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Posted by on Jul 26, 2007 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments


Am doing a session at the AAAA planning conference in San Diego shortly with the suitably provacative title “In praise of stupid: why account planning need to become less clever”.

Have a number of ideas and material already (From the history of the ‘magical quadrant graph’ and our love of the top right box, the unimportance of psychology in explaining behaviour, and the new requirments of changing environment eg. my/Zeus Jones’s obsession with changing behaviour by inventing new behaviour) to make it an interesting session for me (and the audience) but I just wondered if any folk out there had other suggestions.

Apart from anything else, it seems wrong for me to talk as if my superior intellect (ahem..) was the thing that mattered…should we do stuff together?

What do you think?

All suggestions credited properly, honest…


  1. John Dodds
    July 26, 2007

    Eliminate cleverness, retain critical intelligence. The former (prevalent in many industries and functions) reverse engineers from desired, spurious conclusion to justifying “data” – the latter works in the other direction.

  2. Zeus Jones
    July 26, 2007

    I’ve got your back Mark. Right now, as it stands, I may be a shining example of your theme (through leaving our speech to the last minute).
    See you in San Diego

  3. Will
    July 26, 2007

    I’d lean towards the notion of instincts – how top athletes function without really thinking about things. It’s not quite stupidity, but very little obvious thought goes into things.
    Have a look at this:,dwp_uuid=7a618666-9567-11d9-bc72-00000e2511c8.html
    It’s a very interesting FT article on the topic of what the sportsmen do afterwards.

  4. Al
    July 27, 2007

    Hmm, that’s intriguing. I’ve always made a distinction between being clever and thinking.
    For me, being clever is the ability to recycle received opinion in an impressive way, a presentational rather than creative skill.
    Thinking is actual critical engagement with your environment, the world in general, to develop your own opinions.
    As William Blake had it, ‘I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s. My business is not to reason and compare; my business is to create.’
    In this context, being creative means being stupid; ie reacting against received opinion to create your own system.
    Unsure if that’s quite what you’re getting at, but any excuse to bring up Blake!
    Instinct also very interesting. In martial arts, you train very hard to create new instincts for yourself, so you can react appropriately to a situation without having to rationalise that reaction. ‘Move with the speed of thought’ (Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido).
    When you reach this point there’s no distinction between learned behaviour and instinctive behaviour, abstract thought and physical movement.

  5. Steve
    July 27, 2007

    I may have a different take on this than what you were going for, but a thought immediately popped into my head in response: The different between clever and effective is that “clever” is often more self-serving. Meaning, it’s more about someone getting recognition for having a clever idea (the Planner, the Creative), or about someone seeking positive attention for being represented by a clever idea (the client, the brand). Whereas effective (and sometimes “stupid”) focuses on the consumer and the campaign. Which is what Planners do, right?

  6. gareth
    July 27, 2007

    Stop being marketingo ‘clever’ (ie overcomplicated brand onions, etc.) and get stupid (or as adam morgan puts it intelligently naive) about how things, culture and people really work. There’s some simple truths we need to embrace which will have profound impact on work.