Recently, after completing a Guest Speaker role at the One More Thing Conference in Melbourne, I took part in a post-panel Q&A which involved tweet questions from the audience.
One tweet I received from @LoopForward went a little like this: “#omt @omtconf question for the protein guys, what do you do as the inventor role exactly and how do your colleagues see your role?”
The question was a direct response to a (somewhat gut-driven) referral to myself as a “one-time designer, one-time developer but now resigned to being an inventor in my role at Protein.”
Unfortunately the question was not asked on stage, but I had the fortune of chatting with LoopForward after the event and it was a welcome opportunity to really sit back and assess my role as a Director of a creative business.
There is nothing more fulfilling in this world than being challenged, and nothing more challenging than having to answer the question “who do you think you are?”. It forces you to take stock, pull up stumps and look at what you are contributing to your role in the day-to-day company that you keep.
On challenging the misconception that I was an ‘inventor’ I immediately identified that it was actually a poor choice of words on my part. To some degree – yes, as the director of a business I see my role as being an inventor. As with anyone that takes the reins of a small business and steers it toward the inevitable Grand Canyon of failure or success, at certain junctures you simply have to become an inventor. That is the only rational way that you can succeed… by re-inventing the business.
The more appropriate choice would have been to describe my role as “an author or director”.
It is my opinion that every creative business, at its core, requires an author. Someone who conceives then writes the very ideas (and ideals) with which the business stands upon. And becomes the story-teller to adequately translate that to the team around you.
The day that I accepted that role was the day that I admitted to myself that I was not necessarily the best designer, or developer for my business (or for that matter within my business).
Realising and accepting that you are not as good as others is an extremely important value in creating success with your company. [This is adequately stated in 'The E-myth' by Michael E. Gerber', only addressed in a different way.]
What I found imperative, was to accept that my role was not the same as I had given myself when ‘creating’ my business. But that the newfound role was actually more creative and required more development skills that I had initially employed.
The trick is to utilise this strength and surround yourself with the very best talent to replace you. Yes – I said it… you need to replace yourself in your business in order to excel in your role. It was difficult, but at some point in my business I actually sacked myself as the designer and developer and hired people that were better.
To elaborate, I’d always considered myself a ‘good’ designer and a ‘capable’ developer. I’ve dabbled. And given a wealth of time and a wonderland of slack – I could produce pretty decent results. But that’s not good enough to build the business, the brand, or the stories which I’d like us to tell.
In order to bring my ideas and stories to life, I had to employ the best resources and admit that I could not do it all myself.
At the One More Thing Conference it was suggested by many of the speakers that ideas are worth nothing, unless they are actually created, unless they live.
And that’s the key – get shit done. Create. Invent. Bring your ideas to life rather than let them languish in a well of ‘what-ifs, buts and maybes’.
There is a skill to pulling an idea together, to dragging it out of your brain into the ether, and then seeing it through to the bitter end and watching it form its limbs and walk on its own two feet.
I love coming up with ideas, concepts, stories… but I revel in watching them grow. And I live to see them live.
And that can only happen in a reasonable time when you accept the help of others.
So next time you feel you can do it all. Take a second and look at the team around you – I guarantee that you employed them for a reason… because they are better than you. Not in your role, but in theirs which is no doubt where you started yourself.
Every business needs a director, an author – someone to invent and someone that will guide the team around them to bring those ideas kicking and screaming into the arms of its parents.
Trust me, it’s a beautiful thing.
So… Who do you think you are?
** Footnote: I’m currently sitting on the esplanade in Venice, Italy – where I’m reminded that the most beautiful buildings in the world came from the minds of creative authors. However, they were built by better masons than the inventors would ever dare to be.