Eclectic Curiosity

Creative Generalist Q&A: Selections (Fall 2006)

Posted on December 26th, 2006, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Interviews, the eclectic curiosity interviews. No Comments

I started the Eclectic Curiosity Interviews this past September to both broaden the perspective of this blog and to learn a thing or two from some incredibly bright people with exciting stories to tell and wisdom to share. The response from participants and readers alike has been outstanding! The series will continue in the new year but in the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out any of the first seven insightful dispatches…

Jane Fulton Suri
Chief Creative Officer at IDEO
We use the term “post-disciplinary” not to diminish the role of discipline and expertise as a foundation but to communicate the idea of going beyond it, not being limited by a disciplinary stance in collaborative teamwork. Working collaboratively on teams is both about what you bring (your depth, your “discipline”) and about how you apply it (your breadth, your integrative thinking). I like the term “inter-disciplinary” too, in that it emphasizes action in the creative spaces between disciplines.

Susan August
Requirements Storyteller and Technical Analyst at InnoPath Software
I force specialists to speak in terms that I, a generalist, can understand. This encourages them to be clear, and to articulate their domain knowledge from a different perspective. These are healthy behaviors! I then take what I’ve heard and generalize it one step further, so that any team member can return to the conversation later to understand what was discussed and what was decided. It’s my job to collapse the Tower of Babble that specialists construct around themselves; it’s my job to help the team agree upon and use a common language.

Russell Davies
Author, Blogger, Consultant, Teacher, and Account Planner
Advertising creativity is not an especially pure form, it’s mostly about the collision of ideas, trying to create something new and attention-grabbing. So we need to be interested in a wide range of ideas. And advertising isn’t big enough to support the specialists that you might suspect we’d employ if we were the efficient manipulation machines of popular myth. We don’t have staff anthropologists, ethnographers, econometricians, statisticians, semioticians, propogandists, MBAs, blah blah blah. So we end up doing a little bit of everything. And any planner who’s any good, I suspect, is interested in a little bit of everything.

Terry Rock
President and CEO of Calgary Arts Development
For whatever reason, I can vividly see long chains of action, and have an idea of what needs to happen to get from point A to point Z. … In the worlds I span, I bring the ability to see opportunities that come from making connections that others don’t notice. I have a natural (I think) ability to synthesize, so I’m not sure which came first… maybe I was born to be a spanner? The challenges mirror the opportunities. Because I see the whole puzzle at once, the complexity I see sometimes makes it difficult to get started. I’m still learning to give the proper weight and consequence to the various pieces.

Tim Westergren
Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of
We don’t define music by genre. Genre is really just a collection of genes to us. And it’s fluid, so you flow from rock to acoustic rock to folk seamlessly in Pandora. You can go back and forth between them. So we don’t really bucket music that way. I think genre has served a useful purpose because it’s a shortcut, it’s a semantic shortcut to help you decide which part of the record shop you should go to. But it’s a double-edged sword because you’ve got to make a decision about which bucket you’re going to be in. If you’re an artist, then as soon as you do that you’re excluding yourself from potentially a whole group of people who have chosen an adjacent genre. So I think it’s got benefits and drawbacks.

Alan Wiggan
Principal of Hayhurst Communications, retired
A significant issue that arises for agencies as media choices multiply is the need to integrate their client’s messages across a fragmented media landscape; to be advertising generalists, simultaneously building the brand to a mass audience and selling very specific benefits to micro fragments. This in turn means having an incredibly diverse talent pool to draw on – and that requires a change to the traditional structure of agencies. It is not financially feasible to employ all these folks full-time so the agency will likely, more and more, only be made up of the strategic thinkers, and project creative directors … big picture people with the ability to identify and manage highly skilled freelancers.

Frans Johansson
Author of worldwide best-seller The Medici Effect
People everywhere are aware that the world is changing incredibly fast – and they wish to know what that means for them, their organizations and their constituencies. Many understand that the solution might not be to do the exact same thing one did in the past – only faster, bigger and better. So they look for solutions in unconventional places – searching for unique connections. There is no doubt that most leaders I have met understand the need for this. Now, that said, there is a world of difference between understanding such a thing intellectually and actually acting on it. This last part – actually pursuing intersectional thinking, actually making changes by introducing quite different perspectives is not something most leaders relish. It is tough and could, with the wrong approach, be fraught with risk. So one avoids it.

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