The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Why Planners Might Not Be That Far Different From Politicians …
February 28, 2014, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

How about that for a blog post title eh?

Yes, I know I’m inviting trouble so let’s get all the possible horrible answers out of the way first, shall we.

It’s not because we both …

Talk shit.
Think we’re better than everyone else.

Oh no, in fact, if last week you’d asked me if there was any similarity between politicians and planners, I’d of wholeheartedly said no, and then I saw this …

Sure, I get the first bit sounds more like a ‘futurist’ than a planner, but the second bit sounds way too familiar for planners.

As I’ve said before, being a futurist must be an awesome gig, because at the end of the day, they can spout any old nonsense about what they claim will happen in 20 years time and then sit back in total smugness knowing they can either use the old, “you can’t say I’m wrong until 20 years time” excuse or just wait and wait and wait, knowing that in all likelihood, at some point in the future, it might happen and then they can claim they were right all along.

I swear Nostradamus was actually the village idiot.

When people saw him, they’d probably cross the road because they didn’t want to have to put up with his mental mutterings, that he shouted and scrawled on walls and books.

And then – hundreds of years later – some historian comes across his bollocks and post rationalises it with developments and evolutions of the modern day and he’s instantly lauded as a futurist genius.

Same with Da Vinci.

Everyone goes on about how he ‘foresaw’ the helicopter.

Have you seen what he did? It’s this …

Doesn’t look much like a bloody helicopter to me.

If anything, it looks more like an elaborate sun lounger/shade umbrella than a device that can take flight … but in the interests of having a legacy that isn’t based purely on the rubbish of this blog, I here-by declare that at some point in the future, we will be able to open a carton of milk without ripping the sides and the World will stop buying Coldplay albums.

I know that all sounds unlikely, but just you wait and I will happily go down in history as a visionary.


But this isn’t about the people who just proclaim the future, this is about the people who then explain why it didn’t happen.

From politicians to clairvoyants to planners, it never fails to amaze me how there is always a reason for why something ‘didn’t happen’. If I were a cynic – which obviously I’m not, because I’m a big ray of sunshine – I’d say we all operate in the field of ‘calculated hope’ or more accurately, ‘disassociative blame’ … because when it buggers up, it’s always someone else’s fault.

Whether it’s the client, the culture, the economy … whatever … it always sounds like we say we were absolutely right, but some unexpected force – or some terrible decision out of our hands – had a critical influence in fucking-up the master plan.

And it happens a ridiculous amount of the time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things that can affect results – from clients trying to dictate how to approach the challenge they’ve set you to society having this thing called ‘a brain’ that results in them doing what they want to do, not what you want them to want to do – however our ability to explain why something hasn’t worked, and to blame it on others actions and decisions – seems to know no bounds which not only is ridiculous, but actively contributes to why business doesn’t trust us and that has massive implications on what/how we can do things in the future.

To do something wrong is OK.

Things happen … things change … things fuck up.

However, regardless of the outcome, if you want to continually invest in your reputation and effectiveness, there are 3 questions you should always ask yourself at the end of every bit of work you have done …

1. Were your intentions done for the right reasons?

2. Did you consider all the key factors that needed to be considered?

3. Have you accepted and learnt from what you did – personally and as a group – that contributed to things not going as you planned/hoped?

… because as JFK said so succinctly:

“An error doesn’t become a mistake unless you refuse to correct it”.

34 Comments so far
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long. rambling. preachy as fuck. but you had me when you pissed on the legacies of nostradamus and da vinci and admitted planners are made up of 2% insipid water, 98% noxious bullshit. good fucking work campbell, i semi like you today.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re in a good mood. Too good.

Comment by DH

fuck off mr toady.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by DH


Comment by Rob

I look forward to reading the post you’ll write in a few months about why the questions you said people should ask themselves after projects failed to work and that it was everyone else’s fault for it happening.

Comment by DH

Every time I hear a planner speak, I will now look at them and think they’re a practitioner of calculated hope or disassociative blame. And when someone tells me I’m cynical for that view, I’ll tell them the great planner Rob Campbell said it so it can’t be wrong.

Comment by DH

Calm down, I only said you were great for theatrical purposes.

Comment by DH

Another good post. I think your point about identifying what you contributed to failure is an important distinction to what went wrong. Rarely is failure (or success) down to one person or one decision which is why having the ability to be honest with yourself and identify where you can improve is hugely important and valuable. It is a shame that many review others with a critical eye but self assess wearing rose tinted glasses.

Comment by George

I might literally buy some rose tinted glasses so I can use that as my excuse for what I do and how I behave. Which will then prove my point to this post and your comment.

Comment by Rob

I agree with George. I wonder how many people will quote calculated hope/dissociative blame and not realise the irony of shouting about something they are likely to be guilty of being.

Comment by Pete

The only reason Rob is so good at accepting and acknowledging his mistakes is he’s has so much practice at doing it.

Comment by DH

Many people consider politicians to be overpaid, have too many holidays and — oh I see your point.

Comment by John

Cheeky sod.

Comment by Rob

John may be the only futurist with 100% accuracy.

Comment by Bazza

Reblogged this on 49514262200010.

Comment by bilunov77

why the fuck would anyone want to reblog this or anything campbell does any fucking place?

Comment by andy@cynic

Must be a computer virus.

Comment by Rob

I love the fact that if you go back to roughly 2005 planners were busy telling everyone how clients should invest in blogs, how blogs would rewrite how they did marketing. No one was talking about Facebook etc .
Because all predictions tend to be based on your current frame of reference. That’s why Star Trek from the 60’s looks really, well, 60’s.
Most economics tells us that markets are just too complex to predict, you’re only safe bet is innovating apparently.
And I know all about the pointlessness of prediction, since I would never have guessed my boy would break both his elbows (at different times) I would get knocked off my bike, I would lose my wedding ring AND meet Les Dennis all in the same three weeks.

Comment by northern

Les Dennis ran you off the road and stole your wedding ring? I hope this is all rectified asap.

Comment by John

I let him off, his career’s on the skids etc

Comment by northern

Did you lose your ring wanking off to youporn?

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by northern

Right I’m going to tell the truth about youporn.
If you might remember, in response to one of Rob’s polls I claimed that worse thing I had done all year was watch youporn, this is true.
What actually happened, was that in a client workshop, a junior planner got up to find a video we were all talking about on youtube. You know that thing when you type the name without thinking about it? He typed in youporn and in front of our most important clients, up comes youporns film of the day.
So it wasn’t just me, it was the senior agency team, the senior client team and one red faces planner who, funnily enough, very quickly moved to McCanns.
and no, the junior planner wasn’t me, I used spankwire

Comment by northern

Impressive. But not as impressive as projectile vomiting all over your new clients desk on your first meeting after being awarded the business.

That happened on my 2nd week at cynic.

Comment by Bazza

That comment makes it sound like I did it. It was Andy, but I was almost sick when it happened. He and the client became best friends. I will never forget my time at that company.

Comment by Bazza

We even had a decent working relationship with them till they fired us.

Comment by DH

That is truly impressive

Comment by northern

I recently read this amazing book from Daniel Kahneman “Thinking Fast and Slow” (see this post from Martin Wiegel: )
He actually explains how bad we are to predict and forecast.
To sum up a bunch of explanation in few words, Kahneman shows us two major biases:
-We underestimate that luck and random are [very] likely in daily life as much as in economics or business matters (we could easily argue that in every success stories that we love so much from Apple to Instagram luck has played an essential part).
-We overestimate our skills to judge on rational facts while our judgment is actually highly influenced by intuition (and so, memory).

Predict the future is nothing else than read into hint. But we are far from objective. And hints are only clues. (such a deep sentence)

Comment by Jo

Robert. To respond to Jo, maybe you should write about our hint and hunch thinking process. I would imagine she would find it interesting.

Comment by George

He would love having your comments on the thinking process.

Comment by Jo

Apologies Jo. I would like to say assumption made an ass out of me, but I achieved those dizzy heights all by myself.

Comment by George


Comment by Jo

Good post. I also hope and pray that you are right about Coldplay.

Comment by Rob (The other one)

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