July 18

For the Love

My friend Ben is a brilliant creative director. He has led teams that have produced work that you are almost certainly familiar with and that has been experienced by hundreds of millions of people around the world. He once gave a talk about the nature of creative work, and he asked a provocative question:

“Are you loving people or using people through your work?”

At first, you might be taken aback or even offended by the ques- tion, right? I mean, you’re a good person. You’re doing good work. You’re trying to serve your clients. But there’s a much more subtle aspect to Ben’s question. You see, it’s really about generosity vs. manipulation.

If I lead a team and I do things that really serve my best interests rather than those of the team, I’m using my team.

If I’m creating a product and I don’t really believe in the claims I make about the product, I’m using my potential customers.

If I’m collaborating with a peer and I win an argument at the expense of our relationship, I’m using them to get my way.

Love doesn’t mean that we all get along or that the work is liked by everyone. What it means is that you are aiming to be generous in how you create. You are giving a gift to those who experience what you do. You might get something in return, but it all begins with an act of generosity.

In his excellent bookThe Gift, Lewis Hyde writes, “The more we allow such commodity art to define and control our gifts, the less gifted we will become, as individuals and as a society.”

Our job as creative pros is to be generous, to make work that serves those who experience it, and to unleash possibility for others. Let’s aim for that as pros and leaders today.

The best creative work unleashes possibility for others.


How can you be generous today through your work?

Related Articles