MOleskine books

There’s a bit of a push on at work these days for the organisation to be paperless. For the most part I am: I barely ever use the printer and am quite happy to consume information on the various screen devices that I have about my person.

However there are two cases in which paper is still important to me: my notebook, pens, and (a more recent acquisition since going hot desk) an A3 sketch pad. I’m no artist, but if find these two paper sources invaluable when it domes to crystallizing ideas. I put it down, increasingly, to being a kinesthetic learner.

Hardcore paperless advocates would say that I need to adopt a note taking app like OneNote or Evernote. But that would fundamentally misinterpret why I take notes. I know some people are able to make a meticulous record of meetings through their note taking or typing, but for me it’s a way in which I can help keep focus and make sense of the event; note taking is a physical activity that helps me in meetings, but the notes themselves are only occasionally of value after the event, and probably only to me.

There is a discrepancy here that comes, I believe, as result of confusion between the concepts of data, information, activity and learning. Note taking is an activity I do to help me learn and process the world around me. It is not an exercise in the creation of information – and therefore the “data” – my scrawling – is of limited value.

Shifting to find an alternative device to my pen and Moleskine, so that the data is created at source digitally is of very questionable benefit. However, I am known to sometimes distribute photos of pages of my books when diagrams have emerged from more collaborative, “whiteboarding”-type sessions, and the thing I miss most about the working environment in my last employer was constant access to an electronic whiteboard, a technology that still seems to have had little or not adoption outside of the education sector.

These kinds of misinterpretations of meaning aren’t uncommon in the world of technology; I was talking yesterday to a colleague in the advertising business who is about to start a new role working for a magazine publisher. The conversation revolved around how not all adverts are created equal.

Imagine, if you will, the adverts that appears in a luxury lifestyle magazine; double-page glossy spreads for cars, watches and clothing whose prices place them outside of the reach of most mortals.

Now imagine banner adverts appearing for those same products around the magazine content sitting online.

They are very, very different things. Mostly because the banner ads just probably wouldn’t exist. Advertising online, by its nature, tends to be very “call to action” – encouragement to click through, or buy, or do something measurable and tangible. Advertising in the (certainly front) of glossy lifestyle mags is about brand and perception – the far less tangible, aspirational world. Luxury brands don’t do “calls to action” in the way in which a toothpaste manufacturer would, and it would significantly damage the brand.

Thinking that Hermes, for example, will shift from glossy ads in Vogue and Cosmo to ads online “because it’s all just advertising” again misses significant hidden meanings. Tacit knowledge that isn’t what things “say on the tin” is still so often the failure point for systems.

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