Suttonistic Thinking

Cherryflava points to a story in Architectural Record about design firms working to foster a culture of innovation.

Hire naive misfits who argue with you; encourage failure; avoid letting client input limit your vision; and fully commit to risky ventures. This is an extreme approach to fostering innovation in an otherwise relatively static office environment that was proposed by Robert I. Sutton. Writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2001, Sutton argued that fresh perspectives derive from mavericks with wildly diverse backgrounds and no preconceptions who challenge the status quo, champion their own ideas, and illuminate the metaphorical darkness.
Sutton points out that ignoring client input may seem counterintuitive, but clients can’t always imagine what’s possible. Ted Hoff, an inventor of the microprocessor, echoed that sentiment the next year, also in Harvard Business Review: “Don’t do what the customer wants; do something better.”

“Avoid letting client input limit your vision” is pretty advanced thinking (that might work in the academy), but also a necessary coping mechanism in advertising, because there are always ten reasons why you can’t do something, for every one why you can.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.