The Beginner’s Mind
When it comes to creativity – the key to success is never to get experienced.
Feeling stupid? Good. Stay that way.
Admitting you don’t have all the answers in life is the first step towards enlightenment.
‘The beginner’s mind’ or approaching any task, every time you perform it as if it is the first time, connects with a Zen Buddhist concept. Even if you’re a master - clear your head, stay in the moment and ‘walk in stupid’. It’s essential for creating marketing with impact.
It’s an idea we pinched from Dan Wieden – founder of Nike’s ad agency Wieden + Kennedy.
(Thanks Dan – quoting Picasso – ‘talent imitates but genius steals’.)
While the idea might seem back to front, a paradox, even illogical – if you chew over it for a bit longer it’ll make sense. It’s tempting to assume authority or experience means you know the answer before anyone has asked the question.
‘Experts’ hover and circle, offering up preconceived and biased ideas about how to solve your problems, dragging dogma, fantasy and stuff found on the internet along for the ride – often unsupported by specific evidence (ironically, even when discussing the importance of data). In other words, self-proclaimed expertise and perceived experience can lead to close-mindedness.
We think better questions lead to better answers – ‘What is the most cost-effective way of building a brand?’ is a far better starting point than ‘How much TV or digital marketing do you want?’. Better questions also lead to even better questions (it’s how science works too).
Let’s use an example, as they make everything easier to understand – especially when walking in stupid. About 20 years ago we were presented with a stable of small, unsexy medical products that needed better recognition in the market. We knew we had our work cut out for us. While we weren’t experts in health promotion at the time, walking in stupid allowed us to table an unconventional idea: how about aggregating the products?
Creating the Family Health Diary® platform gave the products credibility and helped New Zealanders wrap their minds around the fact that, yes, remedies for misbehaving bodily functions could be discussed on national television.
We wouldn’t have experienced the success or even the creation of the Family Health Diary without approaching this with ‘the beginner’s mind’. Using a repetitive approach, or taking the usual route of a bespoke ad campaign would have exploded the budget and turned our products into plain wallflowers, forgotten within seconds.
We surprised the competition with a platform that communicated the right information, in the least amount of time, for a wide range of products, all within a limited budget.
The formula? We were open to any and all ideas from our experienced team, we listened to our clients’ thoughts, and we encouraged diverse opinion. Outsider thinking, with a pinch of the alternative, saved the day. If we had simply assigned conventional wisdom – we would have truly walked in stupid and walked out empty handed.