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Can Creativity & Process Co-Exist?

Can Creativity & Process Co-Exist?

In an episode of Mad Men* (Season 3, Episode 5, The Fog), the legendary Don Draper is talking with Lane Pryce, Financial Chief. Lane is attempting to trim expenses while increasing productivity but is noticing that the creative staff takes some liberties with their time.

Don says to him, “You came here because we do this better than you, and part of that is letting our creatives be unproductive until they are."

Don Draper telling it like it is

The gist of this is really that there is creative… and there is process… and then there’s the creative process. Which, as Don is implying, comes in due time.

Many creatives, from writers to designers and everything in between, can share a story or ten about sitting down to work with all of the best intentions of producing amazing work that hits the points of the creative brief and blows people’s minds. And then, NOTHING within the time actually dedicated to work on it (or at least nothing worth turning in). Until the timeline starts to look something like this:

Image credit: UX Collective

So can they peacefully co-exist?
On the surface, it may seem that they can’t. Because creativity is all about freedom. Thinking outside of the box. Playing with concepts… ideas… colors. The FUN stuff, right?

Process, on the other hand, can feel like the exact opposite. A set of constraints and rules in place to hit deadlines but potentially stifling creativity.

While it seems like they can’t peacefully co-exist, the reality is they must at the very least attempt to co-exist. After all, deadlines are real, especially in marketing that involves media buys with traditional publication schedules or events, such as conferences or trade shows. Plus, it’s very likely not acceptable to tell your counterparts in sales (or your CEO for that matter), “Sorry, we just couldn’t get any leads this quarter because we couldn’t finish the creative.”

Scott Hill CID COOOur COO, Scott Hill, explains it very well:

"Co-exist = Yes. Be completely compatible = No.

The dichotomy of the creative/business relationship is universal, real, and constantly evolving. I have said on many occasions, 'You can't ask someone to make a masterpiece on the spot' and I believe that is true. I also believe that there are ways to work productively within the opposing forces.

Processes are not universal. The potential of different teams, skills, and individuals within a business cannot be fully realized with a generic "one size fits all" process. Working together with unique approaches like objective-based scheduling instead of time-based scheduling can help. This gives creatives the choice of when to work on what against the delivery date."

Different processes, same goal
That reminds me of an internal conversation between our creatives and our project managers on this very topic.

A little backstory: CID uses both 16 Personalities and a tool called GiANT to understand each other’s personalities and their impact on working styles and communication. 16 Personalities is connected to Myers Briggs, where the 8 preferences you choose slot you into a four-letter combination, such as ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perceiving) or ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving). Obviously neither is better than the other, but knowing your combination (and your teams') can help get you to better understand variances more quickly.

While not true 100% of the time, creative types tend to fall on the “P” side of Myers Briggs and process types tend to fall on the “J” side. P’s generally feel more okay with ambiguity and figuring out things as they go, whereas J’s prefer to know exactly where they’re going and how they’ll get there. 16 Personalities breaks it down very well here.

In our internal conversation, our fearless leader, CEO & ECD, Jim Taugher, sketched some of the differences.

Right brain left brain processes

The J’s (represented in dark gray) want the path very well defined, as in a set of stairs. Some of the key points from idea to creation live under those stairs, and they may not want to fully move up the stairs towards the goal until they are comfortable with the foundation of those stairs.

The P’s (represented in green) are likely more comfortable knowing where that goal is (our orange star), and taking a more iterative approach as they go, represented in the green circles. They are still steps. But they are round because they are softer.

Both are progressing towards the same place and overlapping more and more as the goal gets closer. So while the paths, or process, may be slightly different, it can work with a well-identified goal and great team communication.

The bottom line? Since marketing is an art and a science, creativity and process must co-exist. In the name of continuous improvement, continue to ask yourself if you’re infusing the right amount of either at the right time and do what works best for you.

*I recognize that this reference may be dated. But our industry is lacking more recent and relevant representation in television and film. With the exception of the more recent Detroiters, which our team also recommends… but was not relevant to this post.

In a creative rut? Stuck in a process pit? Our team is full of people who legitimately geek out on both and would love to help. Give us a shout

Heather Vaughn

Heather Vaughn

Executive Director of Marketing

Heather Vaughn is CI Design's Marketing Services Director. Her marketing career has been split with equal time on the agency and client sides, giving her a 360 perspective on marketing, and a keen understanding of how to use all its glorious data effectively.

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