“The more talented somebody is, the less they need the props.” said Hugh MacLeod in his great book Ignore Everybody and 39 Keys to Creativity.
He advocates the concept of “pillar management”. Pillars meaning the props that businesses and persons acquire to hide behind. They need managing (or rather removal) because they “get in the way” of letting authenticity and real talent shine through, and provide distractions and excuses for not following your passion. Pillars/props stop us from being the best that we can be, by sustaining self-delusions of action and progress.
I really love Hugh’s way of getting back to basics. Of cutting through the crap.
He is absolutely right of course. “There is no correlation between creativity and equipment ownership … as the artist gets more into her thing, and she gets more successful, the number of tools tends to go down.” A talented writer can create a masterpiece on a manual typewriter, or longhand on paper. Don’t let the tools get in the way of doing what you are here to do. You get the drift.
Some common business pillars I have seen are:
- ISO certification
- Massive list of somewhat relevant awards
- Large quantities of disturbingly similar testimonials
- Glamorous but fake mailing addresses
- Ostentatious offices with designer furniture
- Unbelievable “we are the best and the most infallibly perfect” PR
- Blogs filled with
dubiously harvested and deliberately mis-creditedplagiarised posts
- Websites filled with the latest (and inappropriately used) animation/multimedia technologies
- Psychedelic documents brimming with fancy (and often illegible) typefaces
- Ditto for business cards
(Feel free to add to the list above.)
Of course, each of these items in and of themselves is neither here nor there. The underlying intention matters more. An office filled with designer furniture is not a prop unless the intention was: “if I bought designer furniture then everyone will know for sure I am creative”.
I know some people buy MacBooks as props; because it shouts to the world how creative they must truly be. Are MacBooks props in and of themselves props? Of course not.
In certain industries or professions, some of these items may well be a basic requirement to play – for reasons other than their ability to enable talent. ISO certification, though irrelevant to how well or how passionately a catering firm can cook, may well be a necessary element in securing government contracts.
Hugh’s advice on pillar management: “All we can do is keep asking the question, “Is this a pillar?” about every aspect of our business, our craft, our reason for being alive, and go from there.”
In other words – am I being authentic? Am I being true to myself and my craft?
Buy now from Amazon:
Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity