Jeff Cooper is the Senior Partner of Step Change Marketing. This article appears in Jeff's monthly column in Adnews - Australia's leading publication serving the advertising, marketing and media industries.
You’d have to be psycho to work in our game. Hands up if you came back from holidays and realised just how psycho some of the people you work with are? That’s right put your hands up in the air and wave them all around like you just don’t care! Now look around the office and see if anyone else is doing the same thing. Hopefully it’s not with you in mind.
The fact is that one to two percent of the population could be labelled as “psychopaths” and, unless you’re in America, that’s way larger than the incarcerated population. So they’re walking amongst us. Incidentally, in 2011 2.9% of the US residential population were under correctional supervision. I digress, but that’s just the kind of ‘F-me’ fact this article needed. The point is that as well as the full-blown psycho, there are those that are high on the spectrum walking among us too. They’re unlikely to have a severed head in the freezer, but still for the most part can be labelled a psychopath. I’ll even bet a few spring to mind. Combined we could be looking at as high as 10% of the population exhibiting psychopathic traits to a pronounced degree. Be afraid, that means there’s at least one in your office right now.
How do I know this? I read a book whilst on holidays called the Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton. It was such an exciting jaunt to read and then effortlessly label those who’d gotten in my way in 2014 as ‘broken,’ yet much, much less enjoyable to realise that I shared some psychopathic traits too. You see as quickly as we label others as psychos, we think about cutting them into little pieces, don’t we? Just joking.
It sounds, in actual fact, like that it’s not all that bad being a psychopath. Psychopaths tend to be charming, full of charisma, fearless, persuasive and likeable. As well as narcissistic, ruthless, and have a questionable handle on the use of ones moral compass. Traits that come in handy in the courtroom, the boardroom, the presentation, the operating theatre and our industry. Apparently, John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were full-blown psychopaths which blew me away because JFK is a hero of mine and Bill is most famous for being blown himself – both successful by any mans measure.
So it seems the goal is to get a few of these traits, practice them, turn them on and up, yet still retain your humanity. I think that’s interesting to look at a type of person who, typically, we’ve found so abhorrent and recognise the good in them. On a deeper read one could conclude we should all nurture the small chunk of psychopath within. Do you dare?