consultants on philosophy

Valuing Creative is Valuing Human Existence

(Wordcount: 1,202; Pages: 4) Much of my earliest writing critiques the near-inhuman way in which we sift the good from the bad in the marketing and advertising professions (1). The status quo even instigated me to argue that creative may just be a commodity (2). But despite the status quo, I've never quite felt at ease with this stance; how can we claim that half the population on earth is useless? Of course, their usefulness is quite evident in the awards and recognition we grant the most creative in our society, from actors, to performers, and even wall-street whiz kids who combine facts and a little creativity to make mountains of cash. But, from a practical and economic perspective, useful knowledge isn't regarded as the ability to paint a pretty picture or be innovative; it's merely to regurgitate the tried and true in an effort to survive. Right?

At a March 2007 forum for consultants hosted by this firm, we tackled this extremely complex issue by first asking the question, "Do we value what creatives do?" The thesis, wrapped in the question itself, was that if we don't, we probably don't value human existence, since creatives are merely reflecting it back to us. But if we did, the thesis was then made more complex by pondering whether or not human existence is worth living.

Gail Hamlin (Pied Piper Consulting); Jed Aber (Maximum Profit Centers); Adrian Miller (Adrian Miller Sales Training); Francisco Acosta (Internal Business Consulting); Patrick Hardy (P Hardy Technologies); Dr. Howard Leifman (Gilbert Tweed Associates); and William Alvarez (Torrenegra Internet Solutions)

To get out of this sticky-wicket, we had to agree upon and define a standard metric by which we could all gauge existence's relative value (that turned out to be - no surprise - money). Then, working backwards, we had to explore the full spectrum of human existence and society, including such abstract concepts as "the media" and "the system", before we finally landed back at our original starting point: we value creatives because…

But don't despair, because as you follow along how we peeled the layers of philosophical mumbo-jumbo, you'll understand why we have to first understand and appreciate our own existence before we can value the creatives who chronicle it.

Is Human Existence Crappy?

In short, yes! But don't worry, it's not your fault. It seems that it's "the media's" fault. But this presents one of those "chicken-or-the-egg" conundrums, because the media only captures what we do. Oh, and let's not forget "the system"; they fail miserably at teaching us how to survive in an environment of its own creation. But here, too, lies the rub: we all comprise "the system", and have therefore failed ourselves.

This appears to be heading into one of those "be accountable to yourself" admonishments, and it is, because a) blaming others means you want to impose your perspectives on social standards (and that's just not politically correct unless you've got an office at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) and b) an orphaned mistake always grows up to be a big blunder, and no one wants one of those hanging around.

Thus, if you're to accept you can blame no one but yourself for a crappy existence, we must conclude that crap is the natural state of things, because presumably, we wouldn't set out to make our existence crappy, right?

Perhaps the answer lies not so much in acknowledging that existence is crappy than understanding what crap really is? Imagine if Paris Hilton had a real job? Or if Britney had gone to church and adopted moral values? The alternate realities of these very creative individuals in our society, and our voyeuristic consumption of their realities, means that perhaps we're the ones living in some weird universe, which may appear like crap from the inside. But, for those of us who feel a little bit better about the way we live, we may look at the lifestyles of these entertainers and our enthusiastic consumption of it as the crap. Thus, crap isn't so much our existence than the things that comprise our existence - the content of existence. Whoa.

So how are we to distinguish the crap content from the non-crap? In our group's opinion, the best gauge would be based on an hierarchy of fundamental needs for survival: earning an income, buying food, shelter, and an education. Thus, if survival as defined here qualifies as the non-crap content of existence, and anything outside of these "serious" categories qualifies as crap, then why not simply cut the crap?

Turns out we love crap. In massive quantities. Due to the seriousness of the non-crap, we need and demand bucket-loads of it. For some, just pump the crap through an I.V. line and they're happier than pigs in… doo-doo. The challenges of surviving in our society today are so extraordinary for many of us - despite humanity being at the top of the food chain, with no natural predators or lack of conveniences - that we drown ourselves in crap in order to make survival more bearable.

Sounds like crap is like crack? Based on nothing more than the sheer breadth of sources of crap, it appears so. So, since it's socially acceptable to be addicted to crap, you shouldn't be surprised at how integral it's become in society (we've even built museums and halls of fame to crap).

Presumably, then, because of crap's status in our society, the people who create it are absolutely integral to society, too. In fact, should creatives all stop creating tomorrow, and suddenly, the crap they produce had stopped, too, society may crumble, since it's so critical to our being able to cope with surviving it.

Creativity is Not Crap

What this all spells is simple: creative, being so critical to our ability to survive and exist in society, is very important. And those who are able to produce it, irregardless of individual taste and preference, should be treasured as such.

More ironic, in a karmic twist of fate, they may be the only ones able to survive without the rest of us, because if we all vanished from the planet tomorrow, they'd still be able to produce their content, helping themselves cope with losing us. Whereas we are capable of creating a society that fails to prepare us to live in it, they are equipped to experience the most fulfilling and fruitful existences, no matter how crappy a deal society hands them.

If, after reading this, you fear that you're not creative enough, and subject to qualifying as useless, and it's the complete opposite sentiment from how you felt prior to reading this, then you should stop reading right now to go find yourself a creative person to be your friend. Tell them you love them and tell them you value them. (Maybe help them get a gig; they'll surely need one.)

If, on the other hand, you now understand why half the population is indeed on-par or better than you, and feel that you are prepared to give more credit to those creatives around you (particularly ad agencies, if you're fortunate enough to find yourself in the position to hire them; or New York Post reporters, if you're a bonafide, card-carrying member of the "elite"), then you're on the path to salvation, because you're now beginning to value human existence by more than your usual yardstick ("bling, bling"), you're beginning to value human existence by the same metric as those who live a more fulfilling one.


(1) Managing Marketing Agencies:

(2) Berrios, Al, "Creative is a Commodity: Nepotism and the Perfect Market",

Al Berrios is Managing Director of al berrios & co., a pure strategy consulting firm, specializing in advising organizations + entrepreneurs on managing their enterprises in a service economy. Write or Subscribe to Consumer Strategies Report.


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