Monday, May 19, 2014

Is It Okay To Be Stupid?

We all know you have to be creative to be a Creative. But do you also have to be smart, or is it okay to be stupid?

Funnily enough, I reckon it's actually an advantage to be stupid.

Please note I'm not talking here about the famous Wieden + Kennedy dictum of "Walk In Stupid." I love this idea, but it's not really about intelligence. It's really an exhortation to assume nothing, be open-minded, and learn as much as you can every day.

I'm talking about genuine lack of intelligence.

So why do I think that's an advantage? Well, first of all, it's no handicap.
There has been over 60 years of scientific research into the question of whether intelligence and creativity are correlated. Turns out they aren't. (The one wrinkle here is that there is apparently a 'threshold point' at an IQ level of 85, above which you are more likely to be creative. But since the average IQ is 100 - that's how the scale works - it seems that you can be of well-below average intelligence, and still be creative.)

My belief is that being stupid (or at least appearing to be stupid) is an advantage because it forces Clients, Planners etc to phrase things for you in a simple way.

Every answer ends up being simple (Sony Bravia = great colour, Cadbury = joy, Chipotle = natural) but sometimes that answer is buried in a 72-page Powerpoint deck and triple-headed proposition. If you can get the brief phrased to you in a simple way from the start - get them to say what's really important - you have an advantage.

They do that automatically for stupid creatives. ("Guys, we're briefing Kevin, and he's a little dense, so let's make this nice and simple for him.") But they assume that the smart creatives can 'work it out'. Which might cost you days. And you might go in a direction that isn't what the Client really wants.

So what to do if you have the disadvantage of being (or sounding) intelligent?

A famous ECD once gave me a great tip. He told me that when he is presented with an overly complicated brief, he says this: "Look guys, there's a lot of great stuff here, and it all sounds very exciting, but the way my mind works - being a creative - is that I tend to respond to things instinctively. Now, I'm not saying I'm stupid, but could you do me the favour of imagining that I'm stupid, and just phrase this for me in the simplest possible way that you can?"



john p. woods said...


Is it stupid to be simple? said...

In my experience the stupidest people in the creative department are the ones who treat the whole process like a science.

It's easy to pick apart ideas and find fault through overanalysing and overthinking them. Much harder to have that genius, stupid thought that makes people go 'brilliant'. In my experience, the creatives who do are often the smartest.

If 'simple' means 'stupid', stupid wins.

CreativeMillionaire said...

I don't understand the middle bit.

Sean Boyle said...

Stupid people think it's people think it's stupid...also cool.

Jim Powell said...

I'm not sure if we can hold up stupidity as a virtue.

Einstein said "Make things as simple as possible but not simpler."

Einstein was far from stupid on the IQ score but he related to the power of simplicity when he said you should be able to explain his theory of relativity to a waitress. Because if you cant explain it simply you don't understand it.

The point being it has nothing to do with them but to do with you.

In ad land if you look at the ambiguous and verbose language of some people working in the industry all I can deduce is that they must be concealing their ignorance with language.

Anonymous said...

You mean Juan Cabral is stupid. Well, he does have a mullet...