Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Creative Integrity

I know a lot of professional creative people, that is, creativity and innovation practitioners, artists, facilitators, consultants, and marketing types. I've noticed something I want to comment on and I suspect this will be controversial. What I want to comment on is a lack of integrity among some creative professionals.

By integrity I mean simply someone who does what they say they will do.

Creative people sometimes get a pass on being reliable. The excuse that is made for them is that they "flaked out" or they were "keeping their options open," or simply made another choice. Making another choice or changing your mind is excusable, and sometimes a creative act in and of itself. On the other hand, there is no excuse for saying one thing and doing another because it is now to your advantage to do something different. I'm really tired of creative people who hide behind the creative stereotype while they know that what they are doing is just plain lying. Okay, maybe sometimes it's not lying outright, but more of an obfuscation, non-responsiveness to avoid difficult issues, or a painful delay in responding to someone. Call it bad manners, poor form -- it's really not right -- and I'm afraid the classic creative types are some of the worst offenders.

On a more positive note on this subject, I heard the story about George Clooney keeping his word and how powerful that was. Actors in Hollywood routinely break contracts when their star is rising and re-negotiate bigger deals. When Clooney found overnight fame on ER everyone expected he would break his contract. Instead, to everyone's surprise, he kept his word, saying simply that a deal was a deal. I understand that because of that he paved the way for many subsequent great deals -- here was a guy you could trust! He's made himself into a real player in Hollywood beyond his role as a leading man actor. Integrity is something you should hold onto because it's the right thing to do, and, when you do the right thing people notice and it becomes a positive spiral. It certainly enabled Clooney to be creative and make some interesting films that would probably otherwise not have been made, Three Kings, and Syriana for example.

Creative people should pay close attention to the promises they make, and should honor their word. Integrity is a powerful creative force all by itself. It creates confidence, good will, and better environments to create within. If you consider yourself a creative person, put aside the option to flake out and keep your word. Let's change the stereotype and make creativity about truth and honesty as well as imagination and self-expression.

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