We’re creative, it’s what we do. We keep meeting people who say they aren’t creative and I think maybe we’re a bit guilty of reacting the wrong way. Sometimes we’re entrepreneurial – you don’t need to be creative, just hire me! – or, whisper it, we’re patronising. As we’re the creatives, we know what to do and everybody else is just a paper-pusher.
The thing is, people who are not creative do not understand us or what we do. And they don’t like that. They don’t like that one little bit. And what we don’t understand, we seek to control. So you get people like the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, telling our film industry that we should only make successful films. Idiot.
And you get people trying to structure our lives. Now, sometimes that is more than fair: I’m not saying a company that employs you shouldn’t object if you never bleedin’ turn up. But we get micromanaged. We get treated as resources. There’s the Hollywood Approach: if a project is good with one writer, it must be better with ten. Or the BBC Approach: if these creatives love their work so much, we can pay them less.
All you can do is get the work done and keep an eye out for places that think creativity comes in shrink-wrapped boxes off some shelves. But if we can’t fix the situation, we can at least be glad we’re not in this one. Bloomberg Businessweek reports on how 3M has gone from an innovative company to a far more efficient firm that just doesn’t innovate any more. It all happened when they hired a new CEO, James McNerney, and the firm seemed to take a collective “hang on a minute…” when he left again.
At the company that has always prided itself on drawing at least one-third of sales from products released in the past five years, today that fraction has slipped to only one-quarter.
Those results are not coincidental.
“Invention is by its very nature a disorderly process,” says current CEO George Buckley, who has dialed back many of McNerney’s initiatives. “You can’t put a Six Sigma process into that area and say, well, I’m getting behind on invention, so I’m going to schedule myself for three good ideas on Wednesday and two on Friday. That’s not how creativity works.” McNerney declined to comment for this story.
At 3M, A Struggle Between Efficiency And Creativity – Brian Hindo, Bloomberg Businessweek (10 June 2007)
It’s an ancient story and while the full piece is a long and deeply interesting read, would you mind going off to see how 3M is doing today? I can tell you that Buckley lasted at 3M until his retirement in 2013.
Another hat tip to the superb 99U for this.