Roughly speaking, Plato’s Theory of Forms is that a world of perfection exists beyond the purely physical world we inhabit.

It doesn’t exist in a tangible way, but as an ideal to be aspired to.

So the perfect chair exists there, the perfect horse, the perfect cup; whatever you can think of the perfect form of it exists in abstract.

These Perfect Forms are what we must aspire to, anything in the physical world can only be a crude attempt to get close to them.

In Plato’s time, 2,500 years ago, this probably made sense.

40 percent of the population were slaves and uneducated, so amongst the rich, it made sense to have a single goal for everything, because the rich mainly agreed on it.

Today however, we understand that to have a single purpose for anything, like a chair, doesn’t make sense.

Is the chair to relax in like an armchair, or to work from like an office chair, or to take camping and be collapsible, or to use in a restaurant, or to fit into a car, or to use as a wheelchair, or to teach from?

Are we designing for cost, or reproduction, or utility, or sustainability, or appearance?

It’s obvious to us there can’t be one perfect form that all chairs should aspire to when there isn’t a single purpose for every chair to perform.

The same with any of Plato’s other Perfect Forms.

There are many more times the number of people alive today, and there are many more new inventions, than Plato could possibly have conceived of.

So the variables for everything are many times greater than he knew.

Take the advertising brief: each new person and each new product presents a different problem that needs solving.

We don’t aspire to perfection of the form, we aspire to the best solution for the problem.

But the idea persists that there is a world of perfect forms, of course, we don’t call it that, we call it ‘the right answer’ and everyone thinks they’ve got it.

But, of course, everyone’s got a different right answer.

And because we think our answer is the only right answer, we think it is the one we must aspire to.

So I have to fight for my right answer (Perfect Form) over your answer.

And you fight for your right answer (Perfect Form) over my answer.

And even though we can all see how silly Perfect Forms would be today, we still fight over whose vision of it is correct.

And then ego kicks in, and we’re not even fighting over the right answer, we’re just fighting to see who wins.

This is the problem with the briefing process.

The right answer is decided at the time the brief is written, usually by the account person, the client, the planner (aka strategist).

Once their thoughts are committed to paper they become the right answer, the Perfect Form, on the subject.

They brief becomes law and cannot be deviated from.

So there’s nothing left for the creatives to do but execute that brief.

Which means ‘creatives’ is a misnomer, they are actually mere stylists, being asked to sprinkle some glitter on a lowest-common-denominator solution.

Restriction of thought is never a recipe for real creativity.

Opportunity lies in unearthing what other people haven’t seen.

There needs to be room for a dialectic to unearth the unexpected.

As Rory Sutherland said, “Sometimes, the opposite of a right answer is another right answer”