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

Creativity Creates The Impossible …

I saw an article [the one above] recently that reinforced the importance of creativity and culture in building brands and business.

Of course I’m preaching to the choir, but I get very frustrated hearing companies – and even people who claim they’re in the business of creativity – act as if they’re ‘lesser’ tools to data.

Now don’t get me wrong, data is important and can be used very creatively – and I’m very fortunate to have worked with a few people who have proved this day after day after day – but so few companies talk about it in these terms, instead celebrating data in terms of its rational certainty which, as we all know, is total bollocks because it’s dependent on where the data has come from, who is interpreting it and whether they see it as giving solutions or understanding.

In the context of the article above, data would have probably have said Americans won’t eat sushi.

There would be a huge amount of evidence to reinforce that and many companies would have simply walked away.

But where you would think big business has the brains and tools to find ways around obstacles, the reality is often they’re paralysed by structure, politics and blinkers – not to mention, have the scale to mean they can just move on to the next thing without really having to think about it.

Until someone else does it.

And often, that someone else is someone smaller.

Someone without the structure, politics, blinkers or scale to just accept impossible.

Someone who embraces culture and creativity because they need to survive.

Someone open enough to create rules rather than just follow tradition.

Data didn’t create NIKE.

Data didn’t create Tesla.

Data didn’t create the California roll.

Somewhere along the line they played an important part, but that’s all they did – a part.

Yes, it’s important.

Yes, it can make a huge difference.

But thinking it can do it all on its own is the biggest lie being sold in the industry right now.

Culture and creativity are incredibly powerful forces.

They’re not just checkboxes of a process.

They’re not just a process.

They are living, breathing entities with the ability to change expected outcomes and create new ways of looking at the world.

In these speed-obsessed times, too many view understanding culture and exploring creativity as commercially ineffective because they require nurturing, love and space … however when done right, they can combine in such a way to redefine the rules everyone plays by and make the big players – who think they have all the answers – desperately trying to play catch up.

More than that, it can create the foundation where your business attracts audiences rather than has to continually chase them because you’re building a brand of distinction rather than another commoditised company of alleged disruption.

Again, none of this is meant to be anti-data just a reminder culture and creativity are – at the very least – equal forces of commercial power and should be respected that way, because a year on from the talk Martin and I gave at Cannes for WARC, it is obvious there is still an inherent need to remember chaos creates what order can’t.

32 Comments so far
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“Yes, it’s important. Yes, it can make a huge difference. But thinking it can do it all on its own is the biggest lie being sold in the industry right now.”

Bang goes your job at Accenture.

Comment by Bazza

I would love to see Rob at Accenture. It would make an addictive Netflix drama.

Comment by Pete

It definitely wouldn’t get a second season.

Comment by Rob

👏 👏 👏
I love this post Robert. The issue with data is far more about the people who use it. As you once said to me, too often it is used for answers rather than understanding and so it ends up being used as the creative brief rather than informing it. Well written and well said Robert.

Comment by George

We posted at exactly the same time but it put me first. Just saying.

Comment by Bazza

All technology has glitches.

Comment by George

Are you admitting Google has problems with your tech consistency?

Comment by Bazza

is that your best fucking trolling? fucking amateur.

Comment by andy@cynic

Data is very valuable and important. But it is often used to abdicate responsibility for critical thinking by senior leadership and that is where things go wrong.

Comment by Pete

Yes Pete. Absolutely. We’ve just seen it with the exam grade fiasco in the UK.

Comment by Rob

The culture of runners inspired the creation of Nike.
The creativity to use a waffle iron to create lightness and grip built Nike.
Data proved it made a difference to athletes.

Comment by Pete


Comment by George

I see what you did there.

Comment by Pete


Comment by Bazza

Thank you Baz.

Comment by Pete

Before John Dodds highlights Nike started off as Blue Ribbon Sports, let me do it … but your point is a good one. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob


Comment by Bazza

I didn’t actually know that, but since it should have been Blue Riband it’s a good thing they did change it.

Comment by John

Culture is the purest expression of user need,

Comment by John

Don’t get me going on data. You wouldn’t believe the women the algorithms on dating sites think is a perfect match.
One thing I’ll say about data is I love it when it doesn’t makes sense. Just finding contradictions between search and social behaviour can uncover all sorts of stuff, but that’s not neat tidy enough for most.

Comment by Northern

I agree … that’s when the data can ignite creative possibilities. The problem is few see it that way, seeing it as providing executable answers rather than understanding or the opportunity to create something new and different.

I have worked with people who see it that way, but they are both in the minority and often pressured by senior leadership and clients to “give me certainty”.

[Which in itself highlights how bad many people are with understanding the role and purpose of data]

Comment by Rob

You’d be amazed how many senior execs got 3% in maths.

Comment by John

I’m glad I’m not like them then John.
I got 2% in Mrs Kirk’s maths class.

Comment by Rob

Didn’t you know that all grades have been uplifted by 50%?

Comment by John

I’m a winner!

Comment by Rob

imagine how the women matching with you fucking feel?

Comment by andy@cynic

If you mean how they feel about matching with me, fair point.
I presume you’re not encouraging me to imagine feeling women I’ve never met, that would not be right, even for you

Comment by Northern

it’s frustrating that creativity and data are always set ‘against’ each other.

Comment by alastair666

I agree … ultimately, the issue is about control rather than collaboration. And while every ship needs a captain, it requires that captain to have an appreciation of what everyone brings to the experience, and sadly there is an inordinate amount of blinkers out there. Often driven by people having different ambitions, standards, experiences, understanding and terminology.

Comment by Rob

data is like winona ryder. shes a decent enough supporting actress but a terrible fucking lead. beat that fuckers.

Comment by andy@cynic

Winner of strangest analogy of 2020 goes to…….

Comment by DH

It’s true though.

Comment by Pete

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