Why project management apps cause creative constipation

Why project management apps cause creative constipation

I am sure you’ve come across project and process management apps and software. 

Lots of companies provide them, and a lot of ad agencies use them. 

We use them, but I’m not convinced they’re helpful for creatives.

Managing Creativity

But first let us determine what, from a creative person’s point of view, is being managed. I would suggest it’s the process of coming up with ideas for adverts.

You start with a blank page, then you try to fill that page with ideas. 

I have been coming up with ideas for adverts for 30 years, some of them, even though I say so myself, have been quite good. 

I used to lecture part time to advertising students. 

My key advice on how to succeed as a creative in advertising was ‘to have an inexhaustible supply of ideas.’

Brilliant Ideas

Why do you need lots of ideas? Because sure as eggs is eggs, your first ideas will be just that, your first ideas. Your first ‘good’ ideas will variously be shot down by group heads, creative directors, controlling account managers, terrified clients, and worst of all in my experience, client group feedback. 

This is where everyone in the room gives feedback on your work, but saying ‘that’s just great, I wouldn’t change a thing’ doesn’t seem to be an option for ambitious junior clients.

Creative ideas are as threatened as those baby turtles on nature programmes being picked off by hungry seagulls as they make their brave dash for the sea. 

The mortality rate is sky high hence turtles have to lay a lot of eggs and creative people need to think up lots and lots of ideas.

Scoping Software

What’s all this got to do with work scoping software you may ask? 

Well, it may be just me, but I’m finding these scoping tools and my creativity are not a happy mix. The result? 

I appear to have contracted creative constipation. 

In the past, a pressing copy date has always got the ideas on the move, but not anymore. 

It may be age related, but I suspect it’s because of the arrival of a certain project planning app in the department… It inflicts us with an hour-by-hour ‘to do’ list and allocates how many hours each project should take.

Timetabling Ideas

As any creative will tell you, the ideas don’t necessarily pop out at the time they’re allocated in your schedule. 

And nothing blocks the old creative flow like enforced regimentation.

I realise creative people are no longer dilettantes keeping ‘gentleman’s hours’ but no matter how diligent you are, you can’t be that precise as to when and where the muse will strike. 

A good thought may actually come to you when you are on the loo, or whilst drunk, or at four in the morning. Or all of the above.

Sadly, for me, trying to work to the demands of an ‘online task allocator’ is not conducive to flights of creative fancy.

Work scoping, to me, smacks of good old Henry Ford’s efficiency programmes and time and motion studies that made workers more productive. But production lines do not have to produce creative lateral leaps.  

A good creative idea is a wonderful thing. 

It can make people re-evaluate the ordinary, make them look at the old in a completely new way. And good creative ideas are hard to do. 

Sometimes they don’t happen for a long time and it really doesn’t help if you have reminders on your scheduling app counting down the hours!

Big Brother

And what about the ‘Big Brother’ aspect of these tools? 

You think they are only there to chivvy along your creativity? Think again, could there be a darker side to them? They provide a bird’s eye view of your productivity… or lack of it.

I believe their rigidity may not be compatible with the way creative people work.

They can make the deep meditative process of mining a good idea look like you’re swinging the lead.

There has always been a certain sort of autonomy in creative departments. 

We were entrusted to come up with good ideas in good time, if it meant doing the ad concept in bed on a Sunday morning to meet a copy date, so be it. 

Maybe I am just a washed-up old creative using process management as an excuse for my writer’s block. 

I know in reality I’m working for the man, but there is something about the little ‘workflow friend’ on my phone that brings out the Winston Smith in me.

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