Beware The Nincompoop Forest, Not Much Grows There

Posted: September 21, 2015

Sometimes I can be a bit slow. While preparing for a recent talk about the ‘creative execution’, the irony of the phrase dawned on me for the first time in 20 years. Execution means both capital punishment and to carry into action. Seems obvious now, when as creatives it’s up to us to take an idea and either kick it in the sweets or nurture it to life.

Now as I’ve learnt all too often, destroying an idea is very easy and comes naturally to many people. From the time when that tiny insecure spark ignites in our right brain to when it’s a physical piece of communication on air or in the press – it’s vulnerable and open to attack on all fronts.

Mark Fenske describes this treacherous place between the mind of an originator and the eyes and ears of world as The Nincompoop Forest. People live there who fight against ideas and try to kill them. Some people are afraid to buy big ideas because, by their nature, they have never been done before and can be scary. Our critical instinct means we would sooner destroy them, than fight for them and protect them at all costs. Fenske suggests that to find your way through the Nincompoop Forest, it takes heart, intelligence and determination.

Meetings are the Amazon of Nincompoop Forests. Gatherings of key people ready to integrate and build campaigns. Ask yourself: How many times have meetings improved an idea versus the amount of times the idea ended up watered-down and generic enough for everyone to feel comfortable with it? Ideas take work. When we grow ideas, we grow and so do our brands. Many people just want to tick the boxes and push send.

It makes sense that I’ve always felt ownership is the biggest asset an art director or copywriter can possess. It’s the gift of giving a damn. If you truly own your vision or an idea, you do it yourself or at least work with the best people in the business to do it justice. You would never leave your idea for someone else to look after.

Picture the process. There could be 20 people of all disciplines and skills getting their grubby hands on your work. Starting with the brief and a bad one can be the entry ticket to the forest. Think about it. If your idea loses just 3% of its genius and integrity with each input, you’re left with a 40% idea. If you respect your idea and allow the right artists and craftsmen to add excellence to it incrementally from start to finish, a 70% idea becomes a 90% one.

Maybe it’s the dream of emerging unscathed from the Nincompoop Forest that keeps us doing what we do. If the forest doesn’t claim us it makes us stronger. Our shoulders get broader. Our skin thickens, but it also tingles at the sound of an idea taking flight. But this happens on the other side of the forest.

So, please pass me the axe.