Managing Chaos (Sounds Like An Oxymoron)

Husband and wife team, Jack and Suzy Welch, writing in BusinessWeek suggest that creatives must be respected but controlled, if they’re going to add to the firm’s bottom line.

Leading people who often don’t think of themselves as employees of anyone or anything, let alone followers embedded in an organization consisting of levels, layers, and moving parts, is about as far from Management 101 as you can get. In fact, it’s an art, drawing on all sorts of soft skills, like empathy, an ability to nurture, and ad hoc psychological counseling. But what a mistake if you lead creative people from your heart and stop there. Managing creative people also requires—it even demands—a measure of authority. Nothing heavy-handed, of course. You don’t want your resident out-of-the-box thinkers running for the exits. With their fresh ideas and unique perspectives, they can be, and often are, the reason for breakthrough products and new ways of working, and even the impetus for whole new businesses. Still, creative people must know that boundaries and values exist, and they have to respect them. Because if they don’t, creative people have a way of going off the rails—and taking the workaday core of the company with them.

Since many AdPulpians manage creatives, I wonder what the reaction to this so-called Velvet Hammer approach is.
The passage above fails to consider what happens when creative people (who often don’t think of themselves as employees) become bosses. When that happens, as it does everyday in advertising, the inmates run the asylum.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.