy, you’ve probably got quite a unique perspective on brands and business in general. what’s the biggest thing that businesses could be doing better? is it even possible to generalise?
Probably to start solving the right problems/better problems rather than the most urgent ones, or the ones that will return the quickest immediate results. And to get their heads around the E. F. Schumacher thing of “Infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility.” But that’s a boat with a bloody big hole in it that we’re all in together, and we will all need to start doing better at.