Dirk Gently meets Will.i.am … on a beach in Bermuda!

There’s a passage in Douglas Adam’s book ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ where the eponymous hero is trying to explain his methods to a skeptical client…

“I believe, as you know, Mrs Sauskind, in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. Furthermore I have plotted and triangulated the vectors of the interconnectedness of all things and traced them to a beach in Bermuda which it is therefore necessary for me to visit from time to time in the course of my investigations. I wish it were not the case, since, sadly, I am allergic to both the sun and rum punches, but then we all have our crosses to bear, do we not, Mrs Sauskind?”

Free holidays at the expense of the gullible Mrs Sauskind aside … I was reminded of the fundamental interconnectedness of all things recently while reading a piece on will.i.am, front-man of the Black Eyed Peas[1]. He was talking about his evolving role as a “popthropologist” (his term), and the work he was doing at Coke, Intel, Nasa and others. In language that we often use here at DVL Smith, will.i.am is a ‘wide-angled lens’ …

“What makes me effective is that music is a vehicle to travel the world and see behaviour and culture […] then I can use that to make songs and apply it to business practice. If I got rid of the music part then I become one of the guys in a suit that I think are ineffective” will.i.am

In short both will and Dirk take information gleaned in one place, and apply it effectively in another to create relevant and meaningful insight. Do all good research companies need a will.i.am (or Dirk) inside? They certainly tick a number of boxes that we consider important. They offer an eclectic, and more creative, view on what constitutes ‘evidence’ from today’s multiple, yet often imperfect, information sources and the ability to connect data and strategy to action. They are entrepreneurially-minded … able to look at data in different ways and be excited about testing the boundaries of, and experimenting with, an idea. They enjoy turning conventional thinking on its head and know that some strategies need to be taken to the wire, with some ‘renegade’ actions that may upset the more traditionally minded who would kick them out as flaky or too risky.

Finally both will.i.am and Dirk are great story-tellers, and make that final connection between data and action through the story. Stories are the way decision- makers make sense of the world.  Stories allow you to tap into the emotions that are the doorway through which all information is first accessed.

“A person can have the greatest ideas in the world – completely different and novel – but if that person can’t convince enough other people, it doesn’t matter” Gregory Berns

It is then about delivering this vision in an effortless way, creating some unforgettable moments, but also rendering the idea instantly ‘understandable’ to ensure your strategy stays in the mind of your audience and triggers action. In developing Ekocycle will.i.am visualised the concept, approached senior executives at Coke, “got a meeting and spent the next 2 months preparing a presentation ‘deck’ in the form of a bound book containing his idea, and then pitched it to them”. How many people working in your business could take an idea or a fragment of an idea from one place, apply it in another and pitch it unprompted?

“it is a rare mind indeed that can render the hitherto non-existent blindingly obvious. The cry ‘I could have thought of that’ is a very popular and misleading one, for the fact is that they didn’t, and a very significant and revealing fact it is too.” Dirk Gently

DVL Smith is hiring … only Dirks or Wills need apply


[1] FT Weekend Magazine, September 1/2 2012