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The care and feeding of creative teammates

June 26, 2018

Maybe you work in an office with a studio and have regular day-to-day encounters with ''creatives'' or maybe you’re a client that suddenly finds yourself sitting across the table from a tattooed pirate offering you counsel. Either way, it can be helpful to know a little bit more about the former arts majors around you so you can work better together.

All creative people are insecure.

Behind all the bravado, showmanship, and black clothes is someone who believes they may never have another good idea again. With experience, they learn that they will always be able to come up with something, but that doesn’t make coming up with ideas any less anxiety inducing. That’s why the creative process can look so loopy. There’s a lot of mental pacing required to come up with new ideas.

Creative people want boundaries.

Oh sure, they’ll tell you that you’re boxing them in, but in reality it’s better to have limits than to hear someone say, ''Let’s just see what you come up with, '' which is basically an invitation to stare into the abyss. That’s why a tightly written, insightful creative brief is so important. It narrows possibilities down to the ones that make strategic sense. If you don’t know what a creative brief is, contact me. I’m evangelical when it comes to creative briefs.

Everyone is creative, but not everyone has craft.

I fundamentally believe that anyone can come up with ideas and insights. However, it takes experienced creative people to sharpen those ideas into workable campaigns and executions. Your creative teammates spend a lot of time honing their conceptual, writing and design chops and that gives them the insight and ability to tell the difference between a good idea and a cliché. Trust them.

Creative people have no more right to be ''difficult'' than you do.

Hello, my name is Iain and I am a recovering difficult creative. For way too long, the stereotype of the tortured, difficult creative has been tolerated in our industry. It’s a romantic myth that needs to die. This is a business. Creatives are problem solvers. Eccentric, absent minded, easily distracted? Sure. But no divas and no self-destruction, please. Cut off your ear on your own time.

Creative people are a secret weapon.

Most of us are pretty good presenters because we spend all our time selling ideas. Use us to sharpen your presentations. We also tend to have a lot of insights about strategy and personas. Bring us into the process early. Finally, because we see the world a bit differently, we can often come at a problem from a weird angle, whether it’s a traditionally creative problem or not, from crisis management to public engagement.

All creatives want to do a good job. I haven’t met very many hacks in the 20 or so years I’ve been doing this. Some of the friction I’ve seen in various firms and agencies has been a result of colleagues not understanding that no creative ever wants to phone it in, or dull the edges of a great idea. When you ask a creative to make a change that that hurts the effectiveness of a piece of communication, they are going to push back. You may be right, you may have no choice, but please understand they are trying to do the right thing.