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

What You Can Learn About The Danger Of Assumption From The Original Woodstock Festival …

One of the things I do when I first get a brief is try to see the creative opportunity.

Where we can make the biggest and most interesting difference.

Changing something.

Pushing something.

Destroying something.

However the reality is that in many briefs, this isn’t always clear – mainly because so many are written from quite a transactional perspective, designed for an agency to ‘answer it’, rather than use it as a springboard for bigger, more powerful and more sustainable impact.

And that’s why the best thing you can do is ask questions.




Not just in terms of who authored the brief, but the people who are responsible for what comes out of it.

There are some people who think this approach has the potential of alienating clients, but in my experience it has quite the opposite effect. People in power regard this as a demonstration of someone who gives a shit … someone who wants to help them achieve the best outcome in ways that can best serve their business. Ideas they may simply never have seen or considered before.

And that’s exactly why I do it because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t know the level of the clients ambition … their desire for change and impact … and without that you can’t possibly see the creative opportunity you have in front of you and you may go down a path that leads to nowhere because you have made assumptions that simply aren’t true.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need new business to survive – let alone thrive – but my point of view is that if people aren’t excited or clear on what we are looking to do, then it either leads to a painful journey with painful work at the end of it or just mistrust and quite frankly, I haven’t got time for either of those in my life.

So what’s all this got to do with the title of this post?

Because I recently read an article on the famous Woodstock festival and was reminded – from a comment by Tommy James from the band, Tommy James and The Shondells – how dangerous ‘assumption’ can be.

And who is Tommy James from Tommy James and The Shondells?

Well, this might tell you why you haven’t heard of him or them …

Don’t assume the person communicating with you has total clarity on their situation.

Don’t assume the people around you have total clarity on the situation.

Just don’t assume.

20 Comments so far
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What an amazing story about Tommy James. Thank you for posting it Robert. A good lesson for everyone.

Comment by Lee Hill

A post about woodstock makes this your most topical ever post.

Comment by Billy Whizz

As a previous boss once told me; to assume makes an ass out of u and me.

The Woodstock story reminded me of Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Pike in the pilot episode of Stark Trek, and quit when the pilot was rejected because he didn’t believe it would ever be a success.

Comment by Oli

That’s a bit different because Jeffrey Hunter had a lack of faith in the show he had already been hired for, compared to a decision being made because he had been given bad information.

Comment by Pete

Correction. Not bad information, but information lacking any context.

Comment by Pete

Are you trying to be John Dodds?

Comment by Bazza

Ambition should be encouraged Bazza.

Comment by John

I’ll keep trying.

Comment by Bazza

Great post, great story and a great reminder for making better decisions.
Never assume.

Comment by George

All great points Rob and you are very good at spotting creative opportunities but the story about Woodstock is amazing. I’ll be quoting that at work all day tomorrow.

Comment by Pete

Tommy James is quick to blame his secretary but surely he (or she) would have asked why a pig farmer in upstate NY would call a semi famous band and ask them to play in his field? If he didn’t do that then he didn’t deserve to play at Woodstock.

Comment by Bazza

Good point.

Comment by Pete

Management always blames the employees. Management are pricks.

Comment by Billy Whizz

That way lies Fyre festival.

Comment by John

Fair point Baz. Plus it was the 60’s so maybe they were all high as kites anyway.

Comment by Rob

Given that he was declared dead from a drugs overdose the following year, you could be right. Given that he then survived, he might be supernatural.

Comment by John

I wonder if we would now think of them as a hippy band.

Comment by Alien Resort

this blog feels like woodstock every fucking day. shit fashion, bad music and the sort of shit spouted that you only get from some fucker after a 5 day weed bender.

Comment by andy@cynic

If he acts like this now, imagine if Rob drank and smoked? I occasionally have nightmares thinking of those consequences. Sorry Rob.

Comment by Pete

Reblogged this on Katherine Wikoff and commented:
Sometimes FOMO is a good thing. At the very least we should be sure we have all the info needed to make good decisions.

Comment by Katherine Wikoff

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