Friday, December 23, 2011

Dancing with the Obvious-Accidental Creative

  Today I'm borrowing a blog from Accidental Creative. Todd makes some great points and I think you'll enjoy it.
Accidental Creative


Eliminating the confusion between complexity and value.

I love spending time with diverse teams of creative people because I get a bird's eye view of what's happening across the creative workplace. One thing I'm increasingly concerned about is the rising level of cynicism in creative circles (including in myself). On one hand, a healthy critical mindset can help us improve our work and learn from the mistakes of others. On the other, cynicism causes us to forfeit our sense of wonder and, perhaps worse, to worry that our work will become the target of someone else's ire. 
Because of this, I see many creatives struggling to avoid creating anything that seems on the surface to be too simple or obvious. In the effort to prove how accomplished they are, they over-complicate their work and include too many fringe and loosely beneficial elements. It seems to be a kind of sub-conscious effort to prove the value of their work. 
But we too easily confuse value with complexity. These are two exclusive concepts that are not necessarily related. The result is that we waste time and valuable creative energy spinning round and round over-complicating what should be very simple. In the end, we produce a lot of workplace dissonance.
Why do we do this? Why do we over-complicate our work and its deliverables? 
One reason is that we increasingly believe - as a culture - that what is obvious inherently lacks value. We dismiss quick insights and familiar-seeming ideas because we assume that they can't possibly be useful. Our paranoid self worries about what others will think of us if we execute such an obvious idea. Our cynical side knows exactly what we might say about someone else if they executed such an obvious idea. We worry about everything except for the value we're creating for our clients or audience, which is the very thing that we should be focusing on.
A second reason why I believe we ignore immediate ideas and hunches is pride. We have to prove to everyone how difficult our job is. We feel like we have to show that we are valuable by searching for that needle in the creative haystack. Deep down, we want to emerge triumphant and have others proclaim how uniquely gifted we are and how nothing would be the same without us. In our search for recognition we end up over-complicating the work and creating more work for our collaborators. Creativity requires humble curiosity, and that means - on occasion - embracing that some of the best and most creative solutions might be the most obvious.
Finally, I think we're loathe to embrace the obvious because it reminds us of what we already know but aren't doing. This especially relates to best practices, advice and the how of our work. When we hear advice that we've heard before, we cringe because it seems "obvious". We forget, however, that it's not what we know, it's what we do about it that matters. 
We can't allow the curse of familiarity - or the sense that an idea is too obvious - to rob us of potentially brilliantly simple insights. We must grasp and execute the best idea, and we need to be careful not to confuse complexity with value. (At least that's my goal in 2012. I hope you'll join me.)

My best,
Todd Henry
Accidental Creative
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