Why the best Planners are wired a bit wrong
Everyone has their own way of working, their own way of approaching things, thinking stuff through and reaching conclusions. Take teachers – I doubt you’d find two teachers who would deliver identical lessons on the same subject. Among other things, personality, experience and personal opinions all affect how two people approach the same task.
Which is why there’s no one way to ‘do’ Account Planning. I’m pretty rubbish at delivering How To Do Planning training as although I can breakdown what I do, I find it very hard to break down how and why I do it. Why do I settle on a particular proposition territory or instinctively know that one sentence uttered in a focus group is more important than the other eighty eight minutes of talking put together?
I suppose it’s a bit like asking an art director why they chose a drumming gorilla to embody Joy or the logical steps it took to get from a well-known Irish beverage to surfing horses. The particular way their brain was wired suggested that was a possible solution. And so it can be with Planning.
Which can be very hard for people to understand. Especially people who work in another role in an agency but would much rather be a Planner. You can go on all the courses you like, assemble a file full of useful charts and be the best powerpointer in history, but if you don’t have the kind of brain that sees the world at a slight angle you might as well forget it.
As Richard Huntington writes, Planners have to be wired a bit wrong. They have to be able to sit in the same meeting as the account director and come out with a different viewpoint. Give two Planners the same stimulus, lock them in two different rooms for a day and I’d almost guarantee that the creative briefs that resulted would be markedly different. But both a bit weird.
Here Up North, Planners have tend to fall into Planning after realising that their slightly off kilter brains are better suited to Planning than PR (me), Account Managing (Northern), writing for a B2B website (Rob) and so on. I almost think having graduate training schemes for Planners isn’t ideal unless you can psychometrically test candidates for ‘wrongness’ as simply wanting to be a Planner isn’t enough. Being practically unemployable in any another agency role on the other hand…
There’s a great piece on the WPP site by Jon Steel on the advantages of an unplanned career. In the past he’s hired “lawyers, doctors, and engineers and even a killer whale trainer who realized along the way that they didn’t really want to be lawyers, doctors, engineers or (surprisingly) killer whale trainers”. I truly believe that some of the best planners (including Jon who thought he wanted to be an account manager) arrived at the job almost by happy accident. Because they finally found something that suited them and their particular wrongness.
And (to come back to my original point) if we Planners are all wired a bit wrong, we’re certainly all wrongly wired in different ways. And we embrace it. We all have our Own Way of Doing Things. Which won’t necessarily work for another person and their particular way of looking at the world. Which is why (although you can certainly give them the tools) you can’t entirely teach any random person how to be a good Planner in nice, neat, simple steps. They need to be a bit wrong to get it right.
If you want more advice on developing your own Planning style, Richard Huntington has a great presentation here.