Control in an age of collaboration: or it’s good to be Ricky Gervais
I had a great conversation with a client today who willingly agreed to undertake the development of a new digital platform without knowing what it would be. (She knows what she wants to accomplish, but not how to get there.) So we’re hoping to embark on a truly iterative journey: get our initial strategy, early ideas and preliminary prototypes online and in front of users as quickly as possible in hopes of learning what works, letting users guide us, and receiving feedback in as close to real time as possible.
It’s not typically an ad agency approach to things — more how a software developer might develop — but with a service/platform/utility that depends on users using it the process makes a lot of sense.
A few minutes ago I read a short interview with Ricky Gervais in the April issue of the Harvard Business Review (of all places). One question probed at Gervais’s reputation for complete and total control — the dream of many creative people (presumably those who deserve it, though more often than not they don’t) but one that rarely comes true in a collaborative business such as advertising or entertainment for that matter.
Gervais: “I am a complete fascist and you should be in art. I don’t think I’m the best producer or director or actor in the world, but I know how I want it done. I don’t try to please anyone but myself. And if people like what I do, fantastic.”
He goes on to explain that if you want things lots of people like, chances are no one will love them. To his credit, Gervais would rather move a million people than wash over 10 million.
Collaboration versus control. So are these two approaches contradictory? Can you listen to consumers and users and still have Gervais-like authority? What do you think? Is there a right time for both? Is it the difference between interactive and advertising? Utility and message? Platform and content? How about you? Would you rather collaborate or be like Ricky?
Go ahead. You can take either approach in the comments below.
photo by Nadja von Massow