“I don’t have a seat at the table.”
Throughout the years I’ve been transitioning from a producer of creative to a creative counselor, I’ve heard this phrase. A lot.
But what table are we talking about?
As I see it, there are two tables. The first table is about what we make. Is it a video, a logo, a speech or a handcrafted set of reflective modernist metallic cubes that sit in the forests around the world? That table, certainly, is full of creativity. However, this table is about executing on the solution.
Wanting to have a seat at the table early is imperative. It will affect quality and creative direction of the final output. But there’s another table, one that’s a bit tricky to get to as a “creative.” In order to stay relevant as a creative – and for businesses to stay relevant to customers – I believe this is a transition we will all have to make.
The second table is one of counsel. This is where the strategy lives. This table deals with challenges at a stage where they are more raw and vulnerable. That is why this table is so protected. At this table, challenges that can’t be solved within a particular comfort zone. This is a place where you have to know things – and know how to read things and understand things, like data. I know, the mere thought of having to look over spreadsheets or read reports desaturates the brilliance of your inner butterfly.
But be real. Today, information is everywhere, and so are your target audiences. So you have to know things: project management things, technology things, planning things. Things that allow for the production of creative, beautiful creative, engaging creative that can be measured, refined and adjusted in an ongoing, evolutionary manner.
Now let’s say that you expand your horizons and learn things, lots of things. You learn to open spreadsheets, read them and – dare I say – create them. There is still another thing.
Trust is a funny thing. It’s not something you gain overnight. It’s not created by one major action. From my experience, it comes from the steady buildup of small (i.e., boring) everyday little things you do. Following through, following up, asking questions, listening and truly engaging. Some might call this being present. No one will entrust to you something that is important to them unless they feel that you also feel it’s important.
When you start to do these things, something amazing happens. You start to look past the shiny and “cool.” You start to focus on things that matter, and you develop ideas that create opportunities to make real business impact.
Something else changes, too. What you recommend quickly starts to evolve. You go beyond your comfort zone, your expectations. Remember, now you know things. You are plugged in, your purview has expanded, and your ability to amass creative solutions from this new perspective will increase dramatically. Because you can infuse creative thinking into the strategy and balance it with the production realities on the ground, this will make you more valuable. Someone who has a seat at both tables, providing counsel to both.