What did you eat for breakfast today?
Not a clue? That’s alright, it happens. Then… how about what you ate yesterday? Or how about a week ago? Or a month ago? Or the 7th of July of 2021, for instance?
Chances are you have absolutely no idea what you had for breakfast on any of these dates. And that’s alright too (even normal, really). However, it’s almost as likely you don’t know any significant details about today either. Maybe the “significant” events, like the meeting you just had, or a nice gesture of a person on the street.
Sadly, most of the details in our days are forgotten just as easily as they come; we don’t remember almost anything about most of the days of our lives. Except, most of the time, when these moments change something in ourselves – we meet someone new (and probably like them); we achieve something relevant for us after months and months of hard work; we receive a gift, or news, or something that leaves a deep and lasting impression on us (good and/or bad).
Our lives are, at their core, a series of moments leading one after the other unto a fully lived life. And if these past couple of years (and the global pandemic) have taught us anything, it is that these moments need to be protected, cherished, learned from so that the people we care about (and are in charge of) can cherish these moments too. This may be the ultimate definition of responsibility; to use your moments wisely, while respecting the ones of others.
In this blog entry, we want to talk about some of these lessons, learned over the course of this year. About how, after months filled with solved (and unsolved) problems, each challenge taught us the value of our team – and of another year with them.
1) Your team is the medium – and the message
Corporations love to treat their employees as if they were buying a new car; they can’t stop saying nice things about them but when hard times arrive, they tend to be the first ones to leave.
This pandemic was, unfortunately, the clearest, most global example of this behavior in action – and of course, the consequences were immediately felt on the economy (and more importantly, our culture). This isn’t anything that new in our times (you could even argue, correctly, that this is systematic), which makes it all the more urgent for the creative teams of the present to look for better, more humane solutions to keep their business afloat while keeping their teams stable and protected.
More than half a decade ago, philosopher Marshall McLuhan changed the entire media landscape with his book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” – and alongside the theories and ideas he presented, what everyone remembers the most about that book is one simple quote:
“The medium is the message”.
In other words, the qualities of the medium you use to deliver a message are just as important (and fundamental) as the message itself, The way a message is delivered is the message itself.
It’s just the same in the creative process; the people who come out with the ideas for your company are just as relevant (even more so) as the result itself. They aren’t just a part of the process, they are the process.
People are not tools to fulfill your professional/corporate goals. Nor gramophones that will only sing from the rooftops how wonderful your brand is. They are individuals, as well as members of multiple communities – and your company is one of those communities. Be fair and compassionate with people. We all need someone like that in our lives – let alone the place where we work for a living.
2) Creativity is a limited resource – and good leaders keep it in supply
“My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new. I couldn’t do it out of anything.”
Having a good idea is one thing. Making it possible… well, that’s the entire point of “being creative”, right?
And every aspect of life requires it; managing your agenda, managing your finances, solving the millennium-old question of how to ask for a date without looking like a buffoon or needy. It’s problem-solving – and looking for solutions that are as efficient as possible to solve them.
However, these couple of years have also shown that, in order to come up with good ideas while also making them possible, the environment in which the creative process emerges is just as important as the results themselves – mainly, because the results aren´t possible without the environment.
There are lots of great studies about the issue, and some of them go into considerable detail about the nuances, but in order to keep this precise, we want to focus on what a good work environment isn’t – and what is not a problem-filled place.
Look it this way: can you actually get your work done if –
- The company is 3 days late with your payment –
- PR asked you to help with work that doesn´t correspond to you –
- Your boss asks for 5 (completely unnecessary) meetings to cover problems that will be relevant 3 months into the future –
- AND you also need to deliver a presentation tomorrow?
Leadership isn’t a matter of telling people what to do. It is a matter of making things as efficient as possible for them so they can do what they should actually be doing. Or in the words of the great Polish film director, Krzysztof Kieślowski, referring to what is the main role of a director/leader:
3) Creativity is all about new perspectives – in other words, new people
Over this past decade, there has been a constant shift (mostly visible on the internet and social media) in our perception of what’s “normal” about our society and, consequently, a re-examination of the social values and tendencies in our society: gender roles, gender perception, the LGBTQ+ movement, inclusivity on the workforce & media landscape. Naturally, brands immediately jumped on the “trends” and started to create campaign after campaign about their wonderful approaches to these topics, almost as if they were bragging about how progressive, open-minded, and “inclusive” they all are.
These topics are not what this blog is about, but we bring them up because this has shown how truly inadequate our perception of what inclusivity is and can be in the business world. Inclusivity is not companies being generous. Inclusivity is a right, a call for those in charge to allow people who’ve been systematically turned down to have the same opportunities and rights as the rest of the world.
And again, this blog isn’t the right place to discuss this topic as it deserves – but it’s necessary to mention these things because when you are in charge of a creative team, this is THE most important aspect to consider when the subject is brought to the table.
It also comes with what’s perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the creative process: a new perspective. A different, fresh approach to tackle a problem as a direct result of the inherently unique backgrounds, talents, and visions of your team.
That, after all, is the true meaning of creativity; changing our way of seeing things to find a different solution to our problems.
Do not promote inclusivity because you “have to” (but yes, you have to). Promote it because it’s necessary and urgent – and because at the end of the day, very big problems need wholly unique solutions. Wholly unique people.
4) Project management – is all about time & place management
Before these past 2 years had happened, the phrase “home office” was a relatively uncommon one. After all, work should be something you do in an “office”, right? With people monitoring your tasks in detail, and co-workers by your sides helping you with ideas for solutions, or asking for help.
Then a pandemic happened, and suddenly, all these preconceptions were dropped out the window and forced us to reconsider what it truly meant to “work”.
It’s fascinating how interesting the results turned out to be as well. Suddenly, people were finding themselves in very difficult places in life, locked inside the places that once were only “personal” and turning them into… well, offices. On the other hand, there was a succinct sense of something new being unveiled about the building blocks that constitute a functional “job” – because despite not having a clear way to measure the work and time invested, the results weren’t that different. As a matter of fact, they were sometimes better.
Companies want a clear way to measure things in order to assign a price to them, while workers want/need clear goals and the tools to accomplish them. The “home-office effect” proved that both aren´t necessarily at odds with each other, but that companies need to change their perspective about what a “fair-paid job” really means.
Sure, there are tools that still make the monitoring job done, but actively looking to know what and how much their employees work on any given day may be missing the point (and be invasive). The rise of the “micromanagement” style of project management may also prove this trend of companies fearful of not “receiving enough” of what they pay.
And here’s the thing: monitoring isn’t necessarily wrong… as long as it serves a purpose that doesn´t interfere with your team’s true potential. Maybe some of them work best when there is pressure and clear tracking of the workload. But maybe a lot of them prefer to manage that themselves and this freedom of managing their time and place of work as they see fit are ideal for their work.
A good team adapts to the individuals while keeping the vision as collective as possible. What they do is the company’s responsibility, but how they do it should be, as far as possible, their choice and their responsibility
5) Mistakes are unavoidable – learning is a choice
It’s easy to say that mistakes are unavoidable. Or that every error is “supposed to happen”. Or, if you are an extremely positive person, that “failure is your friend”; an essential, even fundamental part of what makes you or a team “what they are”.
We already made a blog post about this issue, so we’ll make this brief:
Mistakes are never easy to accept or move on from. Some are just a setback; others are as close to a catastrophe as one can get.
And yet, despite all these things, “failing” may be more a matter of perspective that we tend to believe. Maybe, just maybe, some of the experiences or processes you go through can be incredibly insightful if you change the way you see it – and yes, this may not take the consequences out of the equation, but it sure can make your future decisions and work even more efficient.
Perfectionism has permeated most of our lives, from the way we should look and feel, to the way our work input should be measured and judged. The lesson always seems to be “don’t be sorry, be better”. But we want to propose that the lesson we should take is “be sorry, and make it better”.
A “failure” is something everyone goes through. So is “success”. A healthy work-life is not a matter of always choosing the latter, but of understanding why both are not extremes but steps along the way – and the results you want to get are always filled with them.
And here they are, just a couple of the lessons we learned this year. There were many more, but including them, all would make this blog post many times longer.
Take what you want, add more if you need it. That’s what truly matters at the end of every year, isn´t it? To be thankful for what was worth it, while making the most of the things that weren’t.