Learnings from Girona

Sometimes things are not what they appear...


For example, these beautiful old doors with an amazing script (is it Arabic, anyone who knows these things?) conceal, wonder of wonders...a cheap reprographics store.

The point for the creative-operational divide? Well, it's the same with people and the labels we give them.

Organised creatives

I've been working with artist, Holly Slingsby, this week in Girona on a residency. Yes, the operations guy is on a creative residency. Mostly I've been working on photography and filming. Here is one of my photos used for the invitation for her performance that is the culmination of the work of her residency:


One thing you really notice, working closely with creative people generally and that really jumped out at me this week: they're really operationally organised.

The creative industries are mostly set up to assume otherwise. You know, with the lazy stereotypes of the 'crazy creatives' that do weird things and come up with the ideas. Can't trust them with anything practical, right?

Wrong. They have to be organised. They are organised, just sometimes perhaps in a way that the stereotypically practical, operational people don't recognise. Be it through oblique strategies, or whatever other form of messy technique, their approaches to organising their work are often highly effective.

That's often hard to admit for the people who think the creatives would go bust/starve/die without them. But, given the now-considerable amount of research that indicates that 'messy' approaches to problem-solving are more effective than the clean, easy ones more OCD-types prefer, it's time to admit it.

Creative organisers

The flip side of the stereotyping-due-to-lazy-labelling problem is that more practical/operational people are pidgeon-holed as non-creative way too much too.

Go into a creative agency and speak to the client management and operational people, you'll find many frustrated at being excluded from the creative process. Ignoring them means you're both missing out on potential nuggets of amazing creative insight (bet that's really what your clients want, right?) and making them uphappy in their jobs.

Informal discussions with recruitment agents for the creative industries in London indicate to me that there are many people trying to leave these frustrating roles for ones that allow them some involvement in the more creative side of an agency's business.

So, you have 3 options:

  1. Let them leave and lose the talent, know-how and business continuity.
  2. Fundamentally change the structure of your business to split such people's roles between more operational and more creative work.
  3. Encourage disruptive creativity in their operational work.

At Reluctantly Brave we have a combination of 2 and 3. I'm challenged to be the most creative operations guy possible, prompted by and working closely with our Chief and Imagination Officer Dawood. I also work on the creative and strategy side. Oh, and I go on creative residencies.

I think it makes me better at all aspects of my role (and I know I am a sample of one, and that I'm bound to say this, but still).

Despite the potential benefits most creative agencies won't be this creative (irony probably not lost on most who know the industry!), but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

And these learnings should also apply to any professional services industry, if not way beyond. Who hasn't been pressed to be "disruptive"? Which of you have actually got to grips with that as more than just a buzzword? Perhaps it's time to realise some of those benefits by being creative-operational.