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freelance writer, director, communicator and consultant; Showrunner on multiple national episodic television shows

Friday, August 6, 2010

Are you an MBA or a Creative?

   I was at a posh meet-n-greet a few years ago at a prestigious film production co in Hollywood. One of the principles came up to me and inquired, "Are you an MBA or a Creative?" What a strange thing to ask a stranger, I thought; but hey, it's Hollywood. "I don't have an MBA, just 22 year's experience in the industry as a Director, DP and Editor" was my reply; his: "Great, I can talk to you!" What?! Why did he think he could not talk to someone holding a master's degree in business administration? He ran this company, so you'd think that he'd want to talk the business of "the biz" with people in-the-know.

Either that was his ice-breaker OR he really believed that he could not relate to "an MBA" because he himself was so incredibly creative. I firmly believe it's the latter. He was a "Creative". And, as I found out throughout the conversation, he simply viewed himself as only being able to relate to other "Creatives." It's almost like Creatives and MBAs were two different species in his mind— and there were no crossbreeds.

yours truly (far right) on location in Jamaica as part of an in-house production team

In companies that sell a product or service OTHER than video, audio and print media, but have an in-house media department, (I'm talking about a department or team that produces promotional video, print, copy, etc... NOT social media) the employees in those departments simply have this mindset. Maybe not to this extreme, but it's there.

What does this mean for you *non-creatives* and MBAs  in the organization? It means that these people really feel that they can't relate to you. Maybe they're fine in social settings after work, company picnics, etc..., but deep down, at the shop, they can't relate— or they think they can't.

This is one of the reasons I find that it's so important to structure these teams in ways that are, at times, seemingly unconventional. If you are aware of their general sensitivities as creative individuals as well as this overarching and downright fear of *the suits*, then you'll soon realize that these folks function better as individuals and as a team when they are governed in seemingly non-traditional ways.

There's no magic bullet for this media structure. Each plan is different and unique. It's based on individual strengths/weaknesses, work style preferences and workflow practicality. It's also important to understand where various tasks relate and crossover and the ones that do not. For instance, certain tasks in digital media are very quick to happen. Other tasks can take a very long time. I've seen a situation where one team member has the responsibilities of all the time-consuming tasks, while another has all of the quick tasks. If you look at the JDs, it all seems logical if you don't know media production, but the persons designing these jobs wasn't aware of what's quick and what's not. The slow guy looks, well, slow and frustrated. And the young intern appears to outperform. Even though they may function together as a team, they are not satisfied nor efficient. What's more, they are too frightened to speak up. Let's face it, jobs are scarce, so who want's to tangle with the suits and get the axe? Seriously, although it's a cliche', that is the mindset with these creatives.

If you are in HR and already have these people on your staff, it would be very rewarding to take a look at these individuals and learn a little bit about what they do... (in their words, more specific than just the JD). They are (or should be) the experts in this rapidly changing field. You will have to go to them, they will not come to you. Give them the opportunity to write their own JD and see what they come up with. Yes, it could be totally off-the-wall and not possible to execute budgetarily; however there may be elements there that can be. They will take it seriously. And they will operate more efficiently, maybe even optimally even if it's just for your asking and concern.

from www.mashable.com
Lastly, I believe it's getting increasingly important for HR folks to realize these things now and be ready to recruit creatives (if you haven't already) and support these teams or departments in a proper, albeit maybe non-traditional, non-MBA way as this digital media, social media tide keeps rising. It'll be better for them, better for the bottom line.

Consider the facts:
  • unemployment is up now, it will bounce back, hopefully with a vengeance;
  • the social media engine is primed as an incredible promotional tool, and it's only in it's infancy;
  • YouTube® and various other video hosting sites have made valid, credible distribution free and easy;
  • WordPress and Blogger have made online publishing credible, free and easy;
  • your company WILL, AT SOME POINT, take advantage of these things in some form...
So, will the IT intern handling your in-house creative (web, video, print)? Can your company afford an outside creative agency or contractors? The most logical and cost effective solution for most will be to add the salaried digital media production team and their gear in-house.

Consider what happened in the 90's with the hiring of creatives for digital media. Although that bubble burst because of Wall Street and hundreds of creatives were laid off, it wouldn't have been sustainable anyway because the internet infrastructure wasn't there. It is now. Will you be ready to recruit and structure wisely for the next go 'round?

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