The Natural Bias Problem
Creative business has some exciting new ways of working as a result of the fragmentation of specialists. However, modern creative business agencies have not kept up and have dragged forward their outdated self-centred models for delivering ideas.
It is as simple as this: once selected, executional shops will always propose a solution that they can offer. Always. A web designer will build you a website; an ad agency will deliver advertising; a costume designer will provide costumes. Even if one thinks that that is what they need, it is a disservice not to explore other possibilities. As psychiatrist and authour Silvano Arieta put it, “There needs to be “…gullibility … a willingness to explore everything: to be open, innocent and naïve before rejecting anything”. Traditional creative providers are failing their clients’ quickly changing needs by ignoring this. Their inherent structure leads them to overlook that a great “idea exists in and of itself, regardless of its execution. And that is precisely where the beauty of it lies. One could even say that the stronger an idea is, the more it is separate and distinct from its eventual execution. It exists before its concrete expression” (emphasis mine). However, as the old saying goes, if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. There may very well be better options discovered through a sourcing stage based on ideation that then discovers obscure firms in unknown micro-industries
For many specialist firms, ideas are treated like their operations: as convergent processes that keep order by lining up the answers in advance. The problem with this is, of course, that it assumes that the answer will always be located in the same place under the same conditions every time. This removes any possibility of making the necessary leap that breaks with marketplace convention and makes it possible to uncover a coveted transcending idea.
For ideas to truly be free it requires that each circumstance that calls for them is not approached identically. Ideas are the product of an organism, not of a machine. Each need for an idea warrants its own project, and each project warrants its own unique creative solution. This is compromised to some extent by long-term arrangements such as retainer agreements at the execution level. It is common practice for clients to return to the same supplier project after project despite the increase in variance among the projects themselves; a trade-off of adaptability for security. A repetitive arrangement is only wise practice if the projects are the same time after time. And remember, an idea repeated ceases to be original.
Also, if you are a client approaching a creative specialists for an idea outside of their specialty you are deluding yourself. Ask an ad agency to do the work of an architecture firm and you will get disappointing, potentially dangerous results because the tasks of an architect have been outspecialized away from an ad agency. That is, the tasks required of an architecture firm are so complex and refined that it has become a difficult club to move into. The same could be said for an architecture firm trying to do what an ad agency does. It will not work 99% of the time. As a client, you are also – unrealistically – expecting your supplier to violate their capitalistic survival skills. You are forcing your supplier to turn down money and we all know that there are few companies that will do that. With more fragments comes a need for greater diligence on the part of the client.
An advisor at a creative specialist firm will be of little real help in this regard. They are, afterall, not there to think of all of the possibilities that would most benefit a project. The advisor is there much like a car salesman in the showroom; to help you to select from the checklist of options, to customize your order, and ultimately to close the deal. Given the complexities and the level of detail involved in many specialties these days this advisory role is important and often essential, but presenting it under the guise of all-encompassing exploration of possibilities is terribly misleading.