Tuesday 25 February 2014

Creative Directors and Zen Masters

What is the sound of one hand clapping? If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? How does the brand own this idea? Is the unexpected part really that unexpected?

What do Zen masters and Creative Directors have in common? Good questions. 

In Zen Buddhism the masters ask these questions called koans. Koans are used to help the Zen students attain enlightenment. They are riddles like the ones above. They are brain hacks that split your mind open for a moment of omniscience (called a satori). Kind of like the green data-stream scenes in the Matrix.

Not unlike Zen masters with their koans, a creative director's role is all about asking the right questions. Questions that, similarly, open up their creatives’ minds and help them get to some truly breakthrough thinking - Questions that delicately nudge an idea towards greatness. 

In our line of work, the right questions also allow a sense of ownership to grow organically within the creative. Compare this to simply giving your creatives the answers; where they lose that sense of ownership, and you’ll discover just how powerful the right questions (koans) can be.   

All the great creative directors I've worked with have had the knack of asking just the right questions. These right questions have lead to the right answers, which have turned out to be the game-changing and much applauded ideas. One handed applause that is.

Christopher Ott. 

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Never get high on your own supply

"They may be right" is what Bill Bernbach had written on a note he kept in his pocket. Whenever anyone challenged his ideas this simple message helped him stay objective.

It helped him Never get high on your own supply. A rule every one of us should follow.

Ideas are like your children. And If you've ever waited to pick your kids up from school; you understand how insanely biased parents can get. 

They are getting high on their own supply, and this is the same crazy way you are blindly biased with your own ideas.

The confirmation bias, the sunk cost fallacy, and the IKEA effect all play a part, but mostly it’s an over dose of old fashioned hubris. Or, in other words, being a jerk.

So, next time you’re in a review and another team is presenting their ideas. Instead of  defending your own by way of finding holes in theirs, stop and think: they may be right. 

This goes double if you're a CD where it's your role to manage and motivate people. 

We’ve all worked with that CD, who after late nights and sleepless mornings, he ends up going with his own idea. 

There is nothing more demotivating than this. 

So how do you avoid getting high on your own supply? 

You could borrow Bernbach’s clever little commitment device. 

Or, I think, every creative in an agency should agree on what a good idea is, create a guide and then, when it comes to a creative review, the ideas get compared equally against it. (See: What makes a good (advertising) idea for a guide).

This way everyone's playing on even turf, not hunches, opinions and biased knee-jerk reactions. 

Or you could simply not be jerk, and in the astute words of Ice-cube: “chiggity-check  yo self before you wriggity-wreck yo self!”

By Christopher Ott.