Managing Creative People: Lessons In Leadership For The Ideas Economy

Author

Gordon Torr

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Book Review

*One Of The WORST Management Books I've Ever Read*

This isn't really a "how to" book on managing creatives. In fact, there's very little about management at all (which the author acknowledges fairly early on in the book).

This book is more of a manifesto about what the author thinks about creativity, and where most companies get it wrong.  Torr is good at constructing his argument, so on that level the book is worth reading.  But be aware you will be unable to action any of his ideas.

One of his central attacks is on the concept of creativity as a problem solving process. Torr argues that true innovation doesn't come out of a corporate problem solving process.

This is one of the many ideas that makes the book useless to managers. The fact of the matter is that most companies are not interested in creating art for it's own sake. They want creative thought applied to business problems in order to come up with a solution. Torr dismisses that kind of process as not being "creativity" -- Which may be true from a certain perspective -- but it means there's little point in reading this book if you're a manager in the business world.

Torr's main tack seems to be that you should hire creative people and leave them alone to be creative without involving them in the problems of the business.  How someone can do productive and meaningful work for their employer when not concerned about the company's goals remains a mystery to me.   What a shame that Torr's creatives aren't robust enough to have practicalities intrude on their "process."
 
I got into an online debate with a woman who had also read this book and she argued that I misread it, because it was really about understanding where creatives come from.  Her argument was that if I knew how and why individuals behaved the way they did, that I would be better able to manage creative people.  
 
This thinking is nonsense.  There is nothing so special about any group of people that they have their own way of being managed.  (You hear similar arguments about Managing Generation Y people).  Good management is good management - and good management techniques can be applied to all.   And I say this as a former manager of creative people.
 
(In fact, when managing creative people, setting deadlines (What & When) is one of your most powerful techniques.   Even if the "process" of something (the "how and why") is a complete mystery to you, you certainly can measure and manage output. ) 
 
Books like these, which perpetuate the worst myths about creative people, need to be consigned to the dustbin of history.