DO YOU VALUE YOUR OPINION?

One of the most difficult aspects of working on the brand-advertising-marketing spectrum is the management of opinion. There’s even something ironic about writing this blog. It is ‘merely’ my opinion.

I am wary when I hear someone saying ‘Oh, that’s just subjective’. It’s fashionable to seek compromise and consensus but what isn’t subjective? I would argue that there’s really no such thing as objectivity. If someone believes that the moon is made out of ping pong balls and wallpaper paste, then for them at least, that’s the absolute truth.We’re familiar with the phrase “ to separate fact from fiction” but in our business, we spend considerable effort trying to separate fact from opinion. It’s possible to make the case that fiction and opinion are the same thing. I disagree: I would argue that there are some crucial differences. Subjectivity is valuable. It’s no less important than ‘fact’.

A point of view matters, needs to be nurtured and should be respected. There’s nothing wrong with an opinion voiced. What matters is the value of the opinion. So how do we assess that value? For a start, whose is the opinion? How much does it matter? This person opining is in the meeting or on the email chain, so their opinion must have some bearing on the project – it’s important not to ignore what they have to say – even if you disagree.

Secondly, is the opinion based on anything? Now, there’s the rub. An opinion based on something has credibility. It’s not prejudice or conjecture. It has weight because it’s based on one of the following: compelling facts, experience or cold, hard logic. Ideally, it’s based on all three.

It’s important to have a point of view but it’s also crucial to test it. F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

But it’s that ability to function that’s crucial. When you function, what do you really think? And is what you think based on more than gut-feeling?

Lastly, have you expressed your opinion? Have you said what you’re really thinking? As Stephen Bayley puts it in the excellent, Life’s A Pitch, “Timidity is rarely, if ever, a characteristic of creative thinking.”

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