Hogan's Heroes was an iconic televison show that will be very familiar to baby-boomers. It's a comedy set in a German prisoner of war camp in World War 2. The inmates are a rag-tag Allied servicemen held by german airforce guards. The camp commander is an idiot - Colonel Klink. He's motivated as much by keeping as far away from the war in the Eastern Front as possible as he is by seeking the favour of his superiors in Berlin. He is stupid, but he thinks he is clever - and over-thinks every possible situation in his never-ending quest for personal gain and avoiding pain. His second in command is a fat sergeant called Shultz. Shultz is just stupid. He knows the prisoners run rings around he guards…but he professes loudly "I know…nothing!". He is harmless.
The famous ad man Dan Wieden has a line to keep his troops "Walk in stupid every morning'. In their London office Wieden + Kennedy greeted guests with a pinstriped mannequin holding a brief case with the mantra emblazoned on it (and it has a kitchen blender for a head. Wieden has said “Sometimes it seems that if you’re never lost you’re never going to wind up any place new.”
When you approach a new task or project it is sometimes useful to forget what you 'know', and the utter confidence that comes from experience (ever heard the line - do you have 20 years experience or have you been doing the same thing for 20 years?). It's often too easy to discard innovation or novelty because you 'know' something won't work or 'the client will never buy that'.
Sometimes a disruptive approach can shake loose calcified thinking. What is the last thing our competitors would expect from us? Or - if we were competing against ourselves, where would be try to break through our defenses? Computer hackers are sometimes employed by firms to find the weaknesses in their digital defenses.
Of course another risk of being stuck in the habitual groove of being 'right' is that your customers become bored. Sometimes they want novelty to maintain their interest in your product or service. Often your competitors advertising isn't more effective because it is better than yours, or that your product is inferior - it's just that your customer got the equivalent of a seven year itch.
I'm not advocating being stupid for it's own sake. Just that it's better to be vulnerable and know it, than to think you have got it all worked out and are unassailable - because that's just silly.
Here's another pearl of wisdom from Dan Kennedy: " While you were sleeping, the world you're inhabiting has changed somehow. It might be a big change, a small change, but don't assume anything…"
Wieden + Kennedy site.
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.