What does it mean to be a creative in a corporate environment? I was given Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace by Gordon MacKenzie during my internship at Hallmark, Inc. and while some parts seemed rebellious just for the sake of pure rebellion, there were a lot of takeaways in understanding how creativity can thrive in a somewhat rigid environment.
The "hairball" is the humdrum of corporate life with all of its rules and regulations. This type of environment, according to MacKenzie, is what depletes creatives of their natural talents. It is possible, however, “to actively engage the opportunities...without being sucked into the Hairball.... This is accomplished by Orbiting” (32)
I’ll admit that the metaphor of an organization as a “giant hairball” and creatively thriving as “orbiting” this hairball was a bit convoluted for me. However, MacKenzie does provide plenty of real-life examples as to what this looks like, which was much appreciated. What becomes clear is that MacKenzie “got away with” quite a bit and it doesn’t take much to consider whether MacKenzie’s situation is unique. After all, how many of us would be lauded for breaking our employer’s “rules” with intention? We're just trying to be creative after all, right?
MacKenzie does have a point though in remarking that “Corporate Normalcy derives from and is dedicated to past realities and past successes” (31). If companies wish to continue innovating, it would seem that “breaking the rules” will ultimately, lead toward new ideas and new thinking. For, “[o]ur creative genius” MacKenzie writes, “is the fountainhead of originality” (22).
I do think, however, that it’s a realistic outcome to consider that many artists will find themselves working at organizations that may or may not align with their own personal and artistic goals. After all, the “starving artist” look isn’t all that glamorous to many of us and in many ways, is a privilege only afforded to few. To this, MacKenzie has some advice that seems incredibly useful for all of us: “find the goals of the organization that touch your heart and release your passion to follow those goals” (53)
Create & Ideate is a space for unruly ideas, plenty of creativity, and a few writing exercises sprinkled in along the way. As a writer, I’m always seeking ways to understand my art and be inspired. I hope you find a little inspiration here, too.