Much of what Tara wrote in her recent post ‘Missing the point’ resonates with me too.
A couple of months back, someone asked me why I’m such an extremist. Surely, everything traditional marketing can’t be bad. Why not be a big more moderate.
I replied, I’m an extremist because someone has to swing the pendulum over. Here is a diagram to illustrate what I mean:
The reason I sometimes find myself taking (/being seen to take) an ‘extreme perspective’ is often to counter-act equally extreme conservatism on the other side.
Except that ‘extreme conservatism’ is generally considered to be an oxymoron. It appears it’s only those of us wanting to be a catalyst for change can be considered ‘extreme’.
Sometimes an ‘extreme’ goal is an achievable one, and it’s worth going out on a limb to get it. You start off with your out-there position and push and push and chip and chip until something happens.
But there are also times when I know what I am wanting is just not going to happen, but I know that if I ‘shoot for the stars, I might just reach the moon’. I know that I’d be happy to compromise somewhere in the middle for the sake of realising some change albeit not what I originally wanted. But push the extreme as hard as I can to get the middle-ground closer to where I want to ultimately arrive.
I had to do that a lot at the BBC, both in BBC News and also whilst working on backstage.bbc.co.uk of course. The BBC is definitely a place where great clumps of conservatism litter an otherwise cutting-edge landscape. (or is it the other way around?)
The trick was to establish a credibility before going AWOL from the plan. And even when I did go AWOL for some it wasn’t AWOL enough – but the story of black-ops projects is another story for another time… perhaps.
Back to this blog post… I know that this modus operandi combined with my dotBen ‘let’s kick the shit up’ gadfly approach rubs people like Tom Coates up the wrong way. I have a lot of respect for Tom – I don’t get on with him (and hey, I’m sure the feeling’s mutual), but I’m the first to admit he knows what he’s talking about (my guess is that the feeling isn’t mutual on that one!).
However his methods are different but we’re trying to arrive at the same goal. Some might say he’s taking the traditional approach based on academic reasoning and I’m just being, well, a shit stirrer.
But actually this is no different to what Socrates did when he interacted with the Athenian politician scene. And it was Plato who coined the phrase ‘gadfly’ when writing about this very relationship.
So, there is a method in my madness somewhere. Ian Betteridge may not get the whole alter-ego thing and decide to mock it – but he is denying a very fundamental psychological proposition that the Internet has thrived on – that of the avatar. Again, another post for another time on that one.
dotBen is/was a thinly veiled disguise to allow me to be extreme whilst protect my original professional standing. But it hasn’t worked as well as I thought – for a start it got put into the limelight at a certain LesBlogs conference. Since then slowly the two have merged into one.
I guess I’m not schizophrenic after all.
As I leave the corporate world behind me, I find myself working out what my single identity is. Am I going to go out on a limb or am I going to play it safe be like (almost) everyone else?
C’mon – you know the answer to that already. I’m going to continue to mother-fuck the status quo.
Not in a reckless way, and not just if it’s ‘for show’. But in the many examples where taking the extremist view – like Tara – will actually create the desired outcome.
We’re not all loonies really. Oh yeah, and Nelson Mandela eventually became South Africa’s president. Go figure.