Our recent white paper on making data-driven design decisions was born from a presentation I was asked to make at the 2018 HOW Design Live conference. The presentation, “From Gift Wrapper to Strategic Partner: How Creatives Can Elevate the World’s Perception of Their Work,” focused on how using data and improving the relationship between Creatives and Executives, can lead to a better creative process.
Since the white paper covered the first part, data-driven design decisions, this blog post will cover the second: improving the relationship between Creatives and Executives (i.e., the people who make the final decisions on a project).
In building the relationship, we talked about four main areas:
- Walking in their shoes
- Taking your seat at the table
- Bringing in the brand
- Shifting from a linear to a continual process
Improving the relationship between Creatives and Executives can lead to a better creative process.
Walking in their shoes. “Strive to understand before striving to be understood.” That’s an old axiom I’ve heard for years, but one that makes a lot of sense. Executives are under tremendous pressures that most Creatives do not truly understand. The pressure around meeting numbers is constant. And, as one former chief operating officer told me, at the end of the day, if the project fails, it’s on them, not the Creatives.
“Try to find out who bullies them,” I suggested as another way to walk in their shoes. “And yes, even executives get bullied sometimes. Find out and see if you can help, even if they’re the ones bullying you!”
Taking your seat at the table. Once you have a sense of what the Executive’s life is like, share what yours is like and why what you do is more strategic than some may realize. Plus, take your seat at the table by acting as a peer, even if you’re not.
As Russ Harris points out in his book, The Confidence Gap, don’t wait to feel confident before you act with confidence. It’s the other way around: acting with confidence precedes the feeling of confidences. If you wait to feel confident about everything before you do it, there will be a lot of things undone.
Bringing in the brand. As I’ve written before in this blog, the brand strategy can be your best friend when it comes to winning over skeptics of your marketing approaches. Ascertain what your colleagues understand about branding in general and your brand in particular. Get them to share what other brands they respect and why. Then, educate them on how brands like those follow brand strategies just like yours.
Shifting from a linear to a continual process. For years the dynamic between Creative and Executive was one of order taker and order maker, respectively. They followed a linear production path that landed on the “perfect” outcome. There’s a reason for this: for years the dominant channel was print, a medium that is both difficult and expensive to change or tweak once it’s been put to bed.
Neither interpersonal relationships nor data alone will create the best creative output
Now, with a much more digital focus on our output, we have the luxury to try, test, learn, and repeat, far more often. Why not start out modestly with a digital initiative then progressively build upon each iteration and addition? This approach ensures that learnings are relevant, recent, and reliable.
A great process that exemplifies this mindset is Growth Driven Design (GDD), an offering from HubSpot. Check out their site for lots of information on their process and more than a few client success stories.
The point is that neither interpersonal relationships nor data alone will create the best creative output and the strongest brands.
— Douglas Spencer