I heard a really good wind-up on an American radio show.
A father called in and said his daughter was taking her car for a service.
He said she never questioned what the mechanic said.
She didn’t want to appear stupid, so she just agreed with him.
Her father suggested the radio station teach her a lesson.
So that’s what happened.
The DJ called her up pretending to be the mechanic.
He said: “Hi, we’ve taken a look at your car and generally it’s in good condition.”
She said: “That’s good news.”
He said: “Yes, the only thing is the water in the headlights needs changing.”
She said: “The water in the headlights needs changing?”
He said: “Well it needs replacing really.”
She said: “Oh, okay, what do you suggest?”
He said: “Well, we can use ordinary tap water if you like.”
She said: “Will that do the job?”
He said: “It’ll hold you in the short term, but it’s not ideal.”
She said: “What do you recommend?”
He said: “Well I’d recommend Evian water.”
She said: “Evian is better for headlights?”
He said: “It’s more expensive in the short term, but in the long run it’ll last longer.”
She said: “Okay. What’s the difference in cost?”
He said: “Well with tap water you’re just looking at labour costs, say twenty bucks. With Evian you’ve got the cost of labour plus the mineral water, that’ll run you nearer fifty.”
She said: “That’s quite expensive.”
He said: “Well, Evian is a quality product.’
She said: “What would you do?”
He said: “To be honest, if we used tap water you’d just have to have it replaced again in a few months.”
She said: “So you’d recommend the Evian option?”
He said: “That’s the solution I’d go for.”
She said: “Okay, well you’re the expert. I guess you’d better put Evian water in the headlights.”
And the call ended.
And the announcer and the woman’s father had a good laugh.
We can all laugh at the woman’s stupidity.
But the truth is, she was doing what we all do.
What she was trying to do was not reveal her ignorance.
She didn’t want to look stupid.
So she went along with whatever the expert told her.
As long as it was put in credible-sounding language.
Does that sound familiar?
Have you even been confronted with a brief that’s put in language you don’t quite understand?
Have you even been frightened to question the brief in case you look stupid?
In case everyone else in the room knows what all the long, trendy words mean, and you’re the only one who doesn’t.
So you meekly accept the brief, rather than question it.
Personally, I’ve got a simple rule-of-thumb with briefs.
I’ve always found the quality of thinking is inversely proportional to the complexity of the language.
In other words, people only use complicated language to cover up bad thinking.
People who’ve got great thinking want you to understand it.
So they keep it as simple as possible.
They don’t need to dress it up.
Only people who are embarrassed about their thinking need to disguise it.
Using complicated, trendy, credible-sounding jargon.
Remember that next time you’re frightened of questioning something.
Next time you’re frightened of looking stupid.
Remember what that woman thought.
“Don’t question the experts, trust them.
Be careful not to look stupid.”
And you end up with Evian in your headlights.