Creativity vs. Process

Artist or organizer. Those are the two options that exist in life. One chooses from infinite possibilities and creates something new. The other takes a finite amount of possibility and creates structure around them. These are the two ways of operating that the world values.

Some types of artists include but aren’t limited to: playing musical instruments, painting, graphic/web design, architecture, engineering, and even lawyers (putting an argument together is an art). Types of organizers include, politicians, executives, managers, etc.

Banksy is a famous artist that no one knows the true identity of. His works are worth huge sums of money, and no one truly duplicates what he does. He is the pinnacle of an artist because to find someone else that does “Banksy” work would be impossible. He not only has painting skills, but also skills in stealth, and messaging based on the murals he chooses to paint. His work is interesting, and it’s what the world is looking for. Banksy is the one and only, which should be the goal of any artist.

Fortune 500 CEO’s tend to exist at the other end of the spectrum. They need to focus on the processes and the numbers associated with them. Reorganizing companies in the sake of efficiency. Jeff Bezos is one of these guys. Amazon’s web design is nothing too creative. They are process focused company, and they’ve built processes that are hugely scalable, to reach near monopoly scale.

If the goal of honing an art is to be “The One and Only…”, then the goal of a process focused leader is to make anyone replaceable by lowering the level of competence needed for different positions.

Looking at individuals in this manner is the micro level. Looking at the macro level would be looking at the organizational level. Pixar would be an example of creativity at a macro-level. They don’t know what their products will look like, they are building something from the ground up everytime.

Amazon would be an example of processes at the macro level. They seek efficiency, less storage space, faster fulfillment, lower prices, etc.

These two ideas organization and creativity are inextricably linked, though each is often taken for granted. Find me a creative, who doesn’t do his work in a certain manner, location, with a specific set of tools , or otherwise. You won’t do it, there is still some process to it. Show me an executive who doesn’t have to dream up what the processes should be, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t an executive at all, but a documenter.

The world highly values both, but often times we find people that fit both. The orchestra conductor may play an instrument and create music, but he also organizes the individual musicians who hone their craft continuously. These are the people that create things that absolutely blow us away. While a clarinet can be played absolutely beautifully, it will never wow us as much as the best orchestra in the world.

The world is always trying to find the value between these two. Think about what your skills are, and how to best utilize them in a way that makes you valuable.