There are the creatives, those whose job it is to look at all the possibilities and churn out new, cool, and innovative ideas.
And there are the strategists. The strategist looks past the new, cool, and innovative screen, and focusses on how such an idea can be implemented.
Creatives give birth to the idea, and strategists teach it how to walk.
Creatives ask, “What?”
Strategists ask, “How?”
As a natural creative, I have learned many times the value of a good strategist. Without strategy, most ideas will meet one of two fates. Either we will keep spawning “bigger” and “bolder” ideas until what was once a plan to raise money for the school band turns into a mission to launch the next space shuttle, or there will be a lot of passionate fits pumps, chest bumps, and high fiving on the way out of the meeting, but as soon as everyone gets home, no one knows what to do next.
Every creative needs a strategist, and every strategist needs a creative.
That being said, it is essential to remember that there is a big difference between a strategist and a naysayer.
When a strategist sees potential issues with an presented idea, she might say, “I like the idea. Here are some potential challenges I foresee us running into as things get going.”
A naysayer, when faced with that same potential issues might say, “No, no, no! That will never work. What about (blank), (blank), and don’t forget about (blankity blank blank)!” This naysayer has just taken a big, fat needle to the creative balloon that was being tossed around the room. Now every creative sitting in the meeting will be extremely self conscious about presenting any further ideas for fear of facing his wrath. And what is this naysayer’s excuse? “Hey, I’m a strategy guy! It’s my job to be honest, and that idea will never work.”
You’re not a strategist, dude. You’re not, “just being honest.” You’re being an idea assassin.
The true strategist is honest and direct, certainly, but she keeps the balloon in the air. She knows that her job is to make the proposed ideas even better, not to chop down the tree before it’s even planted.
Now, this does not mean that creatives are completely off the hook. As much as we wish it was true, it is not the job of the strategist to stroke the creative’s ego. The creative must learn to recognize that his idea might not be absolutely, 100% perfect the minute it comes out of the his mouth. I know, it was shocking for me to realize too. A good creative has learned to appreciate that a true strategist is there to help him, and he has learned the humility needed to accept that help.
The relationship between creatives and strategists really comes down to one thing: put the success of the project ahead of personal ego. Creatives, not every idea you come up with is solid gold. Strategists, your ability to deal in specifics is no excuse for being an outright jerk-face.
In the end, it’s really about teamwork. I know I may sound like a dad coaching his five year old’s soccer team, but maybe there’s a reason we try and teach this to children at such a young age. Why then do most of us seem to have have forgotten it?