Seriously creative culture

Executive Producer, Mark McKenna considers the roots of creative culture.

Did you know Scottish people invented everything? Well, we did.

Penicillin? That was us. Television? Yes, us too. The telephone? Hold the line caller... You’re welcome. The pedal bike, the adhesive postage stamp, Peter Pan, logarithms, hypnosis, golf, the fridge and the flush toilet? That’s not the half of it. We even invented triple distilled Irish Whiskey and the Bank of England. We've given you the world!

So, what can you learn from Scottish people, the most creative of cultures, about building creative culture? Perhaps more than you think.

Let me start here. I've been known to say, “creativity thrives within constraints.” I'm not suggesting I came up with that, just that I've been saying it for a long time. I've always been less concerned with what happens when you think outside the box, more with what you come up with when I put you in one. Optimism and pessimism combined is an extraordinarily Scottish trait and an unfair advantage in the world of corporate film.

Creativity has been described as a survival mechanism. That our most imaginative responses come during stressful or challenging situations. Fight, flight, freeze or get creative. I guess that’s true, but for me building creative culture is more about putting the right people in the box together than setting someone's box on fire and forcing them to come up with a solution before they can leave.

We develop creative culture by trusting each other. By making safe environments. Not just to generate ideas but so people feel comfortable speaking up and voicing their opinion. By allowing each other to fail, so we can all grow.

Here’s the trick. You may have heard the phrase “there's no bad ideas in a brainstorm.” Nonsense. There are always terrible ideas in a brainstorm. People are often very literal, so the promotion of this idea really does ruin it for everyone else.  A good creative environment actually means it doesn’t matter if you have a bad idea, not that every idea should be labelled good. People can share their point of view and shouldn’t get sad face if others don't agree. If we encourage tiptoeing around people’s feelings then we won’t get the best from everyone, and that’s terribly inefficient. Be respectful, but don’t be delicate. Good creative culture breaks down preciousness and ego just like a Scottish high school does. Maybe that’s why we came up with everything, because passionate arguments about ideas are awesome - try it some time.

The true indicator of a creative environment that works is seeing people in it together, because they want to be, not because they have to be. A team working in a space where it’s okay to fail. Where there’s less black and white, and a lot more gray. A bunch of people handpicked because they know they’re not perfect, and they’re okay being right and wrong in equal measure. Just like Scottish people. And if you're going to fail, I suggest you do it like we do too. Heroically, with gusto and panache.


~ A Scotsman living in New York by way of London, Executive Producer Mark McKenna leads the MerchantCantos film offer across North America.

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