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    • Shooting the breeze on iMessage, a topic came up that might be worth digging into... it all started with an impromptu creative critique of some local/regional advertising. Someone in the industry and close to the creative was quite critical of a piece that they sent me. That's fine, in one sense: everyone's entitled to their opinions (until you're not). When it comes to creative solutions, there are many considerations: marketing strategy, market research, focus groups, business goals, marketing personas, brand voice, channel, time of year, etc. etc. So, I mean, lots of smart people prolly put some good thoughts into what the creative and execution might be, right? But, let's say we are in a proper time and place to offer a critique...

      Agnostic, constructive creative critiques should be an opportunity to discuss, take note, iterate and improve - on both sides. Anything else is just destructive vitriol.

      But, all too often, undisciplined and vitriolic subjective critiques take on two very ugly proverbs, that when combined are very unbecoming. Ugly even:

      1) People aren't happy unless they're complaining. I've seen this throughout the advertising agency world throughout my career: people love complaining. It imbues a sense of power and dominance. It can feel good. It is culturally acceptable.

      2) Misery loves company. Separately, they're toxic. Except that they're natural bedfellows too. But if the first proverb is the slope, the second is the lubricant. And people seek to find others who support their negative thoughts and words. Like a virus.

      So - this is one part #showerthoughts and one part serious conversation. Your thoughts and words are powerful; how you choose to wield them can either be a weapon or a paint brush. Cutting people down aside - is it worth your energy?

      I'm not a literary expert, but as I get older, it crosses my mind that ancient literary conventions like proverbs - short, pithy sayings to convey advice were probably made for a very good reason. Easily dismissible, they are nice, easy sound bites that can act as simple mental triggers to be better.

      What say you?

    • I like that bit about being shorter at the end. I always wish I could say what I mean in less words. Sometimes I try to do it with a slight nod... /kidding. But yeah, less words is sometiems better.

    • As discussed in Shane Snow's brilliant book DREAM TEAMS (and this is me paraphrasing), the ideal for generating the best results from teams is to have diverse perspectives and viewpoints while at the same time having everyone trust in each other's shared values. That is to say - you may not always agree, you may suggest changes or edits or different ideas, but at the end of the day, you trust and care about your teammates and know they want the best for you, and that's what helps you find the optimal courses of action at the end of the day.

      (it's a great book and I highly recommend it)

    • Thanks for this! Also reminds me of a term that I came across over a year ago: Benevolent Friction - hard on ideas, not people. I think that that has to be a two way street though! We need to unhinge ourselves from our *own* idea ownership as well, so that our perspectives can become truly helpful and not from a place of personal hurt (think: "my idea didn't get used" or "I should have been chosen for that position"). Also, will grab that book! Thanks for the suggestion!

    • Absolutely! You'll really enjoy it - it's vividly written and each chapter has a historic story to underpin the principle Shane discusses. Can't wait to hear what you think!

    • Your post got me thinking. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about the process I took to recruiting an agency to design a new website. As part of that I talked about the project management team and thinking about what role they played through the project. I think whether it’s a website project or a piece of design it’s important to have a solid a trustworthy team around you with varied skill sets.

      I’ll paste below what I wrote,


      Senior Leader -  It is good practice to have a senior manager or CEO (director) figure on board. Change has to filter down from the top and having key stakeholders driving that change will help all stakeholders to see the benefit of your project. It is  worth considering what skills and experiences a senior manager or CEO (director) might bring from previous jobs.

      The Wildcard - You might want to consider that ‘wildcard’ type figure who you would expect to ask those ‘off-the-wall’ questions, and disrupt thinking in a constructive way. Be careful though, pick someone who you know will be a good team player and who is 100% on board with the project.

      The Thinker - Never underestimate the power of a thinker in helping to guide a decision. Those, sometimes painfully slow and astonishing minutes, hours or days waiting for a decision are not intended to annoy, but allow time for decisions to sink in and settle.

      Millennial - Having someone in your team who is ‘on-trend’ will help to future proof your project, saving the embarrassment of launching a new logo or brand which although new, is already outdated.

    • Maybe the words “ancient literary” and “proverbs” primed my brain in that direction, but these two quotes jumped to mind:

      “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil.” - Marcus Aurelius

      “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” - Jesus Christ

      Creatives don’t have the market cornered on complaining, they’re just better at it.

      It took me years - more than I care to admit - to realize it was not only a waste of time to try to change a complainer, but also dangerous as it pulled me towards frustration and complaining myself.

      So what do you do? The right, loving thing. Creatives complaining is often just untethered opinion. They don’t like the color, form, font, copy, sound, smell, whatever. But are they speaking on behalf of their target market with clear personas in mind? Good design is more like advocacy than individual expression. Set that as the clear goal and framework before the critique, and keep gently correcting course as needed.

      People are slow to come around, but when they do... Wow. Seeing all that once negative energy turning positive is an awesome thing to share, and it too can spread like a (whatever the happy version of a virus is).

    • It took me years - more than I care to admit - to realize it was not only a waste of time to try to change a complainer, but also dangerous as it pulled me towards frustration and complaining myself.

      Gold star, my friend.

      Good design is more like advocacy than individual expression.

      I like this - mind if I borrow it?

      Thanks for weighing in! Very insightful.

    • Victoria bought me a copy of Dream Teams and I loved it. The central thing I took away is the best teams have what can look like conflict, people willing to challenge and debate and say they don't agree, but not in a toxic way. They are committed to everyone's success.

      One of the best analogies I've ever heard about this was described in a book by Atul Gawande. When surgical teams get a new joystick and video screen way of performing what they used to do by hand, which teams succeed the best? There is a factor of 10 difference in their success rates.

      The working hypothesis was younger surgeons used to playing video games would adapt best.

      But it turns out the big factor was the dynamics of the team. If the lead surgeon was commanding, authoritatively giving orders and controlling the room, he/she was judged to be the best leader — especially by patients. It was the confidence they exuded.

      But their surgical teams performed the worst. The ones who did best were the teams where the lead surgeon could say, "I think it's best to enter between these two ribs and..." Someone from the team could interrupt, any assistant, and say "but what if we entered this other way? The patient records show he broke those ribs recently..." And a debate could ensue.

      It may have made the surgical lead look and feel less omnipotent, but surgical errors went way down.

    • Gold star, my friend.

      Why, thank you. I can't wait to show my wife after school today. ;)

      I like this - mind if I borrow it?

      Have at it as much as you'd like. Hope it serves you well down the road in your next critque.