In his amazing work, Orbiting The Giant Hairball, former Hallmark Creative Director Gordon MacKenzie likens a large organization to…well…a hairball. He says that every new bureaucratic rule or organizational system adds one hair to the hairball until it’s all a giant, messy and impossible-to-navigate mess. MacKenzie suggests in the book that creatives within organizations, (by our definition anyone who has to solve problems or create new solutions on a regular basis), needs to learn to “orbit” the hairball and draw from its resources without getting caught in the muck and mire of organizational life.
I’ve often felt that one of the difficult things for creatives to combat is the organizational temptation to “roll to the middle of the bed.” In other words, we tend to eventually end up in the most familiar places because that’s where the ruts and grooves are, and it takes a lot of intentionality and effort to create new ones. One of the ways this happens is when we fall in love with executions rather than results.
Because organizations have a vested interest in producing results, (as they should), the tendency is to try to replicate success by reproducing the executions that led to those results rather than the process that led to the executions. Because of this, it can be a constant uphill battle to innovate.
As we’ve discussed before, the biggest part of the creative effort is process and only the tiniest little bit is the actual product. By focusing our efforts on replicating “product”, we can prevent duplicated effort but we can also unintentionally limit our thinking and reproduce the “form” of something without the all-too-necessary “heart” of it. This is often what happens when companies “reverse-engineer” a brand or product and end up producing something that lacks the authenticity of the original.
This is another reason why it’s important to establish the discipline of valuing process and product together in our organizations. Separating them will only lead to heartless products and frustrated creatives.