Michael Jager on designing brands people actually love

What does it mean for a brand to be a living idea? Why is the humanization of brands so important? And why do ideas with substance really matter?

Today I chat with Michael Jager, Chief Creative Officer of Solidarity of Unbridled Labour, a studio that conceptualizes and realizes ideas that help guide and create culture and positive change within it.

It’s his vision that has shaped some of the biggest brands of our time like Nike, Lululemon, Burton Snowboards, Seventh Generation, MTV, Virgin, Patagonia, and Masterclass.

We talk about why he hates the word brand.

We talk about empathy. And learning.

We talk about the power of asking questions. And where you can find insights and inspiration.

And he tells us how The Clash changed his life.

Whenever I meet with Michael, I come out of the conversation with quotes and a list of suggestions of shows to watch, books to read, or artists to look into. So, I of course finish the chat with inspirational references to share with all of you.

To say you will feel inspired after this episode is an understatement. You may even want to have a pen and paper nearby to write things down.

Enjoy this one. Here is Michael.

Please don’t forget to let us know what you think of this episode, leave a review, rating, and subscribe.

And if you’re keen to understand more about TIE and what we’re up to these days, just shoot me an email at philippa@theinternationalexchange.co.uk. I’d love to hear from you.

00:00:02:04 – 00:00:27:03
Philippa White
Welcome to the show, where we unearth new ways of looking at ever evolving light around the world. Seen from a number of different industries, cultures and backgrounds. But there’s one thing that unites everyone I speak to. They all want to do their part to make the world better in their own unique ways. It’s a uniting passion. Whether they’re from the commercial world, third sector or public sector from the Global North or the global south.

00:00:27:15 – 00:01:00:02
Philippa White
My name is Philippa White and welcome to TIE Unearthed. Hey there and welcome to episode 34 of TIE Unearthed. Today I’m speaking with my friend Michael Jagger, chief creative officer of Solidarity of Unbridled Labor, which is a studio that conceptualizes and realizes ideas that help guide and create culture and positive change within it. And today, we’re going to be talking about how brands are truly living ideas and how to make them and business more human.

00:01:00:16 – 00:01:29:16
Philippa White
Clearly, something that I really resonate with. Now, for more than 30 years, Michael, who’s Vermont’s first awarded AIGA design fellow, has been creating and collaborating with brands driven by the idea that design distinction matters most and that brands are truly living ideas. His groundbreaking strategic brand design work continues with solidarity of unbridled labor, guided by Ezra Pound, simply but elegantly stated principle make it new.

00:01:30:00 – 00:02:14:19
Philippa White
His multi-disciplined, collaborative output for a multitude of today’s most recognizable and relevant brands, including Burton Snowboards, Nike, Phish, MTV, Virgin, Lululemon, Seventh Generation Masterclass and Patagonia, just to name a few, is recognized worldwide through Solidarity’s own brand design innovation platform. Michael has helped create unique brands, including my mother. He’s also the co-founder of the Karma Birdhouse, which is a creative economy community space, home to more than 60 inspiring entrepreneurial entities, as well as the Iskra print collective, which is a nonprofit screen printing studio and art education space, creating an environment where curiosity never sleeps.

00:02:15:06 – 00:02:34:01
Philippa White
To say you’re going to feel inspired after this episode is honestly an understatement. You may even want to have a pen and paper nearby to write things down. So enjoy this one. Here’s Michael. Hello, Michael. It is lovely to have you with us. It’s great to see you on the other side of the screen. How are you?

00:02:34:17 – 00:02:36:22
Michael Jagger
Very good. You as well. Hi, Philippa.

00:02:37:11 – 00:03:06:21
Philippa White
Hello. It’s lovely to have you with us. So thanks to our mutual friend Julianna. We’ve been chatting for a while now, and I have to say, since we first spoke, I really got a taste of why brands like Burton Snowboards, Fish, Seventh Generation, Nike, Masterclass and Patagonia just love working with you. And it’s because the way that you see the world is just so inspiring.

00:03:07:01 – 00:03:14:13
Philippa White
And I just would love for you to just bring you to life for our listeners today.

00:03:15:10 – 00:03:17:18
Michael Jagger
Wow. That’s a very.

00:03:17:18 – 00:03:23:07
Philippa White
Very you can you can maybe just tell people a little bit more about you.

00:03:24:12 – 00:03:43:09
Michael Jagger
Thanks, I guess, yeah. Well, thank you very much for your your time and invitation to be a part of this conversation with you and I. And I think Ileana as well, I mean, this has been an amazing experience, just getting to learn more about what you’re doing, the TIE and everything that you’re doing in the world. So it’s it’s an honor to be here.

00:03:43:11 – 00:04:06:24
Michael Jagger
So thank thanks so much for the invitation. Yeah. As far as to give some context, I guess I can give a little bit of background as to the frame by which you kind of see the world and just how incredibly fortunate I feel to be able to do the things that I do with the amazing people that I get to do them with.

00:04:07:10 – 00:04:31:15
Michael Jagger
I can give you a little context for how I even got into designing the creative space, if that would be helpful as a start. Yeah, but it’s you know, essentially I’m a dyslexic farm boy from a small town in northern Vermont, about 15 minutes from the Canadian border. And math was not particularly a friend of mine when I was growing up.

00:04:31:15 – 00:04:58:09
Michael Jagger
And I was I’m actually surprised they let me graduate high school because I was so severely broken down on that side of it. But thankfully, I managed to figure out that I could draw. And my mother was incredibly kind and open minded and open hearted about nurturing that along. And then I was very fortunate as well to have a, you know, some teachers along the way, a guy named Keith Gallop, who I still know as my high school art teacher.

00:04:58:09 – 00:05:19:10
Michael Jagger
And he was like, you could maybe do something with this art thing. And I just was completely fixated on music and art and drawing. And then that got me to design school in Montreal, which was in the late seventies and right in the heart of the punk rock scene. So my whole life from the farm became looking through the lens of album covers.

00:05:19:11 – 00:05:47:24
Michael Jagger
I just I ended up becoming a designer because I wanted to do album covers. So that’s that was really the framework. When I got into design school, I started to realize, Oh, this is this is kind of an interesting space that is more than just making the art. It’s like ideas with substance really do matter. And I started to unlock a little bit more because it was a really great international group of of teachers and professors there that were really powerful.

00:05:48:09 – 00:06:25:14
Michael Jagger
And so when I, you know, as I kind of went forward, I started getting fascinated also with industrial design. And I’ll talk more about Multi-Discipline fixation that I have, but that sort of set me in motion to understand the more empathy, the more learning, the more insight that you can gain, the more effective your ideas will be. And as much as I wanted to do album covers and I love beautiful craft and art, it was more and more intriguing to me to find people to work with that wanted to do more with ideas than you know, beautiful is good, you know, but it’s, you know, it’s something more.

00:06:25:15 – 00:06:29:13
Michael Jagger
So that that’s kind of the the essence of I guess how I got.

00:06:29:13 – 00:06:30:19
Philippa White
Into it came from.

00:06:30:24 – 00:06:32:19
Michael Jagger
The creative world.

00:06:33:01 – 00:06:39:12
Philippa White
Yeah, that’s really interesting. Actually. I read somewhere. Something, somewhere. It’s. You like The Clash?

00:06:39:17 – 00:06:45:03
Michael Jagger
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I was. I was fortunate to be able to meet Joe Strummer and those guys before.

00:06:45:03 – 00:06:45:18
Philippa White
Really.

00:06:45:18 – 00:06:51:15
Michael Jagger
Joe passed away. But I can say The Clash probably changed my life. Yeah.

00:06:51:15 – 00:06:52:03
Philippa White
Why?

00:06:53:16 – 00:07:27:09
Michael Jagger
They were, more than anything, pretty radical thinkers about what really mattered. And they lived it. I mean, they really lived the DIY punk ideology, and they did it with intelligence. It was not just a show, it was a ideology that I think they they truly lived in. Joe Strummer It’s really sad that he’s not with us anymore, that he that he’s not here, but it’s yeah, they, they just had ideas that opened my mind to see things differently and focus on what was important.

00:07:27:09 – 00:07:35:04
Michael Jagger
And then you could change things and, you know, are you taking orders or are you taking over? Is one of Joe’s Joe’s thoughts?

00:07:35:15 – 00:07:58:15
Philippa White
Yeah. How amazing. My partner, he’s a he’s a huge fan of the class. I as well. Yeah. So you’re the creative director of Solidarity of unbridled labor. And I just wonder if you can tell our listeners what you find yourself doing most days and what gets you excited about getting out of bed in the morning?

00:07:58:24 – 00:08:29:10
Michael Jagger
Well, what I do most days, I kind of exist, I guess, in a multi-disciplined, beautiful pinball machine by design, I’m moving between strategic work and thinking, writing, designing, directing and I get to work with a lot of different disciplines in a lot of different categories. So for a little bit of clarity, I mean solidarity of unbridled labor as a strategic brand design firm.

00:08:29:10 – 00:08:58:20
Michael Jagger
So our our formal handle, so we, we do, you know, deep strategic thinking and process to be able to then express those ideas and those intentions through design. And we’re very much and always have been focused on purpose based entities and enterprises in the world. And we work in a vast spectrum, from agriculture to technology and music and entertainment and many, many different spaces.

00:08:58:20 – 00:09:21:04
Michael Jagger
But it’s really about strategy. So that allows me to interact with a lot of different categories, with a lot of different people, which is kind of what my day in my life is designed to be. And it kind of went from being a traditional designer into blurring the boundaries into strategy and multi-discipline design with industrial design, a number of things within all that.

00:09:21:04 – 00:09:48:05
Michael Jagger
What gets me excites me. Getting out of bed every day, I guess, is the fear of not getting out of bed is probably what keeps me getting my feet on the ground. But I don’t know. I think it’s just stretching your head. The learning arm definitely makes me happy and I thankfully get a lot of opportunity to spend time with people that are a lot more intelligent than I am.

00:09:48:05 – 00:10:01:20
Michael Jagger
And I get to learn about things from, you know, agronomic engineers in Norway as an example. And yeah, I mean, there’s every single day I just get the opportunity to learn things and that really makes me happy. So.

00:10:03:04 – 00:10:31:21
Philippa White
So and actually just touching on maybe one or two projects that you’re working on maybe now or even even in the past, there’s something just for listeners that maybe don’t work in the creative space, that don’t necessarily understand this world because it’s, it’s communications is, is so huge and there’s different areas of it, obviously. And you explained obviously touched on what you do, but can you bring it to life in sort of a tangible example of something that a project that you’re quite proud of or excited about?

00:10:32:13 – 00:11:07:05
Michael Jagger
Yeah, it could maybe give a couple of examples. So one that was really defining is that I again happened to be fortunate with the intersections of life that happened is Burton snowboards. So we’ve worked with burden snowboards for nearly 30 years at this point and you know, being fortunate to be part of the development and creation of not only a culture which is snowboarding internationally, but a brand that was the leader in that space that really helped to shape a culture and itself.

00:11:07:05 – 00:11:28:00
Michael Jagger
And literally, I was in the basement of my house and our team was there and we were six or seven people. And Jake Burton Carpenter, who sadly has passed last year, he was in his barn, you know, 100 miles away, pressing boards with, you know, eight or nine of his his friends and the universe allowed us to connect.

00:11:28:00 – 00:11:54:12
Michael Jagger
And we just kind of related and started making things together and making ideas together. So that’s an example of one that when you think about what strategic brand design is, again, that formal idea, it’s really about identifying ideas that are meaningful in people’s lives, understand the purpose and intention behind them, and then use design to express and shape those ideas so people can find the magnet that you’ve created.

00:11:54:21 – 00:11:56:07
Michael Jagger
That’s pretty much what we do.

00:11:56:13 – 00:12:12:00
Philippa White
So talk to us and you’ve touched on it now, but maybe you can bring it to life in a little bit more idea. Just, you know what brands inspire you and talk to us a bit about living ideas.

00:12:12:00 – 00:12:22:23
Michael Jagger
What brands inspire me? There’s a there’s a few examples I would note now and again, I really like it. I actually don’t really like the word brand at all. I think it’s.

00:12:23:11 – 00:12:26:13
Philippa White
So talked to us about that talk to talk to kind of because I mean this is.

00:12:26:19 – 00:12:39:07
Michael Jagger
Is kind of a tired and over used and often misunderstood term. One of the very simple things that I do is I like to drop the AR, so think of it as a band, you know, back.

00:12:39:07 – 00:12:41:08
Philippa White
Back to back to.

00:12:41:08 – 00:13:05:16
Michael Jagger
You know, where essentially that’s what it is. No matter how you break it down, ultimately these enterprises, no matter how big they may be, 50,000 strong and people around the world, they could be a startup with three people in a basement. It’s a band of people with an intention and a point of view, and it is a living organism or way of being no matter what.

00:13:05:17 – 00:13:34:23
Michael Jagger
That’s what it is. And there are healthy ones and there are not so healthy ones. And there, you know, and I think that really helps keep my simple framework clear for me is like that’s what it is, you know? And then a brand is, you know, it’s a set of experiences that deliver on a promise. That’s essentially what you’re doing every day, whether it’s words, products, images, ideas, cultural manifestations.

00:13:36:15 – 00:14:02:23
Michael Jagger
So but I like to think about it as a band of people. And then you realize, Oh, they’re human, they’re flawed, they’re beautiful, they’re surprising. They create love. They create desire. You know, all of a sudden it dimensionalize is it in a different way versus some, you know, identity you’re defending. That is just a machine that is this kind of, you know, structure, you know, mechanism for capitalism.

00:14:02:24 – 00:14:04:16
Michael Jagger
You know, it’s very different.

00:14:04:19 – 00:14:35:02
Philippa White
And that’s yeah. And it’s interesting just you talking in that term or in that way bringing it to life, it shows even more the necessity of authenticity. Right? Because we want to treat the people who fall in love with that band. Yeah. Or the brand as human beings. So if I as a human beings and not authentic, then people will trust me and then people won’t like me as a as a human being, as a person.

00:14:35:02 – 00:14:41:20
Philippa White
Right. So you want to, as a person, be open and transparent and nice and human.

00:14:41:20 – 00:14:42:11
Michael Jagger
Exactly. Right.

00:14:42:17 – 00:14:47:21
Philippa White
And then why would the brand be any different? Because we need. Yeah.

00:14:47:21 – 00:15:06:22
Michael Jagger
So that you have to think that’s exactly it. I mean you have to maintain curiosity and connection and a lot of people will talk about, you know, their their connection with, with the audience. And but a lot of that is digital, which is real on many levels. But it’s like you really have to be curious. You have to be interested, you have to listen.

00:15:06:22 – 00:15:24:15
Michael Jagger
And it’s getting harder and harder to be good at that. But I mean, I go right back to The Clash, like Joe Strummer and those guys like every show, they would talk to their audience, like, that’s how I met them. It’s like they wanted to. No matter how big they got, they never forgot that they are you and you are them.

00:15:24:23 – 00:15:49:21
Michael Jagger
And they just happened. I mean, they were very talented at what they did, but and I think the best brands or the best bands of people are incredibly interested. They’re more more interested than interesting. Often they’re just curious. They’re great listeners like Jake Carpenter. He would for ever have conversations with with kids. He would meet on chairlifts, on mountains like forever.

00:15:50:01 – 00:16:13:10
Michael Jagger
It would drive the engineers at Burton. I was talking to this 15 year old kid, you know, and he had this idea about a binding or something, but it’s like he understood, like, well, you know, that kid probably worked all summer long to raise the $2,000 to be able to get a new board and a season pass. And it’s like he’s going to have more conviction than someone who’s been so myopically focused on engineering, you know?

00:16:14:01 – 00:16:31:18
Philippa White
But it’s so it’s so funny you say that because a friend of mine, Steve, I can’t remember his last name. I grew up with him. I stay at school, junior high school, elementary school. I mean, he just and he is one of those people he now works at. Burton Oh, really? But he yeah. And he, he Steve was for everything was Burton.

00:16:31:18 – 00:16:48:00
Philippa White
Everything was Burton. But he knew that company inside and out. He was an incredible snowboarder since he was small and everything isn’t a beautiful. And, you know, I don’t know if he still does. The last time I heard he was he’s still I think he worked in marketing, even at Burton. I don’t know. Anyway, you won’t even. Steve, I need to find this school.

00:16:48:08 – 00:17:12:20
Philippa White
You won’t even know him. But he is one of those people that if you talk to him and I think this is what’s really interesting is with Ty, we talk a lot about the importance as a leader of any company is empathy. Because once you start to emphasize and you start and active listening. Yeah, active listening is when you empathize and you start to ask questions, but you properly listen to the answers.

00:17:13:12 – 00:17:28:19
Philippa White
That’s when you become a better leader. But also that’s when as a leader of that company, you start to really be able to drive that company in the direction it needs to go in, because that’s the only way we can move forward with things in a in a in a transparent human.

00:17:28:24 – 00:17:53:15
Michael Jagger
Absolutely. I mean, that’s an that is an art form that’s being sadly, really negatively impacted by a lot of technology. I mean, I really think that curiosity is being compromised on a lot of different levels, people living under the illusion that because they can search something and they can get access to, you know, seemingly good answers, it doesn’t have the depth that it needs or the multi-sensory experience that’s needed.

00:17:54:00 – 00:18:19:07
Michael Jagger
And also the demands that a lot of companies put on people performance wise, hitting those quarterly numbers. It crushes the room for curiosity. And that’s an extremely dangerous situation. And that is coupled with the art of listening. I’m actually one of the most profound things that I saw honestly in my life. I really was was so impacted by this.

00:18:19:16 – 00:18:40:07
Michael Jagger
There was a there’s a guy named Spalding Gray who sadly, is no longer with us. He he was he was an essayist. I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of his writing or anything, but he would do presentations. Very entertaining, very insightful and communicator. And he did a presentation at the Flynn Theater, which is a theater here in Burlington.

00:18:40:07 – 00:19:08:01
Michael Jagger
It’s about 3000 people, beautiful old art deco theater. And I went to a show that he did that was a national tour and it was called Everyone Is Interesting. And he basically went to the theater, sold out. His presentation is a desk, two chairs, a couple of glasses of water, and he goes out about 15 minutes before the show and just introduces himself to people, chats with a number of people.

00:19:08:07 – 00:19:27:18
Michael Jagger
When he goes down to the stage, he’s just like, Oh, Becky Smith there, Phillip away. Come on down. Like he would bring a person out of the audience that he just met 10 minutes before and would basically talk to them in front of 3000 people and show every single person is interesting on this planet if you are interested in being curious.

00:19:28:01 – 00:19:45:23
Michael Jagger
And I remember there was a ten year old girl from a farm town, Georgia, that was right near where I grew up. That’s where who he started with. He talked to seven people that night, and I never forgot that. And it always reminded me and it’s part of this little kid goes back to the design and the strategy vocabulary.

00:19:46:01 – 00:20:23:11
Michael Jagger
When I hear people use target audience, it just kills me because it distances you from the reality. It’s like you cannot use those terms. I hate the militant vocabulary and lexicon that came into communication like tactic and war room. It’s like such bullshit and we have to break away from that stuff. We’ve got it. Don’t talk about target markets and I get it’s a mechanic of strategy, but talk about it like you need to be thinking, I’m communicating this idea to my friends, to people I care about, to people in the community that need this.

00:20:24:12 – 00:20:42:16
Michael Jagger
And I know it seems very obvious, but it’s crazy how entrenched it’s get it gets. And if your vocabulary has that distance of like war room mentality and tactical decisions and everything, it’s just nuts. Just yeah, totally. It’s an it’s an opposition versus a unity.

00:20:42:16 – 00:20:50:12
Philippa White
And how would you. Yeah, so how would you rather than talking about target market, what would you use instead in the in the general sort of conversation at work.

00:20:51:12 – 00:20:57:21
Michael Jagger
Just who are the people like literally who who are the people that need, need this need.

00:20:57:21 – 00:20:59:07
Philippa White
Identify with what we’re talking.

00:20:59:07 – 00:21:15:00
Michael Jagger
Yeah. And what. Yeah. Who are they. Where are they. And sometimes yeah. I mean we’ll even name names of certain, you know, try to really personify it in a way, but it’s Yeah. Anything we can to eliminate that kind of vocabulary.

00:21:15:23 – 00:21:45:23
Philippa White
That’s really interesting. And so to that, because we’re sort of dancing around this, this topic of purpose and company culture and, and I know this is a really key part of your work, but also interest and has obviously been forever and, you know, curiosity and you talked a little bit of the killing of curiosity, but maybe you could just bring just your thoughts around that a little bit more about purpose and company culture and the importance of that.

00:21:45:24 – 00:22:17:06
Michael Jagger
Yeah. Um, gosh, it’s really nearly everything. You know, having, having a shared purpose is really at the essence of it. We’ve actually changed our practice pretty dramatically over the last few years. In part of the effort to move away from some of the militant vocabulary, mission and vision is is powerfully embedded. And some people have been moving toward purpose and talk about more purpose based ideas.

00:22:17:16 – 00:22:48:03
Michael Jagger
We have started to work with a singular statement as the entry point of trying to identify a shared purpose. So something that you share with your audience that you are you are one with this audience and you’re moving together. So it’s what are you doing with people versus a mission, which is often for it’s more of a service or something you deliver for which distances you so shared purpose then becomes everything about what you’re doing, but you see it through a lens of being united with your audience.

00:22:49:11 – 00:23:09:02
Michael Jagger
So we try to frame everything in that, and I think that’s a change that I think the world needs and wants. I think culture is demanding that and it comes in the form. You people talk about transparency and all of those things, but it’s really like, what actions do you take to truly be participating and inviting those connections?

00:23:09:22 – 00:23:24:10
Michael Jagger
Our identity actually is these is two squares that are colors, not unlike the, you know, the beautiful top that you have on this. I, I really love the marimekko design that Philip is wearing.

00:23:24:11 – 00:23:28:11
Philippa White
For our listeners. I wear a guy wearing a tarp is sort of a big yellow.

00:23:28:18 – 00:24:03:17
Michael Jagger
It’s, it’s so optimistic and love. And our, so our identity is actually a painting reference. It’s like Josef Albers interaction of color. So it’s these two squares, but it’s the metaphor for the fact that the reality of contemporary idea making it so let’s replace brand with idea of contemporary idea of making and purpose based idea making is about the it’s like the metaphor of the interaction of color when you connect with each other and overlap with each other, you change the audience and the audience changes you.

00:24:03:23 – 00:24:31:02
Michael Jagger
So just like when Josef Albers studies, which show when you converge yellow together with blue, there is a relationship where both of them are affected. Your your view and your perception of both is affected. So that’s a metaphor that we try to use to remind us it’s a living thing. There’s an exchange going on that is inextricably linked and dynamic and it truly never sleeps.

00:24:31:17 – 00:24:58:02
Michael Jagger
So that is how we try to link purpose and shared purpose into the decisions we make. Because then it’s sort of like, okay, how do you emotionally, rationally and culturally create the magnets that differentiate you? And then that helps you make decisions every day? So it’s anybody in this idea should be able to understand those rational, emotional and cultural differences through the lens of shared purpose.

00:24:58:02 – 00:25:22:17
Michael Jagger
And again, it takes a lot of work to get there, you know, not to make it sound like, oh, those are easy, easy things to identify, but that is, you know, I think that’s the essence of you can do that. You can help move a culture confidently forward. You can help people navigate difficult things that happen in the world that are beyond their control, which is a reality like climate.

00:25:23:13 – 00:25:49:20
Michael Jagger
The climate crisis is a very real thing that’s changing every one of our lives, and it’s going to require cultures that are cohesive in their purpose and their ability to be empathetic. It’s going to require being having leadership that really embraces that to be navigating what’s on the horizon, because it is not not going to be easy.

00:25:50:16 – 00:26:33:04
Philippa White
I think this word culture is an interesting one, actually, as someone who’s traveled so much and loves cultures, you know, you look at culture, you know, culture is amazing because look at the food in Greece and the the beautiful traditions in Africa and Ghana and and oh, I love the music in Brazil. I love the Brazilian culture. But culture is actually a really dangerous thing because culture also creates, you know, the religious culture where people have to behave in certain ways and there’s no moving away from that.

00:26:33:04 – 00:27:02:07
Philippa White
It’s it’s oppressive. And I think it’s interesting because when we look at a company culture, you can imagine these big mammoth corporations that have developed these company cultures that I kind of compare that a little bit with the sort of the negative side of culture where you it’s it’s hard to change. And I think that that’s also where, like you said, it’s not going to be easy.

00:27:02:16 – 00:27:19:07
Philippa White
And this is where as well, I think in leadership we have to kind of start to remember that we need to be open and we need to be flexible and we need to be empathetic and we need to ask these questions and we need to start to kind of realize that, you know, there’s some great things in our culture, whatever that is.

00:27:19:07 – 00:27:25:17
Philippa White
And that’s and but then there’s also the really negative things. And we need to kind of be able to navigate that, like you say, like.

00:27:25:17 – 00:27:48:10
Michael Jagger
I think one way that help, you know, helps me stay, you know, looking at the horizon in a positive context in that because you’re right, it is a complex system of of influences that happen and how a culture emerges and how cultures can collide. But one thing I found, you know, the term you know, the idea of collaboration comes up often.

00:27:48:10 – 00:28:12:06
Michael Jagger
You know, in culture, you know, the ability to guide and manage in collaborative ways and that’s valuable. I do think that there’s there’s a little bit of a trap there in that people have come to look at collaboration in in cultural convergence more as an exercise in playing nice together, which is good. And there’s a lot of great stuff written about it and practiced.

00:28:12:18 – 00:28:36:06
Michael Jagger
But I think one of the things we need to keep in mind is it helps people, I think, move forward, even if there’s a real divergence, you know, culturally in, inside or outside. If you remember, the value of a level of interaction is the third mind. You know, the benefit of collaboration is to get to a space that you could never possibly have gotten to on your own.

00:28:36:14 – 00:29:06:11
Michael Jagger
So if you are curious and you’re empathetic and you understand together, what we’re trying to get to is this transcendent third mind space. It makes the decision making in the conversations, I find a lot more effective and sometimes easier because you’re not focused on two convergent opinions. You’re focused on trying to find this new space. And it really changes if you can facilitate correctly, it really changes the interaction.

00:29:07:03 – 00:29:19:23
Michael Jagger
And I think too much people get into being effective collaborators, but it’s almost more like facilitation strategy versus understanding. Well, what are we trying to get to? And it helps people make better decisions.

00:29:20:09 – 00:29:40:20
Philippa White
You love quotes. I love quotes. I think ever just for our listeners, every email I get from Michael has a different quote and it’s like each one is super inspiring. And I read that. I’m like, Oh my God. And he pairs the quotes with the message of the email. I mean, honestly, you must have like a thank you quote is extraordinary.

00:29:41:12 – 00:29:58:05
Philippa White
Just you know, so you must have so many quotes. But just for our listeners today, maybe, I don’t know, based on our conversation or, you know, something that inspired you recently, I just you know what what is one of your favorite quotes at the moment and how does it sort of represent how you’re seeing the world right now?

00:29:58:18 – 00:30:01:17
Michael Jagger
Hmm. Well, I.

00:30:02:09 – 00:30:03:14
Philippa White
Not to put you on the spot.

00:30:03:14 – 00:30:27:17
Michael Jagger
There. That’s a that’s a good question. And I do I mean, I guess I do a lot of I love reading and I do a lot of learning from from that space. One, one my my son Eli shared with me actually is one that I really, really have found interesting recently. And I think kind of applies to this as we talk about the some of the traps of some of the vocabulary we talked about in everything.

00:30:27:17 – 00:30:53:14
Michael Jagger
But it’s birds born in a cage, think flying is an illness. And it’s Alessandra Jodorowsky. And I think when you when you think when you apply that to cultures, people that are too tightly framed into a cage of thinking and they, you know, they they can’t even imagine flight, let alone they think it’s actually some sort of illness or some strange thing that you would do.

00:30:54:10 – 00:31:11:09
Michael Jagger
And it’s I think it’s talking to the, you know, constraint in a negative you know, the negative aspects of constrained thinking. So I think the moment of empathy opened, you know, opening our minds and stretching our heads is really a key component of love.

00:31:11:09 – 00:31:32:12
Philippa White
That quote, I love it because I recently had a conversation with a professor from my business school and at business school I remember anyway, I didn’t really connect with my but it was great. I’m really pleased that I did it. But it was, you know, there were times we would chat, you know, what’s the main goal of business to make money?

00:31:33:06 – 00:31:58:01
Philippa White
Oh, God. This just, like, doesn’t fit with me anyway. I, you know, for many reasons, we’re, we’re I’m starting to chat with different educational programs or to see if there’s different ways to integrate tie. And a couple of people have been on TIE recently graduated with an MBA from Wharton and I’m going to be traveling to Wharton. But I thought rather than going first to Wharton, I’ll chat with my business school.

00:31:58:01 – 00:32:21:17
Philippa White
And I chatted with one of my professors and and it was unbelievable because this kind of what I’m doing and the vision of what TIE is all about, it didn’t resonate. Didn’t resonate. And she and that’s fine. Like, I’m not expecting TIE to resonate with everyone. It’s fine. It might not. But I was actually really disappointed because the reason it didn’t resonate was because it was.

00:32:22:02 – 00:32:44:06
Philippa White
What I understood coming out of that conversation was Business is not going to change, we are screwed. Let’s not try and pretend that things are going to change because we are all cogs in machine. I’m a cog in the machine and as a professor of this business school, and I don’t believe that business is ever going to change, to be honest, we’re all doomed, essentially.

00:32:44:11 – 00:32:49:08
Philippa White
And I’m just going to keep I’m just going to keep doing what I do. And that’s.

00:32:49:09 – 00:32:49:14
Michael Jagger
It.

00:32:49:24 – 00:33:08:14
Philippa White
That’s it, really. And I felt really emotional actually, after that conversation, not because she went, because I’ve got so many people who love what I do and it’s not like I was looking for her approval. It was that feeling kind of like this quote. That’s what sort of reminded me of this quote, because it’s that there’s there’s no way to change that.

00:33:08:14 – 00:33:18:09
Philippa White
It’s that this is it. And I truly in my bones don’t believe that because I’m all about challenging the status quo and we have to at least do something.

00:33:18:12 – 00:33:41:21
Michael Jagger
I think, yeah, you can hang on to the beautiful colors on your marionette. Come talking with optimism because the dots are coming together. I think, you know, you should maintain optimism because TIE is exemplary of the front end of the change. The person you talk to at the business school, in my mind, it’s like just what we’ve been talking about before.

00:33:42:00 – 00:34:05:11
Michael Jagger
That person is not curious enough or interested enough or giving space enough to be listening to the alumni of the school to understand that human beings need purpose in their life, that business is going to have to adapt to. And the consumers are going to be pushing the same thing. So I think that person’s eventually going to learn that the ground she’s standing on is changing.

00:34:06:00 – 00:34:42:23
Michael Jagger
And the other thing is staying dug into that, not thinking not only in in business school, but education in general. I looking at things like master class. The whole idea of a learning lifestyle like the pandemic catapulted how we learn universities and things are already in question. Is it worth the money? Is it set up? I think make this huge investment in time and then it’s irrelevant three years later, like there was already radical questions disrupting that space, no matter how high altitude they were, those institutions are have cracks all over them.

00:34:43:10 – 00:34:55:18
Michael Jagger
And it’s because of that narrow my in my view, it’s that narrow minded thinking. I agree. If they were being curious about what are our alumni really thinking and they’d say to me, they should see TIE as, Huh, look.

00:34:55:18 – 00:34:55:23
Philippa White
Out.

00:34:55:23 – 00:35:12:19
Michael Jagger
Look at the action they’re taking that taps into the purpose need emotionally that people have as they get further in their career. They want to know that they’re they’ve got meaning and it’s like, huh, we could learn something from that. It just they will find.

00:35:12:19 – 00:35:35:15
Philippa White
Out exactly if and see exactly. And I really appreciate it because you’ve been so supportive of TIE over. It’s a brilliant talk for our listeners. I’ve spoke it well. I really appreciate it. And we’ve obviously we we riff over Zoom a couple of times or three times a year. And I always, you know, it’s an equal admiration society because I really I get so much from our conversations, but I appreciate your support.

00:35:35:15 – 00:36:09:01
Philippa White
So obviously we do see alike and I think, you know, unlocking that empathy and that flexibility in people and them understanding, the power that they have and the and discovering their personal purpose is what is going to drive these companies in the direction that it needs to go in. And that’s the thing. It’s sort of this, like you said, it’s a mix of people working at the companies that need to identify with them, but also the customers that will buy stuff from those companies when they identify with them.

00:36:09:01 – 00:36:19:04
Philippa White
And, you know, the future of this planet needs this. But I think also from the future of you having employees and having customers is also.

00:36:20:00 – 00:36:48:19
Michael Jagger
So I have a quick prediction for you, but maybe could be a possibility. Not that I do, but I but I was just thinking about like the reality of what I can represent and do. And I’ve been fortunate to see like the Leo BURNETT project that was done. I mean, it was such a powerful demonstration and even done virtually, but it really, really an incredibly powerful demonstration of what it is that you’re doing.

00:36:49:01 – 00:37:22:09
Michael Jagger
But I think what will happen is the more those stories are demonstrated and you see the effect of people being given the space for purpose and curiosity and applying their skills in that context and the resonant effect, I have no doubt that that effort is now resonating within Leo BURNETT. And when you’re dealing with very top level communications gurus, the clients that they are partnered with, they will become time networked people as well.

00:37:22:09 – 00:37:41:15
Michael Jagger
I think they’ll become part of this ecosystem and where because that applies not only to communications expert, there’s communication experts that are inside many other entities as well. I think there’s going to be this I kind of look, you know, if you look at a sunflower in the Fibonacci sequence and how the math just perpetually grows is yes.

00:37:41:15 – 00:37:42:06
Philippa White
Yes, yes.

00:37:42:06 – 00:37:51:13
Michael Jagger
I think you’re in the early stages of those core that core pattern TIE is in those states. And I know you’ve been at it for a long time. I mean.

00:37:52:01 – 00:37:53:01
Philippa White
16 years.

00:37:53:01 – 00:38:13:02
Michael Jagger
It’s not you know, it’s not an idea that you came up with six months ago, but it does take time to build it. But I think you’re in this moment where there is an exponential thing where culture has caught up with you as much as me, I think you’re going to find, oh, that these stories are just kind of growing each other and feeding each other.

00:38:13:09 – 00:38:30:24
Philippa White
Well, that’s it’s is exciting. Thank you for that prediction. It is exciting. And I have to say, since, you know, this last year obviously has been pretty crazy with COVID and everything, but it also for so many reasons. And but, you know, if there are silver linings, I think one is that it has forced us, like you said, learning has evolved.

00:38:30:24 – 00:39:00:01
Philippa White
It’s forced us to realize just how we can push TIE in different ways. And yeah, now just being able to work with individuals and with corporates and virtually and impacting organizations now in places that we couldn’t work in before. So we’ve got a project kicking off a, B, H in Iraq and Syria, you know, talking about the importance of mental health in that region so that, you know, because obviously with a mental health vacuum, that’s how, you know, the Taliban, that’s how ISIS starts to be born.

00:39:00:13 – 00:39:26:13
Philippa White
And so supporting young people who have seen terrible things and BBH is now going to be involved in a project that can do that through Ty. And we couldn’t do that before because I couldn’t send people physically. So yeah, it’s really it’s amazing. Gosh, another thing that I get from Michael, when we when we speak, I always get, oh, my God, you need to check out this big on Netflix or Oh, there’s this amazing thing that you need to check out.

00:39:26:13 – 00:39:45:17
Philippa White
And it’s again, so much inspiration. So for our listeners, because I can’t not speak to you and not share or have you shared something? So what have you watched lately that got you thinking in a different way? Or what could you what’s a must watch or must see for our listeners?

00:39:46:05 – 00:40:15:21
Michael Jagger
Well, yeah, we do have some fun conversations about this and you always give we it’s definitely an exchange where I get a number of things to list as well. What’s a few things? One, one old school thing I guess I would throw out is there’s a there’s a book on the creation of the Plastic Ono Band by John and Yoko that basically breaks down the thinking behind the experiment, which was the Plastic Ono Band.

00:40:16:11 – 00:40:47:23
Michael Jagger
And, you know, effectively the first project, Post-Beatles Breakup. And that book is worth seeing because it is an incredible deconstruction of Yoko’s Fluxus theories and thinking applied to John’s understanding of the power of music and message, combined with their third mind space of ideas where they would, you know, recontextualize what advertising could do. And B I mean, it’s a fascinating book.

00:40:48:12 – 00:40:49:05
Philippa White
So. Well.

00:40:50:02 – 00:41:30:15
Michael Jagger
Let’s try out an old school medium media of a book. Actually, with the Olympics, there’s a film, Tokyo Olympiad, that was done by it’s a documentary. It’s actually known as probably one of the most profound sports films ever made. And it was done in 1966 by Konnichiwa. And it’s a stunningly beautiful portrait of the 66 Japanese Olympics in the Olympics in Tokyo and what was really inspiring to me about it is he it was the first time he’d done a documentary.

00:41:31:07 – 00:41:53:02
Michael Jagger
And of course, the Japanese government wanted him to just make heroic, you know, presentation of all of the Japanese athletes. But of course, he wasn’t going to do that. It was a documentary, and it was portraits of everyone in the lives of the athletes. And he did some amazing things where because he didn’t really know how to shoot sports or he was just a statically astonishing.

00:41:53:15 – 00:42:17:13
Michael Jagger
He did this thing with Joe Frazier. So the big, big boxing moment and he never even showed Joe Frazier in the ring. He only showed Joe with his trainer in the basement preparing to go into the ring. And he never even showed the boxing. He was more interested in the life of a of a boxer and the training and how lonely it is.

00:42:18:00 – 00:42:28:19
Michael Jagger
And and it was just mind blowingly beautiful. So it’s esthetically incredible and just a celebration of humanity in many ways. So that.

00:42:28:19 – 00:42:51:04
Philippa White
Was that. That’s such a that’s lovely, actually, because it’s funny when you think of as a band or brand, I feel this with Ty like really what resonates with people? What do you actually as a human being? What do you want to see? What do you want to you know, CNN is showing the boxing ring. You know, I like I’m seeing that on the news.

00:42:51:09 – 00:43:08:20
Philippa White
But actually, what do I want to know? I want to know like what is the making of what is the behind the scenes? What is the stuff that goes into this? And it’s interesting because that’s why you would get excited about that’s what I would get excited. That’s why I like someone listening to this be like, Oh, that would be really cool because I could actually see the rest of that on.

00:43:08:20 – 00:43:09:19
Philippa White
So you know.

00:43:09:24 – 00:43:41:11
Michael Jagger
That it gets into the whole vulnerability dimension. Like, are you willing to show the, you know, the really complex reality of what it takes to, you know, to do many things? Or are you willing to hang yourself out there and try something you’ve never, never tried? And it’s it’s really fascinating. Totally. I have one on the list I have not watched, but I would share share with you and the TIE audience is the Painted Bird is a really powerful book by Jerzy Kosinski.

00:43:41:11 – 00:44:03:03
Michael Jagger
It was written about 40 years ago. It’s a story told through the lens of a ten year old gypsy boy at the end of World War Two who’s been separated from his parents. And I remember reading that book and it was really a profound experience. And I’ve always wondered why no one had made a film of it. And a film just came out.

00:44:03:15 – 00:44:29:04
Michael Jagger
It’s a Czech director named VAC, Lynn Moore Hall. It’s May are you Will but it’s Jersey Kosinski’s book and if you just look at the trailer, I mean, I cannot wait to see it. But if there I mean it’s got Harvey Keitel. I mean, the talent in this is incredible. So though I haven’t seen it, the trailer alone makes you cry.

00:44:29:06 – 00:44:35:05
Michael Jagger
I mean, it is so powerful. Really. The book is brilliant. So anyway, I we can compare notes.

00:44:35:05 – 00:44:54:12
Philippa White
On I’m loving this. Oh, yes, absolutely. I’m loving me. So I am after this. And when I start writing everything down and getting it. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Well, we are we have come to the end of our podcast. I would like to just ask one last question. If there’s anything that I haven’t asked you.

00:44:54:20 – 00:45:05:17
Philippa White
Honestly, I feel like I’ve sort of been fired. All these questions that you. But is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you’d like to tell our listeners that? Are is there anything that you’re working on specifically at the moment that you’d like to tell people.

00:45:06:00 – 00:45:38:09
Michael Jagger
Let’s see, a couple of. Well, there is there’s a project that we’re working on and maybe I’ll share with you upcoming. It’s kind of it’s rooted, I guess, pretty directly to a lot of the things we talked about. And it’s it’s inspired by a quote. It’s a project that we’ve been working on, surprise, surprise. But Oliver Wendell Holmes made a comment that, you know, one’s mind once stretched by a new idea, never again never regains its original dimensions.

00:45:39:01 – 00:46:02:17
Michael Jagger
And so we’ve started this idea called the Head Stretcher Society, and we’re developing a number of different things, the number of interactions where it isn’t just someone giving a lecture and kind of talking at the audience, you can very shortly introduce yourself and say, Hey, this is who I am, this is what I do, but you’ve got to engage the audience in doing something that they’ve never done before.

00:46:03:24 – 00:46:26:22
Michael Jagger
And then we’ve turned that also into a series of short films that are like micro documentaries of just I, based on the idea of everyone is interesting. We’re doing these short films that are designed to stretch your perspective and your imagination as to what is possible in life. So we’re we’ve got three of them done. We’re going to be launching them in the New Year and we’ll hope to continue to make them.

00:46:26:22 – 00:46:30:11
Michael Jagger
But the stretcher head society is something that you do.

00:46:30:11 – 00:46:35:01
Philippa White
And where can people is there something is that something that normal people.

00:46:35:01 – 00:46:44:15
Michael Jagger
Yeah, we haven’t officially launched them yet. We’re in the middle of making the platform but I’ll, I’ll send you a note when we’re, we’ll be launching them in the new year, but it’s.

00:46:44:19 – 00:46:57:23
Philippa White
Okay. And then I can share it through our social media for our listeners, just you know, if you’re not following us already on, on Instagram at the international exchange and then yeah, this kind of stuff would be great to share it cause that’s cool. What a great.

00:46:57:23 – 00:47:05:00
Michael Jagger
Sense of fun. A fun project we have underway and hopefully people will find interesting.

00:47:05:00 – 00:47:21:17
Philippa White
Absolutely. Well, listen, Michael, thank you so much for your time. It has been, of course, super inspiring, thrilled to just have you as someone who’s on our podcast on time. So thank you so much for taking your time because I know life is busy.

00:47:21:18 – 00:47:29:04
Michael Jagger
Well, thank you so much. It’s really it’s really been an honor and it’s it’s really fun to chat. I can’t believe it feels like we’ve been talking for 5 minutes. It was just like.

00:47:29:14 – 00:47:33:18
Philippa White
I know, I know. It’s gone by really quickly. Thank you so much.

00:47:33:18 – 00:47:36:04
Michael Jagger
Well, take care. So bye bye.

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