indicting the sacred cows

October 8, 2009 ·

a main theme in all the things i do this year is to challenge every notion. to turn my skeptic eye on everything and as a first step to whatever, i question everything about it. it's easy to get stagnant, to rely on how you've done things, to make the same assumptions, to approach things as you typically have, or accept that it's worked so let's continue it.

so it was my delight that at yesterday's AToMiC conference, the first keynote was two gentlemen who like to blow accepted concepts up. their presentation was entitled 'the indictment' and consisted of 9 sacred cows (their words) that needed slaughtering (my words) for creativity to prosper and flourish in an organization.

at one point, there was a telling quote that concisely sums up their radical assertions to not stifling creativity.

landforms come from volcanoes
the meaning being that violent change, while unsettling for a brief period of time, results in stability in newfound ways of operating.

without any further adieu, here are those accepted modes of operation that are false:
  1. all ideas are good ideas
    this is simply not the case because resources are finite. with infinite resources to process, ponder and evolve all ideas as we'd like, then yes, everything is meritous. but we don't and we also know that not all ideas are equal or equally good. to get at the best ideas and have the best resulting product (ie. a solid, well-formed idea the client can understand and approve) then we need to shift from a divergent method (an idea buffet that has ideas removed, the remaining ideas frankenstiened together and watered down) to a convergent method (not removing ideas, but focusing and revisiting each as a new jumping off point)
  2. ad campaigns are an essential marketing expense
    to use accounting parlance, an expense uses an asset, and often incurs a liability. it is transient. the shift in thinking lies in looking at creating marketing assets that have permanence and are leverageable, not as a support service. the former is a more inclusive and integrated mindset.
  3. disagreement = disrespect
    it's not about authority or a tenured viewpoint, it's just about varying ideas and opinions. we often hold back for fear of offending or being out of place, but creativity does not know these sentiments.
  4. the best teams are a collection of superheroes
    most often we prize specialists and the very best of them. but the real value is in a broad range of skills. intersectional innovation requires generalists among specialists.
  5. each employee should strive for perfection
    our typical evaluation systems focus on weaknesses but that doesn't foster creativity. our aim should be to create the perfect job, not person to optimize results of human talent.
  6. creative leaders should be the most creative
    just because a person is really creative, doesn't mean they can lead others in that field. creative rockstars are the doers and moving them to lead puts them outside their skill set. leaders cause creativity, but don't necessarily need to be super creative themselves. identify people's strengths and reward differently.
  7. bonuses should be objective and clear
    creativity isn't so easily boxed. this concept is very tricky, and standardized systems aren't always the answer. new subjective bonus systems should be developed.
  8. marketing is a masterpiece to be revealed
    the marketing industry has relied on a system of holding our cards close and then gloriously releasing them in a big burst. the problem with that is what happens if we were wrong? the idea is to keep marketing in beta and have an iterative approach to launches and campaigning. this graph easily explains how this would look.

  9. integration is the ideal
    we've striven for years to make campaigns and platforms and matching luggage. it's time to embrace the one-off. the unified campaign has too many moving parts and it's extremely difficult to align the stars and truly execute against that premise. by doing stand-alone efforts (while maintaining brand character and semblance) we can more quickly test and fail then move on.
all in all, a refreshing stance on what we've come to accept as operating systems. while all great, radical shifts in approach, can we change the matrices to implement?




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