Discover more from Curiosity+Courage
037: Assignment 1 - Sell Something New
[During - Session 12] And a visit with a remarkable entrepreneur
The snow has melted here in Minneapolis. And there’s lots to do. I hope you are thriving!
In the business of creativity, skill and attitude matter more than talent
It’s important to encourage a distinguish between creativity and industrial work
Our first assignment rests on a peculiar human behavior
I’ve talked a lot here about briefing. I stand by my assertion a provocative brief is the most important document in the world. And I’d like to think the brief below meets that standard. Please let me know.
Aside from the brief, there are at least three other faculties or characteristics which help make a profound difference in the outcome of ideas. Let’s rank them in order of importance:
In the business of creativity, skill is the killer app. Because it’s a choice. Skill is deliberate. It has to be earned. And it often requires continued practice to (pardon the subject matter pun) remain sharp. Here’s the interesting part: As Godin puts it, “Skill is rarer than talent.” His premise is the effort to acquire skill looms too large for most. Most won’t read the book, take the class, return to the woodshed.
Which connects to the second most important faculty. People who write about creativity, from Jack Foster to Rollo May to Robert Grudin to Matt Richtel all assert the same: Attitude unlocks skill, and opportunity. Grudin clarifies, “most people do not make discoveries because they do not expect to.” Attitude means you expect to have ideas.
And we wind up at talent. The least of these. Don’t get me wrong, talent can leapfrog an individual to ridiculous achievement. So can luck. But so much talent remains untapped, unexplored. See Grudin above. If you have it, bless you and please wring out every last drop. If you think you don’t, no worries. Skill and attitude matter more when it comes to the business of having ideas.
Per Godin, in The Practice:
“We don’t ship the work because we’re creative. We’re creative because we ship the work.”
Before we met our guest and jumped into Assignment #1, I wanted to clarify the word “assignment.” It can be tricky.
Because the word “assignment” has some baggage. You might have picked up that baggage in elementary or high school. Which is to say an assignment often means there are rules, and formulas and there is a correct answer. The outcome is known. So you study for the test. Of course you did, and maybe still do. I mean, why bother studying for anything NOT on the test, right?
That kind of limiting focus—study for what’s on the test—fuels industrial work. Let’s be clear, my use of the word “limiting” is not a criticism. Industrial work is NOT BAD. Industrial work ensures products are made safely and efficiently and consistently. Industrial work means the same outcome, over and over. Industrial work means no surprises.
Creative work is all about the surprise. Creativity births transformation.
We can further differentiate creative from industrial work.
Creative work embraces and pursues a change the audience seeks. Industrial work takes the order and gives you the thing you’ve had before.
Most creative work appeals narrowly, at least at first. It’s not for everyone, at least not initially. Industrial work has figured out mass appeal and works hard to remain in that position.
And there’s a 99% chance creative work is peculiar. As Godin writes, “it’s impossible to do important work that will be loved by everyone. So choose to be peculiar.” Not for the sake of being weird, but for an audience who seeks an idiosyncratic solution. We prefer industrial outcomes precisely because they are not peculiar.
Last but not least, there’s tension. Industrial Work has zero tension. Because tension gets in the way, gums up the works, and doesn’t scale. If you want consistent comfort, then avoid creativity and avoid tension. But if you want to change something, you recognize the necessity of tension. And you seek it out. You magnify it. This is the essence of creative work.
So, broadly speaking, we have these two types of work: Industrial and Creative. The world needs both. The question at the onset of each assignment: Which kind do we seek here and now?
“I knew I was an entrepreneur when I had an idea I couldn’t shake.”
A huge thanks to Analisa Goodin for joining our Minneapolis College of Art and Design classroom from Berkeley, CA. She is the CEO of Catch+Release. Her journey helps illuminate the yin and yang between creative and industrial work, the necessity of both, and the challenge of knowing when to pivot.
Catch+Release is the licensing layer of the Internet. Their business is Found Content, versus original production or stock. Want to leverage an image, video, sound, or text found on the Internet for your idea? Just give the URL to C+R to get started. Or perhaps you create, in which case you might want to be found? They’ve also got a wonderful Lost In Found newsletter and podcast exploring the evolving realm of advertising ideas.
Analisa comes from the practice of mixed media. Which fueled the idea of C+R. How might people leverage and mix Internet content generously, legally, pragmatically? The notion took root. But didn’t flourish immediately, as she assumed someone else would execute the obvious. But they didn’t. And the idea kept nagging, until she became an entrepreneur.
In those early days foraging amidst the unfamiliar, Analisa looks back and advises,
“Don’t the afraid to ask for what you want.”
Creative work, especially a start-up idea, is so often a persistence of vision as it iterates and evolves. You can’t study for this test. It is May’s “the courage to create.”
Then a foundation takes shape. And the bridge from creative to industrial work forms. Analisa described her first time calling herself a CEO. The leap to leader is a “constant state of letting go,” allowing the team to emerge and create themselves as, “new people figure their roles out.” And what began as strictly human curatorial work evolved through technology to scale.
I couldn’t help myself, so I delivered the brief three different ways.
The first is based on How Marketing Functions, the second on the old school WHY, WHAT, WHO, etc. framework and the third is a GET/TO/BY.
The client is a start-up called Vivront and the service is professional knife sharpening made easy. (Founder Joseph Rueter (LinkedIn) has been documenting his entrepreneurial journey here on Substack.)
Do you see yourself in the opening statistic?
And now the assignment begins.
I’ve asked the class to focus on the peculiar, the specific, and the “why?”. This is definitely creative work. But also to be professionals. They have just a week. Allocating time and resources is critical.
We’ll see what they have to share in seven days!
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