Autonomy. It sounds like a very good thing. And it is.
These little removals of mental responsibility, masquerading craftily as increased autonomy, could potentially diminish us over time in the way they displace mental resourcefulness.
There is an established, tech-led narrative about the need for seamless, friction-free experiences. And these will remain the gold standard for customer-centric service design. But perhaps in the public domain, and in the broader purposes of the brands we work for, we should consider a counter-narrative. Of building structural (pleasant) inconvenience back into experience – getting people to use their brains as opposed to intellectual delegation, to use the stairs as opposed to the lift, to go off track so that, serendipitously, they can smell the roses they may not otherwise have noticed.
Switched-on brands are, in my view, already on the case. They tend to be the ones who champion big, collective experiences and all the noise, messiness and spilt beer that goes with them. They tend to be the ones with the "chatty aisle", an inefficient checkout where people with time on their hands can check out with garrulous inefficiency.
They tend to be the ones that confront with heat – rather than remove without friction – online hate towards their staff or communities. They tend to be the ones that manage to see what a hi-tech, individualised world can make invisible, such as the loneliness that may come with old age. They tend to be more human. The ones putting "me" back into autonomy and "us" back into autonomous.
Charles is a brand strategist who began his advertising apprenticeship at Burkitt’s, working subsequently at BBH and WCRS. In 2002 he decided to start working for himself and, along with his three partners (Rooney Carruthers, Adrian Coleman and Ian Priest), set up VCCP. Their founding client was O2, to whom they are eternally grateful. Over the last two decades, Charles has worked on and, in some cases, helped launch a diverse range of brands including O2, ING, Hiscox, easyJet, Canon, Cadbury, Domino's, Dyson, Nationwide, and Vitality.
Outside of work Charles doggedly pursues a variety of sports including cricket, tennis, football, golf, shooting and snooker, all at a consistently low standard. Charles is a Trustee for both The Change Foundation and The Fred Foundation and is co-author of a book called The Branded Gentry.