It takes a village to raise great ideas

Photo by  Nischal Masand  on  Unsplash

You know the saying .. "it takes a village to raise a child"...

It's true. As a father of three, I can tell you how children thrive when they're brought up by a village — how important it is to surround our children with positive people, nourishing environments and healthy human relationships.

The same applies to our work and our creativity.

Children of the creative person — the precious, coveted great idea.

Years ago I worked for a Creative Director who owned every idea that was created by that business. The business was his own, he was the sole shareholder of both business and ideas.

Creativity in this business was his domain. It began and ended with him. Our job it seemed was to action his ideas. This was the model of the time and is very much the model in many top-down, ECD-driven businesses today.

We were held at ransom under the threat of working through weekends to 'get the best work out'.

We were pushed to generate idea after idea until he was pleased.

The Account Manager who handled the client was hardly present — her job was done it seemed. The client had approved her quote and she had moved on.

The other Creatives looked as wired as I did and couldn't care much for the work that was on my plate because their plates were overspilling onto the floor.

I'm sure you've gathered by now that this was a fractured, overworked and dictatorial culture.

Caveat: I've worked as ECD and had to play the top-down role myself — after a few years I removed myself from this role and restructured my own business around a flatter, more collaborative model.

And it's this restructure that was influenced by a small group of creative agencies I aspired to at the time, that helped me realise that great ideas, like children, are best nourished by a village rather than a single dominating figure.

At the time I spent a lot of time digging into the culture manuals, Twitter feeds and DMs of a handful of agencies and their owners; agencies that were doing it a little differently, or at least talking about better ways of working.

And what I learned was simple and insightful. 

Our businesses are in the business of creating ideas, and these ideas can't be the silo'd responsibility of the creative department, senior creative roles or the top-down architecture of structures from a bygone era. 

The best ideas come from an eco-system of people working together in unison to produce, wait for it ... the best ideas. 

From the person who first introduced the business to the new client, to the collateral and information that convinced them to work with you in the first place. From the experience the new client had in the first few moments of client-hood to their experience in the first meeting and the parts all the actors played on that simple stage.

From the strategy planner, creative lead, designers, producers and project managers working together to better understand the brief, through to the CEO who creates and actively cultivates a culture where brave ideas are not only allowed, but they're expected.

Everyone working together.

A village driven to create great ideas.

No silos.

No hierarchical boundaries.

Just a common willingness to support, collaborate and co-create great ideas.

In the words of one of the most creative of film directors, Guillermo del Toro, we must “erase the lines in the sand” to allow a more diverse, inclusive and altogether creative culture in our workplaces.