Spalab - Conventional Wisdom equals All Convention but No Wisdom

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Franklin Leonard is an American film executive best known for founding ‘The Black List’, a yearly publication featuring Hollywood’s un-produced screenplays[1]. ‘The Black List’ is a compilation of a list of promising screenplays that were not picked by the production houses, because they applied their “conventional wisdom” filter while rejecting some of these gems. Since its inception, of the approximately 1,000 screenplays The Black List has included, nearly a third have been later produced as theatrical films, including successful and award-winning examples such as Argo, American Hustle, Juno, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, Spotlight, The Revenant, The Descendants, and Hell or High Water. The produced films have together grossed over $25 billion and have been nominated for 241 Academy Awards and 205 Golden Globe Awards, winning 48 and 40, respectively[2].

In one of his recent TED Talks[3], Franklin outlines how the conventional wisdom yardstick that gets applied while taking decisions is not only incorrect but also deeply unfair, leading to deepening of our economic and social problems. In his opinion, conventional wisdom is ALL convention and NO wisdom.

Franklin’s TED Talk immediately resonated with our struggle over the last few weeks to try and convince a plethora of stakeholders including customers and VC funds as to why things need to be done differently in our industry and why we would be doing a great disservice if we keep thinking and doing things the way we have been doing over the last few decades. During this process, some of the conventional wisdom that has been bestowed on us is –

(1) This looks great and we are sure that this will induce a change for better, but how will this help me in doing what I am doing currently.

So, you do recognise that there is something wrong in the way things are being done, and yet you want us to propose a solution that will help you keep doing the same things over and over again. Worth a slow clap!!!

(2) This industry is completely disorganised and if you try and change the way things are happening, there would be a lot of resistance.

Helllloooo!!! Isn’t that the whole point of disruption - to fundamentally change the way things are done. For sure there will be resistance, and which is why we need muscle power (i.e. investment) to catalyse that change.

(3) You are trying to do too much. It would be better if you do one thing and just work on it.

Yes, agreed. But is it wrong to have a larger vision that drove us to create Spalba in the first place? While we can phase out the rollout, why should we not aim for a much larger vision!!.

(4) If we give out more information about our venues/pricing/availability etc, we will lose our competitive advantage.

So, basically you are saying that you want to increase your product sales without letting people know what the product is. Very Smart!!!

We have also had our share of euphoric moments when someone gets what we are trying to do and is willing to take a punt to create a different future. Although, the share of such people was a minuscule when we started, this is definitely increasing as we are moving forward.

While we are committed to keep moving, I cannot help but think of the people who were probably less tenacious and got bogged down by the conventional wisdom of a much stronger group. If only someone could have told them that an electric bulb would have never been created, had the conventional wisdom of the time — i.e. light equals fire — would have been applied. Had that been the case, we would still be making improvements in candles to get better light.