Doing not thinking

Posted by on Mar 1, 2007 in Uncategorized | No Comments


One of the simple errors we in the West tend to make is assuming that thinking comes before action.

I was reminded of this watching the charming Johnnie Moore doing his improv thing at NESTA the otherday.

If you haven’t you should try – if not with Johnnie then with Rob, Gary, Suzy and co at On Your Feet (as it turns out an inspiration to both Johnnie and I). Thinking rather than doing is our first instinct. Rob used to tell this story about BBH’s planning department taking half an hour to start a particular game because they wanted to think it through rather than just do it.

But it’s not the planners’ fault. Much of the Enlightenment and its legacy prioritised thinking – Reason – over doing. Critiques of Pure (sic) reason. Think before you vote. Think about the evidence etc etc

Doing, being whatever you want to call it without thinking is largely taboo in our post- Enlightenment world. But doing is good.

Adam makes a good point about beginning creative projects (i.e. stopping the inhibiting thinking), using a well-known Goethe quote:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

Think I should read this to myself every morning!

Doing stuff is highly undervalued in business – particularly in our effete world of strategy and ideas. As I argued recently – the key to the mighty Tesco’s success lies not in their superior insight (Bates/Safeway won an IPA Effectiveness award for the same idea way back in the 90s) but rather in their ability to get things done.

And this Enlightenment idea has also shaped how we imagine consumer behaviour works: first they think (emotionally, we now admit) but for sure they think before they act, don’t they. So – the logic goes – we’ve got to change how they think. And the best way to do that is by speaking to them….(which leads us on to the ‘hunt the message’ game). Which makes little sense in the real world (but keeps us and our clients all happy enough).

Perhaps this provides a solution to Richard’s latest Dirt is Good provocation on Adliterate. As Russell is fond of reminding us – there’s not much of a message in Nike advertising….