Creative Minds

Black-grey-white-stripesBeing involved with start-up companies has given me the ability meet a lot of really creative people.  Those creative minds have the thinking that anything is achievable.  Their curious nature pushes them to always be thinking about solutions.  Black and white ideas do not exist but there is always an ever flowing grey area. 

I have been working on a real estate project this summer.  We had to hire an architect.  I am good at process and not good at process.  The architect we hired is completely creative as every project that he has done looks uniquely different.  There is a process to building something from scratch.  It ebbs and flows.  There are weeks where nothing seems to be happening but then before you know it the next week is a total creative break out and it all comes together.  I appreciate it yet I admit I get frustrated by the slow pace of the process. 

I see the same creativity in many companies that I am involved with.  The process of building something from scratch takes time.  Some weeks there is this force holding movement forward and then one day everything begins to ramp up.  It is exhilarating and frustrating. 

In the midst of creativity there needs to be someone leading the process with a business head.  The process of building a companies foundation is exciting and thoughtful with an edge towards creativity but there needs to be someone among that who has the black and white brain.  The brain that drills down on systems that work, the one that looks at timing and milestones that must be met, the one that can manage the reality of the creative process. 

There is something to be said for having a balance between a creative mind and a business mind when a company is being built or a project is taking place.  Mutual respect among those two minds, to me, can be the key to achieving really great things.  There are very few people that are both creative with a black/white business brain. 

How people think and process is fascinating.  Watching it and being part of many of these creative processes has been an incredible education.  I definitely lean towards the black and white world so being part of a little grey these days is a very good thing. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. Brandon Burns

    Does a business brain, rather than a creative brain, really *need* to be at the helm? Or do you just prefer that in your investments because that’s what you’re personally comfortable with?

    1. Gotham Gal

      There are creative people who certainly understand the reality of fiscal responsibility but many do not. That is why sometimes it is great to have co-founders, one creative and one more business oriented. It has zero to do with comfort but reality

      1. Brandon Burns

        “There are creative people who certainly understand the reality of fiscal responsibility but many do not. “But the ones that do are 100x more valuable than someone who is either only left brain or only right brain.A grounded business person is no better than a blue sky creative type. The truly great leaders float between the two, and bring them together.

      2. LE

        My dad and my uncles were partners in their import business.My uncle “the creative” used to travel overseas and buy loads of merchandise and come back and dump it into my father’s “business” lap to sell.They fought to no end over that. My uncle would buy buy buy w/o respect to unloading the merchandise (joke was he couldn’t even write a check). They would argue all the time in yiddish I didn’t understand.My uncle was a dreamer my father a realist. My uncle wanted to go to more gift shows (LA not just Chicago and NYC Gift) and my father didn’t want to because all the work would fall on him and he knew the downside of all of it. List of conflicts was endless.My father taught my older cousin everything he knew about the business side of the operation.Later when my father had his heart attack my uncle saw that his son could run the business w/o my father (who was out of work for a few weeks). A bit later he wanted the business split up so he could just run it with his son w/o my father. True story. And family to boot. Had my father not been so generous with his time and his advice it wouldn’t have happened to him.Oddest thing of course was that my uncle always saw himself as this really good religious jew. So much for that, eh?

  2. Carla Holtze

    Great post!

  3. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Great observation.I love my “black and white” brained people. They are invaluable and often under appreciated.I used to be an actor, and every day I’m struck by the similarities between making a business and making art. In more ways than I can count.

  4. lisa hickey

    My career was on the creative side of advertising, and I know what it is like to be asked to be “creative on demand” day after day, year after year. It’s tough when you can’t do it and exhilarating when you can. But in those ad agencies, the creative people were literally walled off from the business side of the building. I used to joke that as creative people, we would sit in a room and struggle to come up with ideas, and the only time we knew if we got results was if six months later we got to walk up on stage at the Award Show and receive a silver statue. The funny thing is, of course, is that only results we measured were personal achievement results, not business results. Even on a micro level – “Did I make a commercial that made people laugh? Ok, I my job is done here.”So when I started my current start-up, I was extremely fortunate to work with a VC who was very hands on and had the patience of a saint in helping me to learn how to create metrics, develop strategies to hit those metrics, and get the results needed to build a sustainable business – day after day, year after year. It’s still that same creative high, quite frankly, to say, “Look at how the numbers are working!” instead of “Wow, I made people laugh.” It’s just a different form of creative problem solving. I never realized I would become as enamored of spreadsheets as I am now. There’s just something so beautiful about understanding what the numbers are telling you and figuring out exactly what actions to take based on those numbers.And it’s still creative. It’s relatively easy to say “make this cutback to achieve this number” It’s creative to say “what new revenue stream can we add to our business model that won’t be a risky investment but will tap into our audience’s passion?”I think the “respect” you talk about, Joanne, is realizing that the goals of both the creative person and the business person are in fact, one in the same. At those early agencies I worked at, I remember one interaction in particular. A creative person was arguing with an account person over changes that needed to be made to an ad. And at one point the creative person yelled in frustration “All you care about is making money!” And the account person took a deep breath, remained calm, and said, “That’s absolutely right. If we didn’t make money, you wouldn’t have a job.” That was more of a symbiotic relationship than a mutual understanding of respective goals.A healthier example is the obituary of the publisher of the NY Times who said: “I needed to run a profitable business so I could pay journalists to be great.” It’s a mindset that is both analytic and as creative as they come.

    1. Gotham Gal

      creative people are as important if not more important than business people. it is creativity that forms new ideas and businesses. product people are killer entrepreneurs. yet, sometimes those brains find little lack of interest in how to take that idea into a revenue producing idea. balance is key.

      1. lisa hickey

        Yes! And if I wasn’t clear — what I was trying to say was that business people are just as important as creative people. I am a believer in that, no question.

    2. Brandon Burns

      “In those ad agencies, the creative people were literally walled off from the business side of the building.”I think this depends on the agency and its culture and, more so, the creative director and whether or not 1) s/he has a strong interest in the business side, and 2) if s/he is forceful enough to wedge into parts of the business s/he believes s/he should be in.I prided myself on effective advertising that was creative and that actually worked; I’ve won about as many Effies as I have Cannes Lions. I also was never cut out the business aspect of my job, because I knew that I wouldn’t create effective work if I wasn’t a key person making strategy decisions along with the client, I’d never get a team to accomplish anything if I didn’t take resource and project management into my own hands, and the creative output wouldn’t be good if I didn’t always have a keen grasp on the budget and what I knew we could and could not actually execute well within it.Agency culture plays a lot in how well a creative manager can integrate into the “non-creative” parts of the job, but it also comes down to the person. You get what you fight for.

      1. Gotham Gal

        you always get what you fight for. nice one

      2. lisa hickey

        Thanks for jumping in Brandon. Agree that culture of the agency, along with the individual creative director, plays a big role. And agree with Joanne, “you get what you fight for” is awesome. A new mantra.As I’m processing everyone’s responses, this is what occurs to me. The “business mind” follows paths that are intuitive — solutions to problems based on logic and empirical evidence. The “creative mind” on the other hand, solves problems *counterintuitively*. It makes jumps in reasoning, it looks for the solution that is different and surprising. The solution that is not just going to make people nod their head but to jump up out of their chair and say, “OH!” And I’m sure you all have been in meetings where BOTH sets of thinking is apparent in the presentation. Where the numbers are all there, the path to the numbers (ie. strategy) is there, and the surprising leap to the counterintuitive is *also* there. And that’s the moment when the client takes out their checkbook and says “where do I sign?”

        1. Brandon Burns

          True. And both sides are needed.

      3. LE

        I’ve won about as many Effies as I have Cannes Lions.I’m impressed. Mark that under things I never knew about Brandon.Creatives need to toot their own horns more than they do (it’s a business thing to do you know). Make sure you get that on your “about” page when http://www.localsandvoyeurs… is up and running.I have a brother who is an opera singer who just got married to another opera singer. He is on his way up but in no ways there yet. I can think of a million things that he could do to garner more business and attention to himself. But he feels the world will just beat a path to his door. And he is stubborn and doesn’t take advice well (that’s always a kiss of death in my book).It took arm twisting to even get him to do a NYT wedding announcement which he didn’t want to do. I thought he could also be the feature story but he was unwilling to follow my advice. All of it would have resulted in publicity and work.I mean if I only had these good looks:

        1. Brandon Burns

          Ha! Thanks! Yeah, 4 Lions, 3 Effies, and maybe a dozen shortlist/finalist awards for both.That said, I hate talking about myself in those terms. I think I sound like an ass when I do, and if there’s anything I pride myself on more than my accomplishments, its that I never gained any success at the expense of compromising basic human decency.But, I know you’re right.That said, I’m in a weird spot. I’m launching a platform that is at the crux of retail and tech startup world — and neither of those two worlds respect my background. The top investors and press want someone who came from Google or Amazon… nevermind the fact I’ve lead many teams to make many products that have made many millions for my clients, including running massive chunks of both Verizon’s and The Home Depot’s e-commerce stores, two of the top 10 highest grossing e-comm sites in the U.S. I did so while working for their agencies (R/GA and McCann) so, due to their ignorance, I’m written off as someone who makes silly commercials and banner ads. In the eyes of an investor, press or the tech community at large, I’m not worth their time. Nevertheless, some bottom level chump who clocked time at Amazon and fluffed up their actual role on products that barely mattered will get a flock of investors to grant them a meeting and the press to cover every step they make.So, yeah, I tend not to talk about my background much. Because most don’t care. And, honestly, I can’t be worried about that fact that they don’t care. I simply have to build the product that I know is going to win, and then actually win. :-)BTW, will launch the first week in November, and we’ve confirmed products from Brooklyn, Portland, SF, Maine, London, Beijing, El Salvador and Sierra Leone (and more to come). The most powerful tool I’ve had in convincing great retailers to let me sell their products — with my unlaunched, unfunded, unknown site — has been to simply show them the design that communicated my vision. The proof is in the pudding. I could care less about the rest of the fluff.

          1. LE

            “I think I sound like an ass when I do,”You have to try and get rid of that voice in your head. At the very least it runs contrary to the creative process. For example if I had to worry about everything I said I would end up saying nothing. No doubt things that I say bother people but I can’t be concerned with that or I will end up having a mental stutter. As an aside some of the people that are most respected on AVC say things that I think are totally foolish. But that’s me apparently the group doesn’t think that!The top investors and press want someone who came from Google or Amazon… nevermind the fact I’ve lead many teamsAs I always say to people don’t negotiate the role of the other party. Don’t assume that somebody won’t fall for something or go along with it. You have already decided that you have lost the battle and you haven’t even tried to win it yet! You need to overcome the objection in your mind by coming up with a page that says why you are great. If you do a good job at that (and you should be able to if you’re a creative) you will completely crush some got who (you think) got his ticket punched by Amazon or Google or whatever.In the eyes of an investor, press or the tech community at large, I’m not worth their time.You can’t blame them if you don’t hit them over the head with your personal features and benefits, can you?Because most don’t care.Overruled. Assumption! I simply have to build the product that I know is going to win, and then actually win. :-)That’s a “build a better mousetrap” approach. I think you need to fire on all cylinders and not assume you can’t get a leg up by impressing people as well or trying to play a game.By the way I have to point out that the name you have chosen is really problematic. To long, hard to spell and all of that.I would suggest coming up with a two word or one word invented word (only because you won’t be able to afford a real word) to describe the concept that isn’t difficult to remember.Pretend you ran into someone at starbucks and told them “my site is locals and voyeurs” how many would remember it? Or if Oprah mentioned it there would be 40,000 people that never made it to your site. Like if you told them you were “sound cloud” that might be a bit better, right? Or “work market” etc.

          2. Brandon Burns

            You’re right. I will attempt to get rid of that voice in my head. And I do sound defeatist, at least as far as the respect my credentials gain (not what I’m doing with them). Pep talk very much appreciated!On the name: that was a tough decision. Tech people hate it. But, really, I’m not trying to impress them. The retailers I’m talking to, which are most important to me right now, love the name (as well as other random people, who always seem to go “Locals and vooooyeuuuurs? Sounds intriguing!”). It’s on trend with the new wave of retailers like Frank & Oak, Scotch & Soda, and the other _____ & _____s that are popping up. The name positions us with them, and away from the typical tech e-commerce companies that I’ve come to realize they don’t like or trust very much, which in turn makes us look cool when we visit retailers, which are the real people I need to impress right now.That said, I’ve remained open to changing the name should a better one come along before launch (maybe even a rebrand after launch, should it actually turn out to be a big issue). I simply can’t deny the power of a name like “”

          3. LE

            But this is exactly my point:Frank & Oak, Scotch & Soda, and the other _____ & _____sThat’s what I’m saying. [1]Easy to remember “frank” and “oak” and in combo. I can come up with arguments against that also but is way better than “voyeurs”.”yeur” sequence hard to type as well. Total qwerty don’t jam the keys fail.”Burns Davey” is a fine name if you are in a pinch. (If you do that you also need “Burns Davy” or you can go with “Burns Davy” and just keep “Burns Davey” as the typo. Or “Burns and Davey”. Assumes Davey is a key player of course.[1] Of course if you can do “warby parker” is a bit better than “warby and parker”.

          4. Brandon Burns

            Again, solid points. And the issue with coming up with a more simple name has been nagging on me. Its very probable that it’ll get a tweak before we launch.

          5. Cynthia Schames

            @Brandon_Burns:disqus we should talk. I know an early stage investor who’s looking for people exactly like you: ‘nontraditional’ entrepreneurs who most VCs would overlook and dismiss (hello, raising my hand too) but whose vision and qualifications are amazing. Email me? cynthia at abbeypost

          6. Brandon Burns

            Thanks for reaching out. Just sent you an email.Great to e-meet you, Cynthia!

        2. Brandon Burns

          Ugh, I feel so uncomfortable having jumped on my soapbox like that; I’m very tempted to delete that last comment / rant. But I’m gong to let it stand. For now.

          1. LE

            911 – “What is your emergency”:Well there is a guy Brandon that is threatening to keep his mouth shut.”911″ – “Tell him to go to a public place and stand out where people are running around and talk about himself in the most bragging terms he can think of with no fear of rejection. If he can master that he will have no problem doing it in writing which is much easier.

          2. Brandon Burns

            Lol. Loud and clear. I will not forget this exchange.

          3. Gotham Gal

            Great exchange. Tooting your own horn is easier for some but not all. Regardless sometimes you just have to toot

          4. Brandon Burns

            Next time I need to toot, I may just send a link to this comment chain!But that would be a cop out, and @domainregistry:disqus’s point would be lost on me. I will learn the lesson! I will learn the lesson!

      4. ShanaC

        The things I learn

  5. William Mougayar

    Some wonderful things happen when one is exposed to something they hadn’t been before, because you start to see it in a very unique way.For example, David Ogilvy’s previous experience as a door to door stove salesman is what led him to be so brilliant at re-inventing Advertising, because it dawned on him that “advertising has to sell”, and not be cute and provocative like it was before. He said all advertising people didn’t have a clue about selling because they never sold a thing in their lives. But he did, and the result of his sales + creativity were wonderful to the ad industry.Back to you point, the balance between creative and business is good, and so is any crosspolination.