Why is sharing so scary? While I was pulling together insights for this piece, I spoke to creatives from different agencies from placement up to chief creative officer level.
One person told me that ideas are like babies when they’re born – ungainly and not very beautiful. That any idiot can damage or destroy them, and it takes people with skill and love to help them survive. Someone else said that his ideas are his innocent babies and he has to protect them, because people are waiting around the corner to kill them with knives.
Ungainly babies with multiple knife wounds? Bloody hell, I thought this whole advertising thing was meant to be a laugh. It’s clearly a prickly topic, so let’s talk about these Franken-idea-babies and why we’re so scared of people murdering them.
For an industry built on ideas, we’re not very good at sharing them with each other. In a normal briefing situation, we eventually share them with creative directors, planners and account teams, but very rarely share them with other creatives beforehand.
And there are lots of reasons why.
Firstly, we’re scared that they’re not good enough. We’re scared that if someone else adds to the idea, it’s not 100% ours anymore. We’re scared of negative feedback and sometimes we’re scared of those people stealing our ideas.
I used to be nervous of those things and, on darker days, I probably still am. But over the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to share more of my ideas with people and it’s taught me some valuable lessons. After a bit of practice, it gets easier too.
So to the creatives out there who are afraid of sharing, and leaders who want their creative department to open up, remember this:
Ideas aren’t eggs
You can’t sit on them and expect them to hatch. Every time you discuss your work with people, you get better at your job. You get better at articulating your ideas and selling them in. That way, when you present them in work in progress (WIP) sessions and reviews, you’ve had a bit of practice along the way.
Sharing ideas leads to a natural exchange, which makes people feel valued and opens a door for them to share their ideas with you. Select a handful of creatives (with diverse viewpoints) and make a habit of sharing your work with them. It breaks down barriers, builds relationships and you’ll always walk away with something.
Same is boring
The more minds that come together from all different backgrounds, the better the chances of coming up with new and exciting work. If everybody agrees and there’s no debate, there’s a good chance the ideas are rubbish.
Ideas come and go
Some creatives are worried about their ideas being copied but when Walt Disney’s character, "Oswald the Lucky Rabbit" was stolen by a rival producer, he didn’t wallow or moan about it down the pub. Instead he created a new character: Mickey Mouse. If you’re scared of losing your ideas, it probably means you don’t have that many. Come up with more.
Ask your mum
It's always good to test ideas on people who are just people - your mum, your mates, maybe even your Uber driver. They can often cut through the bullshit and pull your head out of your self-admiring, idea-loving arse. Plus, they’re the people who are actually going to see your work.
Ideas need incubators
Ed Catmull’s brainchild, Braintrust, demonstrates the power of sharing ideas throughout the creative process. Built on the basis of candid collaboration, Braintrust helped Pixar score 14 box office hits in a row and has inspired many managers to adopt some of its principles.
We’re currently trialling our own version of Braintrust at Iris. A group of us gather around a table for the sole purpose of pushing our best opportunities forward. No authority. No ego. Just the work and seeing whether there’s anything we can do to make it better.
You are not your work
We can all be a bit precious about our ideas sometimes. But providing honest, candid feedback keeps the focus on the work and not the person behind it. This helps root out mediocrity and fosters a healthier creative culture. Creatives, just because you pitch a rubbish idea, doesn’t make you rubbish. Nothing in nature blooms all year long.
So before your next WIP, why not spend less time on the moodboard, and use the extra time to share the ideas with your peers? It can only lead to better work. And that’s what we’re all here to do.
To finish off – great ideas never come from one person. To Debs, David, Hannah, Hayley, Shaun, Manuel and Grant – who gave me insights, feedback and their opinions on this piece, thank you. It’s so much better for it.