THE INTUITIVE LEAP

I was listening to a journalist on the radio.
She was talking about when she just started out, in 1990.
She’d been sent to interview Richard Branson in LA.
She took lots of notes, and he was polite and helpful as they chatted by the pool.
After she finished the interview, she said, “Look I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t ask you this. But if you were young and just starting out, like me, and looking for a business opportunity, and you didn’t have much money, what would you invest in?”
Richard Branson just looked slowly around the pool.
Eventually he said, “Look at those umbrella shaped heaters there, I bet you haven’t seen many of those around?”
She said, “You’re right, I haven’t.”
He said, “Well, here’s a thought then. The weather’s a lot colder in Europe than it is in LA. I bet café owners would love to buy those. They could serve customers outdoors for another month or so every year.
They’d make more money.”
She said, “What a great thought. What should I do?”
He said, “Well, they probably only sell them in LA at present.
Why don’t you find out who makes them and ask if you can buy the import rights for Europe. They shouldn’t cost much.”
The reporter said she called up the company and, sure enough, they’d only recently started making them.
She asked how much they wanted for the import rights for Europe.
They thought for a bit and said, “How about ten thousand dollars, would that be okay?”
And she went away to think about it.
She said, “At that time ten thousand dollars was about seven thousand pounds. Which was pretty much all I had in the bank.
So I thought I’d better not risk it, and I forgot about it.
But now, whenever I travel anywhere I see those heated-umbrellas absolutely everywhere.
I asked our business correspondent what he thought the European import rights would be worth.
He said millions and millions.”
So there you go.
That’s the difference between someone like Richard Branson and the rest of us.
He can spot an opportunity, we can’t
Richard Branson made an intuitive leap.
He didn’t commission: “A Survey To Study The Possibilities And Potential Opportunities For External-Heater Sales In Various European Countries, Demarcated By Types Of Business, Location, Regional Differences, Demographic Variations, And Attitudinal Preferences.”
He didn’t do that.
He made an intuitive leap.
He used his judgement.
He figured a few thousand dollars was a fair price to pay for the potential opportunity.
If he won, he’d win big.
If he lost, he’d lose small.
So his response was the same as the title of his autobiography, “Screw It, Let’s Do It.”
People like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Rupert Murdoch don’t depend on experts to tell them what to do.
As William Randolph Hearst said, “I don’t hire expert to tell me what to do. I hire experts to tell me how to do what I want to do.”
What we call creativity is actually that intuitive leap.
And we won’t find that by running to focus groups.
Sure we can use research to check that we’re not doing anything stupid.
Research (Quant or Qual) is like the dashboard on a car.
Very useful in telling us the state of play.
Very useful in giving us information.
But it can’t do the driving for us.
It can’t take the decisions.
It’s no good looking to research for creative thinking.

As Akio Morita said, “The biggest assistance I had, in growing Sony to a worldwide brand, was the total failure of nerve on the part of western businessmen to move without research.”

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    Back to your best…

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    I admired the Washington Post’s pursuit of Nixon.
    “You know the results of the latest Gallup Poll? Half the country never even heard of the word Watergate. Nobody gives a shit. You guys are probably pretty tired, right? Well, you should be. Go on home, get a nice hot bath. Rest up… 15 minutes. Then get your asses back in gear. We’re under a lot of pressure, you know, and you put us there. Nothing’s riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country. Not that any of that matters, but if you guys fuck up again, I’m going to get mad. Goodnight.”

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    Great article Dave, I worked for Branson in 1990 and he had people to do the work created by his ideas whilst he kept moving forwards.

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    Can you expand on that Chris?
    It sounds interesting and could be insightful.

  • Dave I couldn’t agree with you more. As a Creative Production Agency – we’ve been around since 2008 – we fought hard and long for our innovative business cocept to be taken seriously.

    As a creative hub utilising talents from across the creative spectrum – agency and client side, production and digital – our concept was so radical that many people said it wouldn’t work. Creative Nation Consultancy made it work and now a lot of people are keen to ape our model. The difference? We did it for real, we experimented, we learned. Will they? It remains to be seen, and I wouldn’t wish them anything but the best.

    As you rightly state you have to have the balls to be truly experimental and bold. Conventional approaches and mindsets won’t work.

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    Alice. Did you just use the word ‘Ape’?

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    My first wife kept pestering me to do a sign in the back of our Renault 5 car back in 1980 when my son was born to stop drivers tailgating her and give her space on the road. It read: “Baby on Board” and featured a dummy. At the time it felt like one of those jobs like doing the posters for the Church Christmas Bazzar, but two years later the country was innundated with the damn things and I was as sick as a parrot. It taught me a big lesson. Never underestimate the power of an original idea.