Serving a deeper meaning

Jonathan Wise Co-founder of Comms Lab

Serving a deeper meaning

Why did you do the Ashridge Masters in Sustainability and Responsibility? 

My advertising job was starting to look uncertain and I was starting to think about the next phase of my working life. Ashridge came highly recommended by a colleague who had been on the Masters in Sustainability and Responsibility. I attended an open day where I had an extraordinary meeting with the tutor - we really connected. 

Did you have any reservations before starting? 

This programme isn't about a simple tick-list of skills - it is much more of a deep learning process, which is not quite as tangible. As a result I wasn't sure how well I would be able to describe what I had learnt on my CV or in the board room. 

But in actual fact I found that the intangible nature of the programme proved to be far more profound. 

How would you describe the experience of the AMSR? 

Intense! I realised my role in the destruction of the planet for a start! 

We were also introduced ways of learning that were completely new to me, for example action learning, and first, second and third person enquiry. 

Between modules we worked in small learning groups which helped consolidate what we had learnt. We also supported each other with our assignments. This really accelerated our learning and bonding. The group still meets up for weekends. 

What has been the impact? 

I learnt more about who I am. It made me realise that if you fit into a job description, you are replaceable. 

I quit advertising a year into the programme. It made me understand that my job was to get people to buy more stuff and I had to ask myself how meaningful that actually was to me. 

We pondered some pretty serious questions. Is society good or bad? Do we need to choose between earning money and destroying the planet? We explored what could be done to be closer to nature and think in the way that nature thinks. 

The programme ultimately asked,' do you want to see how far the rabbit hole goes?' I went quite far down it! 

After Ashridge I lived in a wood in Skye for a month. Then I spent two months with a Maori community in New Zealand. It enabled me to live the MSc and explore the questions it had provoked. 

Above all, I left knowing that I can do something which serves a deeper meaning. 

I knew the advertising world so well and felt I had a responsibility to encourage advertising agencies to be more purpose-led. So I co-founded an agency to make this happen. It feels weird being provocative. But, as I learnt at Ashridge, if people are nodding their heads, you aren't doing your job! In the future I may even run the first sustainable advertising agency. 

I never questioned the cost. For some people it's about pay rises and happiness. For me the value of the programme is in the fact that it has given me more confidence. It has helped me engage in a deep pursuit of purpose and meaning. 

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