Permission Based Un-productivity

September 24, 2009
0 Comment

“You came here because we do this better than you. Part of that is letting our creative be unproductive until they are.”

—Don Draper, Mad Men

Not sure I have ever heard that put so well.

It is a funny thing earning a living on something that is so seemingly fleeting. There is a certain amount of trust that comes from both sides in this little agreement that we have entered into. I trust that my ideas will come (and be viable) and my employer trusts the same, and trusts they will come in a timely manner. Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) innovation and creative thinking cannot be called upon like ordering a pizza or baking some cookies. That is what makes it valuable. Not to dramatize it, but it is like lightning striking–you never know when or where the best ideas will come from and they certainly can’t be forced. It is like Don says..let them be unproductive, until they are. We creative types are funny, and kind of frustrating I would imagine. You can’t will us into submission. Luckily (for me?) I think the better you are at this type of work, the more latitude you are given. You are allowed bouts of being unproductive, because the end result is usually worth waiting for.

In corporate environments, where productivity and profit are the driving force behind well everything, it can be hard to justify what looks to the casual observer like goofing off. Especially in a mixed environment with “non-creatives” that don’t really understand the way we think. When you have an in-house art department sitting next to IT people and accountants, the job functions (and typically personality types) are so diametrically opposed, it seems, that resentments can flourish. As a manager of the department I am tasked with walking the deadline driven, sometimes sweatshop-like production line…without burning them out.  Not only do I not want them to burn out, but I want them to flourish. How can you manage that without letting them (anyone really) blow off steam? Am I suggesting a wild foosball tournament or riding lawn movers through the office instead of meeting a deadline? Um no. But if someone needs to take a walk or read a mindless blog (eh hem) I would say LET THEM. My bosses may disagree however.

Seems to me like a bit of a luxury though. I probably could take more advantage of this concept if I wanted to, but who has the time!