Creatives & The Hope Economy: What Do We Do Now?

Tue, Sep 22, 2009

Blogs, Fearless Creativity

Creatives & The Hope Economy: What Do We Do Now?

Creativity is what we do, who we are, and why we exist. We do it because we like it; it feels good. The more we like it, the less money we need for it. Like it enough, we do it regardless.

Ideas are cheap and plentiful and offered like opinions at a political rally. Talent is everywhere, making us indignant that those with it aren’t better off. Yet companies aren’t looking for talent so much as marketable talent nor ideas so much as marketable solutions.  Marketable mediocrity is preferred over unmarketable brilliance or extraordinary talent with low ROI.  So should we be appalled when creativity is harvested like feed corn as soon as the network bandwidth (see “The Long Tail”) is wide enough to sift it as though panning for gold?

Challenge the internet communities, lead with token carrots, set a time limit, and wait for mediocrity to cascade forth.  In a harsh contrast to the concepts found in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” where 10,000 hours is the threshold for accomplishment, mediocrity is our most reliable exchange.

In the coming economic landscape, we harvest talent as a commodity. Network bandwidth has atomized the marketing of ideas and this has shifted economic scarcity away from ideas toward either unpredictable brilliance and what Umair Haque describes as “Awesomeness”, or to fast and cheaply produced mediocrity.

America’s Got Talent.   Is that all we got?  Hardly, but if a casting call is posted for the general public with rewards of ego + little else, that’s all you get. The miraculous stuff isn’t that plentiful, cheap or safe.  Yet, the threshold for our ability or willingness to afford brilliance has moved – often times – out of reach or apathetically out of mind.

Additionally, we are harvesting ideas so fast that there is less time for refinement.  Ideas return in crude form since they are short lived prior to their destruction by the next society stalling innovation.  One result is a fueling of skittishness by investors for anything other than the most financially reliable idea.  ROI needs months or a year, not two or ten.

The market is most robust for what’s good enough and good enough is less than it was.   Once there were professional type houses but now desktop publishing – good enough.  Once there were staffed million dollar music production studios, now we have a garage and Pro-tools on a PC – good enough.  Once there were journalists, now there are bloggers – good enough.  No time or money for more than good enough unlike there once was.

Spend 10,000 hours on proficiency and the world will have moved on to something else.  Don’t look now but your expertise is obsolete.  One might be better off learning a little about a lot, settling for good enough and cashing the check: the DIY culture.

Miraculous brilliance is evident in high stake games like iPods, electric cars and human genomes, or in low stake games like musical virtuosity and the arts.  Henceforth, existing in the middle driving individual quality to the top of the heap is rising to pipe dream status. It’s now thorny to leverage the middle while refining talent to the top.

What adjustment is needed? The answer is unclear, but I’m confident of what isn’t an answer: The Hope Economy.   Hoping that the business world wakes up with a higher sense of value for cultivating creative communities to their rich potential isn’t much different than waiting for Hip Hop stardom.

For more try these:

Umair Haque,  “Is Your Innovation Really Unnovation?”

Robert Capps for Wired Magazine,  “The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine”

creative, Crowd Sourcing, Innovation, internet, marketing, Talent, technology

6 Responses to “Creatives & The Hope Economy: What Do We Do Now?”

  1. Kristin Lamendola Says:

    Doesn’t this one sentence say so much: “Marketable mediocrity is preferred over unmarketable brilliance or extraordinary talent with low ROI”. I fear this is true, particularly in times of economic unrest. We market to the lowest common denominator, because it is easy. It is something we can do quickly — probably in a sound bite’s time — and move along, feeling a sense of accomplishment. Sadly, what we are left with is a pool of tepid water. We are becoming a culture who lives for their fifteen seconds of fame, regardless of how mediocre the output, as long as it is broadcast somewhere. The wonders of the internet make broadcast more accessible, and that contributes to the problem.

    We must hold strong to our creativity ideals, lest we all become fodder for Joel McHale on The Soup and our bookstores carry nothing but Captain Underpants (for kids) and vampire thrillers (for adults).

  2. Trudy Says:

    Powerful article. I agree….I don’t think the hope that somehow businesses/consumers will wise up and miraculously will want higher quality when the bar is set so low in many things will happen. For some people, it seems beyond the concept of cost alone and the sheer idea of expertise and excellence is met with disdain, while mediocrity is praised and revered. Mediocrity makes many people feel “comfortable” and personal comfort matters more than excellence or quality…to the point that they believe that they can no longer feel “comfort” with excellence at all. Unfortunate. Many people who set the bar high will have to market to those who want the bar high, instead of trying to convert those who seek comfort in mediocrity.

    • Bruce DeBoer Says:

      “Mediocrity makes people comfortable” – good thought and true in many cases – it’s approachable and non threatening. There is something inclusive about knowing “I could have done that”. Mediocrity is disposable though isn’t it and perhaps that’s why our culture is starting to embrace it more – hmmmmm – I’ll have to think on that some more.

  3. Bruce Says:

    Liked the points that you made, but would say that it is us who are driving things. We get what we deserve. There are also a lot of people out there who want and appreciate better and are prepared to pay for it.

    Although I agree that we are in a time of bottom line economics, I think that this time will pass, as it has done in history and in the mean time…Does mediocrity not bring the most happiness to the most people?

  4. Donald E Giannatti Says:

    This is one helluva article, Bruce.

    To the point, well written and thought provoking. This, along with the post at Heather Morton’s Blog this morning have me deeply in creative mode.

    I believe in change. I believe that things must change to evolve and that most of the time evolution is for the better. I give no credence to ‘hope’ as that is a non-engagement mentality. Hoping for something and working for it are very different approaches.

    BTW, your note on the less qualified leading the pack could not come on a more auspicious day. Seriously, the truth of what is in this article has never been more cogent.

    Thanks, Bruce.


Tweeter button Facebook button Digg button
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