Why I think you should take your ball, and go home

Exposing the sad truths behind the attempt made by corporate America to vertically integrate creative services.


Jared Lukes

2/7/20242 min read

Possibly a bonehead move...

In the pursuit of efficiency and control, corporations have increasingly brought creative services in-house. This trend, under the guise of vertical integration, fundamentally misunderstands the nature of creativity itself. While agencies thrive on the new and the novel, evaluating each hire and idea with the potential to revolutionize, corporations aim for predictability, scalability, and uniformity.

The Creativity Conundrum: Template versus Innovation

Corporations' infrastructure and ethos revolve around homogeneity and predictability, making them ill-suited to truly embrace creative services. The past decade has seen a detrimental impact on the creative industry, with an over-reliance on templated, formulaic approaches that stifle genuine innovation. Creativity by its nature demands freedom, a commodity rarely found within the rigid confines of corporate walls.

Evidence Versus Creativity: The Misalignment

There's a place for data and evidence in design, especially in pragmatic product development. However, this approach cannot be the sole driver of creativity. The essence of creativity lies in unique problem-solving and differentiation in the marketplace—a stark contrast to the corporate inclination towards evidence-based, templatized solutions that dampen creative flair.

A Personal Reflection: Catalyst Studios' No-Growth Model

At my agency Catalyst Studios (circa 2006-2013), we had a no-growth model and fostered an environment where creativity (neurodivergancy) flourished, unencumbered by the pressures of scalability. This model, often criticized, underscores the fundamental differences in how creativity is nurtured and sustained within agencies versus corporations. It's a testament to the idea that sometimes, growth is not a prerequisite for success and can be a barrier to creativity.

The Creative Exodus: A Blessing in Disguise

For those repeatedly facing rejection from corporate roles, it might be a sign to embrace one's creative potential outside these restrictive environments. The current corporate culture of stifling creativity and enforcing a strategically diverse but homogenized workforce underlines the need for a shift. Take your ball and go the f*ck home, forge your own path, create jobs, establish or join an agency where innovation and originality are not just welcomed but essential.

Conclusion: Squeezing Oranges for Lemonade

I used to tell clients I was teaching Service Design, that squeezing one's oranges before buying lemonade is essential. How many times did a corporation hire my agency to solve a problem their people had already solved? MANY TIMES! All we had to do was listen. Corporations, in their quest for efficiency and control, often miss the essence of creativity, and now they expect lemonade from over-juiced in-house oranges. We creatives need to reclaim the space, redefine the industry, and ensure that creativity continues to flourish in environments that truly value it.