The most important attribute you need to succeed in your creative industry? It isn’t creativity.
Oh, you need to be creative. That’s a given. But when you commercialise creativity – whether as a writer, designer, film director, musician, whatever – a lot more factors come into play.
You have to work in a team. Deadlines. Responsibilities. Maintain client relationships. Mentor. Integrate new media and ways of working.
Even the most talented, creative, brilliant people often find it all too much. “Just let me do my thing and be creative”. Sorry. It doesn’t work like that in the world of grown-ups.
No matter how much of a beautiful and individual creative snowflake you are, you are also a cog in a larger machine that is competing for new clients, government projects and airtime.
Creativity is just one of your tentacles. And most likely not the most important. After all – there is a lot of mediocre work of all stripes out there. Someone was paid to put that out there. And I’d wager it was a skill outside of creativity that got it across the line.
There are a few contenders for the most important attribute a creative needs to build a path to success.
The pace can be relentless. Not only do you need the energy to consistently produce work that exceeds expectations, you need to grow as well. After a tough day polishing and problem solving, it’s hard to motivate yourself to fill your knowledge cup after hours. But you must. Hungry young kids are coming up behind you that are going to be native to that new medium / technique / skill and they WILL surpass you if you stick to your wheelhouse.
Trying to get a grant to make a film? An investor in your app? A promotion in the agency you’re working for? Don’t underestimate the power of likability.
I’ll bet the people behind the most mediocre films, designs and content are incredibly nice people. Creativity makes a massive difference to a business’ performance, but affability gets MADE.
Affability gets cheques signed and impressive titles printed on business cards. Don’t believe for a second that results alone are king. I’ve been around long enough to see plenty of brilliant talent overlooked in favour of average thinkers that are easy to work with.
This isn’t high-school where you leave your project to the last minute and knock it out with an all-nighter. This is an industry for grown-ups.
Consistent effort is vital.
Even on the projects that don’t get your creative juices flowing straight away. Not only that, but you need to organise yourself to make time for the initiative projects and side hustles that make a creative life worth living..
The path of progress is rarely smooth. Frustrations abound. This Corona Virus thing? Just another example.
If you can’t put your head down and figure out how to get your head back in the well and produce whatever the circumstances, then you’ve got no business in the business.
You get paid for creating the ninety-nice pieces of cannon fodder along with that one that actually sees the light of day. Without determination and resilience, it’s not going to happen.
You’ve got a hundred design directions / film ideas to choose from. Which do you pursue? This is where taste comes in.
Taste blossoms with years of ingesting great creative from around the world – not only in your field. Art, design, film, books, music videos, street culture. Broad inspirations build a robust sense of taste.
Taste warns you if you’re being derivative. But it also inspires originality. You gotta have taste. And it needs to be constantly developed.
Understanding the dynamics in the team that you are part of is something some of us are more naturally gifted at than others. A strong EQ helps sidestep obstacles that get in the way of your project going ahead the way you want to.
EQ identifies decision makers, builds alliances and makes sure that your contribution to the team is obvious, and perhaps even exaggerated. Looking for a career path in a formalised agency / production / studio setting? EQ can lift you above the pack.
Add the above attributes to Creativity (the obvious one) and you have the seven fingers of success. I should trademark that. Truth is, you really need all of them if you want to become a Sagmeister, Droga or Tarantino.
But if I had to pick one?
Resilience by a mile.
What psychologists call grit. Because even if there are some skills that you don’t have – resilience is the trait that will help you go out and get them.
If you’d like to amplify your brand in unexpected ways, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mike Lind to talk about your brand and comms.