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

Stop Thinking Different Means Disaster …

For an industry that loves to talk about doing new things – chasing new things – it doesn’t half hate trying new things.

The moment someone dares suggest something different, more often than not, they are shouted down by people saying it’s wrong … it won’t work … it’s foolish.

Even before anything different has been tried.

Now I appreciate we live in a world where clients want effectiveness and so the margin for error is getting ever smaller, but no one who is suggesting something new has the objective of being less effective, literally the opposite.

But if we can’t explore then we can’t move forward and instead of blowing things up, it may be interesting if we started building things up.

I say all this because I recently read a quote from the Chairman of Crystal Palace football club.

This year they have adopted a totally new philosophy.

Not because the old one had failed – quite the opposite, in many ways it had exceeded expectation – but because context had changed [their long-term manager retired] and they thought this was the time to try something new.

And while some have immediately come out to say what they’re doing is utterly reckless to the stability of the club, their chairman – Steve Parish – countered it with this lovely perspective on the situation they have chosen to enter …

I love that. I love how he dismisses the validity of any criticism and simply focuses on the fact.

No one knows if Crystal Palace’s new approach is better or worse than what has gone before – at least not yet, and maybe not for a significant period of time – the only thing people do know is the approach is different.


Not better. Not worse.

A simple change to the usual approach.

A change that will reveal, in time, how effective it was. And even then, it is still only an indicator as there are so many external influences that may affect it.

But for a moment, imagine if it works.

Imagine if Crystal Palace do better than they ever have.

That they consistently elevate their standing and success?

It could happen. It stands as much chance as the opposite right now … and yet people are so quick to jump on the ‘disaster’ bandwagon.

Adland is exactly the same.

We like the idea of different but not the reality.

We choose to hide behind certainty and history, even if we didn’t have anything to do with the work we use to assert our argument. We grasp at learnings from other industries despite their context being vastly different. Or we state the fucking obvious but pretend it is an act of genius.

Maybe if stopped having the need to loudly proclaim something is right or wrong and just embrace the fact someone is doing somthing different, we may be more positive about change as an industry.

And maybe … just maybe … if more people focused on building things up rather than tearing them down, we may end up creating possibilities that encourages clients to embrace different rather than see it as an act of commercial defiance.

Create With Blinkers …

For reasons I’m not exactly sure why, I was recently asked to present to a venture capitalist firm in the US about the creative process.

There were a ton of points, but one that got them the most bemused was this:

In essence, the point of the slide was if you spend your energy focused on what someone else has done, they’ve won.

The reason for the bemusement was they didn’t see creativity in terms of forging new opportunities, but exploiting existing ones.

Make something slightly better than someone else.
Leverage others efforts to be cheaper than someone else.
Ride trends to grow faster than someone else.

But in all cases, it was using creativity to build on others efforts rather than create their own.

On one level I get it. Fast followers is a business strategy that has grown all manner of companies … from Hollywood to Apple. However for a VC it was kind of strange to me until I looked into the numbers involved, and understood why it was starting to be much more preferable to go to the zoo than to keep looking for Unicorns.

That said, they kept asking me why I thought comparison was wrong.

And of course it isn’t.

Comparison can have many benefits from increasing standards to ambition.

However, in the creative development process, it can be a real danger.

Because when someone looks at work in the early stages of development and starts using comparative language … the result is ideas get undermined because of it.

The focus is shifted.

Clarity is distorted.

It hands control to the commentators not the creators.

Of course people are entitled to their opinion, but too many rush in and kill the potential of something by judging it as finished when it’s still in creation.

What makes it even worse is when that judgement is done by comparing the work on the table to something someone else has done – however loosely – at some point in time in history.

When that happens, those people are not just robbing the creatives of the excitement they have about creating something new, they’re robbing everyone of the potential of what something can become if it’s allowed to breathe.

It may be inconvenient to project management, timesheet obsessed, bean counters … but ideas grow, they’re rarely born fully formed.

So if you want to stand a chance of creating something that can change everything, then the best advice is trust the talent, support the work and stop being a fucking joy vampire.

Fail Yourself Forwards …

Once upon a time, Dan Wieden was giving a presentation to a bunch of executives from one of Wieden’s big, global clients.

Dan was talking about the power of failing and asked if anyone in the audience had ever been fired from their job.


Not one person raised their hands.

Dan surveyed the scene for a moment before leaning into the microphone and saying:


There was a nervous ripple in the audience before some people laughed … but Dan wasn’t saying it to be nasty – or to be funny – he was saying it because he truly believes in the mantra of ‘fail harder’ and the positive impact it can have for both creativity and commerce.

Fail harder is not about seeing how bad you can do something.

Fail harder is about …

+ the quest to push yourself.

+ the desire to challenge limits.

+ the goal to provoke change through complete openness.

And while many people get the concept of it … even agree with it … not everyone can bring themselves to participate in it.

Now that’s totally fine until you start criticising or judge others who are doing it.

Especially if the only reason you’re criticising or judging them is because they’re doing something you didn’t do.

Then that’s a dick move. An insecure, dick move.

I say this because lately there seems to be a lot of people doing exactly that … especially on twitter and especially in the planning/marketing groups.

Judging … dismissing and insulting people who are trying different stuff.

Not because they think it’s wrong.
Not because they think it isn’t valid.
Not even because they don’t think it’s clever.

But because they’re cowards.

Sure, some will have valid reasons for it.

Others relying on them.

But what is disappointing is – like the people in that conference – many of these people throwing shade are seasoned, senior individuals.

People who have the experience to push boundaries.
People who have the smarts to challenge the status quo.
People who have the knowledge to be more than capable.
People who have the voice to champion change.

And while it is absolutely their prerogative to not do it, sending our snide comments or subtweets about those who are, is pretty pathetic.

Ridiculing the way someone talks about their colleagues.
Questioning the ability to be taken seriously by clients.
Looking down on what they’re trying to do and what they’ve done.

Hell, some of these people have actually started their own company, so you’d expect them to be a cheerleader for the new … but instead it seems they see them as a more interesting competitive threat, so keep throwing out their barbs.

Oh they probably think they’re being so clever.

That the people can’t see what they’re doing.

But it’s so transparent you could grow plants in it.

However here is where it all goes wrong …

Because not only are many of these people pioneering a great business out of what they’re doing … everyone can see these insults are simply a way to distract thems from the fact they didn’t do what someone else has had the courage to try. That someone is trying to create their own story rather than simply follow someone else’s.

Personally, I think that is an incredible thing to do.

And thank fuck we have people willing to do that.

Not just because the old way isn’t working that well, but because the definition of ‘Fail Harder’ is the realisation that even if you fail in your attempt to do something audacious, you’re already further ahead than those who simply have followed the path of ‘achieving safely’.

There’s a few people I know who are victims of this.

They say it doesn’t bother them, but it obviously does.

Of course it does … it’s shit … especially when coming from people in the industry who are supposed to be ‘senior voices’.

So fuck those guys [and it is nearly always men]

Make them cry tears of regret, because regardless what happens next, you’ve already gone further them most of them could reach.

Love Is …

For years people have tried to express what love is.

They’ve used song.

They’ve made films.

They’ve written books.

They’ve made art.

They’ve penned poems.

They’ve even created a day for it to be celebrated.

But none of them have captured it so beautifully and succinctly as a photograph I recently saw.

Love this.

Love it so much.

A moment alone, when you’re surrounded by hundreds.

At a time where creativity is being challenged and questioned by more and more companies, consultancies and corporations, this photo is a great reminder how creativity can solve the problems systems, structures and order can never reach.

Sorry. Not Sorry.
October 25, 2021, 8:00 am
Filed under: Comment

Till tomorrow. Deal with it.