How to stop executive interference in your creative process
Creative teams are at their best when they are given a problem to solve instead of a solution to be vetted. One of the biggest places where these problems are generated are from company executives who throw out ideas that are taken as gospel to be blindly followed instead of a challenges that needs to be understood and solved. In this episode, I will walk you through the most common and problematic places where this happens and how you can overcome it to let your team be creative and become more empowered within your company.
WHAT IS EXECUTIVE INTERFERENCE?
– We’ve talked before about how there is a huge problem for creative teams. Where they don’t get a problem to be solved but rather they get a solution to be vetted.
– Executive led creativity is probably the most common and hardest instance of this problem is fight
– Its a problem I’ve found on both agencies and client side teams
– But what does executive led creativity mean? In every organization there are powerful and important executives. There names are often used in meetings saying things like “JOE said he wants it done”
– It can be highly debatable if JOE actually said that but people enshrine or demonize these executives
– That is the start of the problem as it stops people from thinking for themselves. They start to blindly do anything that is associated with that executives name
WHEN DOES IT HAPPEN?
I see this problem commonly happen in two critical places in the creative process.
First: Sidelining Creativity
– There is a meeting with one of the big executives. When discussing a problem the executive says something like “we need a t-shirt” as a possible solution. The reaction is immediate and comical. Everyone runs around creating briefs and taking to agencies to create a t-shirt.
– How did this happen? How did the team become such sheep?
– A painful loop is created.
– The executive suggests ideas because all they see are teams who come back with exactly what they asked were asked to do and don’t seem to be thinking for themselves. That concerns them, trust erodes and so the executive keep suggesting ideas.
– Then the team feels like they aren’t trusted which makes them nervous. So to protect their jobs all they do is exactly what is asked of them.
– How do you break the loop?
– No one took the time to stop and ask ‘why do we need a t-shirt’? Or more importantly ‘what did that executive mean or want when they said t-shirt’?
– In my experience 90%+ of the time if I stop the team and get them to think about what the executive wants – not what he said. When we go back them – they are thrilled that we came back with a better solution than they came up with.
– This is where companies and agencies need leadership. They need someone with a brain or spine enough to not just be a blind follower. They need someone who respects their customers more than they respect an org chart.
– Because in the end you are still solving the problem the executive asked for. You just aren’t blinded by the solution the executive threw out.
– And even if you have an executive that literally does want exactly what they said. I would recommend doing what they asked BUT also take the time to understand what is needed and come up with the solution you and the team thinks is right.
– And present both versions. Do it to try to show the executive that the team is talented and can think but also do it to save your sanity. You aren’t going to be able to keep blindly doing bad ideas and think that you or your team is going to be OK with it.
Second: Disconnected Process
– The next problem comes from your company’s processes. Here again there is usually an executive in charge of this. They dictate how teams should work and it is usually communicated through massive PDF’s, online courses and process charts that are impossible to read.
– The problem I see time and time again is that the executive is too far removed from what is actually going on to make sure the process is actually working.
– This usually means the creative teams suffer. They suffer because this process usually leads to tech led organizations, client opinion dominated organizations and more.
– But in every case it isn’t a creative led process or a process where teams all have an equal say.
– I am not saying that this needs to be creative led or creative dominated.
– Here again you have to stop and ask why things are happening the way they are.
– Your team needs to be able to define what they need to be successful.
– And they need to communicate it and educate the organization on it.
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