Sunday, June 07, 2009

Creative and Productive?

Mark McGurl just published the book “The Program Era”, describing the influence of “Creative Writing Programs” for the North American literary scene. He comes to the conclusion that the tremendous proliferation of these college programs has positively influenced the quantity and quality of books over the last 50 years. It might be difficult to teach “Writing a great novel” but these workshops seem to have been successful in providing a thoughtful space and training grounds for millions of aspiring writers. The majority of them will never publish a novel but it most likely makes them more productive creative, independent of the form of creative expression in which the participants of these programs ultimately major - from journalism to copy writers to researchers. The written word remains in the center of their professional lives, and these workshops made them better with it. 

It seems to me that “Creative Writing Programs” tackle with one of the biggest tensions for professional marketing teams: Productivity and Creativity. Both appear as strong opposites but a marketer in charge of a large organization needs to fuse both of them, attempting to answer the question: How can one be more creative AND more productive? McGurl demonstrates that the “Creative Writing Programs” are exactly in the center of enabling the joined up space between Creativity and Productivity. 

The success of most marketing teams resides in mirroring a similar working style. Their structure encourages creativity while ensuring a high level of productivity. Looking at a lot of artists who have been extremely creative and productive, one can decipher one similar pattern: They all found their own very individual way of marrying creativity and productivity, if it was working simultaneously on 10 different pieces of art or by setting aside every day three hours of writing from 7 to 10 am or by transforming the ideas of a large group of followers into one piece of brilliant research analysis (Think “House”), etc. There are as many ways of creating the right joint space for simultaneously more creativity and more productivity as there are marketers 

Smart marketing organizations realize that every member of the team has his or her own mode of joining up creativity and productivity. The primary role of this organization is to create space for that many individual variations of doing both while ensuring that all these individual efforts are aimed for a common goal. Productivity and Creativity do not need to be at odds with each other. The individual marketer just needs to identify what works for him or herself. And live in an organization that respects individual working styles while maintaining a clearly communicated and transparent framework of jointly owned goals.


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