The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Create With Blinkers …

For reasons I’m not exactly sure why, I was recently asked to present to a venture capitalist firm in the US about the creative process.

There were a ton of points, but one that got them the most bemused was this:

In essence, the point of the slide was if you spend your energy focused on what someone else has done, they’ve won.

The reason for the bemusement was they didn’t see creativity in terms of forging new opportunities, but exploiting existing ones.

Make something slightly better than someone else.
Leverage others efforts to be cheaper than someone else.
Ride trends to grow faster than someone else.

But in all cases, it was using creativity to build on others efforts rather than create their own.

On one level I get it. Fast followers is a business strategy that has grown all manner of companies … from Hollywood to Apple. However for a VC it was kind of strange to me until I looked into the numbers involved, and understood why it was starting to be much more preferable to go to the zoo than to keep looking for Unicorns.

That said, they kept asking me why I thought comparison was wrong.

And of course it isn’t.

Comparison can have many benefits from increasing standards to ambition.

However, in the creative development process, it can be a real danger.

Because when someone looks at work in the early stages of development and starts using comparative language … the result is ideas get undermined because of it.

The focus is shifted.

Clarity is distorted.

It hands control to the commentators not the creators.

Of course people are entitled to their opinion, but too many rush in and kill the potential of something by judging it as finished when it’s still in creation.

What makes it even worse is when that judgement is done by comparing the work on the table to something someone else has done – however loosely – at some point in time in history.

When that happens, those people are not just robbing the creatives of the excitement they have about creating something new, they’re robbing everyone of the potential of what something can become if it’s allowed to breathe.

It may be inconvenient to project management, timesheet obsessed, bean counters … but ideas grow, they’re rarely born fully formed.

So if you want to stand a chance of creating something that can change everything, then the best advice is trust the talent, support the work and stop being a fucking joy vampire.

20 Comments so far
Leave a comment

this is why i hate every fucker in finance.
and planners.
and suits.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by George

and especially any fucker who adds a sarcastic fucking comment to my comment.

Comment by andy@cynic

Do you think they were equating comparison with differentiation and completely missing the next steps to distinctiveness?

Comment by John


all campbell was thinking was “why the fuck am i here” which is exactly what the money pricks were thinking as well.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hahaha … yep, I think you nailed it Andy.

And John, to answer your question, distinction was not mentioned once. The overwhelming impression I got was their attitude had become ‘how do we increase the number of investments that generate a return’ versus the quest to find the super return.

Whether that was because of the costs their old strategy incurred or a judgement on the state of Silicon Valley was not clear and they avoided the question like the plague. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob


Comment by andy@cynic

Very interesting post Rob. Silicon Valley will experience a seismic change if your experience with that VC represents a shift in attitude across all VC’s. But the VC business is not nearly as astute as they like to present themselves, which is why they lurch from one trend to another in the hope of finding success without much of a map.

Comment by George

Reminds me of the book Disruption where a journalist explores how VCs make their investments and decides their strategy is pot luck.

Comment by Pete

Yes … the Dan Lyons one. [I think that’s how you spell it]

That was excellent in so many ways.

Comment by Rob

As for creativity, can you supply some insight into your creative process? You highlight the thief of joy and the joy vampire, but you illustrate the slide with fire. What was your thinking?

Comment by John

when did you become a shit fucking client doddsy?

Comment by andy@cynic

Fair comment.

Comment by John

The best thing about this post is “it was starting to be much more preferable to go to the zoo than to keep looking for Unicorns.” Someone once told me the difference between a gambler and a VC is simply the sums that they bet.

Comment by Bazza

As analogies go, that is a good one.

Comment by George

Yep. I’ll be using that – or at least using it as the basis for a question to them, ha. Nice one Baz.

Comment by Rob

Gamblers have to make correct predictions, VCs just have to convince others that their predictions were correct.

Comment by John


Comment by andy@cynic

That is very interesting Robert. I can say with a high degree of confidence that the VC’s I know and work with do not share the same view. If it is not confidential, it would be very interesting to hear who you presented to and the context of the meeting. Purely for the sake of curiosity.

Comment by Lee Hill

i keep forgetting you should be someone I fucking loathe instead of begrudgingly respect.

Comment by andy@cynic

Leave a Reply