How crucial is luck in making great work?

Lucky Generals founding partner Andy Nairn talks to us about why brands and organisations should embrace strategies to encourage a stroke of luck – and also recognise the positives in bad fortune

“I thought this whole theme of luck is quite interesting because nobody actually talks about it,” says Lucky Generals founding partner Andy Nairn. “People don’t like to admit to it do they? People don’t like to suggest that what they have done was lucky. It suggests that we haven’t worked hard, or it’s an insult to talk about luck.”

Luck is central to his agency’s name, not just the word itself but how it came about. The founders discovered the name they originally had in mind was in use by another company and at the last minute, they went with Lucky Generals – a name Nairn’s creative partner Danny Brooke-Taylor had kicking around since he was a teenager, when he thought about using it for his band. Despite the direct link to his agency, Nairn never really talked about luck. “In the seven years that we have been running Lucky Generals, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘luck’, other than in our name.”

This is set to change with Nairn’s forthcoming book Go Luck Yourself picking apart the subject of luck through a set of 40 principles to “stack the odds in your brand’s favour”. The book is split over four sections – appreciate what you’ve got; look out for opportunities everywhere; turn misfortune into good fortune; and practise being lucky – illustrated by historic examples and case studies where both companies and individuals have embraced luck to their advantage. These sit alongside his own experiences of working in the ad business for nearly 30 years and findings from other fields. “Luck affects everything in life, doesn’t it? I’ve tried to build in lessons from science – there’s been tons of scientific discoveries that have been effectively lucky – or history or politics or the arts, and just tried to figure out what have clever people in other fields said about luck, and how it might apply to [the advertising] world.”

The idea came about during lockdown when Nairn, like most people, felt down on his luck, namely in terms of “all these waves of terrible things that were starting to affect everybody – trying to run a business and all this stuff that had been inflicted upon us,” he recalls. “Then I told myself to snap out of that a bit because actually there are a lot of people who are much worse affected than I am. I’m very insulated from the worst of the things that are going on in the world right now.” He began to think of how he can do something more positive with his time, asking himself: “Is there something to do on the theme of luck that could bring some luck to other people?”