Yesterday I was all about being caring and giving people a break. Today I want to add a caveat.
Companies are really just people. People work for people, not abstract ideas. Listen to me — everything is people! I’ve got proof, I’ve seen it happening. It’s not new to say that we’d rather work with people we like… But we don’t have to like them before we work with them! We grow to like people through respecting them.
I worked in and around the agency scene in London for years, and honestly, the lack of self-awareness was staggering. It wasn’t just the Nathan Barley-type antics; these people had a habit of hiring their pals, often people they’d worked with in previous jobs. I’ve worked for digital agencies, ad agencies, arts organisations, media companies and tech start-ups and let me tell you, this system is absolutely rife in the ‘creative’ industries. Here’s the problem in a nutshell:
If you’re extremely comfortable working with people you know, (which is understandable enough), you’re uncomfortable working with people you don’t.
Now, if you’re fine with the status quo, this works very well. You will have a cosy time. You’ll get away with indiscretions, and your posse will ensure you are admired and kept safe. The company ethos and customers/clients will begin to take a back seat to the protection racket, but who cares? Everyone’s inexplicably still getting paid.
I’ve seen this ‘hiring mates’ system spread virally, as people working at one place bring their besties with them to the next one, and so on. Gradually, all the organisations who do this start to become social cliques first and foremost, bubbling up around each other. And that’s fine too, if you’re happy for your part of town to become a popularity tournament between playground tribes.
Work with fear of the unknown to do your best work
A lot of my interviewees have committed to working with fear and striking out on their own – two related concepts, by the way. If you’ve listened to the podcast, you’ll have heard me talk to extremely high achieving people like Nathan Geering and Hazel Findlay about their decisions to take the hard path. Wouldn’t it have been more comfortable, on a windy day in Devon, for Hazel to sit in a pub by a roaring fire? Instead she got up there and cracked an E9, breaking records by sending one of the hardest climbs in the country.
Most people we find admirable have managed to successfully re-frame obstacles, including fear and uncertainty, as opportunities. Creativity has often been cast as the ‘hard path’, too. The more creative option is often the harder one; the harder option is often the more creative.
When we only work with and spend time around those we’ve already decided have our trust, we are limiting our experience of the world and our opportunities to grow and change.
I do get it. We’re all under pressure. We understandably find comfort in keeping the most familiar things and people around us. But the most creative choice – and therefore the one most likely to ring in change – is usually the unfamiliar one.
Work out your priorities, then work out where you’re safe. Then take a risk.
How can you involve an idea outside of your comfort zone, today, or incorporate ideas or work by a person you might otherwise have overlooked?