Sorry Alan – nasty’s got no business here

Sorry Alan – nasty’s got no business here

On the 16th of February 2005, ten hot-headed suits with little-to-no regard for human feelings wheeled their suitcases across the concourse at Liverpool Street station, as audiences across the UK were first introduced to The Apprentice.

“Being in touch with this changing mindset is important to brands that want to lead with ambition, become attractive to customers, and not stay stuck in the dark days of The Apprentice…”

It promised to be a voyage of revelation, showing the public ‘how real business works’, with a lot of early morning starts, shouting, and firing.

Fast forward to season 15 and almost nothing about the show has changed. It still promotes aggression as the key to success, that a necktie automatically means you’re important, and that it’s every man and woman for themselves in the modern workplace.

And this couldn’t possibly be more out of step with today’s world. 

This was clearly evident at WIRED Smarter 2019, where some of the world’s most progressive business leaders shared their views on the present and the future. Their message was loud and clear – business is changing for the better. 

Only five years ago at events like these, everyone was talking up the importance of chasing ‘Unicorn Status’ at all costs. Now, the feeling is that brands should be aiming for B-Corp status – proving they can balance profit with purpose.

Being in touch with this changing mindset is important to brands that want to lead with ambition, become attractive to customers, and not stay stuck in the dark days of The Apprentice.

Here, then, are five progressive pieces advice from the speakers at WIRED Smarter:

1. Stand down, soldier

John Vincent, co-founder of Leon, gave a great talk on a topic that’s pertinent to both individual marketers, but to entire businesses.

Simply put, we all need to step away from the ludicrously militaristic corporate language we now use. Enough with the ‘aggressive targets’, ‘war rooms’, ‘air cover’ and ‘battle cards’. It’s time for something a bit more human.

After this strategy was implemented at Leon, a genuinely productive and positive change was observed – which you can read all about in John’s new book ‘Winning not Fighting’.

2. Move fast and maintain things

The ‘move fast and break things’ mantra made famous by Facebook and now pinned to the walls of start-ups around the world should now be consigned to the past, says Monzo chief, Tom Blomfield.

He talked about how, whilst things at Monzo need to move fast, they should always be done with consideration for individual people, the general public and, indeed, the planet.

The days of profit at any cost should now be behind us, and more considered growth plans are essential for brands that truly want to be progressive.

3. Balance profit with purpose

“But!” Says Tom Blomfield. “But!” Profit isn’t evil, it just needs to be balanced with purpose. A changing, more considered business environment or brand doesn’t need to be a non-profit or a charity.

Businesses can still put profit at the heart of what they do whilst simultaneously doing good in the world. Don’t be shy of letting people know that yours is a company with big financial ambitions – it doesn’t make you bad people.

4. Culture is not a beanbag

A company’s culture isn’t defined by indoor slides and beanbags, as observed by Bruce Daisley, author of ‘The Joy of Work’, saying “If you really want to adapt to a changing world, culture should be a reflection of the way you do things”.

In practice, this means putting real structures in place to enable flexible working, creating processes that support mental health issues, and establishing a core focus on diversity and inclusion. 

5. The future is circular

The final and arguably most important point, is that every future-thinking business needs to be concerned for the future of our planet. Many of the talks at WIRED Smarter focused on sustainability and the need for a circular economy model.

Elvis & Kresse explained in their keynote talk how their rescue-transform-donate model proves that it’s possible to be a sustainable and ethical brand in the luxury goods space whilst also remaining profitable. 


These are just a few of the insights shared at WIRED Smarter, but it’s important for brands, and the people who maintain them, to keep up with where the world is going. Otherwise, they could wake up one morning to find they’ve become Amstrad.

If you ever want to talk to Earnest or Earnest Labs about future trends and how to make them work for you, we’re only ever a couple of clicks away


[Header image: Wikimedia Commons]


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James Wood

Head of Earnest Labs

I'm the Head of Earnest Labs. My job is to eat up the whole internet and digest the most interesting bits for our clients.