Bill Clifford

Creativity in the Workplace is Dying and it’s Our Fault

By: Bill Clifford | December 22, 2016 | 
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Creative Work is Dying and We are Totally to BlameIf you’ve been in the marketing or communications field long enough, you’re bound to have a great network of specialists who excel at their profession.

From interns to CMOs, even a ninja or two, your network probably crosses oceans and virtual canyons.

With each day that passes, these individuals continue to hone their craft, learning more and more.

However, some of these professionals have had a gift bestowed on them that was not learned or earned—they are known as creatives.

Who Qualifies as a Creative?

Anyone.

That’s right, anyone.

They are the ones who can write for hours on end, putting ink to paper, building pixels into images.

They are the ones who bring ideas to life.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Your ideas are brought to life by their imagination and skill—not yours.

These people execute their (and your) vision on various mediums and outlets for the world to see and judge.

For our purposes, these creatives I refer to have titles such as ‘art director,’ ‘graphic designer,’ or ‘graphic artist.’

No way will I stereotype these people—they often have excessive tattoos, or are video game addicts, or dabble with colored hair.

A creative has no description.

I should know—I am one.

I am a tall, athletic, 40-something with beautiful long hair.

Okay, everything is true but the long hair.

Most of my hair has run away from my head.

Being creative is just something you are.

It doesn’t mean you’re better than the next person, it just means you think about problems and solutions differently.

Where Have All the Creatives Gone?

Simply put, we have devalued what creatives do.

That’s right, we think anyone can do creative work, so we look for cheaper options rather than paying a professional to do the job right.

Online creative resources, such as Fiver and 99designs (Design is the secret to great business), have convinced the masses there is little value in creative work.

Why pay a professional when you can have done it on the cheap?

From a business perspective, it makes complete sense to only pay $300 for something that will represent your company in the marketplace (insert sarcasm emoji here).

Instead of allowing them to be creative and part of the team, most creatives work 9-5 surfing the internet and providing design comps to clients who are driven by market trends rather than customer needs.

Those creatives then find their outlet by working on projects which pay them a fraction of what they’re paid by their employer.

We Are to Blame

The above scenario is all too common.

And what do most businesses do? They rationalize it.

Managers and leaders say things such as:

As long as they show up for work and get the work done, I don’t care.

It will benefit us. It allows them to be creative.

They enjoy working late at night.

Their freelance work helps produce better work for us.

Maybe you have even said these things.

If you have, please stop.

We value and pay creative minds to be creative. Period.

If they are producing their best work for other people, what are they producing for us?

More than likely they are producing average, non buzz-worthy, expected design which has no positive effect on the business.

And therein lies the problem.

The best work produced is never for the people who are paying for it, because the people paying for it don’t value it.

Go and Change the Way You Think About Creative Work

Talk, talk, talk to your creative team.

Get to know your creative team.

Find out what they have a passion for and foster it.

Does that mean they get a pass when it comes to tight deadlines and deliverables?

Absolutely not!

Hold them accountable—they will like that.

The will feel valued and part of the team.

After all, isn’t that what we all desire?

About Bill Clifford


Owner of Onrelease, Inc., a strategic marketing and business development company located in Jacksonville, Florida. A former professional soccer player, graphic designer and self-taught at pretty much everything. Loves the southern life, but will always be a Bostonian at heart.

  • danakaye

    Really great article, Bill. Too often, I talk to potential clients and they want to focus on what tasks and legwork I can take off their plate. But executing tasks isn’t what they’re paying me for; it’s my creativity and strategy.

    • Bill Clifford

      Agreed. Creativity is not necessarily a task. Staring at a screen, a piece of paper or canvas will not make the process go any quicker.

  • paulakiger

    Jacksonville! You’re not all that far from me (relatively). Tallahassee here.

    • Bill Clifford

      Great to hear from another Floridian!

  • Hear Hear! When we try to pay writers and designers and illustrators as little as possible, we’re doing ourselves a disservice as well. If someone knows they are being paid unfairly, you’re not getting the best, most creative work from them. You’re getting what you paid for.

    • Bill Clifford

      And unfortunately there are plenty of people willing to take your money to do just that and pass it off as their ‘best’.

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