Gonzo Strategy – Business Advice From the Sports Desk
A tribute to Hunter S. Thompson*
In a series of six blogs, I will draw some strategic planning advice from an unusual source: The Gonzo journalism of the late American author, Hunter S. Thompson. Enjoy!
Not so Gonzo. Hunter S. Thompson is widely credited as the creator of Gonzo journalism. He fiercely observed his subjects and willingly introduced farce and parody into reportage to bring his message home. His breakthrough piece was an article on a visit to the famous Kentucky Derby horse race. The article remarkably makes no mention of the outcomes or detail of the race itself. This piece in addition to his scathing attacks on Richard Nixon, his novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and the almost non-fiction Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, established his wild reputation, which Hunter willingly fostered. This was expressed in one of his most famous quotes, ‘I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me’. Usually, he indulged in the first three simultaneously.
When I read an anthology of his work for Rolling Stone magazine and his early writing when he was still relatively obscure, a different side emerges. He cared deeply about his craft of writing, possessed a deeply ingrained sense of social justice and willingly mentored others. Often in Rolling Stones’ San Francisco office, he would sit with cadet journalists, correcting prose in intense detail. At the end of the session, he would then take the staid journalist to a bar across the road – usually not emerging until the following day.
Thompson was not without failures – a trip to cover the Vietnam War yielded only one tepid article. Living up to the Gonzo image also distracted and diminished the quality and volume of later work. He was likely aware of this decline hence it somewhat fed on itself.
What does this mean for strategy? Regardless of your status and success, stick to who you are, challenge yourself, and master your craft and profession. Keep learning and improving. It is so much better for everyone else. However, try to be more right than righteous.
Jason Thomas is the Founder of de Montaigne Strategic Planning, which provides robust strategic planning and training services to small to medium-sized enterprises, not-for-profit organisations and government departments.
He has over 30 years’ experience in senior leadership, operational and planning roles across the military, public and private sectors. In addition, Jason holds numerous degrees and qualifications including Gold Mastery Certification with the Haines Centre for Strategic Management.