Creativity 2.E: A T-Shaped Identity Primer

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I ripped the meat of this post from a brilliant piece over at Logic + Emotion (one of my new favorite blogs). Whether you're one of those prolific people - some may call you multi-talented or super creative, or just... smart - or have one or two working for you, you owe it yourself to read the entire post and look into these concepts a little deeper. Why? Because there still aren't very many places where T-shaped creatives can fully unleash their superpowers, allow them to blossom, and infect others.

You have to understand that folks like these are basically the James Bonds of the business world. (Except for the whole debonair seduction bit, the laser watch, and the explosive pen.) They probably aren't the best at running a business or a department on their own, but when you assign them to a project and a team, their skillset, talents and initiatives increase your creative and operational capabilities to such an extent that you'll be looking for more of them pronto.

The most creative companies - which should attract folks like this more than most - are typically design studios and ad agencies, but the norm there - just like it is for their less creative corporate brethren - is still to match specific skills with the same positions that have made up their HR-friendly roster for decades: Graphic designers. Copywriters. Web designers. Media planners. In this regard, most creative agencies are creative only when it comes to the work they produce, not in the way they think of their business' architecture and direction. Most, by design or by accident tend to get bigger instead of getting better.

I'll say that again: Most companies tend to get bigger instead of getting better.

When a T-shaped generalist shows up on their doorstep, most companies have absolutely no idea what to do with them, and it's a damn shame for everyone involved. These are the people who typically usher quantum leaps in innovation, creativity, and new business for organizations who invite them to the table.

(Before you send me hate mail, note that I said most, not all. If you are a creative studio or agency and feel that you are one of the few who don't fall into this category, I would love to hear about what you are doing differently, and how you are finding your T-shaped wonders.)

Anyway. Here's some of the meat from the piece:

"With consumer behavior evolving toward a more empowered status—the definition of creativity has shifted from one-dimensional skills to a four-dimensional type of creativity that blends logical thinking with creative problem solving. Individuals possessing this “New Creative Mindset” blend Analytical, Expressive, Curious and Sensual qualities into their thinking process. The result is a holistic approach to creativity that is effective across multiple touch points and experiences.

"Can an Information Architect embody this kind of mindset? What about an Account Director? I think as human beings we are all capable of thinking like this. But as designers, communicators, marketers and creators of experiences—for us, it’s even more critical to become multi-dimensional creative thinkers and problem solvers. I’m not the only one talking about this. Tim Brown from IDEO evangelizes “Design Thinking” and “T-shaped People”. Both principles are related. Design Thinking encourages Designers to think past aesthetics and design simple solutions for complex problems. T-shaped people have a core competency but branch out into other areas and can do them well (thus forming a T). And of course there is the new kind of collaboration that comes with this—where we combine people with diverse skill sets who often times speak very different languages but need to come together to make their collective and diverse skills work together.

"(...) So where does this all go from here? If you feel like you fit the bill, you’re probably thinking about how marketable you are right now. And remember, we’re not talking about a “jack of all trades” here. “Creativity 2.E” is not about doing everything and learning every application under the sun. It’s about being curious, empathetic, analytical, insightful and expressive all at the same time. It’s about being willing to do anything to get into the heads of your customer/user. It’s about adopting new tools, techniques and artifacts to help make your case for creating the right kinds of communications, interactions and experiences. So what to do if you’re feeling left out?

"Put that energy into developing an acute sense of curiosity and optimism. Become like a child. Participate in the emerging media. Start a blog, update your site or if you don’t have one—set it up. Dive into the digital social communities and be willing to do what your customers do. Try methodology that you might not ordinarily consider. PowerPoint isn’t just for presentations. Flash isn’t just for motion. Move past boxes, arrows, colors, layouts, charts, funnels, and metrics."
Read the entire post here.

Quick. Do an inventory of all of the people you know (including yourself). How many T-shaped creatives do you know? (And now for the real question: Why aren't you working with them?)

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