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


When You Stop Being Paranoid, You Stop Being Competitive …

Back in 2007, Forbes magazine ran this cover …

2007 is also the year Apple launched the iPhone, a product – lets not forget – that was ridiculed by Nokia executives.

While hindsight is 20:20, you can see why they were skeptical.

Here was a computer company entering a category they had absolutely no heritage or expertise in.

A computer company who only a few years ago, was on its knees after launching a plethora of badly thought-out products.

But while those are, on face value, two fair perspectives … they were blinkered to the changes that were going on both in tech and society.

Blinkered or arrogant.

The irony of business – especially our business – is that it needs a healthy dose of confidence and paranoia.

Confidence to be secure in what it believes in.

Paranoia to never let them feel settled with where they are.

The moment you think you’ve made it, you can be pretty sure you won’t be there for long.

When I was at Wieden, I could always tell who had the potential to be there for the long haul by their attitude.

In essence, those who thought getting the job was the achievement were not going to last.

Not always, but generally … because Wieden’s brilliance isn’t just about the work it produces, but the belief of what creativity can do and the ambition to see where it can be taken.

It’s similar to what I believe made Apple so powerful back in 2008.

Ambitious.

Tenacious.

Restless.

Relentless.

Stubborn.

Naive.

… and, of course, paranoid.

Not in terms of who gets there first – though that is always in the back of their mind – but who gets to do it best.

And that’s why I love hiring people who have a point to prove.

A chip on their shoulder.

A dirty little secret.

Because in a World where the smart people can perfect what we already have, it’s the freaks who change where we go.

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19 Comments so far
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I have that magazine cover on my office wall.

Comment by Bazza

you fucking corporate toad.

Comment by andy@cynic

I gave you it.

Comment by George

You did. I’m still not sure if it was an act of kindness or evil.

Comment by Bazza

No offence to Wieden, but creating a breakthrough product is harder than creating the advertising. If you’ve done your job right, the product is the ad. But I get your point and agree with it. I’m just being a poacher turned keeper.

Comment by Bazza

But you’ve has to rely on advertising to make iphone 2-8 look breakthrough when they haven’t been haven’t you.

Comment by DH

thats fucking excellent smackdown quality. almost jealous of it.
good work dave. fuck you baz with your fucking patronising shit about a one hit wonder you had fuck all to do with.

Comment by andy@cynic

Keeping me real.

Comment by Bazza

You deserved that Baz.

Comment by Rob

Is this post and yesterday’s your attempt to apologize to WK for your 7 years of blagging and holidaying?

Comment by DH

yeah, i bet they think apologising after taking them for a ride for a fucking decade really makes up for it. they might have been fuckwits for employing him but theyre not going to fall for this. hell still end up back there. mark my fucking words. the world has gone fucking bonkers.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’d forgotten about your dirty little secrets and chips on your shoulder.

Now I need to have therapy to forget about them all over again.

Comment by DH

campbell is one big chip on his fucking shoulder.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great post Robert. It amazes me the iphone is still only 10 years old.

Comment by Lee Hill

Does the fact that W+K is also called Weekend and Kennedy, perhaps show the darkside of that “chip on shoulder, freaks” culture that is revered?

Yes it is true that outliers change things. However it comes at a price. Often times psychologically, the freaks tend to be more volatile, take defeat personally and be prone more extreme behaviour.

All great things when it goes great (as you point out), not so much when it doesn’t.

The freaks are great for start up, turn around, battle situations. The more PC type for good times.

Being great at playing with that tension is the real issue. and what great bosses like Julius Caesar, Dan Wieden, Sir Alex Ferguson, Anna Wintour, Ray Dalio, exploit for decades of continued success.

Most “freak” talent does not have a great leader and crashes and burns before hitting full potential, or is discarded with corporate PTSD once used up, with no safety net.

Thought provoking post indeed Rob..

Comment by Niko

Welcome back Niko. I am not sure about Wieden, but I would say most people do work outside of their designated hours. I am not defending it, just highlighting Wieden may not be the only company facing this situation.

Comment by George

At least wieden make work that makes people jealous. Imagine working long days and weekends when you’re at FCB.

Comment by DH

Glad to stop by George. Hope you’re well.

as for the hours, that is not the issue for me. It is the emotions (if that makes sense).

Ever wonder why so many companies (S.Valley being particularly prone to this) tout their mission as” game change, world changing” etc etc..?

It’s because that attracts certain people. believers if you will.

It’s no secret that giving meaning beyond the immediate, to people’s lives is the easiest way to create loyal (zealous) followers.

Yet doing using that talent ethically, honorably is the sad exception I don’t see often in corporate life or any organised life for that matter (be it workers, or football supporters – as Rob proves..;) ).

I still recall when Rob talked about the biggest compliment for Cynic was when the hired talent got headhunted by bigger companies and went on to do better.

That is honorable exploitation of freak talent, old school pimpin’. Transparent, commercial, while leaving things better than they were, for all involved.

And something most companies, cynically (in my pov) don’t do, because it is so easy not to (as I would challenge your statement that is an issue companies ‘face’ rather than maintain, as Dave points out).

Any way.. as the greatest rock frontman alive says..

As you were

Comment by Niko

Welcome back Niko, great to have you back.

Of course part of the reason Wieden is known as Weekend+Kennedy is simply because they have the letter ‘w’ in their name. There are agencies who work far more weekends but thanks to their genius of having a name that starts with a letter other than ‘w’, they don’t get the name-shaming.

And as Dave said, at least the work is great work …

That shouldn’t be a reason to work long hours, but at least it helps validate it … though it can also become a justification and then an addiction and then it goes bad very very quickly.

Comment by Rob




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