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Creativity at the Margin

David Sherry
2 min read

The way you hire an artist matters.

Give them too many rules, and they rebel, or the work is flat.

Give them too little and they take it too far outside what's necessary.‍

But just right, in the middle is about empowerment.‍

Brands and businesses today that understand empowerment of creativity will flourish.‍

Empowerment is about ownership.

And a structure that safely supports creativity and failure.

When a business is built on industrial ideas of production, it fails to continually generate meaningful products and services that create delightful experiences. ‍

When it constrains new, risky ideas and instead promotes more of the same, it loses its edge in the market. ‍

Every organization, big and small has an internal version of a rebel. As Disney calls them, an "Imagineer" or as Seth Godin calls them "Linchpins." Xerox park had a team of misfits that created a huge number of technological breakthroughs.‍

Businesses can't often handle this and so they cut it off before it grows, seeking results too quickly and misunderstanding the way great things are created. ‍

Freedom is what generates the ultimate creative outputs. ‍

And organizations are not built to give people freedom. ‍

The best leaders, then, take freedom.

They build it for themselves.‍

They reject obligation. ‍

Because they understand. ‍

That they might have to quit, leave, stand up, speak out. ‍

Because change always starts out as radical, never forget that.‍

Never forget that everything that was radical decades ago is now the norm. Human Rights? Social Security? Women's Suffrage?‍

People had to fight for these things. ‍

They were on the margin.‍

And now they are in the middle. ‍

This process isn't over, mind you.‍

What is marginal today will be the middle tomorrow. ‍

We are just about to receive our first form of Universal Basic Income. ‍

What is marginal today will be the middle tomorrow.‍

Not all of the time, sure. ‍

But all of the time the change that does occur comes from the outside. ‍

Culture, business, and community are about setting up structures by which, in the healthiest way possible, we can take marginal ideas and bring them to the center without killing their soul or becoming too radical in nature. ‍

It takes guts to create your own freedom in the face of constraints and deliver something creative and empathetic to a larger audience. ‍

Forgive the typical example, but I have to think of Apple computers.‍

Starting in a garage.‍

Started by barefoot hippies. ‍

Starting as a joke, a hobby, or a nerd obsession.‍

And then becoming the ultimate status symbol of the elite. ‍

This is happening right now, in other pockets of the world.‍

And right now the mainstream is laughing, or ignoring, or trying to silence this same process.‍

But ultimately breakthroughs will occur because people will create their own freedom in this process.‍

And if the breakthrough is important enough, and the change empathetic enough to the crowd and not the few…‍

We will accept it and turn it into the new normal.‍

The process keeps repeating, will we learn this lesson?‍

Magic emerges from creative freedom.‍

And the middle always shifts to the margin.

xx David

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