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Meet the team - Chris Trantom, Innovation

Meet the team - Chris Trantom, Innovation

Chris is one of our Senior Innovation Coaches, helping leaders and teams sharpen their approach to finding answers in ambiguity and reconnecting them to purpose and meaning in their work. Discover what he loves most about working with clients, what kind of stuff he gets up to each day, and how his super-power would be exceedingly good.

What’s your work background?

In the words of the fabulous Jeff Goldblum ‘Certainly any objective assessment would be that my life has been wildly abundant, lucky beyond words, and shame on me if I don't easily come to that view every day’.

My ‘work background’, or the journey so far, looks like Pacman eating those little yellow dots. I’ve never had a plan. I used to get jealous of those kids in school with total clarity of purpose - ‘I know exactly what I want to be…’ They’re all vets and accountants living in Bracknell now though - nothing wrong with that, of course. But I’m relentlessly curious, easily fascinated by life and people and the glorious mess of it all. So being a vet in Bracknell is simply not going to work for me and I’ve made my peace with that.

This curious drive to find out what’s behind curtains and doors has taken me to quite a few different places. I’ve been, in no particular order, a tailor’s assistant, a digital product manager, a writer (mostly tea maker) for a music magazine, a typist for an indian newspaper, an event manager, a producer for radio, a clerk in the Health & Safety Executive, I’ve been first through the door in (now, several) start ups, I’ve spent a lot of time making and breaking a load of things and learned a load from all of it. I’ve also done a load of other bits and pieces that aren’t worth mentioning*.

*I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure I was left in charge of The London Aquarium for about twelve hours. 

Why did you choose to come and work at &us?

I walked through the door when &us was just five people and two of those were Paul & Rob. I had lunch with them and told them that I wasn’t looking for a job as I’d just helped start and finish a business around a kitchen table which tanked after eighteen months and I certainly didn’t have the energy to get involved in growing another start up thank-you-very-much. Anyway Rob asked whether I could be in Switzerland the following week for a client workshop and I said yes and now I’ve been here for four years and there’s, like, fifty of us. 

Why I’ve stayed is much more interesting question. They say** a business takes the shape of its founders, and this business is run by people who are deeply kind, value authenticity, understand that they don’t have all the answers (and that that’s frustrating) and are in relentless pursuit of better ways of doing things, of more purpose and meaning and  joy and opportunity. I’ve stayed because that’s what it’s felt like here for four years. Messy. Expanding. Hard. Meaningful. Fun. Life just as it should be.

**Do they? Who says that? 

What does your morning routine look like?

Controlled chaos. Wake up/woken up by my son. Or the dog. Or my wife. Figure it out from there and hope everyone’s fed and clean enough to make a good go of it. Certainly toast involved. Hopefully in constructive ways.

What does an average working day have in store for you?

Well that there is the promise and the pain, isn’t it? There is no average day at &us. I might be supporting a client team to make progress on a tricky challenge, crafting something joyful/useful/both for our business or someone to use, making sense of it all with my colleagues here, almost certainly learning something new in the process. The only constants, in no particular order are
- Walk through the woods with the dog
- Drink cheap coffee
- Spanish lesson on DuoLingo
- Get lost in reading something
- Run late for something
- Make something
- Fail at something
- Learn something

What’s the best thing about your job?  

Getting to figuratively parachute into different countries - our client’s worlds - and see it all at play. What an irresistible invite for a nosey parker. People are wonderful. 

How has your work day changed in the last year: What new things will you be keeping? And what can’t you wait to go back to?

I’m at home more often than I’d like to be, and it’s a pleasure to be emerging from this long and hideous winter of isolation. I have missed the life between other people’s conversations. And frankly my wife’s sick to the back teeth of my constant presence in the house. I no longer tell people to put their video on all the time. I no longer ‘set dress’ for video calls. If you get on a Zoom with me now it’s as you find me - red in tooth and claw. 

Predictions for the next year? What will clients want most of in the next 12-24 months?

Well there are some known unknowns. Economic uncertainty. Russia. China. Food. Fuel. We are rushing headlong into a global environmental catastrophe on a level unknown in the history of human existence, so my predictions are that things will become increasingly hard to predict. With that in mind, my hunch is that clients - regular, normal, brilliant people trying to make the best of it - will want to equip themselves and their teams with the mindset and tools to help them respond to this uncertainty in a constructive, resilient way. I for one miss precedented times. Remember those? But to quote the Philosopher Pete Tong, ‘we continue’.***

*** I wrote this to win a bet. Let’s keep it in.

What is the most random thing on your desk?

Absolutely none of your business.

Who was your last email from?

See above.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

‘Think dirty’.

What did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

A Dad. 

How do you relax outside of work?

No one is more surprised than me to discover that I have, apparently, already assumed my final form as an 85 year old who enjoys nothing more than sitting down in a comfy chair after baking something delicious and falling asleep listening to an Agatha Christie audiobook. Or listening to David Crowther’s incredible History of England podcast. Or reading a story book - I recommend Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. I also enjoy pottering down country lanes on my motorbike, something I absolutely intend to still be doing when I do actually turn 85.

What would be your super power if you had one?

I’d have a key that opens any lock. And be able to conjure a Mr Kipling’s Bakewell tart at will.