How do we do creative work? Say “creativity”, and most people will conjure up images of a magical voyage of discovery, the open-ended exploration of a passion, hours of dedication to perfecting personal mastery of a particular form of expression. Creativity is about the journey.
On the other hand, in a day-to-day sense, work is generally associated with routine, repetitive action, with good organisation aiming for timely, reliable and predictable outcomes. Work is about results.
But what happens when work is creativity, as it is at Idenna? What happens when work is measurable magic? How can we reconcile two modes of working that might be seen to be pulling in two completely different directions?
Sometimes I wonder what our clients imagine working in the Idenna office must be like – perhaps, like herding cats – each team member totally absorbed on a flight of creative fantasy with projects getting finished more by luck than judgement.
That couldn’t be further from the truth, which is this: good creative work takes a lot of craft, and a lot of graft.
Challenging ourselves to do better
We’re an office of creative artists that work together collaboratively, channelling our creativity, inspiration, skill, and imagination, to tell our clients’ stories, and create measurable magic.
And while we do get the chance to develop our own passion projects through at Idenna through the Stories For Change initiative, we don’t work to our own fancies and schedules. We use our skills, working to shape our format – whether it’s words, images, video footage, design, and data – to work to the best of our ability and constantly challenging ourselves to do better.
And when you’ve got a growing, multi-skilled team who work together like this, collaborating on multiple projects for different clients and different deadlines … you need to start introducing some order and structure into that exciting mix.
That’s been part of Idenna’s journey over the last few years – setting whole team projects that are designed to develop and improve all aspects of our business, from the ground up – giving us the opportunity to take stock and reflect on what we do and how we do it, and not get caught up in just getting on with it. Part of this has been implementing systems that give us an overview of how our work actually happens – to make sure that our creative projects are delivered with all the due processes
One of these systems is a new CRM system (that’s Customer Relationship Management system to the rest of us). This sounds like it could be a frightening robot that sets rigid rules about how we can talk and interact with our customers, foxes us at every turn with forms to fill in and demands being fed with data and results.
However, it’s not like that at all. It’s actually more like a robotic friend that helps us manage ourselves, our time, and our resources better and more efficiently – and this is the important bit – for the benefit of our clients, who are the heart of our business.
Streamlined creative, stronger relationships
It gives us a better overview of how we’re spending our time. It’s making sure that our processes are streamlined, efficient and watertight. It’s helping us ensure that we have the right conversations at the right times – both in amongst ourselves, and with our clients. It’s helping us develop and maintain even stronger relationships with our clients It’s helping us across all areas of our business – from getting our calendars synced to always working with our core values in mind – of being open, honest, fair, professional, fun, unconventional and courageous.
We don’t tend to do corporate speak or acronyms at Idenna … it’s just not really our thing, either as individuals or as a team. So while the transition started to take shape, I could sense a little bit of trepidation in myself and in the office around the idea of adding some of these new systems into our workflow. Would it change who we are, what we do? Would it kill our vibe? Would we be caging a vital spark?
But the answer is no.
We know that people buy from people – which is just as important for us as it is for our clients. And a key part of who we are is our personality, both as individuals and as a work culture and atmosphere. Our clients don’t stick with us because we’re a faceless machine churning out the same old work. They stick with us because of our creative thinking and ideas, our commitment to putting our all into our work and are always looking for ways to improve what we do.
There’s absolutely no danger of these new systems tipping the balance of creativity and work into a plodding set of “if this then that” decisions which are predictable, dull, and aren’t good for our clients.
While it is a bit of a shift in the culture of the business, it isn’t going to change who we are or what we do. We’re still making creative, exciting, inspiring, compelling work – we’re just doing it better because of it.