Last night I found myself in the very wonderful boardroom at Broadcasting Place in Leeds running a masterclass for students on the MA in Creative Enterprise at Leeds Met.
In essence I told them not to worry about being too focussed (See Norman Perrin’s excellent post on Obliquity). I introduced them to the ‘baited hook’ strategy, where you cast out lots of juicy baits and see which ones get a bite. This seems perfect for ‘creatives’ who on the evidence of last night seem incapable of not innovating. They always have new ideas, skills and visions to bring to market. My advice….don’t fight it just find a way to get product to market quickly, and if the bites don’t come, then fail cheaply and quickly. We explored this against a backdrop of ’10 000 hours theory’ that suggests you never have a really tasty bait until you have served your time and really mastered a craft! You pay your money and you take your chance….
I also did some stuff with them on the importance of building balanced management teams with people who can look after great product, great marketing and sales and wonderful financial management. A quick dissection of a few businesses in the room showed them to be packed full of creatives – but certainly short, if not completely absent, of real passion for marketing, sales and financial management. This, to say the least, is a problem. I hope they recognised that perhaps as well as hanging out with other creatives (who provide validation and yet more ideas) they might need to hang out with a few ‘suits’ in order to get the diversity of passion and skill that their businesses need. The course tutor said that she could see a look of relief pass across faces when I said that they should not be expected to be great at everything themselves. That it was OK to build teams, to ask for help. That someone else should be doing the bits in the business that they hate. We explored how proper mentoring and coaching could help fill this gaps and that skills could be begged, borrowed and bartered. The inadequacies of some mentoring programmes designed to help where described by entrepreneurs who had been on the receiving end. So much mentoring is more about CSR and professional development for the mentor than it is about really helping the entrepreneur. We also spent much of the evening talking about the merits of ‘kissing frogs’ and seeing which ones turned into to Princes/Princesses! Don’t just accept the mentor you have been sent. Go and search for the right one yourself!
The 90 minute masterclass (for me at least) flew by – ending with a riff on the importance of managing your own learning, along with a few insights into how to do this, and keeping yourself on track with your own personal vision for the kind of person you need to be. Staying true to yourself. Following your muse.
At the end, as has happened several times before when I have done this kind of gig, participants told me that ‘I really understood the way that artists think and work’. This reaction initially puzzled me. I have a degree in Physics and a schooling in enterprise and entrepreneurship. I did once read Gombrich’s History of Art and I do know what I like….but how could I have developed any real insight into the psyche of the artist?
The truth is of course that artists are people too. The same ideals of psychology, personal growth, honesty in work, and staying true to a personal vision and values apply whether you are an artists, physicist, engineer or nurse. The real secret of my work here is connecting with people about their personal visions – and not getting sucked into the nitty gritty of the business.
I’d love to do more of this kind of short masterclass – so if there are any opportunities out there do get in touch!