Jesse Richardson

Biography

Biography

 

Short version

I’m an internationally award-winning advertising creative director, and the founder of The School of Thought International – a non-profit that has provided free critical thinking resources to more than 18 million people worldwide in 7 languages.


Somewhat longer version

After many years arguing with people who were wrong on the internet, I realised that evidence and rationality were utterly useless in the face of entrenched beliefs and motivated reasoning.

After wallowing in despair of this sad realisation for a while, I had an epiphany while eating a fish burger on my lunch break (the fish burger had nothing to do with the epiphany but specificity is, they say, the soul of narrative).

What I suddenly understood with great clarity, punctuated by the tangy sting of tartar sauce, was that the root cause of almost every problem in the world was nothing so complicated as money and power, but simply that most of us are never taught how to think independently and critically.

We spend twelve odd years of our life being taught facts and knowledge, but we're never taught how to question our own biases, identify logical fallacies, or how to reason coherently. We have our creative spirit thwarted by a system in which there can be only one right answer that we must regurgitate for a standardised test. We learn what to think, but never how to think.

Normally such an epiphany would serve as little more than a frustratingly impotent idea flopping about pointlessly in someone's mind, but in this particular instance, a perfect storm formed right there in that quasi-hipster fish and chip shop.

I am, you see, an internationally award-winning advertising creative director with a background in design, art direction, copywriting and digital strategy (la-de-dah).

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I’ve spent over 20 years honing my skills to manipulate people into buying things they probably don’t need. I also created three of Australia's most successful viral campaigns (including a video about nudist, streaker sausage dog enthusiasts).

And I’m also a scholar of philosophy and human behaviour, and a public intellectual. You might remember me from such shows as:

With these strange powers combined, a lightning bolt of an idea from the aforementioned perfect storm struck: what if I applied what I knew about design and advertising to create an online school providing free creative and critical thinking resources? What if we made learning how to think truly fun and engaging?

That's a great idea, but great ideas are a dime a dozen, right? What we needed was a great execution as a proof of concept.

So, after several months work, I launched a little microsite that took 24 of the most common fallacies of logic that politicians, the media, and advertisers use to deceive and manipulate people and made them something that wasn't entirely boring.

Specifically, I took each fallacy and condensed it down into a single simple sentence that anyone could understand, added some nice graphics, and made the microsite URL interactive so that anyone could use it to tag someone committing a fallacy online e.g. yourfallacy.is/ad-hominem

The yourfallacy.is website went immediately viral, hit the front page of reddit.com and has had:

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And the resources have reached at least 18 million students, teachers, parents, leaders, managers and everyday people around the world in over 7 languages

So that went pretty well. I then did these things:

and am now working on several new projects to expand the School of Thought's free resources including the world's first crowd-sourced podcast, a website on mental models, an interactive timeline of philosophical ideas, and more.

I split my time between creative direction at ad agency flip in Brisbane, running The School of Thought, giving keynote speeches and workshops, and looking after a very demanding four-year-old boy, two cynical teenagers, a very nice wife person, and a grumpy, yet very pretty, cat named Mia Penelope Charlotte Pissypants Goldsworthy.

If you’d like to to get in touch to talk about how we might work together