Choose your maverick with care


Why we need mavericks, but not always…

By Cliff Moore, Account Director, Deep South Media

Many trees have died in the fallout from the Jeremy Clarkson situation – axed to provide the growing acres of newsprint needed to accommodate the millions of words spewed out in description of this increasingly rancorous affair.

For anyone not familiar with TopGeargate (or hotfoodgate, if you will), I should mention that the BBC decided not to renew Top Gear presenter Clarkson’s contract following a top level internal inquiry into the alleged fracas he had with a member of the show’s production team over the provision of food.

I suspect that such situations, not necessarily about food, probably occur on daily basis around the world in many spheres of working life, but it proved one incident too far for the BBC with regard to the opinionated Clarkson, whose contract conveniently runs out at the end of March.

We might remember that the controversial presenter was involved in an ugly N-word brouhaha last year and the programme’s Argentina ‘adventure’ did no one involved any favours.

And there has been a multitude of occasions where the forthright Clarkson’s outrageous behaviour has been called into question – homophobic accusations, racial stereotyping of Germans, Mexicans and Romanians and jokes about lorry drivers murdering prostitutes, to name but a few.

The list is uncomfortably long when digested in one sitting, but most incidents were brushed off with half-hearted apologies when the criticism got too strong or ‘not guilty’ findings by broadcasting watchdogs or the BBC Governors’ complaints committee.

Against this, one might consider that the endearingly popular Top Gear is watched by more than five million people on BBC2 and sold to countries around the world (presumably sales to Argentina have slumped).

And it is the very format of the programme, much of it scripted by Clarkson, that ensures its amazing popularity. Can you imagine, in this day and age, that a Top Gear presented by a William Woollard or a Quentin Willson (or James May, come to that) comparing the petrol consumption of the Ford Cortina against the Vauxhall Vectra would attract any viewers at all?

There is also the fact that many people seem to utterly revel in being offended. A quick look at BBC’s Newswatch will confirm this pretty quickly.

The larky, jokey, lads mag nature of the behemoth that Top Gear has become is what ensured its endearing popularity – and is also what has brought down the big beast Clarkson.

Once the BBC concluded that there should not be one rule for talent and another one for the rest Clarkson was doomed.

I hold no candle for this seemingly tiresome man used to getting his own way and he will undoubtedly bounce back in one form or another, but his demise does raise an interesting issue.

That of the maverick.

We need mavericks – people who are different, those prepared to stick their neck out, take some flack, do things their way and, most importantly, achieve things.

If the world of business was full of plodders then innovation would become an arcane word. The safety-first, no risk approach would lead to nothingness.

But, as with any walk of life, control is needed. Too many mavericks would soon cause anarchy without calming influences.

The answer for businesses (simple to theorise, difficult to achieve) is maintaining a balance by allowing your maverick off the leash to crank up the ideas machine without upsetting (too much) everyone else.

First, of course, find your maverick.