Why is it that we divide people up into creatives and non-creatives? Why do we assume that big ideas can’t come from people that read Excel spread sheets and compile detailed reports? And why should creatives miss deadlines and show up late just because they’re ‘creatives’? Justine Cullinan doesn’t buy it. Not for one second.
Radio is one of those businesses where people are divided into the ‘creatives’ and the ‘operationalists’. This doesn’t sound like a big deal. Most businesses end up classing people into silos. Corporations have ‘creative teams’ where the cool hipster kids bring new ideas to the boardroom table and the accountants roll their eyes and try to look past their tattoos.
Then even the most creative of businesses have ‘support services’ to which finance and legal teams are renegaded. But why is it that we divide people up like this? Why do we assume that big ideas can’t come from people that read Excel spread sheets and compile detailed reports? Why do we make excuses for creative people when they don’t meet deadlines or show up for work at 11am?
Looking back it’s clear that this ideology came from a development in psychology called left brain right brain dominance theory. The theory suggests that some people are born right-brain dominant which means they excel at creative elements like intuition, music, reading faces, expressing emotions and intuition. Others are left-brain dominant and are adept at language, critical reasoning, numeracy and logic. This bleeds into the work world where creative right-brainers come up with ideas and analytical left-brainers have to implement them while the right- brainers go off and have a beer with a sense of satisfaction that the job is done.
As the manager of a large team many of whom are labelled ‘talent’, I can honestly say that real people, in the real world, do not fall into one or other of these categories. That would be like saying that brilliant and clever women are inevitably unattractive while all the babes are dumb and dumber. It’s simply not the case. The quietest and most admin-focused of people can come up with simply superb content ideas and there are on-air crazy personalities who are very fastidious in the management of their business and personal affairs, such that they would put the best PA’s to shame.
The fact is that coming up with a good idea is not the hard part. Good ideas are elaborations, amendments, build-and-bolt-ons and evolutions of existing concepts. My favourite definition of a good idea is “something that is so intuitive and organic that once it is implemented it seamlessly carries itself forward and causes you to sit back and wonder how you hadn’t thought of it before”. The active word in that definition is ‘implemented’. It means you always start with something.
But a good idea is trapped, like a caged butterfly, if you can’t make it happen. That means that even the most brilliant salesmen, which every business needs, has to be able to implement what has been sold. Ergo if you are going to sell ideas, you need to write them down, format them so they’re attractive and communicate them to people who aren’t the owners of those ideas. That means Excel, word, PowerPoint, Keynote, phones, desks, all the things that are considered implementation tools. There is no getting away from it, after you’ve hashed the idea out over a beer or a game of table tennis, you have to sit down and work through it to bring it to life. Anyone can have an idea, but not everyone can make that idea affect the world.
I don’t abide by any argument that excuses so-called ‘creatives’ from normal business practice and professional standards of behaviour. If you can find a way to invoice correctly and on time then you can certainly arrive timeously for a meeting, be prepared and generate the required follow-ups to put your money where your mouth is. It’s simply laziness (coupled probably with the desperation of determined client service and operational people) which enables this behaviour.
Creatives are perfectly capable of setting their alarms and waking up on time and should be held accountable to the same standards as people managing budgets and diaries and projects on any scale. And number-crunchers and contract-generators usually have a very different and unique way of seeing creative challenges, so good managers should make sure their voices are heard in order to generate and implement the best ideas.
My favourite meme says:
“Decide what you want,
Write it down,
Make a plan,
And work on it – every single day”
Lots of active rather than mental words in that wouldn’t you say?
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