How to make good creative better

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BART CLEVELAND: I’ve heard it said anyone could come up with a great idea. I think that’s true. But what is not true is that anyone and everyone can recognize a great idea. Otherwise many non-creative people who suggest creative solutions or “tweaks” would surely withhold them.

Why is creative assistance so irresistible? A creative team strolls into the conference room with freshly mounted layouts underarm. They describe the ideas that they have worked untold hours to develop with childlike passion. At the end everyone applauds with appreciation and admiration. Then there is the pause to reflect. The following minutes are where the miraculous ability to improve an idea off the top of one’s head is continually experienced. Similar to telling a painter where he has missed a spot, the observer is merely helping make a good idea better. I have had some observers actually make a contribution, but the grand majority of them are not well considered. They are simply an example of that impossible to resist urge to contribute where no contribution is needed.

As a creative director I really have to resist this urge. It’s probably the toughest part of my job. I think the greatest thing I’ve learned is to not try to fix something too quick for my team. I have found many times when I believe I’ve done that it has actually resulted in the work being compromised. It lost a little magic. I’m finding that the pause is the most useful tool in creating great work. My advice to all is not to offer suggestions of change too quickly. If this rule holds true for creative directors it certainly holds true for account execs, clients and yes even their spouses. We will make our greatest contribution if we allow those who do the work to do it.
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