Wed 28 Mar 2012
I am a very contrary person by nature. I relish being controversial, an agent provocateur, a gainsayer, a fly-in-the-ointment. That quality has been an absolute boon in terms of how I come up with and present creative ideas. I feel scared and alive and most in control combing the cat backwards. But, letting my inner ‘no-no’ free has saved me from setting many an…unworthy…idea to paper.
I bring this up as stage-setting, because I love the places cooperation has taken my ideas, my work, my career and largely my life. Sure could have said ‘no’ to a number of things I regret, but who hasn’t?
The thing that motivated me headlong down the path of the power of cooperation was developing an improv troupe in high school. Whenever I shoehorned my singularly funny line into a scene or undid an existing storyline, we bombed. We got a laugh, but we lost the audience. It took me MANY errors on stage to realize I wasn’t there for me entirely. I was there as a fraction of a team, who was there for an audience. Hardly a rocket science discovery, but when you’re adolescent, the big picture can be elusive.
Two practices I took away from that troupe have given me improved flexibility and bolstered my cooperative spirit.
The first is state the situation as it stands: I am on a spaceship running out of air. I am about to start a barfight. I am expected to put words on top of my professional colleagues who will provide art. Cooperation starts with a reality check. The head-swelling antigravity of advertising allows us to shoot off the floor and into the stratosphere. Define what is going on and what you personally will do to improve it.
The last is when someone changes the scene or–in my current job–defies my assertion, I ask them to repeat what they said, and then say it myself. (We deliver at warp speed in this business, which means we mentally create at faster-than-lightspeed, which means we speak out just slightly slower than that.) It’s easy to criticize someone without hearing those words come out of your own mouth. Give it a try. Something that seemed absurd when heard gains a lot of credence when you are the one saying it.
That’s it, I guess. A handshake. A pat on the shoulder. An open ear. Say you disagree when you disagree and leave it at that. And then, everything in your professional life sees the sun shining anew.