What Does a Mature Creative Professional Look Like?
The future of visibility in saturated world markets will be secured by creative professionals. How do you find them?
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Creativity is a mysterious human phenomenon. Creativity isn't a quantifiable skill, like a technical skill. The inherent subjectivity of evaluating creative work introduces some challenges to business leaders, especially in markets increasingly driven by consumer demand for novelty.
Brand magnetism (and relevance) relies on the acumen and brilliance of creative professionals. With the "next frontier" of virtual universes, the onus is on leaders in every competitive arena to find and leverage the power of creative humans.
Put it this way: The future of your company may depend on people who can "make something out of nothing," which is the simplest definition of creativity.
What's the difference between someone with skill and someone with talent? How do you discern someone's creative talent and make them truly useful to developing new models, products and deliverables? Here are some places to start.
Skill vs. talent
First, let's make an important differentiation between skill and talent. A skill can be learned through the traditional methods: exposure to an idea, repetition, memorization, retention and practice. Skills can be honed.
Even the most resistant kid in front of a piano can bang out chopsticks. Even the most prosaic minds can rewrite poetry. There are millions of graphic designers in the world. So, why isn't every brand beautiful? Because some of those designers are simply skilled in software and mimicry, and some are talented.
Talent is different from skill, and it can't be taught. Talent ranges from someone with a "knack" for something to a savant (a legitimate genius). Even an inkling of talent generates a natural aptitude for doing something well, for extrapolating on an existing idea or item, for recreating in a way someone else wouldn't have thought of.
Creative people are new idea machines. They are actively pursuing outlets for their imagination, and they are able to do things they didn't formally learn. Formal learning advances a talent, sharpening and refining its delivery through skills.
Talented people can gain skills, but people who lack talent will hit a natural end to their abilities. As someone hiring creative professionals, your job is to see this difference as soon as possible.
Cook vs. chef
One of the worst things someone can say about art is that it is "derivative." And yet, most things are. I think the most apt illustration that helps you differentiate between a skilled person and a talented artist is to consider the difference between a cook and a chef.
A cook is someone who reads a recipe, collects ingredients in the proper measure, assembles in the proper order and prepares them the right way. It's all done to a specification. In this illustration, a cook is utterly reliant on a cookbook. The output is fine: It yields skillfully prepared food that tastes good.
By way of contrast, a chef is the one who creates the recipe. They are the masterminds behind new flavor combinations and new preparation methods. A chef thinks outside the box, reimagining how food can be created and consumed in a way that is utterly delightful.
A creative professional who is skilled enough to recreate what they've seen is a good asset. But they will never make yours the most wonderful brand in the world. They lack the talent to see the world in a new way, to reframe and reshape people's perceptions, to present something that shocks, awes, provokes or persists.
Both cooks and chefs can be novices or experts, and to have talent is not to say that someone is capable of performing at the top of their game. Both types of individuals have to be cultivated to reach their full potential. But if you are leading a company that has a vision to provide creative products, or present your products in a magically creative way, you need to find the chef. You need to foster a team of talented creative professionals that have both the innate aptitude and the freedom to dream big dreams, then deliver in a way that affirms the human experience.
Something that's never been done before; something no one has ever seen; something no one has ever experienced.
It's the only way to reach the world-weary consumer whose existence is an endless barrage of mediocre messaging and presentations. Interrupt that. Wake them up. A creative professional will know how.
Finding creative professionals
I'll sum up with this quote from G.K. Chesterton, which breathes life into the idea that talented artists have an expansive, endless appetite for expression: "A man cannot have the energy to produce good art without having the energy to wish to pass beyond it."
Inherently, creativity is a talent, not a skill. Creative people will be creating something all of the time, whether they are hired to do it or not. It's in their blood. It's in their genes. It's how they're wired.
You can send someone to art school, give them the most meticulous grooming, pair them with genius mentors, and they still may never achieve greatness. There are millions of street artists; there's only one Banksy. Your job is to look at the crowd, sift through the portfolios and find the gem.