Creative spaces: we have to be more Beatles to be crazy

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In 1969, the Beatles were asked to engineer and record the entire “Let it Be” album in less than three weeks. THREE WEEKS. If you’ve seen the latest ‘Get Back’ documentary, one thing is clear; it wouldn’t have been possible without the four band members in a room, laughing, messing around, non-stop.

The industry has spent the better part of the past two years debating how we will ever return to a 5-day week in the office. Often the argument revolves around the areas of well-being, overhead, and productivity. However, by focusing our energy here, are we not forgetting a major component of what we offer? One of our biggest exports as a country; i.e. creativity.

What would our country be without our creative industry? It is our superpower.

When we weigh between a hybrid model or returning to full-time work, we need to ask ourselves if the work environment we landed in is conducive to applied creative thinking and discipline. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves “how can we create environments that help us come up with better ideas and turn them into brilliant communications”?

Do we need to come back and reunite or let it be?

I’ve always thought that good creatives need two essential character traits: optimism and humor.

Humor is an extraordinarily important driver of creativity. Because it breaks down the barriers between what we think we know and what we don’t. I’m not talking about cynical humor. Wry humor is fine…but positively bonkers humor is still the best humor, because it not only breaks down barriers, it blasts them with giggles and complete nonsense. Thus creating new avenues of progress.

If you laugh well at the beginning of any creative process, I can assure you that everyone is more creative.

(I personally never really laughed well on a zoom call).

I’m lucky to have worked in most creative environments over the years. The first professional environment was BBH in 1996, which was arguably the best creative department in the world at that time. Fresh out of St. Martins art school, I strutted through the creative department, cockier than the king of diamonds. Walking through the creative department, the thing that struck me the most was the number of old creatives working there.

I thought ‘fuck me, we’re gonna kill this place, what the fuck do these old guys know?!’ I thought creativity is a youngster’s game. Doesn’t your creativity die when you have a pram in the hallway?

What can they teach me about creativity?

Hahahaha a lot, it turns out. We might have been fresh out of art school, but these old guys absolutely schooled us every day. They inspired and humbled us all at the same time, but above all, they taught us the business of the industry. They taught us how to shape, simplify and shape an idea. The power of an original idea. The difference between applied creativity and pure creativity. And so on. The lessons learned were endless. But without having these people in the room with you, can a young person really absorb this kind of knowledge?

In many cases, those of us who have been in the industry long enough have already accumulated the training, discipline and experience from decades of working together, but what about the next generation? And what about, in turn, the future of our industry?

Denis Lewis blew me away by teaching us the craft of editing a film. Graham Watson did the same on photography and composition. Rosie Arnold was an inspiration for art direction and illustration. Then there was John Hegarty on sock coordination and pretty much everything else.

Older guys knew the trade that only experience can teach you. And craftsmanship is very important. An idea is worth nothing if you don’t know how to develop it. And craftsmanship is something you only gain with experience. The circle is complete.

Now I’m the old dude, so what the fuck do I know? I’m still waiting for the adults to come into the room and drag me away. But I thought recently, if the Beatles worked in our creative industry today, they would be forced to do creative sprints every morning. Their day would be littered with meetings and conversations with strategists. I suspect the half-baked riffs would be killed before they even had a chance to crawl, let alone run. The lyrics would be analyzed alongside an SEO reference, rather than the heartstring and soul reference – the real sentiment. Don’t get me wrong, I know the technological revolution is changing the way we work and reshaping the world faster than ever, but millions of years of evolution can’t be ignored. The principles are the same, our brains are still wired the same way. When we enjoy ourselves and have fun, our minds open up to new ideas.

If you get a bunch of curious, playful creative minds from different backgrounds, cultures, and ages and physically glue them into a room, something truly amazing happens.

In the words of the legends themselves, the only way to do this is to “get together, now”.

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