The Responsible Creative

logicalThe title of this post seems like an oxymoron, but I assure you it is not. Part of the dilemma some face in seeing truth within a title, is based on their previous experiences that are founded on their sole perspective. Finding the truth requires a glance into the lives of others, enough time spent to understand the definition from a new vantage point.

Most creatives I’ve met are more responsible than their logical counterparts. The artisan, who shows up late to a function because he is emerged in the deep and intense development of an idea that will soon enrich humanity, is far more responsible than the person gloating about his logic because he managed to maintain a certain status quo on behalf of society.

Society demands of its artists that they move our culture forward, while demanding of those exuding logic to carefully maintain and preserve our current way of life.

The airplane pilot is a great example of a calm logical person assigned to sustain our status quo at all costs. When boarding a plane, no one asks the pilot to experiment with flight control during the trip. Nor do they request an adventurous ride that is sure to catch them off guard and spin their life into an exhilarating experience worth weeks of water cooler conversation.

We want our pilots to be mundane. Our expectations are for them to find the least risky path for the plane, avoiding even the slightest turbulence when possible. We also want every decision they make to be founded on a depth of experience and logic that is seldom argued. When all is said and done, the pilot is “responsible” when he delivers nothing more than safe passage and a smooth ride.

The creative on the other hand is pressed by society to exert every level of risk in bringing us something completely new and innovative. With hundreds of new television series released this year we all gravitate to the few that take the audience to places they’ve never been and reveal wonders of life and times they’ve never experienced. We demand the fresh ideas from our creative at any cost.

When he is tardy to social events, most chastise the creative because he didn’t meet the logical or responsible time frame for attendance. They forget that the creative is only late when he is deeply emerged in creating elements for our future. In fact, the amount of energy it takes a creative to not give in to the distractions of the event later that day, but instead hunker down to the hard work of creating the next big thing is perplexing.

To understand that the artist, who doesn’t live by logical standards, is actually responsible by creative standards is accomplished by seeing how the two work together. The balance or synergy between the two types of people moves us to a new level in life and maintains it until the next breakthrough. The forerunner to the smart phone is a great example of combined efforts.

A creative person dreamt up the Star Trek communication device, which appeared in the television series that promoted a universe where people of all races were accepted, worked as a team and kept in communication using a wireless flip phone type of device. It was the due diligence of the creative that took responsibility to avoid distractions and instead put in the hard hours of brainstorming to create the vision.

A logical man bought into the dreams demonstrated in each episode of the telecast. He put his electrical engineering degree to the test and soon invented the personal Star TAC wireless phone that flipped open just like the device on the show. He had taken responsibility to turn the fantasy into reality using the mundane principles he had mastered. With over 60 million units sold, our world quickly changed.

Two responsible people with great differences in the way they perceive life teamed to launch the popular demand of communication devices. The creative birthed the vision and through the magic of television demonstrated its use. The logical bought into the vision and turned the dream into reality. Together society moved forward.

So why is it that many logical people think the procrastinating creative isn’t being responsible when he consistently delivers ideas that shake and alter our future? After all, creatives need that down time to increase the productivity of their creations. The irony is actually seen in the artist’s perspective who always appreciates the responsible engineer that turns his fantasies into reality.

Why does mutual respect between the two never happen? Actually, it does happen. Most engineers love working with creatives because they love to work the puzzle of design into reality.

It’s the general public that attributes great responsibility and excellence to the logical process and little to the artistic process. Yet, the general public spends a third of their 24 hour day viewing and using things developed by the creative. It’s absolutely ironic.

The creative takes the responsibility to procrastinate, brainstorm and dive deep into figuring out how his vision will be structured for the next big thing, but few recognize the value of it until they can hold or watch the final product. Of course, once the final product exists the public acknowledges the diligence of the logical persons who turned the dream into reality and forget about the creative who put in incredible amounts of emotional energy to birth the idea in the first place.

Still, the creative takes responsibility to continue his efforts regardless of the missing applause for his due diligence. Yep, creatives are more responsible because they create regardless of the missing pats on the back.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

 

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Controlling Kills Creativity

Control Kills CreativityWhen I was the lead carpenter for the Before Broadway Players, my director asked me to create a special effects box that looked high tech and gave the audience the sense that it was beyond this world. Having been empowered, I quickly put everything I had into the tech and the final stage prop created a great publicity buzz.

I was only able to use my ingenuity because I had a director who understood that controlling his team’s decisions would kill their creativity and force the audience to pretend the box was more than just junk parts glued in place.

There’s a fine balance between setting vision or giving a project direction, and controlling everyone involved. The latter tends to dilute creativity and drives creative types to withdraw their best efforts and replace it with something mundane.

It’s true that at certain key moments control is necessary to get things on track with market needs, but continuous control robs the team of unique successes and slaughters their inspiration for innovation in the arts. Put simply: long-term control kills the art form.

So why is it that new directors tend to control the actors and crew, rather than collaborate with them?

It might be due to insecurity. Or, maybe watching previous works demolished by the wrong choice in team or talent selection. In any case, I believe all directors can find a balance between control and collaboration by practicing three important steps.

EVALUATE YOUR ACTIONS. Most controlling leaders are not aware of their grasp on people. They make decisions based on their goal, not the person they work with. This causes them to stifle innovation from those around them, which is detrimental in all of the arts, but especially motion pictures.

To break free of control issues a director can ask himself several questions:

A. Are my ideas always the best?
B. Have my cast and crew stopped contributing?
C. Do people constantly ask questions for approval, rather than risk their creativity?
D. Have all of my projects gone flat and are no longer interesting?

If any of the answers above are yes, then the director must practice letting go.

PRACTICE LETTING GO. The word practice is critical in revealing the ongoing process for the controller. No one can throw a one time switch and suddenly turn everything into a great collaboration. It takes single daily steps to accomplish the change. There are a handful of questions a director can ask himself to move forward in letting go:

A. What responsibility can I delegate?
B. How can I measure the delegate’s success without taking over?
C. What new responsibility can I use to fill my time?
D. What new behaviors can I develop to keep my hands off the delegate’s details?

By letting go of the minutia and filling time with more important focuses, the director can empower his team to put their soul into the project.

LEARN TO EMPOWER. The best way to empower someone isn’t by understanding their ability to perform a task, but rather understand their behaviors and how they make choices. It’s the choices that determine if the individual will follow the vision or head off in a different direction.

A director, who spends a lot of time understanding people and how characters develop, can plan how behaviors can be triggered. To move in this direction, the director can ask himself the following questions to prepare:

A. What behaviors are needed to accomplish the responsibility?
B. What choices must be present to give comfort when I let go?
C. How can these behaviors be inspired or given to the person?
D. What support is required to empower the person?

Empowered individuals always out perform controlled people. Yet, it takes hard work on the director’s part to empower the people, while maintaining his vision.

Some new directors who get past the control factor shift to the opposite extreme with a mishmash of unclear activities. Empowering people does not stop the director from painting a vision and directing everyone towards it, as there is a great difference between getting buried in the minutia and inspiring everyone’s behaviors to reach the goal.

Whether you’re a film director or a manager, what do you do to empower your people?

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers