"No need to reinvent the wheel here."
I heard this glorious phrase used not once, but twice yesterday.
Mind you, I work at what is supposed to be a "creative agency."
The first was during a presentation to a client. We were extolling the endless and bountiful benefits of our usability testing for web sites.
We were showing this (new) client some work created for a different client that had benefited from this wonderful testing.
So, naturally, we should do the same thing for this newer client. After all, we've got the process down, we know it worked before and that it will work again. It'll be very quick and painless. And there is was on the screen in orange, 24-point Futura: "No need to reinvent the wheel."
The other time was when I passed someone in the hall:
"Look, there's no reason to reinvent the wheel here."
I don't know what the context was.
Nor do I care.
Maybe, just maybe, the wheel isn't perfect. Have you ever thought of that?
How about looking at it from a different point of view? The wheel has already been invented. Why not invent something else? Something new. Perhaps something even better.
"Better than the wheel? Impossible! The wheel is the ultimate invention; it needs no updating. Why else do we cite it as an example? It's perfection!"
Here's a thought.
Why not at least try to create something better? Or, if not better, something original?
Something that we can mold and claim and own and cherish and love?
For once, let's do away with what we know.
Let's create something. Anything.
For starters, let's create a new process. One that encourages thinking and ideas over white paper and PowerPoint production. A process by which our clients and our agency as a whole can benefit and succeed.
And even believe in.
Agencies the world over do it. They are able to pay the bills and their employees by creating and producing beautiful ideas.
Of course, this agency talks that game. They've even dropped names like "Crispin" and "Wieden" and "Goodby" and that these agencies all, at one point or another, started small. And look at them now.
Well, unfortunately, we're not small. Far from it.
Boutique we ain't.
That doesn't stop the higher-ups, though. They keep talking the talk. But have yet to take that first step towards walking the walk.
Here's the thing. We could.
But not with our current process.
You know, the one that coaxes egos and maximizes process and widens margins and stifles imaginations and encourages turnover. The one that encourages quantity over quality, billable hours over original thinking. The one that fucks with your head and whittles away at your soul and deadens your desire to do great work.
That process sucks.
But it's not really process's fault. Process is, by it's very nature and definition, easy. It's a map. A guide. A way to go from point A to point B in as little effort as possible. No one loses their way.
That's a great thing when the end result is brilliance.
It's an abominable thing when the end result is uninspiring. At best.
Because that's the thing about process. It's a scientific shortcut of sorts. It's streamlined and efficient and lots of other business catchphrases that we are so often forced to use with our technology clients.
It's also staid.
Unless the process is designed for and around the creation of great work. Otherwise, it's just means to an end, the path of least resistance.
Why must it be this way? How about some original thinking?
After all, doing something that's never been done before requires a person to feel--and enjoy--that sinking feeling in their stomach. The one that tells them that maybe this idea really isn't such a good one after all.
The one that says, "Screw the cost; we're doing it because it's the right way. It might piss some people off. Hell, we might even fail. But at least we tried to do it right."
But it's also the same idea that makes their pulse quicken and heart flutter and pupils widen.
Because they know that, a primal and visceral level, that their idea is a good one.
There's no path. No coordinates. No way-points. No way of knowing much it'll cost, how it will end or when it will turn a profit.
But that's the price of leadership.
Of doing something no one else has done.
Let's make our work unique and original works of art and technology and interactivity that benefit our clients and ourselves. Let's take a chance and move forward without any notion of what we'll find. Let's turn off the lights and stumble around with nothing but our senses and instincts to guide us.
Let's create something.
Let's reinvent the wheel.