August 15, 2004

the world is changing

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More thoughts on "How To Be Creative":

16. The world is changing.

Some people are hip to it, others are not. If you want to be able to afford groceries in 5 years, I'd recommend listening closely to the former and avoiding the latter. Just my two cents.
Your job is probably worth 50% what it was in real terms 10 years ago. And who knows? It may very well not exist in 5-10 years.

We all saw the traditional biz model in my industry, advertising, start going down the tubes 10 years or so ago. Our first reaction was "work harder".

It didn't work. People got shafted in their thousands. It's a cold world out there.

We thought being talented would save our asses. We thought working late and weekends would save our asses. Nope.

We thought the internet and all that Next Big Thing, new media and new technology stuff would save our asses. We thought it would fill in the holes in our ever more intellectually bankrupt solutions we were offering our clients. Nope.

Whatever. Regardless of how the world changes, regardless of what new technologies, business models and social architectures are coming down the pike, the one thing "The New Realities" cannot take away from you is trust.

The people you trust and vice versa, this is what will feed you and pay for your kids' college. Nothing else.

This is true if you're an artist, writer, doctor, techie, lawyer, banker, or bartender.

i.e. Stop worrying about technology. Start worrying about people who trust you.

In order to navigate The New Realities you have to be creative- not just within your particular profession, but in EVERYTHING. Your way of looking at the world will need to become ever more fertile and original. And this isn't just true for artists, writers, techies, Creative Directors and CEOs; this is true for EVERYBODY. Janitors, receptionists and bus drivers, too. The game has just been ratcheted up a notch.

The old ways are dead. And you need people around you who concur.

That means hanging out more with the creative people, the freaks, the real visionaries, than you're already doing. Thinking more about what their needs are, and responding accordingly. It doesn't matter what industry we're talking about- architecture, advertising, petrochemicals- they're around, they're easy enough to find if you make the effort, if you've got something worthwhile to offer in return. Avoid the dullards; avoid the folk who play it safe. They can't help you any more. Their stability model no longer offers that much stability. They are extinct, they are extinction.

Posted by hugh macleod at August 15, 2004 12:40 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I certainly do not favor becoming extinct or contributing to the extinction of others. So, while I don't want to rein the creative folks in, I would like to read more on the how normal folks can learn to "hang" with the creatives. In many cases, they are just a bit too threatening to listen to for any length of time. ;o)

Posted by: Dutch Driver at August 15, 2004 4:00 PM

Heh. Interesting point, Dutch. Let me think about it some more and I'll post something later on.

I guess my first question is, why are they threatening to "normal folk"?

Posted by: hugh macleod at August 15, 2004 4:10 PM

My guess is that a lack for practicality is not a requirement for two "creatives" to talk with each other. Now, I love the ideation process to the point I wish I could get paid for it. It is a pure joy to speculate on possibilities. Yet, at the end of the sessions, something probably goes on paper...perhaps that is why innovation is growing in popularity in the business world. The creatives I meet around Silicon Valley tend to miss that salient point.

Posted by: Dutch Driver at August 15, 2004 6:04 PM

My guess is that a lack for practicality is not a requirement for two "creatives" to talk with each other. Now, I love the ideation process to the point I wish I could get paid for it. It is a pure joy to speculate on possibilities. Yet, at the end of the sessions, something probably goes on paper...perhaps that is why innovation is growing in popularity in the business world. The creatives I meet around Silicon Valley tend to miss that salient point.

Posted by: Dutch Driver at August 15, 2004 6:05 PM

I think there's a link between the post about dying young and Dutch's observation that creatives are too threatening for "normal folk" to listen to... I have a few "normal folk" I use as sounding boards when I'm on a rant, to see how it might go over outside my circle of creatives. And usually the creatives get it and the normal folk cower in fear. Eventually they break in and ask, not for clarification or details, but the same tired questions, "why can't you be like everyone else? Don't you think that the market for things people understand is bigger than the market for things they don't?" their last word is usually along the lines of, "I've never heard of anything like that, so it must be impossible."

What seems to differentiate the two groups, in my mind, is the willingness to accept risks. Normal people get that way by avoiding risk at all cost. Risk is scary. Risk could get you killed, or homeless, or poor, or hungry, or hurt. Risk can break your heart...

I think my youth among the Bukowskis of the world was valuable because it taught me that risk isn't as risky as it looks if you never let up. Either it kills you, or you learn something interesting (just like life in general, but faster). I've always felt that the price of tuning everything out in the name of comfort and security was too high, but most people would apparently take the opposite view.

So they feel threatened on several counts:

1. If they listen to you, they have to conceed that their worldview *might* be wrong.

2. By asking them to think about that possibility critically, you're asking them to work.

3. If they accept your premise, they might have to change the way the do things, which could be a *lot* of work.

4. This is the big one: in order to feel comfortable in embracing the new, it really helps to have some ability to project into the future— you've got to have some sense of vision. Dreaminess won't do you any more good than wearing blinders, you have to be able think critically on your feet. This is apparently an uncommon skill.

Normal people want to be led. But they really don't feel safe being led in a direction that looks like a small herd going against the greater traffic pattern.

Posted by: john t unger at August 15, 2004 8:27 PM

One version of the distinction is between folk who want primarily to be flattered or comforted or "right;" and those larger-vision optimizers whose adrenaline and self-esteem comes from some enterprise beyond themselves: increasing clarity, constructing new things (material or conceptual), sailing toward new horizons. These people have already been compelled by their nature to engage risks in large and small arenas.

It appears to be unproductive for the latter to engage matters creative with the former, though there may be found creative ways of dealing with or working around when necessary.

In my observation, "normals" can dance with the genuinely creative by bringing an eager-to-learn, playful, appreciative "don't know mind" mode. Frightened, or wanting attention, seldom gains meaningful entree.

I especially enjoyed the further point about building a bank or ark of trust. Who knows what storms will pound or other currencies fail? At a certain point, business is inevitably personal. I'm passing it on to my Authentic Promotion group.

Posted by: ah at August 15, 2004 9:28 PM

Re John's last points: Yes Yes Yes and Yes. Makes me think of this:

http://www.apple.com/thinkdifferent/

It's very hard to overcome what has become ingrained. Call it tradition, habit, or whatever. Often when you look at these things there is no reason for them being the custom other than the fact that they are considered the custom. Sometimes there's a long-lost reason which may have been good at the time, but which could be reconsidered given new ideas or technology.

So it's just as hard for the "creative" to talk to the "normal" person. It's hard to get slapped down, doubted, minimalized at every turn and still hold your head and your ideas up or to maintain your energy for getting those ideas out there.

I think what would help the "normal" v "creative" interaction would be some of those problem-solving techniques of suspending judgement and looking for the potential in all things. Give ideas a chance and take it from there.

Posted by: Mary Beth at August 15, 2004 9:29 PM

Hmmm...looks like the creatives are swarming after the normals with the same cliched advice.

And, I don't meet many creatives that think critically...that skill is likely the antithesis of creative.

Why? because a premise must be held stable/normal in order to be assessed critically. I love looking at all the facets of a conceptual idea because it is a theory, a hypothesis that has yet to prove itself; and yet it must prove itself or mutate in order to survive long enough to sustain itself.

This is my personal struggle. Creatives live comfortably with what de Bono calls "water logic." Perhaps is it where art loses out to science?

So what? I want to hang with creatives because they are idealists and romanticists who have figured out how to get rewarded by taking the risks...This normal seldom gets that kind of reinforcement...

Posted by: Dutch Driver at August 15, 2004 11:36 PM

>>And, I don't meet many creatives that think critically...that skill is likely the antithesis of creative.

Nonsense.

In order to earn a living from your creativity you absolutely must be able to think critically. Otherwise you spend your entire life trying (and failing) to get people to buy dreck. And wallowing in angst when they won't.

In order to grow as an artist (in any medium), you have to be able to think critically, because there are long stretches when no one else understands what you're doing well enough to offer a meaningful critique.

As long as we're throwing stereotypes around, I would argue that it's "normal" people who are unable to think critically. Consider that many (most?) "normal" corporate jobs punish people who question "the way we do things," much of the mainstream media (both content and advertising) is designed for people who are willing to be spoonfed, etc.

>> Perhaps is it where art loses out to science?

Done right, science is an enormously creative pursuit.

Posted by: Katherine at August 16, 2004 2:44 AM

[Grrr. Stupid text window. Let's try this again.]

"And, I don't meet many creatives that think critically...that skill is likely the antithesis of creative."

Nonsense.

In order to earn a living from your creativity you absolutely must be able to think critically. Otherwise you spend your entire life trying (and failing) to get people to buy dreck. And wallowing in angst when they won't.

In order to grow as an artist (in any medium), you have to be able to think critically, because there are long stretches when no one else understands what you're doing well enough to offer a meaningful critique.

As long as we're throwing stereotypes around, I would argue that it's "normal" people who are unable to think critically. Consider that many (most?) "normal" corporate jobs punish people who question "the way we do things," much of the mainstream media (both content and advertising) is designed for people who are willing to be spoonfed, etc.

"Perhaps is it where art loses out to science?"

Done right, science is an enormously creative pursuit.

Posted by: Katherine at August 16, 2004 2:51 AM

Amen brother!

Posted by: John Fuller at August 16, 2004 3:01 AM

Wait a minute! I thought we were all born with crayons? So what's with creative and normal separation?

Ah, you mean the kids that jumped up and down and hugged the crayons to their chest - no way, they're mine - versus the ones who relented and finally exchanged them for the damn algebra books because that's what they were supposed to do to be good boys and girls.

Well, I went down the algebra route for a while and got the engineering degree to boot. Listen to your wee voice (read more of Hugh's stuff) and stop being master to the stimulus-response spewing reptilian brain. Want to shake up your thinking a bit? It's not entirely accurate, but so what, the intention is to give you pause and wonder if you really know jack - check out the new documentary, "What the Bleep Do We Know".

You know this discussion has an eerie familiarity with the last discussion I had with my ex when I realized it was really over. I said I didn't know the answer to Einstein's question: Is the Universe friendly? But I was going to live as if it was.

I was saddened by the response: That might work for you (in other words, I'm crazy enough to pull it off) but it's outside my comfort zone.

I see people making that choice all the time...

What exactly is there to be afraid of?


Posted by: Evelyn Rodriguez at August 16, 2004 7:48 AM

I think the comments have gone off the rail here with the name calling. Maybe 'cause we're using the wrong names. this isn't so much about "creative" Vs. "normal" as it is about "fearless" Vs "comfortable."

note: Critical thought and some form of engineering skill (whether social, mechanical, whatever) is pretty much a prerequisite to creative work. Anyone can dream up a solution ("I know! We'll just hang stuff from the sky!") but implementing it, or even articulating it clearly enough that someone else can implement it, requires the ability to think and communicate and/or build. The creatives who thrive are those who have technical ability as well as vision.

The irony of the original post is that people who prefer the comfort zone over the risk are the ones that now face extinction. The way forward IS the risky way, but the alternative is to sit still and lose all the trappings of comfort. Spooky, but if it makes you tense, then I guess you should do something about it...

(hint) It's easier to change your tactics, than to change the world.

Posted by: john t unger at August 16, 2004 10:16 AM

I like you, you make my squidgets all squishy.

Posted by: Scrimpy McNutJoin at August 18, 2004 5:24 PM

Yay! Squishy squidgets!

Posted by: hugh macleod at August 18, 2004 9:00 PM

Saw a bumper sticker today - ‘The normal people are the ones you just haven’t gotten to know.’

Hugh, thanks for this fine thread. Just sent the link to my 16 year old daughter. Best birthday gift I could find. (Not to worry, she also got an iPod Mini. But it will be seriously old news long before she gets even 10% of the life value of your gifts to us)

Posted by: Jim Ewing at October 21, 2004 10:51 PM