Enlightened Conflict

the difference between breaking a rule and breaking a stupid rule

May 31st, 2015

breaking rules Hagy


“The world is full of rules. Be the exception.”



“To every rule there is an exception—and an idiot ready to demonstrate it. “

Vera Nazarian


“Any fool can make a rule

And any fool will mind it.”

Henry David Thoreau





This is a business thought.


This is about rules, breaking rules … and how tricky it can be to communicate a thought well in advertising.

thin line business


Suffice it to say professional communications is always about walking the thin line of connecting with your audience thru visuals & words … and teetering over into the abyss of ‘just missed.’

Professional communicators are paid dearly to be smart enough to discern the difference between things like a ‘break the rules attitude’ <which is burdened by rebellious irresponsibility> and a ‘break stupid rules attitude’ <which is often an attribute and precursor to ‘someone who gets good shit done’>.






It is sometimes a very very thin line and sometimes bad shit happens even with good intentions.





And this is a HUGE but.



Professional communicators, PR people & advertising people & marketing people, get paid to walk the line and walk it well.



So when someone does something stupid you have to scratch your head and wonder how the hell something like that happens.



To be clear.


This is different than simply doing bad advertising.


This is different in that it is more a reflection of bad thinking … or … let’s call it misguided execution of what was probably a good idea <once>.



I would imagine the intent was correct.



I envision business people eating M&M’s sitting in a room discussing strategy and someone saying something like “people who drive our car are the ones who are not comfortable being a sheep in society … and try raising their family to think for themselves” … which is a nice thought.



And someone else said … “lets figure out how to show everyone they aren’t sheep and just do what everyone tells them to do.”



And then some brain dead person said … “they don’t follow rules.”



Dohtrain going off

<insert mental image of train going off the tracks>




I saw an Audi TV commercial that made me think of this.



Well crafted.


Kind of humorous <using some excellent hyperbole>.


Beautiful photography <as you would expect from a car manufacturer>.
And then … oops … it teeters off that fine line into ‘missed.’




One young boy with the gumption to challenge the very fabric of our society has cannonballed into a pool less than an hour after eating.

The world is full of rules, break them, challenge those in charge, and drive an Audi.

Audi TV Spot ‘Swim’:









I did not have a visceral response like this when I saw it:



“I just saw the commercial twice.

Thank you Audi for undermining everything we need in society. Rules. Now you should try to teach this kid in class when the parents helps undermine the process too.

It’s called ethics. Try it sometime. No Audi for me.”


Steve Nordwick



Hugh's Missing the Point

Hugh’s Missing the Point

But I did say “shit, they missed the mark with this.”



I clearly understand what they were trying to do and say.


It was tongue in cheek.



They clearly tried to use an old wives tale ‘rule’ to make a point.


It was hyperbole.



But … well … there is a huge difference between breaking rules and having the attitude to eye rules with some question rather than blindly following them.



And that is where they miss.



They want people who don’t simply follow rules like a sheep but rather look at rules with a discerning eye of ‘stupid or smart.’



And maybe that is where they truly miss the mark.






Smart people don’t encourage breaking rules.

Smart people encourage breaking stupid rules.


SmartBaby answer

Smart people don’t break rules for the sake of breaking rules.

Smart people assess rules and break them when appropriate.



I am not sure I like the message which suggests kids should not only ignore a safety rule but ignore an authority figure.



And I absolutely do struggle with depicting a parent who seemingly venerates and applauds a child flaunting not only rules but figures of authority <even a lifeguard has some responsibility and authority>.



I worry a little about its misguided judgement all within a ‘creating an entertaining commercial’ construct.







I do believe you can encourage individualism in some other way than ‘The world is full of rules. Be the exception.’





I KNOW you can encourage individualism and ‘smart behavior choice even in the face of rules.’





I’m sure I am over thinking this but valuing some sense of order thru rules … and personal accountability toward rules … is kind of what makes civilization run.



And I feel like this communications goes beyond just breaking the rules … the parent is teaching him to disrespect rules <and smart rule breakers respect rules but recognize stupid rules>.



And more disrespect?



While I am clearly in over thinking mode … the pool is not theirs … it is a rules followingcommunity pool with a lifeguard … which means it comes with some choice to assume some personal accountability within society guidelines if they elect to use the pool … which then assumes they are respectful of the rules, obey the rules posted by those who grant them the privilege to use the pool.



Yeah yeah yeah … that is overthink.


But … and this is a big BUT … I have written a number of times that advertising and marketing can affect behavior and attitudes. And if I truly believe that <which I do> then even some of the smallest things should be eyed with ‘responsibility’ in mind.




Look <part 1>.



Some rules are good.


And rules intended to keep a child safe <even if it is a stupid rule> is good.



Telling a child that it is good to break the rules, no matter how seemingly small or stupid, suggests a bad lesson to a child.




Look <part 2>.



Beyond society … in business I know breaking stupid rules is sometimes necessary to get things done.



Excellent effective leadership actually seems to come with an unwritten responsibility to cut through rules that act as barriers to achieving what needs to be done <for the overall betterment of the organization>. I could argue that truly great leaders get where they are because they can do exactly that … legally of course, when the rules tell us otherwise.


Some people call this cutting through the red tape.


I call it the ability to weave your way thru the organizational bullshit and get shit done.



I can guarantee that if you look throughout any successful organization you will always find some ‘smart’ rule breakers who work diligently to overcome or circumvent the rules, regulations, and policies that unintentionally hinder progress and make it difficult to accomplish shit that needs to be done.






I mention that because creative people sometimes get mixed up between what they see in a business environment and what happens in Life environment. Lie isn’t always a Dilbert scene and Life SHOULDN’T always translate from some rules everyday existencebusiness perspective.



The mom in the commercial may be one of those professional ‘break stupid rules smartly’ people … but ‘managing’ her child takes a different skill.



A professional communicator should recognize that.






Close … but they missed the mark.

disruption (make competitors irrelevant)

September 22nd, 2014

disturb the universe



“’You’re dangerous’, he says.


‘Because you make me believe in the impossible.’ “


Simone Elkeles


“Disruption is bad.

You seem to be using it to mean something good,” she said.





This is about disruption and business.



This is one of my favorite words & topics. It is one of my favorites for two reasons.



First is that it is an overlooked way to be successful in the marketplace. Far too often businesses simply seek to “compete.” They are satisfied with standing in the ring and bludgeon each other all the while suggesting that this is ‘smart fighting’ giving me an edge. Shit. “Edges” <in this case> is simply staying in the fight and not a plan to win a fight. Disruption is all about wins and winning.



Second. It is one of the few words in business that if you actually deign to use in a meeting or business discussion will draw a visceral response from your audience. From a ‘fun’ perspective it is maybe even more fun than farting in the middle of a presentation.







Disruption, or disrupt, is an emotive word often creating a very unsettling image.




And it is a topic which typically scares the shit out of most businesses <and business people>.




The excuses to ‘not being so disruptive’ are too long to list … and some are quite creative.



But suffice it to say … almost every excuse is grounded in fear.






All those “whoa … slow down on that whole disruption talk” people may suggest ‘it is expensive to do something like that’ but they are simply shaping excuses in their heads & mouths because the whole thought of disrupting anything … well … scares the shit out of them.






To be clear on definitions <and purpose> … the aim of disruption is to frame <or reframe> a business <or a brand> so that the market sees it differently.








Maybe it is simply turning around and facing reality.




“At some point you just have to turn around and face your life head on.”

disrupt change world


Chris Cleave






What I mean by that is disrupting is most typically simply attacking some conventional thinking and tapping into what people really think <when they actually think about it>.



And most times it is really common sense stuff.



It is common sense because it is many times rooted in the fact we just get stuck either in ‘that’s the way its done’ … or maybe we have become so numb to the fact we have bolted on crap to the brand <or company> in day to day attempts to keep it relevant that it is almost unfamiliar to what people originally thought of it <we just made it too complex or complicated>.




Please note … this whole disruption thing, while I love it, is not my idea.




Jean Marie Dru, the Chairman of TBWA has been talking about the power of “disruption” since the early 1990s.



His book, Disruption: Overturning Conventions and Shaking Up the Marketplace, is a must read for anyone who likes this shit <and it is actually a delightful read for a business book>.




Interestingly … even Tom Peters <the ‘in search of excellence’ guy> thought the concept of disruption was topical … even decades ago.




“Disrupt or be disrupted.

Disrupt or die.

Disruption is the most powerful idea in business today.”

disrupt funky type


Tom Peters






I tend to believe disruption gets a bad rap because it implies wholesale change.



Like as in throw out everything and start from scratch.




Au contraire.



Disrupting is always about leveraging off of something existing. You may turn everything upside down … but you are still using some existing pieces <some existing attitudes & behavior> from which your idea will end up tapping into.



I say that to remind everyone that something from nothing equals the same thing as nothing from nothing … uhm … nothing.



Smart, or intelligent, disrupting is always about something from something.




“If in a company you change nothing, you are sure to fail.

If you change everything you are sure to fail as well.

So the art of winning resides in your capacity to draw the fine line between what should be changed and what should not.

Same for a brand.

All brands are in transition.

You can’t build brands by thinking only in a linear way.

You have to think of larger futures for them.

And to do that, you have to use your imagination.

A larger share of the future very seldom comes from an extrapolation of the present.future past present

And that is what Disruption is all about.

Disruption is about discovering new futures.”


Jean Marie-Dru




Let’s be honest here.



New futures sound frickin’ awesome.







But futures are not guaranteed, are they?






Success is getting people to think and act differently. <doh again>



That translates into … yikes … change.



Here is the good news about this whole disruptive change topic.




Effective disruptive thinking is not some blind irresponsible thinking. It takes into consideration all the levels of change it effects and addresses them.




“Disruption demands that a company challenges conventional behaviors and finds a new way to act.

If you analyze the behavior of the category in question you will see conventional patterns of activity are apparent on four levels: corporate, marketing, communications and the customer’s point of view.

Some of these conventions are invariably good and necessary, while others are not.

The opportunity lies in seeing how a brand can use its strengths to do something less conventional to change its path and accelerate growth.”


Matt Shepherd-Smith, CEO, TBWA\London









There is truly a difference in disruption and intelligent disruption.




Disruption in and of itself … without thought … is meaningless destruction creating chaos.




Intelligent disruption leads change from what exists rather than reacting to what exists and … well … creates something new <not chaos>.







Here are few more thoughts by Jean-Marie Dru about brand building and the importance of disruption:



–        Disruption is creating something dynamic to replace something that has become static.


–        I have always believed that a brand has to evolve. It cannot remain motionless.

The same, of course, applies to companies.

While all those words sound inspiring and thoughtful and … well … what business person WOULDN’T want to do that?


Disruption actually is linked to another word which business people tend to really really dislike … destruction.

Destruction of the conventional … the comfortable.

Conventions train us to do the conventional. And because it is conventional … we tend to not really think about this shit.



Accepted beliefs, where everyone is thinking the same, usually means no one is really thinking.



This all translates into destroying some of the accepted beliefs … uhm … which means destroying … well … familiarity.



Yet … within destruction there should be a surge of energy <from people and a business perspective because disruption is actually both strategy and action>.




What do I believe <see: “know”>?



Too much business thinking today is satisfied with maintaining the status quo.

fate and beginnings



This is doomed thinking.



Thinking is at its best when used as a sharp weapon and used to transform business and the way people think <and do things>.



Far too much thinking <and the tactics which arise from that thinking> look the same, say the same, and … well … do the same.



All of which simply makes it easier to be ignored.







It doesn’t respect people’s intelligence or their sense of <thinking> adventure.



Therefore disruption incorporates destructing some of ‘what is.’



Not just for the sake of destruction but rather with the intent to be singular, extraordinary, and even world-changing is inspiring and interesting and adventuresome.




Disrupting is done with the intent to stand out from the crowd and get noticed in a way that fundamentally changes perceptions.




I imagine I could quite simplistically suggest that great disruptive thinking challenges the prevailing ideas of the present.




And therefore disruption sounds difficult, unsettling, painful and fundamentally frightening.



Why would anybody disrupt, and destroy, on purpose?







Here is the contradiction … you are actually destroying to create.



It’s about creation – creating something dynamic to replace something that has become static.


disruption fall apart
Disruption is about systematically breaking through the barriers that shape and limit standard business approaches.

It’s about challenging conventional wisdom and imagining new possibilities. It’s about destroying the assumptions and biases that get in the way of fresh and visionary ideas.

<Jean Marie-Dru>




This actually means that the other thing where disruption gets a bad rap is that it is used as a verb … when it is actually a noun when done correctly.






Because disruption is actually a destination … a vision of what could, and should, be … against which all strategic and marketing decisions are measure.




This means that disruptive ideas are simply ways to get to the vision as fast as possible.



This also means that you are taking a stand.



A stand for not what is … but what will be.



You are changing the rules <and frankly doing so in your favor>.



To be clear.



Disruption is not anarchy <nor chaos>.



It is a strategically directed shake-up.



It’s a way of thinking.



It means taking nothing for granted.



It means being bold and taking some risk.


do what you must by Yoshiteru


It means you are actually inventing a future in which you not only want to live … but one in which you can prosper.




Anyone in business worth even half a shit knows that the path to truly winning <and winning big> in business is to create new categories or subcategories rather than engaging in brand preference competition in established categories.




The idea of creating a new category, defining its dimensions and becoming its ‘definer’ <of which everyone else has to measure against> is where true success <financially> resides.








Many businesses need to engage in brand preference competition to retain their relevance and market position. But that is a defensive strategy. And, trust me, someone is going to go on the offensive at some point.








Disruption simply means ‘to challenge.’



And we all need to remember that disruption creates and is not simply to destroy.



That doesn’t mean everything is all rosy if you get it right.



disruption bddp_unlimitedTechnological disruption re-defines industries.




Cultural disruption always seems to piss people off.







Challenging people … and the status quo … can make people angry.



What do I say?



Fuck ‘em.




Disruption by challenging the status quo improves culture.



Is there conflict?




You bet.



Does that conflict lead to a spark of energy?



You bet.



And from the spark comes improvement.







We are all disruptors.



Just that some of us know it and some of us don’t.




“We are all manufacturers – making good, making trouble or making excuses.”


HV Adolt


disrupt do status quo







I am done babbling.







All that really matters despite all I babbled about <typed> … is you either choose to disrupt … or be disrupted.

Enlightened Conflict