what are smart creatives? Book review: How Google works

 – Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg – 

How Google Works coverHow Google works is an inside view of Google’s key practices on talent (from interview to retention), collaboration and decision making. In general, a good read with quotable anecdotes used to illustrate the key points.

For me, most of the content was not groundbreaking or eye-opening. However, the time invested in reading it paid off in a single small section, where they described “smart creatives” as the list of attributes in key talent. According to the book, smart creatives are:

  • Experts in doing. Don’t just design, but build prototypes.
  • Analytically smart and comfortable with using data to make decisions. They understand data fallacies and worry about endless analysis (“let data decide, but not take over”)
  • Business smart, can see the direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success.
  • Competitive smart, start with innovation and follow through with a lot of work.
  • Driven to be great, even if it means to go beyond 9 to 5.
  • User smart, understand the product from the consumer point of view better than anyone, and are obsessively interested in it.
  • Their own focus group, alpha tester and guinea pigs.
  • A firehose of genuinely new ideas, and perspective chameleons.
  • Curious creative, always questioning and never happy with the status quo. They see problems everywhere and believe are the right person to solve them.
  • Risky creative, not afraid to fail, as they understand that there is always something valuable to to salvaged.
  • Self directed creative, sometimes even ignoring direction.
  • Open creative, collaborating and judging ideas and analysis based on their merit and not their provenance.
  • Thorough creative, always on and able to dominate the details, as they are their details.

In summary, smart creatives are business and tech savvy individuals with great creative energy who know how to get things done with a hands on approach.

I find this list an invaluable resource to evaluate talent (and myself), and can easily see a framework for professional competitiveness emerge from it. This is heavily biased towards knowledge workers, but am certain that it can be re-crafted in the context of leadership. I assume this is somewhat attempted in the sections of the book that discuss decision making, but most certainly not accomplished in the same crisp and powerful way.

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