Monday Mood: Collaboration vs. Control in Modern Creative Fields

Updated: Apr 20

I had an interesting conversation with someone close to me who works in a creative field about the oppressive nature of some firms and I thought it brought about an interesting point, one that I’d like to share with you all. Basically what we deduced that when a creative firm is established, it can be built as a collaborative environment or a controlling environment. Based on what type of environment the people in charge establish and promote, they tell a lot about who they want to hire, who will want to apply, and what types of freedoms those people will have once they’re hired. The funny thing that came out of this was a realization of how much the name tells about a firm.

I’ll lay it out through an example, let’s create two hypothetical firms: one we’ll call Johnson & Smith Creatives and we’ll call the other World Creatives. Can you tell right away which of those seems like the more collaborative environment? World Creatives, right? When you apply to work for a firm or group like this you get the sense that you’re joining a collective, a group of people working together to push the limits and ideas of your creative field. Something like World Creatives sounds like an idea, an idea that doesn’t assign merit based on silly things like age and allows all people to offer their best. A name like Johnson & Smith is great for something like a law firm because that’s a field where merit and value can be easily defined by experience, it’s more of a linear field. But when working creatively, people can offer great ideas or value at any age or experience level, so slapping them under an oppressive name like Johnson & Smith only shows them that they’ll never be Johnson or Smith and that their value is only decided by those figures because any credit they earn goes to the people at the top.

Experience equaling value or talent is a really archaic way of thinking and people starting firms that blatantly assign themselves to the top of the food chain is even more so. The problem with this is, first, that you’re not working adaptively. One of the biggest reasons that I think places like this become so oppressive is because the people in charge are afraid to adapt or update their ways, so they instead stifle growth and development. The other big problem is that places like this don’t breed great creatives, they end up producing people who are experts at one job in one place. These people aren’t great, say, graphic designers, they’re great graphic designers at Johnson & Smith because they’ve been glued to a framework and have only learned how to make work that appeases what Johnson & Smith like.

I think that even down to the name, creative fields need to seek a collaborative environment. If you crush the aspirations of your employees all the way down to the name of your firm, then you’re not going to get the best out of them. Promote an idea, one that constantly develops and grows inside of an environment that promotes development and growth! Now I’m not saying that all “name and name,” workplaces in the creative world are oppressive, but I am saying that if you establish yourself as “name and name,” then a lot of people won’t want to work with you because that firm doesn’t sound collaborative. Those people will never be name A or B so why establish that, we should be wanting to build an environment that inspires growth and where everyone involved, no matter the level of employment, is a collective part of that growth.

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