The F Word: Mike Hutcheson’s favourite mistake

Idealog has partnered with Callaghan Innovation to take a look the nature of failure in business – the good, the bad and the unintentionally educational. So we’re asking questions: Is there a stigma, in this country, around ‘failure’? Is it a good thing to ‘fail fast’? Would you be wary investing in start-up run by an entrepreneur with a string of failed businesses?

We’ll be presenting the results of our survey in a special feature – ‘The F Word’ – in the next issue of Idealog. In the lead up to that, we’ll be asking Kiwi high-fliers and heavy-hitters about what failure means to them, what they’ve learned, and what ‘mistakes’ they’re most proud of.

This time around we hit up Mike Hutcheson and asked him what his favourite mistake is, what he learned and how it contributed to his success.

Mike Hutcheson 

My best mistake was enrolling in Law at Canterbury University.

I’d planned to become an Art Teacher and did Diploma of Fine Arts Preliminary in the 7th Form (Year 13).

I was accepted into Ilam and virtually had my bag packed when, in the last week of school, my Form Master took me aside and said my marks were ridiculously high. If he put these forward he’d have to give me first place in class - and he couldn’t do that because I’d just done Art and English and the other boys had done ‘proper’ academic subjects.

I’d done something that was useful but worthless.The only two things I felt I could do in life were write and draw.

 A cousin of mine was a lawyer and as I was in a debating team he felt I would make a good one. So in a fit of pique I enrolled at Law School.

After two years of being bored rigid, I discovered advertising (by mistake) and thought: here was a business made for me. 

It’s been my privilege since then to have had a heap of fun and worked with some of the best brains and talent in the business. We’ve done some great campaigns and run some great agencies.

Mike Hutcheson is the former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi NZ and is now a director-at-large of ICG, Idealog's parent company.