Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The business of creation

William Blake wrote " I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's; I will not reason and compare - my business is to create."

Marketing is the business of creation. Sometimes we forget this in the hurly burly of transactions. The world of reason, fact and measurement needs to subsume itself as the operational leg of what is primarily a creative function. This is easy to forget - because operations come easier to us than creation.

The question is - once we realise we are losing the creative edge; how do we snap back on course. I believe Blake has the answer. Creation is not a system response - therefore, the only way for an entire function to tread this path is through individual choice. Each member of a marketing team has to believe their greatest individual value lies in creation - not "being enslaved by another man's system". The following are some of the behaviours I find creative people exhibiting - consciously adopting some of these can help a great deal.

1. Pleasure in work : creation is an act of joy and celebration. Musicians enjoy making music more than making money. You can see this joy in how they interact with their work environment - in Ideo's Palo Alto office, one employee brought a van into the office and redid its interior (with a desk and stuff) so that it became his office. To top it off (literally) the top of the van has a mounted drum kit and the office band does concerts off it.

2. Intense focus on detail : this sounds counterintuitive. However, creators are perfectionists. They are presenting something new to the world with a stamp of their identity. They tend to focus down to the last brush stroke and painstakingly repeat small things again and again till they are satisfied. The creators eye is the most critical of them all. Prabuddha Dasgupta is one of the finest photographers India has produced - I have seen him take the same shot for 5 hours till he was satisfied. To my untrained eye - every shot looked equally good.

3. Envelope Pushing : not being enslaved by another man's system literally means creative people use role definitions merely as guides - not as boundaries. The photographer who shoots a movie, the film maker who becomes a singer, the musician who writes a book - how many of these instances have you come across ? Role descriptions become limiting factors to operational minds - the creative mind devotes itself to bringing its own unique x factor to many things. Its just so much fun.

4. Experience vs Transaction : Creation vs Operations = Human vs Machines. This is why increasing levels of automation across businesses can always generate operational redundancies. When a process is seen as a string of transactions - its easy to automate. Conversely, when a process is seen as a series of experiences delivered through multiple touchpoints - the empathy which goes into experience designing each touch point becomes the critical differentiator. The creative mind devotes itself to converting the transaction into an experience - and this ensures that obsolescence is never possible.

5. Easily bored : The Hyde side to the Dr. Jekyll of the creative mind. By nature the creative mind quests for new thought and experiences. The minute the job being done starts smacking of the operational or the comfort zone - the creative mind starts shutting down. This is a truth we have to recognise whether we are creative minds ourselves, or manage such people. As Morrison put it - variety is the spice of life.

6. Inner directed : creative people tend to set their own benchmarks. By definition they deal in things that do not exist at present - and therefore potentially have no acceptable measurement mechanism. Good or bad is defined by the creator - consequently creators do not depend greatly on external recognition to drive their sense of self worth. Van Gogh had to die before the world discovered his value.

The business of creation. Its hard work.


Blogger Frank said...

The business of creation is hard work. Yes, I couldn’t agree more.

The business of creation is also a brutally darwinistic business, simply because bad creative ideas don’t survive. They may look great but are prone to dying off quickly because they either don’t get adopted in the first place (human instinct is a wonderful filter), or they get adopted and abandoned. (Although, in some cases, bad creative ideas stick around for quite a while until we awake from the sleep of idiocy (Credit Default Swaps, anyone?).

So while in the technology sector one can often run pilots to launch, test-drive, watch and refine platforms or processes and so use “iterative mini-evolutions” for survival, the evolutionary risk of fundamental, big, creative ideas is far higher and can be less risk-managed. But this fact forces a far more rigorous, evolutionary fight to let the smarter, better, faster and simply more creative thoughts survive.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Krishnan said...

Frank - very right. Probably the reason why so many people are more comfortable heading away from the creator within.If that reverse right brain drain has to stop - the creative process needs to be seen less as a battle and more as a collaborative discovery process.
To paraphrase my comment - Managing the business of creation is harder work.



10:11 PM  

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