I recently heard a notion posed that went something like this,
“Ideas should not be bound by time thereby the value of ideas should not be defined by the time it took to generate them.”
Considering a fixed deadline, likely common to all arts based professional industries, if an idea is generated in an instant is it worth less than if it took days, weeks or even months to conceive? How do you place value on that and how do you define whether that idea is the best for the solution? It goes back to asking, “How can you be creative within the limits of your project?” Can creativity be defined as “the ability to generate ideas within the parameters of your assignment or project” whatever those perameters may be (time, size, budget, etc)?
Does Blink challenge this notion?
In Blink, where one, among the many premises in the book, is that snap decisions or ideas formed in an instant are as true and succinct (maybe even more) than those that take time, nurturing, rework and refinement. First instincts are it! No further thinking is required; only refinement. When considering the arts industry, that theory plays well into the world of fixed fees but the antithesis, the theory of less time = less creative purported by certain industries, is still a strong argument against the former. Not all industries are on fixed on budgets and timelines; the advertising and legal professions for example. Sometimes it takes what it takes, they say. Sure, there are limits but in these cases talent becomes the overriding competitive advantage. These industries are, however, now starting to be challenged to work within the confines of fixed cost. This changes the game for them but reinforces that talent is a driving factor to generating value. The value of talent over the fixed fee has been the golden goose in the Architecture and Design industry, where clients have historically chose to fix the limits of the creative process, as a standard to define its value. Considering we all have clients and we all have deadlines the only real differentiator left, as in the advertizing or legal model, is the resources used to find the solution.
How do we get what we need from that talent?
Do you feel that sometimes when you are totally in a zone and completely relaxed the ideas just come to you? The flow is quick and easy. Does the same happen under pressure? When pressured we can certainly perform, we have to but the question remains; is that our best work? What defines a truly brilliant idea over a good idea? What are the differences between having an idea that works and one that changes how you do things or see things or what we call truly innovative? Or should the question be “Does it really matter?” One person’s brilliance is another person’s “good enough” or more famously one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. It’s subjective and based on need therefore can we say that creativity is borne from process? Of course, there are still ideas that are crap and regardless of whether it’s one man’s treasure or not we can all recognize crap when we see it. Let’s look at it this way though. Routine is a basic human trait and even the most creative of our ilk still have process. The process we go through to generate ideas; stress or no stress. It’s the process that becomes the creative solution and the process that generates the opportunity to discover great ideas. We need to recognize it, understand it, elevate it and nurture it so that it grows and evolves.
So what? Process or not we are all still the same, right?
Well, maybe not. Creative process, regardless of its importance to generating great ideas, is not necessarily a differentiator. It doesn’t set you, your firm or your industry apart from any other and it can’t buy you clients no matter how it’s presented. Every firm dresses up their creative process to try to be different but it always ends up being the same, in many ways, even though the packaging appears different. What’s the real difference though? The real difference is what you were reading about in the previous paragraphs; talent. People. People are the only differentiator. One principal, one director, one designer is nowhere near like the other. By the sheer nature of personality the difference between skill sets is practically irrelevant. Skills can be taught, personality cannot. Simple. Take a look around. When we focus on selling talent as the unique factor of why we do what we do, whatever the industry, then we can truly demonstrate our differentiators. Legal firms get it. The top talent makes it to the nameplate and for good reason.
We all know the lowest common denominator is always the low bid. The low bid will get your client exactly what they are asking for. Let’s break the cycle together. Let’s demonstrate our talent, let’s nurture it, let’s tell everyone about it and lets offer the best so that our client’s get the best. The deserve it. When they see the difference they will understand and if they don’t then they can go somewhere else and get what they pay for. I know, I know, if it was only that easy.
We have to start somewhere so…….
Don’t hate the player, don’t hate the game. Elevate the player, win the game.