March 29, 2016

Degrees of separation

In 2009 I spent a week in the Pacaya-Samiria rainforest reserve in Peru. The reserve is the second-largest protected reserve in the Amazon. I spent most of the week sitting in a tiny canoe with my guide, Roberto.


“Mira…” he would say, pointing. “Mira… monos.”

Four seconds later there would be a crash and a howl, and a troop of monkeys would swing by through the trees.

Roberto spent his entire life living and working in the jungle, so perhaps it was no surprise that he would spot things my untrained eye would miss.

I was reminded of this over the weekend watching Tribes, Predators & Me on the BBC. Cameraman Gordon Buchanan spent a week living with the Waorani tribal people in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Buchanan went on hunting expeditions with the tribe, ultimately catching (and releasing) a Green Anaconda.


The show finished by discussing the threat the Waorani people face from encroaching oil-fuelled deforestation.

“Tell the people about us,” said one tribesman. “Tell the people we will fight to protect our land.”

Linzi, who has been to Ecuador more recently than me, commented that they actually do. Oil workers have been attacked by tribal people. The Ecuadorian government, in Linzi’s words ‘doesn’t give a shit as long as they keep getting their oil money’.

What always strikes me whenever you encounter indigenous people is the knowledge and respect they have for the environment they live in. There is in effect zero degrees of separation. They hunt there. They live there. They survive because they understand their surroundings. If they make bad decisions they have to live with the negative consequences.

A texas-based oil company just has too many degrees of separation. The people at these companies who pay the Ecuadorian government to allow them to deforest the Amazon face no negative consequences as a result of this.

If you were an architect in Roman times and you built a bridge, the Roman authorities would make you and your family live under the bridge for a period time. The consequences of you doing a rushed job were very apparent. This removed the degree of separation because your family lived or died with the consequences of your work.

The ‘degrees of separation’ problem also affects the way we organise our marketing providers. There seems to be a popular idea now that you can run a micro-multinational business from your spare bedroom, and employ contractors around the world to implement different aspects of your marketing. You end up being the puppet master in the middle pulling all the strings.

I can tell you that being the puppet master isn’t always very fun. You spend your entire life being a project manager, trying to manage people who have no real interest in your business goals or the long term success of your business. Everything ends up suboptimal and disjointed.

I tell you all this from first-hand experience. I’ve done my fair share of work where I didn’t ultimately care about the success of the business I was working for as long as my invoice was paid.

I think there is a better way, but it involves taking more responsibility for your marketing results.

We’ll talk more about this later in the week.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.