Gorillas in our midst – the battle for creative efficiency

Posted: March 17, 2017

Many people that visit CreativeRace for the first time enquire as to why we have a life-size statue of a gorilla in the middle of our reception. Many people don’t seem to notice it at all.

For the observant visitors, the answer is revealing; it’s symbolic. It’s a reminder.

Our gorilla mascot represents a daily struggle. Not the battle for the survival of the species (as important an issue as that is – all subspecies of gorilla remain on the endangered list), but for the challenge we face every day. The challenge to deliver creative work not just to ambitious deadlines, but as efficiently – and therefore as cost effectively – as possible.

Naturally we understand the commercial realities that all our clients face. The reason we exist is to help them maximise their marketing budgets and produce the best work possible. We thrive on it.

We face our own reality though. Creativity is inherently an inefficient process.

Young brains, according to UC Berkeley psychology professor Alison Gopnik, are “remarkably plastic and flexible… but they are less efficient”. They wander in all sorts of connectional directions, imagine all kinds of possibilities, and are drawn particularly to objects and events that are “new, unexpected or informative.” Things, in other words, that will teach them the most.

Adult brains, on the other hand, have been honed to ignore superfluous information and events, especially when given a particular goal to achieve. Gopnik references an experiment where adults, told to count the number of ball tosses in a video, don’t even notice a person in a gorilla suit who walks through the scene.

Today’s super-fast, super-connected, digital world has only served to sharpen our focus on efficiency and goal-achievement. This is by no means a bad thing, but when it comes to ideas they can surprise you. Ideas have their own ways and schedule of coming into the world. Ironically, they can arrive most efficiently when you stop focussing on efficiency (as anyone who has suffered from writers block will tell you).

If you want more information and creativity, you have to relax the laser focus on efficiency and short-term goal achievement. Easy to say, incredibly hard to do.

So, back to our friend in reception then. Our gorilla reminds us that sometimes it’s good to stop and have a look around once in a while, to notice the little things or the unusual, to be curious. For our colleagues and visitors alike, our gorilla is an early warning system. Has it become part of the furniture or unremarkable to them? Are they too focussed on efficiency at the expense of creativity? Are they willing and able to stop and look for the gorillas in the midst?

Gareth Healey, CEO