Guest Post: Adam Pierno
Guest Post: Adam Pierno // @apierno
Professional creativity is the result of careful routine. When I speak about "process" with people inside agencies, I refer to the notion that you cannot sit down with a musical instrument and just decide to play free-form jazz. Well. Musicians are trained in the basics, run through the rudiments day after day, rehearse the core components until they understand the texture of the music so well that they can react subconsciously to the other players. This is also how a short-stop can somehow turn an unassisted triple play. Not because he practices that rare play every day. He has never practiced that play. That would be a ridiculous exercise. But it is because he has practiced fielding infield hits thousands of times and his brain is emancipated from thinking about those motions. Those motions are the part of the job we refer to as work.
When you first work with a creative person, you sit down to brief them and immediately they quietly launch into their process. It's rarely discussed in detail. But you can see that every person has developed their own set of rudiments that allow them to build the foundation on which they will surely build their improvisational thinking. I recently met an experience Account Executive who was walking me through a new project she was developing. She opened her notebook and revealed a system of notes that astonished me. Two colors of ink, check boxes, and layer of stick notes. Footnotes to explain to herself what her asterisks, double asterisks and daggers meant. She was explaining a surprise turn the project had taken. And my favorite thing about this exchange was - she never looked at the notes. It was recorded in her process and she was then free to field the shallow pop-up and turn two.
The process is not the white board. It's not the laptop. It's not the concept squares. It's not paradiddles or taking all those ground balls. But those things are the costume of process. Process is how we work our way through the millions of small decisions to get to the few good ones we need to make to create great solutions.
I rarely ask people directly about their process. The details of it. Maybe it's too personal, Or because I don't think they'll actually be able to readily answer. I've been asking people recently, and the latter is proving true. Usually, the first response is "What do you mean?" They claim to not have an organized process. But as I press, they begin recognizing and laying out the steps, however loosely they may be constructed. I've been trying to get to the root of it by pushing them on which components they couldn't subtract from it. Which are the necessary steps.
I'm inspired by the process each person builds for themselves, and the ability it gives them to pull ideas apparently out the air. And the process they go through to double and triple check those ideas and then build on those ideas they deem best. Because the process is the work. A comedian gets on stage and tells a story with four or five punchlines in it over 90 seconds. It's effortless. The story is true or near-true. But the writing, evaluation, editing, and rehearsing of those beats is a process that can take months or years. It's not instant, but the process makes it feel that it is.
As we see more and more integrated ideas come out of agencies, what is setting apart the best of them is that the idea itself feels organic and perfectly executed in each of the media or platforms in which it's being shared. The idea itself can be detached from the execution and effortlessly plunked into the next and still work. But we know the actual effort involved in developing ideas with no anchors..The process behind that is being developed as I type. The basics of it are being pulled in from dozens of other sources and augmented. And we're already seeing people figuring out how to turn those triple plays.
Image via Christian Rathemacher