Is your stupid decision merely counterintuitive, or is your counterintuitive decision merely stupid?

Counterintuitive means ‘contrary to common sense expectation’, eg:

Fat makes you thin.

You have to fail to succeed.

Getting healthy can kill you.

If you want to attract someone, be rude to them.


Makes you wonder when it’s the right time to do the obvious and when it’s better to do the exact opposite…

If I want to top the global music charts and get 2.5bn views on YouTube, should I become a dumpy older man and make a song entirely in Korean?

If I want to make the best reviewed film of the year, should I remake a small hit from 35 years ago with the original director, a man who has since made several films about singing penguins and talking pigs?

If I want to put together the best team in the football league, should I recruit a decent but unremarkable manager, then put him together with a team of cheap and non-league players?

It must be the toughest choice to make, especially in creative endeavours, but the truth is that no matter how often human beings try to play the odds, the greatest work always comes from doing the opposite.

Of course, you can try to follow successes, emulating elements of what they have done. After all, without The Sopranos there would be no Deadwood, The Wire, Mad Men or Breaking Bad. But until The Sopranos (and perhaps Oz) made adult, intelligent episodic TV drama an attractive idea, that path looked to be blocked with a brick wall. Now it almost seems obvious that there was a huge untapped market in smart TV.

But for every instance where a brave decision turned out to be a trailblazing game-changer there must be millions of other attempts that turned out to be less successful. So the real question is: are you doing something wonderfully fresh or just misjudged and stupid?

Unfortunately, the only way you can find out is by putting your great new thing out there and hoping it’s received as you intend it. And that’s where the real crunch comes: it may not be the quality of the work or the idea that doesn’t work; it might instead be the timing, or the mood of your audience, or what others produce around the same time.

So the first job is to come up with something brilliant that goes against the prevailing wisdom, then you have to do a lot of hoping that you hit the part of the target marked ‘counterintuitive brilliance’ rather than the part marked ‘pointless shite’.

Good luck with that!