The #1 flaw I see in creative work

Posted on by Laura Hamlyn

Don't think this post is just for the creative people. It's actually more focused on people who pay for creative work. I want you to get the best work for your money.

I've been a writer at 4 agencies. I've freelanced. I've been a creative director. And now I manage a team of writers. And the 1 thing I know we do wrong isn't about the final product. It's about the process.

How can "non-creative" people make creative work better?

The process isn't defined. We have a process for lots of things--and we reinforce all the steps. You don't publish until you receive feedback from all stakeholders. Don't release the new product until you've done user testing. But what about creative work? Nine times out of 10, there is no formal process. That's because 9 times out of 10, we're in a huge hurry.

Creative work isn't seen as a professional speciality. We have MBAs. We have lawyers. We have golf pros. Those people are respected as experts and are relied upon to do their jobs well. But writers and art directors aren't always seen that way. They are seen as finishers--not creators. They are at the end of the process--not the beginning. But that's changing. And companies like Apple. McSweeneys,  are leading the way.

We stop at our first ideas. If we worked on the first two solutions, we'd avoid this problem altogether. I ran across this poster on Pinterest, and I stopped cold on "first insight." Most of our creative timelines only allow enough time to get there. But if you look at the poster, that's the first step of 6. So, if you give a creative team 2 weeks to come up with *the* idea, you might get to step 2 (saturation) or 3 (incubation), but you really need to get to other insight--the point where a connection to something completely original is made. THIS IS THE #1 PROBLEM WITH CREATIVE WORK TODAY!

My very rough suggestion is to allow three weeks for the first 4 steps. Then allow 2 more weeks for more ideas an insights to flow. Don't be afraid of how much time it takes. That's the biggest obstacle to creative work. You might find things happen faster, but you must allow the process to happen.