Michael Lebowitz Doesn’t Want To Kill Creative People

The last session on the opening day of the Cannes festival of creativity had to do battle with a jetlagged crowd and the early opening of the free bar (sponsored by Heineken), but Big Spaceship founder Michael Lebowitz got the crowd on their feet and thinking with this conundrum:

Who would you rather fight?

One horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses? Lebowitz used the question as a practical demonstration of how distributed creativity is a resource most agencies are leaving untapped and trapped in silos. By contrast, he described the approach his agency operates under as: “creativity is an obligation, not a vocation”. He then went on to use Tesla as an example of how radically re-organised companies are harnessing creativity to devastating effect.

Lebowitz did admit, however, that he had no actual working knowledge of how Tesla is structured. It may be early in the week, but I’m guessing we’ll see a lot more references to Tesla before we’re done. It’s well on its way to replacing Apple as the gold standard for “success” in presentations, motivational speeches, case studies and briefs, regardless of the specific topic.

Putting distributed creativity into practice

Big Spaceship’s MO in its early days was “Let’s just figure it out” but he revealed a much more refined company philosophy with the crowd:

1. Define your purpose: if you’re a revenue driven organization, that’s all you’ll have to motivate your people with.

2. Culture matters: don’t fall into the trap of confusing amenities with culture. Free coffee at a job you hate, still sucks.

3. Build a framework: more empowering than rules, more creative than a dictatorship. Frameworks give ‘agency’ to the people in your agency.

4. Eliminate the “precious” idea: claims of ownership strangle the potential of creative ideas. No-one owns” ideas in Lebowitz’s agency.

The irony of actively eliminating idea ownership in an agency did not appear to be lost on this crowd, who are all gathered here this week primarily to see whose ideas will be awarded career-enhancing statues.

That is something which is common to the advertising and Hollywood industry – Ideas. However, Hollywood is more daring with the way an idea is used and/or credited. What can we learn from Hollywood’s Collaborative model? You’ll soon find out in the session by Bates CHI&Partners at Spikes Asia 2014.

Check updates of the Spikes Asia conference on ogilvydo here.

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