Process: why it can be your friend… and your enemy

The P-word and why it’s holding you back

Don’t let it be a drain on your content aspirations

The P-word gets thrown around a lot these days. It’s often used as an excuse not to do anything. “I feel like if there’d been a proper process in place then it would have been so much better/we would have delivered against the brief/we would have done something rather than nothing.”

Let’s not get too carried away here, process and planning are essential to good content, but the quest for these things can come at the detriment of an arguably more important word: creativity.

Process is something binary, creativity is not. Process is something that gets created in Powerpoint and Excel spreadsheets and becomes that most distasteful of things to a creative: the Gant chart. It’s a formula to be worked out. Creativity is an altogether more abstract concept.

The Six Ps

Indulge me for a minute or two while I tell you a story from my days as a magazine editor. I recall (unfairly in retrospect) binning a CV from a very solid candidate whose personal statement began something like this:

“I pride myself on being a staunch advocate of the six P’s”

He did actually put the apostrophe in there which was enough to have me reaching for the waste basket anyway, but still…

As we all well know, the six Ps go like this:

Proper

Planning

Prevents

Piss

Poor

Performance

To my creative mind, this particular candidate was firmly in the ‘process and planning’ camp and, as far as I was concerned, as far away from the ‘creativity’ camp as it was possible to get.

He was a stickler for following rules, for putting checks in boxes. He was an accountant and we had quite enough of those thank you very much. So in the bin went his CV and and his hopes and dreams of landing that job with them. I felt bad at the time. Doubly so looking back on it.

These days I can accept that he probably wasn’t a robot. He had a point. Planning is a good thing. Too much planning can kill creativity, but it also can increase productivity, accuracy and excellence. So does proper process. So I’ve rearranged the six Ps to the following:

Proper

Process

Planning

Peaks

Productivity

Perfectly

(but can sound the death knell for creativity)

Process can be your friend… done right.

Now while I’ve pitched process as the enemy of creativity, it doesn’t have to be. We actually sell process here at Mediablaze. After all, without any process, nothing would get done. Process and creativity don’t need to be mutually exclusive. The mistake many people make, though, is seeing process as the silver bullet for their content marketing and forgetting that challenging creative people outside of a rigid process and planning framework is the key to getting the most out of them.

Prepare to fail

What we need to be is more agile. Process can have us pinned down from the beginning, afraid to break out of the everyday routine and behaving like automatons filling cardboard boxes with ‘content’, rarely breaking out of our comfort zone to ask, “why?”

Which is why you need to be prepared to shake things up. You need to set yourself up to fail. You need to leave a blank box in the calendar for that story you have pegged for next week. You need to react to what’s going on around you. You need to challenge yourself to create something incredible from nothing. ‘Process’ can sometimes be the reason you do nothing. ‘Process’ can be the paralysing factor that prevents you from doing anything that’s unexpected for you and your client. And that’s demonstrably a bad thing.

Say ‘no’ to process (sometimes)

Being dynamic and, dare I say it, haphazard at times might sometimes be the enemy of productivity, but not of creativity. We need to free ourselves from the shackles of ‘process’ once in a while.

That’s as much a challenge for your client as it is for you. You need someone on-side who’s prepared to take risks for reward and that, in the strait-jacketed world of corporate checks and balances, is an increasingly rare thing.

To put all this into context. This article has no process behind it at all. I thought about writing it. Then I wrote it. I didn’t get sign-off from anyone. I didn’t plan what was going to go where. I just wrote it. I didn’t write up a brief and then pass it around other members of the team to add their comments: ‘Maybe tone this down a bit, maybe leave that bit out”. I just wrote what was in my head. And that’s the point. Sometimes process and planning just get in the way of being creative.

There’s space for process. Of course there is. But the laser focus on process can get in the way of what we really love: being creative.

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