Recently, I stopped by a team member’s desk to see how she was progressing on an important creative assignment. An opportunity to chat, co-inspire, and course correct, if necessary. This piece was important because it would help guide the creative direction on several upcoming brand tactics. So I was a bit surprised when I discovered that this assignment had been de-prioritized. A quick conversation ensued, and the project was back on the front burner in a matter of minutes. But the question arose: What are the most collaborative—and therefore, productive—ways of managing workflow that keep all of our major agency goals (efficiency and quality) front and center in terms of importance?

As always, compromise is vital. And I sought to find it, but in deciding my next steps, it occurred to me that the creative process can be challenged by “process” in all sorts of new ways. Of course, the mythical Mad Men days are over (if they ever truly existed), where the creative process was largely sacrosanct. But still: How could an important creative initiative be subsumed to the needs of a spreadsheet?

Spreadsheets and timelines have become creative facts of life as much as the markers and typewriters of the past. Business now moves at a faster pace than ever before, so deadlines are real—and indispensable. But it’s important that we keep our creative vision and spirit thriving even in the face of enormous practical demands.

Within the long chain of approvals and multi-step timelines—that’s where creatives need to continually push the work. Embracing the organizational imperatives while still keeping the creative faith. In my experience, that’s how the best work actually gets done.

The Creative’s Amazing Possibilities

For creatives, the world is still alive with amazing possibilities. It’s just a different world. Commissioned artists, we all are. (Hey, Michelangelo was a hired gun, too.) Treat advertising as an art form, be flexible, and embrace the process as evolutionary. Remember that “process” and Project Management aren’t the enemies of great creative. If anything, they’re the forces that help our visions become realized in the form of actual pieces that help brands and clients.

Celebrate the little wins—they all add up. I often wonder if other creatives across industries have such dilemmas. (I’ve been assured they do!) The scale may be different, but the challenges are the same. No time, lots of people to please, and practical considerations often being paramount.

But never stop thinking beyond today’s immediate tasks. It will ensure you have a tomorrow.

  • Glenn Stevens

    Glenn Stevens is VP, Creative Director of Art at Calcium. Glenn has worked at agencies across the country and now calls Philadelphia home. He has 20 years of pharma and consumer creative experience under his belt, working in both online and offline media. In his spare time, he works in an altogether different medium: Abstract painting. In fact, he recently staged a gallery show. 

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