Businesses are founded by creative people. Let’s agree on that, the only reason a business survives, any business, is because someone found a new way to solve a problem. (If we give a creative person paint, we call him an artist, if we let him create with money, we call him an entrepreneur.) The business founder brought forth something new, he found a way to do something no one else was trying. He probably did it without committees, shareholders, boards of directors, middle management, a compliance department, or any of the other barriers to creativity that assume power as the entrepreneur’s creation takes wing. Management replaces leadership, the organization becomes more worried about defending turf than moving forward. That’s why so many companies “outgrow” their founder (and then almost die and ask him back).
Invention is risky. So is survival. Unless creativity and its components: autonomy, curiosity, innovation, and bravery, are part of the culture and fabric of the organization, it will begin to die. Look at companies who are slow to embrace technology, they are replaced suddenly and violently. Rented a video tape at your local video store lately? Have you looked in the newspaper classified for anything? The world changes fast.
The idea, as you know, of getting a good job out of college and working your way up the corporate hierarchy until retirement is a long lost dream, workers are assets now. Some of those assets are replaced by cheaper assets like robots or sweatshop workers in Asia. Who survives? The people and company who are able to control the enemy within. Who is that? Well, in my personal experience, I can tell you this, if you put the people who are in charge of handling the complaints and lawsuits from the small percentage of lunatics who will complain and sue about everything in charge of the company’s culture, you have surrendered. Sure, those people have a role, but when the goal of the company is “stay out of court” you’ve become an ostrich, not an entrepreneurial entity and you are ripe for that sudden and violent end that all the turf protectors swear they are trying to avoid. Insurance actuaries are smart guys, but we don’t put them in marketing, the State Police are vital to society, but we don’t let them run everything. In every organization, there are people who have built a power base by getting themselves in a position to squelch new ideas. These bastards are often bean counters and accountants, sometimes they are the lawyers. They add nothing except their own words of caution, fear is their major weapon.
The personify the enemy of the creative person: Resistance. They are the monarchy to the revolutionaries, using their might and legalize to defeat progress. They are Nixon’s Silent Majority, the establishment. They pretend that they are the only grown ups in the room, that they are the voice of reason. I am not fond of them. Often, they don’t even understand the creative business principals that built the business, they came along much too late. They are leeches. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor, wouldn’t even step foot on the accounting floor at his headquarters, he called the inhabitants the “bean counters” and hated them. Not one bean counter created a car (or anything useful). Walt Disney left the impossible job of raising money for his brilliant ideas to his brother, his brother never so much as drew a mouse ear.
We have plenty of accountants, too many lawyers and enough clerks. We don’t have enough artists.
When the poets, the designers, and the real entrepreneurs lose control, the business is done. Maybe it is destined to die a slow death, like the U.S. automakers were before they faced Armageddon, or maybe a fast and violent one like the erstwhile retailer, Circuit City. (The U.S. Automakers, by the way, are a WHOLE lot more creative now, pumping out some cool new products in the face of death.) No business is guaranteed to survive if it doesn’t keep up and any business who has let the people who say “NO” have all the power is already dead. The buzzwords in the new business world are “design,” “innovation” and “Customization.” The days of mass production and mass media are so last decade.
How does all this help self employed artist, struggling to make it like any new business owner? Well, remember this, you are a business owner and you need to find a creative way to do more business, time to let ego go and look at your market as if you were your own competition. More importantly, how does it help the artist who has a day job? A good place to begin is to recognize the d-bags who are too old or scared to allow creativity to become part of the culture and walk that fine line between defiance and professional suicide. Become the go to guy for new ideas and seeing things with a slightly different point of view.
I’m going to write more about this: a lot more, because I think that the creative revolution hinges on people who embrace change and innovation. Let the compliance nerds fight the last war, let them tell us all the reasons we shouldn’t take chances and then lets embrace taking chances anyway.
The world is depending on us!