The Creative Singularity

The following was written by Mike Hughes on his Linkedin and is reprinted with permission. Mike is a CD/AD who's career has seen him create award-winning work for iconic brands like Mini, Converse, Fiat and more.
He's also available for freelance. Check out his portfolio.

I saw something yesterday that sort of blew me away.

(Mike is referring to Every Covid Video is Exactly The Same.)

It made me think of a thought experiment of sorts. Let’s take Beethoven’s ninth symphony for our base. It was finished in 1824 and consists of 70,359 distinctive notes. We will begin our experiment by finding 70,359 musicians to play this masterpiece. One note, and not a note more, will be assigned to each musician to play. Each will be waiting their turn to play their note in the song.

Do we lose the creative composition of the song? We are presupposing that it would be played in its entirety exactly as it would normally be played. So perhaps it loses its vitality in this situation. Each person would be out for himself or herself. Each person would own one note.

Owning one note is in itself, boring. But, that’s where the rabbit hole leads us so far.

Now what about creative authorship? Well, this masterpiece would have never been written in the first place had 70,359 people tried to write it. It would have been muddled and incoherent as an original creative expression. It simply would never have worked or existed.

Owning one note in a creative expression is boring enough. Ask that of a creative individual and that person will either leave or be happy just to be part of some sort of creative project. Then most often times they will go off and claim that work for their own as reflected in their portfolio of work. Every one of the eighty people who worked on it would be proud to call it their own. I mean, if you are proud of that accomplishment, that is totally fine. I am not saying you were not part of the project.

What I am saying, is it teaches creative individuals to go off and play the same note wherever they go. In doing so, they simply won’t grow as a creative talent and they won’t know how to express themselves as a creative individual.

What does that create? The same work, repeated. Over and over again. Such as the link I put at the beginning of this article.

What I am seeing in advertising (my field of work for the last twenty years) is a noncreative situation on both ends of the equation. The equation consisting of large numbers of people being assigned the same project and the lone creative talent being given one note to play.

Creative collaboration is great, but not if each person wants to author their own idea. The further down the chain you go, the more people you add, the more diluted the piece of creative will be. The worse off the creative individual will be and the worse off the work will be.

Give a talented creative person autonomy and the chance to take on their own work and that work will most likely turn out great. Even if they fail at first, they will grow and they will get to the great work eventually.

Now let’s take the needle off of the end of the record. That last skipping note is bugging me. 

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