Storytellers are creative folk. They create something out of nothing. The entire world of Middle-Earth, for example, sprang from the notes jotted down by J.R.R. Tolkien in the trenches of the first World War. The magical world parallel to our own that seems to have a school called Hogwart’s at its center would not exist save for the imagination of J.K. Rowling. People who tell stories, from the most successful and lucrative of novelists to the humble Dungeon Master creating obstacles for a party of adventurers, make the attempt to be creative and innovative in some small way. Even if a dungeon or story is based in part on something the storyteller’s seen or read recently, it’s still their prerogative to take that notion in a new direction. After all, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. These creative people can be very attractive to an employer.
For business people looking to leverage the profitability of creative people, here is some advice.
Granted, the employee might be seen as just another means to bring in enough money to keep the business’ lights on and the supply closet stocked with toilet paper and legal pads. However, the more creative the team that works on your products, the better your chances for the products to grow and change into something new. Consumers are on the lookout for the next big success, the upcoming trend, the latest & greatest. From big-budget blockbusters to ballpoint pens, sports cars to scrubby sponges, people have demonstrated they will happily lay down their cash for something that satisfies their need better than what they already have.
In order to provide that innovation to the hungry and eager public, the cogs of the business machine – the employees – benefit from utilizing their creativity. If you can get them to channel their energies into your product, it can begin to grow. You need to place them in an environment where their skills can expand and their imaginations can thrive.
However, you also need to exert control. It’s your business, after all, and your product. Your employees need to be working on your projects and your projects alone. And they do not need to stray out of the position for which they were hired. Upward mobility is a thing of the past. There are plenty of contractors and guns-for-hire out there who will fill an empty space on your team without you needing to worry about promoting anybody out of that grunt work position for which you hired that starry-eyed graduate a couple of years ago. Who cares if they’re unhappy at the lack of opportunity? New graduates spill into the work pool every few months, and they’re likely work much more happily than somebody looking to grow and change.
Leverage the time of your assets. Make sure that your employees do whatever they’re told. Throw them into new situations and expand their responsibilities. You don’t need to pay them more or even tell them the change is coming. That’ll let their creativity grow too, right? “Do more with less and get it done yesterday. Be creative!” If they succeed, so much the better! Not only have you made your clients happy (which is really the most important thing in business, the customer always being right and all) but you’ve bent an individual to your will and ensured their loyalty and commitment to your vision. If they fail, you have every right to pay them less or even cut them loose. It’s their fault for not rising to the challenge you presented them, after all, so I’m certain that you’ll climb into your luxury car and drive home for a good night’s sleep in your well-appointed seven-figure house without giving that creative but ungrateful and pathetic pissant a second thought.
And don’t worry about that burning smell. Your next-generation alarm system is sure to let you know if somebody set the house on fire.
(The preceding advice is intended for satirical purposes and should not be taken seriously. Josh Loomis is not an arsonist – just a smartass.)