Generally speaking creative types don’t like administrators and vice versa. Administrators (management in the main) see creative types as a bit flaky and commercially naive, and creatives see administrators as lacking in imagination and apt to miss opportunity. And so the eternal battle between two types rages on, and probably always will do. It is common sense that businesses need both types of personality, but getting them to work together is a bit like trying to mix oil and water.
A business that is run almost exclusively by administrators will be extremely efficient at doing sub-optimal things. A business overweight with creative types will produce innovative services and products that get bogged down in a sea of inefficiency.
It’s the same when we consider how data are used. Administrative types will want regular reports that describe the things already known. They will want elaboration on what is already known to be significant. In other words they know want they want to know. These data are used to fine tune existing business processes, and adjust as conditions change. The creative type on the other hand is willing to accept that we probably don’t know what we need to know. Data exploration and discovery will be used here to uncover new facts about the business and its markets. You can’t apply the measuring rod to data discovery, because it isn’t a wholly deterministic process. Of course you can try, but it would tend to defeat the object.
This dualism becomes even more pronounced when we consider the uptake of major new technologies such as big data, and the Internet of Things. Administrators will ask ‘how does this enhance our business?’ In other words there is very little idea that the existing business plus a significant new technology might not be the same as the business as it currently exists. New technology will be shoe horned into an existing strategy – and opportunity will be missed. Creatives will drool over everything new and lose business context.
Someone needs to bring these two types together, for everyone’s sake. Some businesses are acquired by private equity with the pure aim of milking the business for the next X years with an absolute minimum of overhead. The investors make a pre-calculated profit on their investment, and after that the business can go to the dogs. There is absolutely no need for creative types in a business of this nature. On the other hand new startups have to give free expression to innovative ideas – otherwise they simply do not have a business. Most of businesses we work for sit somewhere in the middle. In the past (when I had the appetite) I have been asked to be the intermediary between these two types in some very large organizations. It was a nearly impossible task. Much more productive is the notion of separating these two types, so that innovative work can be carried out in a ‘skunk lab’, and when things start to take shape they can be handed over to the admins, who wrap the whole thing in process.
I don’t normally write articles of this type, but was inspired after reading for the millionth time that technology investments must have a well defined business purpose. It’s a statement of the obvious that actually isn’t all that obvious. It depends who is defining the ‘business purpose’. If it’s an admin then business purpose will be the refinement of some existing process. If it’s a creative then it may be a new product or market.
Generally speaking senior management in large businesses do not like ‘new’ – it smells of risk. And so large businesses eventually become arthritic, incapable of accommodating any form of risk, and as everyone knows, risk and reward are two sides of the same coin. So big data, the internet of things, and new technologies we have not yet heard of, will be adopted by the young and brave in the main – tomorrow’s arthritic giants who sneer at the new and innovative.