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

Attitude Drives Output …

Once upon a time, Nottingham Forest had a manager called Sean O’Driscoll.

He was an excellent manager. Someone who understood the game and got his teams to play attractive football.

Everything was going well until our then owner – the insane Fawaz – decided to fire him, despite us being at the top end of the table and having just beaten Leeds 4-2.

The reason I mention this is that I recently read an interview with him about how Forest are playing now and in it, he says something that really impacted me.

This is the piece:

The bit that really hit me was when he said:

“Bournemouth expect to win, Forest hope to win”

He’s right. But his point is far bigger than being just about football teams.

A lot of people mistake confidence with arrogance.

I get it’s a fine line, but there is a big difference between the two.

One of the things I found really interesting when I was at Wieden was how many people viewed us as arrogant.

People who often had no experience of working with us in any way.

OK, so there was the odd one or two like that – probably me [hahahaha] – but the reality is/was, it’s a pretty humble place … filled with good, talented humans who love creativity.

But here’s the thing.

When we went into meetings, we generally expected to win.

Not because we thought we were better than everyone else, but because the work we put forward was always what we truly believed was the right thing to do.

We didn’t let politics get in the way.

We didn’t let egos get in the way.

We didn’t weigh the work down with things that sounded good but ultimately just got in the way.

The only thing that mattered was allowing creativity to solve the problem in the most interesting, intriguing and culturally provocative way possible.

Some people found that hard to deal with.

They found our confidence in the work confronting.

But the thing was, it wasn’t because we were big heads, it was because everything we presented was something we had sweated and pushed. Every detail was in there for a reason. That didn’t mean we weren’t open to discussion. Or opinion. It’s just we wanted it to be a discussion, not a dictation … because to throw something out just because someone didn’t like it or misunderstood it meant we were dealing in politics not creativity and that’s not something we subscribed to.

Some misunderstood this.

They interpreted the belief we had in what we were presenting as arrogance.

But arrogance is when you expect to win without putting in the effort.

And that was never the case with Wieden – or countless other places of repute.

The reason I like that O’Driscoll quote so much is he shone a light on the difference between belief and hope.

Hope is when you have worked hard.

Belief is when you have worked hard based on a philosophy.

Not a purpose, a philosophy.

Something that is more than effort or direction, but a distinctive way to play. A style you believes gets better results. A philosophy everyone believes in and is committed to. A standard you all want to reach to show respect to where you are.

If some people mistake that for arrogance, then so be it.

Because the work born from those who play a certain way to win, is far better than those who hope they don’t lose.

Thanks Mr O’Driscoll.

21 Comments so far
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I really enjoyed reading this but when was the last time Forest expected to win?

Comment by Pete

When was the last time Forest won?

Comment by George

Actually we won last week … so there.

Sure, it was against another Championship team who haven’t been in the Premiership for 1000 years, but we still won.

Plus we’re still one of the only UK teams who have won the European cup twice in a row … and I don’t care that was also 1000 years ago, I’m hanging on to that fact like a drowning man hangs onto a piece of floating wood.

Comment by Rob

You keep hanging on to that Rob. It will keep you afloat until the hypothermia sets in.

Comment by DH

I remember I asked you what WK’s “secret sauce” was for their success and you said, talented people working hard. Reading this post through that context made that explanation even clearer.

Comment by Pete

Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I’m not saying WK is the only place that has that, but with the focus on creativity rather than politics, it meant all the effort went into the work which is what made the difference.

At least to me. Ha.

Comment by Rob

Another good post. I really like the way you deconstruct the attitude that drives the work at Wieden. I never worked there but I competed against them a few times and though sometimes we won and sometimes they won, the way you describe the people was common across everyone I met. I was jealous of that, especially as they were all very different personalities, which is how I always thought of the famous “Wieden culture”.

Comment by George

Well you obviously didn’t meet everyone because in my time there, there were definitely the odd one or two who you kept wondering, “how are they still there?”.

They probably thought that about me, too. Hahaha.

But the one thing I always loved about that place was that it seemed to hire really good humans who happened to be really creatively talented rather than really good advertising people who could be assholes. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be anger and strong debate, but it was never anger for the sake of being a prick.

Maybe that’s something to do with the Portland vibe of Dan and Dave, but it was very different to other places I’ve seen, where there has been a bully and ego vibe across a bunch of the C-Suite … despite many of them only getting to that position through resilience and politics rather than great work and ideas.

Comment by Rob

This is great, but wonder if hard work plus philosophy is one formula that creates belief.

I’d say, to dip into football again, that experience of success plus hard work is another path.

So, the team that has victories under its belt build momentum and belief.

Perhaps the gets them those initial victories, maybe it doesn’t.

As a fellow Forest fan, always think they can teach us a lot about brands.

The noose that a strong identity becomes when you don’t adhere to its principles, how to (not) revive a faded brand, and i think the biggest thing at the moment – how constantly starting again means you just get stuck in a never-changing looop.

Comment by James

Hi James, I hear you – and I agree, there’s many ways you can drive belief in teams/agencies/organisations.

However in my experience, success was not the driving factor that built belief at Wieden – it may have reinforced what we did but it wasn’t the reason we did it. I’ve seen that approach work for a bunch of other places – but they often end up being fixated on winning rather than how to win and end up where everyone is competing against themselves rather than working for the work. Not always of course, but often.

That doesn’t mean there wasn’t healthy competition, but it was founded on some real principals of belief that Dan and Dave founded – probably accidentally – which is why the only thing we wanted to do was better work than we had done previously, regardless how successful that was.

For me, to go back to a football analogy featuring our beloved Mr Clough, it wasn’t about winning, it was about ‘winning better’ … which was much more focused on what we did and why we did it, because the belief was if we did that as strongly as we could, winning would come as a byproduct rather than be the singular goal going in.

[I talk about it a bit more here:

Hope this explains it a bit more. And again, this is my interpretation of what made the place special rather than any process or document. Especially as they didn’t exist – that was the antithesis of what Dan and Dave were about. Ha.

Comment by Rob

This is excellent Robert, It also one of the best examples of a strong corporate culture that I have read in a long time.

Comment by Lee Hill

except it wasnt corporate which is why it was a real fucking culture.

Comment by andy@cynic

there were definitely some pricks at wieden. the ones who didnt hire me and hired you being the worst fucks.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m guessing your career faced no bigger insult.

Comment by DH

I am unable to comment on winning as I have no experience of it.

Comment by Loser.

nothing proves that more than commenting on this pile of shit blog.

Comment by andy@cynic

Thanks for this Rob, it’s such a valid point and at the challenger agency end, I’ve seen multiple occasions where more time is spent producing the cliché writing on the wall vs actually believing in it.

Comment by Ryan Vaughan

too many marketing pricks think being a challenger is just a marketing tactic they can turn on and off as they fucking please..

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by andy@cynic

You’ve written rubbish on here for 100 years so of course you will have something that relates to someone’s comment. It’s not insight, it’s quantity.

Comment by Bazza

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