Own your values

Own your values

One of the talks that really struck us at the last Pecha Kucha Cape Town event was delivered by Robert Zipplies, of Common Cause South Africa. He was talking about values, and here’s what he had to say – reproduced with permission.

What you value in life is important — not just for you personally, but all of us — because your choice of values influences what you think and do. And this, in turn, shapes our society and future.

Many people are worried about the state of the world and are dedicated to improving it. But do you think our efforts are turning the tide? Are we making things better? Are we improving the lives of all living creatures?

I am not so sure we are. While some social indicators are improving, many are not — or too slowly. And environmentally, well…  almost every indicator is going the wrong way, fast — and this of course undermines all the good social work being done.

So we need to do things differently.

But how do we think and act and work differently to make our change efforts more effective?  There are many good answers to this question and one essential component is to learn to work with the human mind and how humans make decisions.

Traditional approaches to improving the world focus very much on fixing the problems ‘out there’, but we largely ignore the ‘inner’ dimension – in other words how our current thinking creates and perpetuates the problems that we are working so hard to solve.

And here human values offer a useful, some would say essential, tool.  And this isn’t just my random opinion, but this approach is based on a large body of research.  The values we all prioritise shape our life goals, our attitudes and ultimately our behaviours.

How do the values we express in our personal words and actions — or those of our organisations — how do they influence our own attitudes and behaviours, and those of society around us? How do these values AND their effects ripple outwards into the world?

Two groups of values are particularly important in this regard: Intrinsic and extrinsic values – which we all have within us.  Intrinsic values are inherently rewarding to pursue:

  • like being with friends and family;
  • being creative, helpful and honest, and
  • championing thinks like equality, freedom and social justice.

Extrinsic values, on the other hand, are focused on external approval or rewards. So this would include pursuing wealth, success, status and social power.  So why are these two groups so important? This is quite obvious.

Peer-reviewed studies indicate that if we engage or strengthen extrinsic values — that is, the desire for wealth, success and social recognition — this makes people more self-centred and selfish, and less likely to support social and environmental causes.

Many places and activities can strengthen your extrinsic values:

  • your place of work might be a company with a narrow focus on profitability,
  • or some of your friends might be quite materialistic and status driven.
  • Even watching TV, with all its adverts that play on our insecurities and desires, will strengthen extrinsic values.

If, however, you choose to exercise your intrinsic values, you will then tend to more frequently express attitudes and behaviours that are more beneficial to us all.

You will become more engaged in solving the big issues of our time — something we urgently need.

So if you continuously prioritise intrinsic values in everything you do – at work and privately – you are strengthening these values in your own mind – and then,  through your words and actions, in society around you — and this improves your personal, as well as our collective well-being.

And, interestingly, these two value groups exist in a see-saw relationship in our minds. If you activate or exercise the one, the other weakens automatically — and this see-saw effect is happening in your minds right now. So if tonight I had talked at length about the thrill of owning a luxury car, or achieving fame and success, you would’ve, on average, tested a little more extrinsically motivated than at the start of the evening. Fortunately tonight, I am talking about the benefit of intrinsic values.

So, knowing all this, you may ask: how can I work with values for our common benefit?

The first step, is to assess what values are most important to you, and then explore how you can more effectively promote intrinsic values in everything that you say and do.  Take time to reflect on the values you would like to champion in your life.

To sum up: values shape what we think and do – individually and collectively. And your personal choice of values can either contribute to making us a more cohesive, collaborative and caring society, or they can work against that.

So think carefully about what you most value and which values you want to champion in the world.



Waking the neighbourhood

Waking the neighbourhood

Hilary talks about watching watching a neighbourhood start the day in a post first shared on Facebook:

There’s something quite lovely about the early morning movement.

The sky’s vignette changes from indigo to orange, silhouetting mountains, buildings and trees as the day breaks. Street lights flicker off and the roads are washed in an orange glow. It’s still cool; the air is not yet choked with exhaust fumes and hooters.

Taxis jostle against cars caught behind buses waiting to pass by cyclists who are darting ahead of pedestrians and between everyone else.

Traders clank the scaffolding for canopies that will later shield them from the beating sun. Their helpers drag trollies, laden with crisps and batteries and handbags and other stuff, across near-deserted side streets. Shop owners throw up clattering roller shutters and jangle keys in multiple locks to their stores. The city will soon be open for business.

The buses and taxis disgorge passengers who cluster first, but then dissolve into the offices, shops and malls nearby. There’s an insistency in the way they walk, as if they’re hurrying to get the day over with before coming back to do it all again tomorrow.

If you want to get ahead, get a professional headshot

In the age of 20 megapixel smartphone cameras with six-element lenses, it’s never been easier for people to take decent quality photographs without the help of the professionals. But when it comes to your headshots, getting the professionals in makes solid gold business sense. Here are four good reasons why you should go pro:

Because first impressions still count – bigly


Composition showcase: Racing Colours

I’ve always been fascinated by horse racing. It’s nothing to do with gambling: I’ve never laid a bet. It’s about the speed, power and grace of the animals. The physical and visual energy of the spectacle. The endless play between triumph, defeat and near misses. The colours.

But in post-apartheid South Africa, racing colours have taken on a different meaning as horse racing parades as the last outpost of the pre-1994 order.

Behind the glamour and bling of high-profile events such as the Durban July, Queen’s Plate and Sun Met lies a business built on feudal lines that have barely shifted for almost a century.

Racing Colours is a continuing photo essay into the conspicuous differences between the horse owners, trainers and race-goers and the underpaid, often under-qualified and largely unrecognised grooms who are responsible for millions of rands-worth of thoroughbred horseflesh.

Introducing Composition



Welcome to Composition, the new face and name for Top Copy Communications. This is a new chapter in our story.

Where we started

In 1997, Patrick left the agency world to kick off his career as a freelance writer. He launched Top Copy Communications in April of that year. Back then, printer’s proofs were delivered by courier, client instructions were issued by fax and people still called each other on the phone when they wanted to talk.

Hilary joined the business in 2007, fresh from a career in marketing management, PR and advertising. She was responding to the siren call of her first love: writing. Times had changed even within those ten short years. The iPhone had made its debut on the world stage, Facebook was still a fledgling and Google was starting to monopolize the world’s search habits.

In 2009, Top Copy Communications opened its doors in Cape Town. Rapidly advancing technology was making it even more possible to work from anywhere. We continued to service clients in the UK and elsewhere, while setting down deep roots on the African continent. At that point, people were just starting to get their heads around Twitter’s micro-blogging format, Android was beginning to raise its green head above the parapet and video games where going mobile.

Our own evolution

By 2017, global nuclear policy was being debated in 280 characters, housewives were investing in Bitcoin and machine learning was moving from sci-fi fantasy into an inevitable reality. In the same way that technology was evolving, we were too. In that same year we decided to take Top Copy Communications into a new era. We gave our wardrobe a bit of a shake up and gave ourselves a new name, new logo and new look. This website is our new shop window. We expanded our services to incorporate photography, and focused more deliberately on the kind of work we do. The result is Composition, conceived to tell your stories through words and images.

Welcome to our next new chapter. We’d love to know what you think, and of course, to work with you. How can we help you tell your story?