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Home > Blog > The Missing Ingredient in the Big-Company Model
Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, May 12, 2004 3:17 PM
The Missing Ingredient in the Big-Company Model
Anita Sharpe on Creativity

As far as creative work goes, you would think heading a major television network would rank near the top. So I did a psychic double-take yesterday when Brad Siegel, former president of Turner Entertainment Networks, said in a small meeting: 'I'm on fire now to create something and sell it to somebody.'

'At large companies, you lose sight of creating a product,' said Siegel, who is in the midst of launching the Gospel Music Channel.

For me, that sentence summed up a lot about what's broken in corporate America.

Most large companies, even those built on creativity, work off an assembly-line model. Everyone touches just a small piece of the product without being able to take much creative ownership.

Maybe that's what's really behind a lot of burn-out and job dissatisfaction -- more than long hours and bad bosses. You can put up with a lot when you are creating something you care about and can take real ownership in the final product.

It reminds me of a passage I read in college from Birds of America by Mary McCarthy: 'There would be no reason for everybody to write crummy poems or paint ghastly pictures in order to feel creative, if they had the possibility. . .of making something useful.'


4 comments

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anita - 5/13/2004 10:50:33 AM
The Creative 500. Fabulous idea. Thanks for the comment.
John Mudd - 5/13/2004 9:34:46 AM
Big companies typically lose their souls once they become a certain size after going public, primarily because the focus is not on creation or invention, which is how the companies become large and successful from the start.

Once companies focus on profit, they do not create new ideas, primarily because of risk and, as you pointed out, the assembly-line mentality.

Verizon and AT&T, for example, did not create VOIP, which will eventually replace telephone service altogether. They did steal the technology, though, to sell to their customers. I call it stealing because other small upstarts came up with and are currently heavily marketing the idea.

There are a few companies that encourage newness and creativity, though, fortunately. Google, my favorite search engine and possibly the world's favorite as well, gets my top-mind attention in this category. Microsoft also is there, and so is Apple.

If business magazines created 'Creative 500' and it was paid as much attention as the 'Fortune 500' companies, large corporate companies would compete to be more creative, and pay their PR people to market their creativity and ingenuity. This is something that needs to be done to ensure that America maintains its Super Power status.

America can still be a power, but corporations will not continue to pump out products that attain large profits without embracing more creativity, thus, making America a power, but perhaps not super at all.

So, what publication will create the 'Creative 500' ranking and what corporate leader will embrace my challenge to reform their company to embrace creativity and ingenuity?

Time will tell.

Great post, by the way, Anita.

Cheers.

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