Which part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?

On Tuesday night I went along to Creative Social where Flo Heiss, Sam Bell, Steve Price, Becky Power, Andy Sandoz and Laura Jordan Bambatch gathered to talk fighting talk and the power of the word ‘No’. Andy Sandoz unpacked his concept of the “No Filter”, Becky Power wondered how the ‘Slag of all snacks‘ campaign had escaped a ‘No’, and Steve Price said ‘No’ to desks, traditional agency structures, egotistical non-collaborators and condiments containing yeast extract. Most explosive however, was Flo Heiss’ challenge for the audience to put their phones at their feet and just ‘be in the moment’ for five minutes. Saying ‘No’ to the Internet? Scary times.

A common thread which ran across all the talks, yet was not fully explored, was about courage. Both the courage to say ‘No’ to each other, to clients, to employees and the Internet, but also the courage to put something out there accepting that ‘No’ may be the response. Actors often speak of the vulnerability of their craft, and how the best directors are the ones which give them the space and the support to succeed and fail in their character. The same goes in the creative industry – within a studio, or in front of a client, creatives are expected to put their hearts and souls on the line in the quest for that ‘great idea’. In the face of a thousand ‘No’s, we must find ways to keep thinking, exploring and innovating.

Like a great director, it takes a special kind of environment to keep creative people striving for the ‘Yes’. At the Barbican’s Bauhaus exhibition which opened last week, the physical and philosophical conditions for creative innovation are considered. While Germany dealt with the fallout of losing a World War, an experimental, optimistic community sprung into life in Weimar. Through fusing master craftsmanship with idealistic thinking, the students of Bauhaus were able to find conviction in their ideas, while a dark cloud of political, cultural and economic ‘No’s hovered overhead.

At the end of the day, if you put forward a wooly idea, you’ll get back a wooly answer – those meaningless, frustrating half ‘No’s usually accompanied with a guilty smiley face. But with the right support and the right people, a strong idea can earn a strong response. The ‘Yes’ that takes you to the next stage, or a ‘No’ that leaves you hungry and ready for more. Now that’s fighting talk.