“You are all individuals!”

30Nov09

OK shoot me down like a slow, lame pigeon with a red disc painted on its chest, but I reckon the wisdom of the many is a bit of a myth.

Wikipedia is actually fuelled by a surprisingly small number of people. Then it’s improved by many.

The Guardian has almost as many contributors who aren’t paid as those who are. But it existed first. They’re contributing to an existing worldview.

If you’ve ever been in a blamestorming session you’ll know exactly what I’m on about. Nothing, repeat nothing, is a creatively stultifying as one of those excruciating lame-idea round robins. Everyone’s scared of ridicule so they share their safest ideas.

That’s why I think the wisdom of the many chat can be overplayed. First you need a vision. Then if you’re really smart, you listen to people as you adjust it.

Or you listen to lots of people, then you go do something.  (Bit like an advertising brief).

All the great leaps forward were by individuals who captured the zeitgeist of whatever. Then (probably because of that) lots of people followed. And because they made it their own, it took off.

So we need the visionaries and the mavericks. Otherwise everything is bland and dull. No excellence. No challenge.

Focus groups would never have produced Nick Drake (who died, like Van Gogh, undiscovered).

As David Ogilvy used to say (quoting Gilbert K. Chesterton): “Search all your parks in all your cities, you’ll find no statues to committees.”

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