Creative4 Aug 2022Karen Lee

What does it take to ‘ship’ your best work possible?

It’s not every day that a TV show changes the way you think about how you work. But that’s exactly what happened to me.

I’ve been enjoying ‘Shangri-La’, a four-part TV miniseries that follows barefooted Rick Rubin around his infamous Malibu studio, eavesdropping on heart-to-heart conversations about music-making and the creative process with a range of musicians, filmmaker David Lynch, David Blaine the magician, Laird Hamilton the surfer, mystics and yogis.

Fun fact: ‘Mister Ed’ was filmed at the ‘Shangri-La’ Studio and the equine star of the 1960s TV show was stabled on location. It was also used in the 70s by Dylan, Clapton and The Band.

But the person that sparked this article was Seth Godin (author, agent of change, meaning maker and idea merchant), who’s contribution to the show’s creative musing I found intriguing.

I turned to his book for further inspiration – ‘The Practice: Ship creative work’ and his belief that: Our best work happens when we contribute something new, something generous, something that makes an improvement. And making a contribution isn’t possible until we ship the work.

Seth has helped me reframe the role and value of Creative Project Management in our daily practice of ‘shipping creative (and our best) work’.

How do Creative Project Managers contribute something new?

We go beyond asking for the right information.

We do start with the facts, which enables us to translate the project's requirements into a specific and detailed brief; capturing the objectives and target audience and understanding the project’s ‘place’ in the company's overall brand or marketing strategy. In doing so, it ensures we get the right information to the right person at the right time.

However, by leading heart-led, fact and honesty-finding briefing sessions with our clients, it’s the personal exploration that inspires not only the tangible outcome but enables us to push things further and find the human needs, values and aspirations.

Beyond the facts, the personal insights we like to unearth, centre around the why.  Human motivations such as what compulsions drive a person, what instincts dominate their action, what resonates with them emotionally. These are the gems that hold the power to spark something new and more personal.

At Belong Creative we ask our clients questions like ‘What bit of magic would make a difference to the success of this project for you professionally and or personally?’ While in our internal briefings, rather than accepting the brief as status quo, we ask our team if they can see any gaps, challenges, or would like to propose alternative ideas or directions?
This type of questioning helps us challenge assumptions and explore new possibilities.

How do Creative Project Managers contribute something generous?

Generosity creates trust BUT trust is needed to provide generosity.

So we begin by building relationships with people, not companies and earn their trust. Only then can we deliver L.U.V.E (Little. Unexpected. Valued. Extras).

In getting to know someone and gaining ‘more human’ knowledge we can then proactively support them as the project progresses, knowing the right kind of L.U.V.E to give, and when. Then, wherever we can, we squeeze in valuable extras and elevate the way we care for our clients and the success of the project.

At Belong Creative our Project Managers are called Client Solutions. Why? Because we are encouraged to have deep, interpersonal knowledge of our clients and understand how best to work directly with them, solve their problems and meet their needs. We are encouraged to be a ‘giver’ and put in that extra effort, spend that extra bit of time and offer whatever we can in the spirit of partnership. This generosity with our time, with our praise and with the effort we put into our work extends to our team and is entrenched in our culture.

How do Creative Project Managers contribute something that makes an improvement?

We have a keen eye for details that can make or break a project's success.

And that’s not just about getting the big decisions correct. It’s also about getting the smaller details right. We’re the type of people who love looking out for those ‘one-percenter’ improvements. Because on a daily basis they all add up over time and help inspire the best work for our clients. 

Instead of starting from scratch for every project, we start with our proven creative workflow, which ensures we can move through a project efficiently and with confidence. But, importantly, our process is in perpetual beta, as it draws on and improves based on the learnings and collective intelligence of our team and client feedback.

At Belong Creative we have ‘shipped’ 2770+ creative projects. After every one, we conduct an ‘Afterburner’; a deliberate debriefing process focused on continuous improvement. We use it to celebrate our successes, understand our failings and capture our learnings to help enhance future projects and relationships.

Delivering value that goes beyond managing a project

So what Seth helped me realise is that our value must go beyond managing scope within a budget and schedule. That the value a Creative Project Manager can add is to play an important part in the discovery phase of a project and seeding new ideas; to give clients cause to trust in them and their accumulation of expertise in, and art of, managing the creative workflow; and to focus on continually improving their daily practice to help their team and client ‘ship’ their best work possible.

Article by Karen Lee

Karen Lee is the lead Client Solutions team member at Belong Creative. She gets immense satisfaction helping resource-challenged marketing teams and business owners deliver their projects and bring their brand to life. She’s always up for an adventure be it on her bike, vicariously through a book or hiking with her Sole Sisters.