It's good to be a weird fish
A view from Yan Elliott

It's good to be a weird fish

Give credit to those swimming against the tide in our industry - they are the people most likely to spot breakthrough ways of doing things.

Not so long ago, we were enjoying the spectacle of Glastonbury. Radiohead’s classic Creep always strikes a chord, but this time it was their song Weird Fishes that really got me thinking.

It got me thinking about how important it is – not just in our society but particularly in our industry – to have weird fishes. 

To be clear, I am not just talking about creatives here. I’m talking about anyone who might feel a little like an outsider now and again, anyone who feels they haven’t been told the whole story, or simply those who think there may be a better way. 

The reasons are obvious, but it’s probably worth taking a moment to remind ourselves why we need these weird fishes. 

It’s the weird fishes that make the difference. The oddballs who stop our pond from getting stagnant. 

They’re the ones who don’t have a "job"; they have a passion to put good, interesting, funny, thought-provoking ideas into the world. 

They believe that the world can be an awesome, amazing, brilliant place but struggle with the fact that it can’t be like that every day. 

They don’t just get through the day. They try to make it the day when they made a breakthrough, the day they broke the idea barrier. 

It’s for that reason that, on their way home, they still haven’t "left" the office – they’ll still be writing down or sketching out an idea because it just might turn into something. 

The weird thing about weird fishes is that they think while they are not thinking about things. 

When they put an idea on to paper, into the room, on to the table, they are placing a piece of themselves out there. An idea that has come from the heart.  And after a lot of internal scrutinising, they deem it worth the risk to share with others. They put themselves out there for all to judge. In the hope that someone will say "I like it" or, better still, "I love it". 

Which would explain why weird fishes all of a sudden appear to be in a brilliant mood. It’s because they’ve made a breakthrough; they’ve cracked it.  All the days of swimming around with their gills all heavy at the thought of what to do – it’s gone, lifted, in a momentary explosion of elation. Christ, they can now actually do other things in their life… like pay that bill or go to the actual opticians to look for actual new glasses. Hallelujah. 

So whatever part of the creative industry you’re in, let us remember to celebrate the weird fishes, not dismiss them.  Don’t second-guess that the client may not like them. And don’t think for a second that the client might not want to meet them. Because if you do, all that happens is the weird fish goes to the darkest place in the pond and hides under a soggy brown waterlogged leaf – or, worse, a manky old Gatorade bottle – and will only come out again when they think it’s safe. Some, sadly, never come back out. 

And to all the weird fishes, don’t for a second think you’re too weird – you are needed, you are loved. You are, in fact, essential. To this day, I have never met a client who doesn’t love a bright, different point of view in the room. You are not there to overcrowd the pond, you are there to make yours the best pond ever. You alone have the ability to make our pond great. 

And if I could lean on one of the great modern-day philosophers of our time for a second – I believe it was Paris Hilton who said: "I don’t like parties past 2am. Then it’s all losers and weirdos." 

Indeed, Paris, but you could also argue that’s when it gets interesting… 

Yan Elliott is joint executive creative director at CHI & Partners.
@theyanimal