Staying with the Problems Longer

By May 3, 2014 July 17th, 2015 All blogs, Justin's blog

I like this statement about perseverance for many reasons, but in the context of working for the Rogers Agency, I like it because it helps me produce the best work. It encourages me to craft ideas until I’m satisfied that the message I create is the most effective. In the end, I’m proud of the end result. People hear the message clearly. The idea is unique and captivating… and maybe even emotionally appealing in a way that’s not too heavy-handed. I’m glad I didn’t hastily put something together. For me, that would be giving up.

Too often we assume an idea will naturally materialize if we are smart or creative enough. We wonder why a viral video isn’t the end result of an hour-long thinking session. When we come up short we think “maybe I’m not as smart or creative as other people”. Hollywood makes creative work seem easy, and our culture of instant gratification does not help instill the value of sitting with a problem for very long. Stand-up comics churn out hilarious, seamless performances for a full hour, and we assume they are geniuses of wit (unlike us). Not everyone knows that comedians spend countless hours rehearsing the same jokes in the mirror to refine the delivery, test each joke with select audiences, friends and family, and carefully compile their material over a period of months or years by making notes on napkins when moments of inspiration hit them. I am sure that each joke and the delivery of that joke gets scrutinized to oblivion until the diamond in the rough emerges.

A good video, a good marketing campaign, a good story requires a lot of planning, brainstorming, teamwork, and skill. It does not occur because one person rates a little higher on the creativity chart. At The Rogers Agency, we’ll sift through numerous creative ideas, cross most of them off, then repeat that process until a promising idea emerges. We’ll ask a lot of questions to understand our “problem”. It can take days or sometimes even weeks of actively seeking inspiration, analyzing and tweaking ideas, long conversations, tests on the computer, and tests with family members before we’re sure we are on the right path. Several more refining processes follow while we execute the idea to ensure that we are communicating effectively with the target audience. When we have the end product, we’re happy with it. I consider myself smart and creative, but those traits are useless without some good old fashioned work, persistence, and collaboration.

Steve Jobs echoes Einstein in a MSNBC/Newsweek interview:

“We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.” — Steve Jobs

Next time you have a problem and you aren’t finding the solution, I suggest that you keep asking more questions. Stay with it longer.  The phrase “think outside the box” irks me now. It seems to imply that I’m not already thinking outside the box. I’d much rather hear another phrase that’s more honest about the creative process… “think longer!” Alternatively, if you already have too many questions or problems that you’re working on, let us do that work for you.