What do we do?

“Consulting” is a loaded word with lots of baggage. It has negative associations for many people. The besuited toff, wielding a 300 slide powerpoint presentation that tells you what you already know, is a business archetype.

We’re not that. A client made us smile when they called us “the Anti-McKinsey”.

Having said that, we struggle to find an alternative word to describe what we do. We direct our experience and methods at your problems, providing clarity, moving you forward. “Helpful-Clever-People-That-Make-Things-Happen” is a bit of a mouthful. So, reluctantly, we’re consultants.

“Phil in a single tweet… Experienced digital expert business-focused professional passionate visionary charismatic inspirational grounded innovative thought-partner. I would highly recommend him.”

Victor Arciniega, Head of Customer Innovation, McDonald’s

How do we help?

We can’t possibly explain every way we’re able to help but we can list some of the common subject areas: digital, business transformation, agility, growth, capability assessment, innovation, customer experience, roadmaps… Many of our clients particularly value our most well-known tool, or “judgement protocol”: The N2D Method®

You can see some of the organisations we’ve helped on our clients page.

Our principles

Finally, we’re not for everyone. We have some principles, including:

  • evidence beats opinion
  • simplify complexity – be concise
  • people first, technology last
  • the needs of the people you serve are as important as your objectives
  • no will-o’-the-wisps – only clear, actionable advice with rationale

If you are interested in finding out more, please email

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Board Advisory

Why have an advisor?

It’s hard to run a business, big or small. You need to plan and do all at the same time, it can be hard to stick with a long term plan, or to know when to change tack.

Our clients find that having access to a third party who isn’t involved in the day to day, and has the benefit of seeing a range of business challenges from different types of organisation, can sometimes be the difference between making a successful choice or a decision that could harm their success.

How do we help?

We work with a handful of businesses using our skills and experience to offer ongoing support and advice for small agencies, corporate organisations and funded start ups.

When our clients need an extra brain, a technique for thinking about a problem, some personal support with the stresses of running their business or help with a customer challenge or opportunity, we’re there.

How does it work?

Our ongoing work with clients normally falls into a pattern of a half day Board Meeting to review the most crucial aspects of current plans, and then ad-hoc support throughout the month. For many young teams, this might be the first time they have been held accountable to a Board and our experience so far is that this helps to accelerate change and growth.

“Jess has the ability to guide us through unfamiliar and often stressful situations with ease, a level-headed approach and total professionalism.”

Josh Bolland, CEO of J B Cole

If you are interested in finding out more, please email

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Speaking - keynotes, conferences, panels

My name is Phil Dearson. I have been speaking since I was about 2 years old. My first word was “hullygully” which, I appreciate, is not actually a word. This may explain why it took another 35 years, drama school training and an extensive career in the digital industry before anyone invited me to speak professionally.

Since then I’ve been making up for lost time by speaking many quality words. Mainly about the impact of emerging technologies on society and business.

I’ve been a keynote speaker at many events, including: Google’s Squared programme, the Festival of Marketing, the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD), the Institute of Fundraising, Speakers Corner for Creativepool, the Tech Off (Fight Club for geeks), the Nationwide Building Society Fresh Thinking Conference, The Marketing Store Worldwide’s 25th anniversary event. I’ve appeared on panels for the likes of The Guardian, The Drum and Contagious Magazine. I’ve been an expert speaker for the Academy of Digital Business Leaders, the Lead Digital online learning programme and have been a guest speaker for Hyper Island. I also compèred Prime Conference at the Royal Institution in London and host The Magical Machine, an irregular podcast about the future.

My career started in market research. When the web was created, I migrated into the agency world where I held a variety of roles, making and marketing: Head of Digital, Head of Strategy, Head of Innovation, Planning Director and Technical Director. I eventually founded the business transformation consultancy, Subsector.

I’ve been lucky enough to work across a range of sectors in the last 25 years, including Government, the Arts, Alcohol, Financial Services, Third Sector, FMCG, Retail, Fashion, Telecoms, Automotive, Health & Fitness and Entertainment.

My experience with complex organisations is extensive. I helped Disney deliver their first ecommerce platform in the UK. I helped the mobile operator 3 to launch in the UK. I helped to architect and implement a future-facing ecosystem for Volkswagen UK. I held a seat on the McDonald’s UK Digital Working Group where, with the board, I worked on organisation-wide digital programmes.

More recently I’ve been helping global enterprises transform their organisations for the future. The focus is on improving the customer experience for the ultimate benefit of the organisation. By consulting on the interplay of customer needs, multiple touchpoints and operational issues, I help organisations to transform by innovating around their core offer.

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Subsector designs practical, simple plans for growth and transformation that you can act on. We find that this work often falls into the categories below.

We work with a handful of businesses, offering ongoing support and advice for small agencies, corporate organisations and funded start ups.

More about Board Advisory

We run inspiring, practical and accessible transformation workshops about: digital, agility, innovation and service design.

More about Workshops

Sometimes you simply need a friendly alliance to help your business transform. We believe that evidence beats opinion and in "people first, technology last".

More about Consultancy

We speak about the impact of emerging technologies on society and business for conferences, panels and the media.

More about Speaking

The N2D Method® is our proprietary "judgement protocol". Clients who use it have clear priorities based on evidence, not opinion.

More about The N2D Method

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Intro To Service Design

Intro To Service Design: Practical techniques for adapting products and services in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous).

For startups, enlightened enterprises and innovation labs, the methods and mindset of Service Design are proving to be effective when adapting to the modern landscape. This practical day helps to give your team increased confidence when responding to the changing world. The day is full of hands-on activities to help all of the attendees better understand some of the terms and methods employed by service design professionals. Attendees will be able to take these practical techniques back into the organisation for immediate use or review.

Download the PDF agenda

Agency Training Day

Agency Training Day

Agency Training Day: For businesses with clients that are being affected by rapid technological change.

This training day helps to give your team increased confidence talking about and responding to the changing world that your clients are facing. The day is broken up with hands-on activities to help all of the attendees better understand some of the terminology and methodology being employed by big organisations. As clients increasingly expect agencies to be comfortable with and actively using these methods, this is a great first step to preparing your teams.

Download the PDF agenda

Transformation Workshops

The problem with terms like “transformation” is that they can make the whole idea seem unnecessarily daunting. We all know we need to adapt what we do to the environment we live in – we’re not idiots. So why do so many organisations seem to delight in making the whole process seem as complicated as possible?

We’re taking the opposite approach with some inspiring, practical and accessible transformation workshops to help organisations get started, or build on what they’ve already done, very rapidly.

1 day transformation workshops

1 day transformation workshops

The Very Digital Caterpillar: A one-day workshop where you will get a taste of a wide range of digital technologies.

Attendees try out the tech that they’ve read about, gaining hands-on experience. This then allows them to imagine how it could be used. They can ask us questions to better help their understanding.

By getting a practical grasp of the current digital landscape, it is easier to see how it can be properly employed to help the customer and the organisation.

2 day transformation workshops

2 day transformation workshops

Through The Looking Glass: A two-day event that puts you in the shoes of the people you care about most.

Using a range of techniques from service design (including input from customers), attendees will understand what people really want and develop ideas for serving those needs.

This exercise creates insight into news ways to create value in the digital world. This is a world where disruption is rapidly changing diverse industries.

3 day transformation workshops

3 day transformation workshops

Metamorphosis: An intense three day experience, rapidly developing a tangible transformation plan.

This activity builds on the output achieved in “Through The Looking Glass”.

Having understood what customers truly want, attendees rapidly develop a business model for delivering it. Together we identify what the organisation might need to change to achieve these aims and how to do it. We develop a tangible transformation plan building on customer interviews and rapid iteration of ideas.

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