It is a big question and depending on who you ask, you could get a multitude of answers. Adam Cohen, Creative Director at Capstrat and a really smart guy introduced me to a documentary called Art & Copy. Over my vacation, I found it available to stream on Netflix so I pulled out the handy iPad and watched it.  Isn’t technology grand?

The documentary looks at the advertising business by interviewing some of the most influential creative folks in the industry. They discuss many of the most well known advertising campaigns from the early days right up to today.  The documentary is incredibly well done and for anyone in this business, a must watch.

What I found most interesting was the discussions in the movie about what it actually takes to produce great work.  The one theme that really jumped out at me was that it takes a lot more than getting a bunch of smart and talented people together to create truly inspiring work.  A number of these industry giants discussed how the work environment is absolutely critical to foster and incubate work that will be remembered.

David Kennedy from Weiden+Kennedy spoke about that one of his main responsibilities these days is to ensure his company has a conducive environment to create  top-notch work.  I found this amazing and refreshing.  The founder of an ad agency with offices around the world who has developed campaigns for Nike, Coke, and ESPN believes in this so strongly, he has taken on the responsibility himself to ensure his company has the right culture and environment.  How many CEO’s do you know who does that?

Jeff Goodby from Goodby, Silverstein (no relation, unfortunately) and Partners mentions people in advertising are usually insecure because their ideas are more often than not turned down or disregarded.  Think about the creative process, you come up with a whole lot of ideas during a brainstorm, some might rise to the top while other ideas are kicked to the curb.  You present those ideas to others and more get trashed.  You might do focus groups and eventually present ideas to the client.  All during this time, your ideas are being poked, prodded and killed.  I had never really thought about it that way before.

Goodby emphasizes the need to have a work environment that encourages the team to take chances and NOT be afraid to fail.  When a team has that level of comfort, they are free to think outside the box and deliver superior work.  Without that level of comfort, people will not extend themselves and put them in a position to be vulnerable.

I know none of this is earth shattering stuff, but when you live in a fast paced work environment with so many things going on,  you tend to forget the importance of things like culture, vibe and inspiration.

This documentary reminded me that I need to do a better job at creating that optimal environment for my team.  I need to spend more time inspiring people and not always concerned about getting work from Point A to Point B.  I have been thinking about specific ways that I can inspire my team, company and myself.  I am still working on that and will share when I have something of value to say.  In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you inspire and create that optimal environment.  What have you experienced that has really worked?