Managing the creative process - the work

If you’ve gone through a lengthy briefing procedure and confidently established what needs to be done, the best thing you can possibly do is leave the creatives alone.

It takes a confident manager to allow space for inspiration and innovation to take place. It takes a very strong manager to keep everyone else out of the way. Of course, this is simplistic and often impossible. Review and evaluation are usually valuable parts of the creative process. Ideally, the creatives will be doing this themselves and invite you to give feedback and approval, but you should build this into the process right from the start.

If the reviews have to go to committee, you’ll need a clear understanding of why things have been done, what’s been rejected and which blind alleys have been explored in order to explain the work to decision-makers who have no way of knowing how much has been done. Written reports and work-in-progress reviews are not enough because you’ll never see some of the mistakes that way. If you really want to know what’s going on, it’s far better to visit the creatives to listen and learn. Most of them will respond positively to someone interested in learning; few will enjoy hearing criticisms of something they already know isn’t right yet. Positive feedback and informed questions achieve a lot more than criticism and instructions and sometimes there’s gold hidden in mistakes that you can spot much more easily than those who are struggling with the creative act.

Most of all it’s important to defend the creative process from the infiltration of other, less informed people’s mediocre ideas (see degradation by committee). While it’s sometimes helpful to go to focus groups or seek out consumer feedback it’s crucial to remember that many people are inclined to reject something they’ve never seen before.

Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping trolley in 1937, but if he’d listened to the initial consumer reaction, he might have ditched his idea:

The invention did not catch on immediately. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. “I’ve pushed my last baby buggy,” offended women informed him. After hiring several male and female models to push his new invention around his store and demonstrate their utility, as well as greeters to explain their use, shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire by collecting a royalty on every shopping cart in the United States until his patents ran out. Wikipedia

A focus group will applaud incremental improvements and trash innovation right up to the moment they see others having a good time using innovative products and services. Then they’ll happily follow.

“Innovation has to lead, not follow.”

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