“Creative Authority” and Why It Shouldn’t Exist

Photo cred: Bart "Cayusa"
Photo cred: Bart "Cayusa"

Lauren Fernandez had yet another great post on her blog the other day titled, Bridging the Generation Gap: How Do We Overcome It? The post and the comments are equally worth reading and should be checked out now…stop reading, go check it out. Seriously, go.

Okay…so while commenting on her post, I began to think about the concept of what I call “creative authority.” (I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with that phrase in this context).

The “generation gap” is in essence, the failure of seasoned professionals and Millenials to cooperate efficiently in a professional setting.  I’ve discussed my thoughts about this issue before. I think a big reason for this gap is a matter of authority.  “Creative authority” or the assumption that, as a result of a difference in age (on both young and old end), one’s thoughts and ideas outweigh that of others’ is never alright and should be eradicated from all professional environments.

On the other hand, “mentorial authority”, or the authority that a good mentor would practice on their mentoree, is a great thing that can benefit both sides.

I will use my experience in my internship at Ruder Finn Interactive as an example of what you SHOULD do.  I speak a lot about my summer internship experience and how amazing the people at Ruder Finn Interactive were at being receptive and supportive of my ideas. The person I worked closest with was Yan Shikhvarger who’s a great guy and smart as hell.

Yan was always receptive to, and supportive of my ideas and even let me take on projects on my own after seeing that I was capable enough to do so. He exercized authority in areas that were needed, by providing criticisms based on his expertise and guiding me through the processes that I felt unfamiliar with.  That is the type of mentor mentality, or “authority” that every Millenial needs.  I felt that all my ideas and thoughts were given equal consideration to anyone else on the project team. Yan did not practice “creative authority” and I am forever grateful.  I would not be as confident in my endeavors as I am today if he made me feel like my ideas didn’t count as a result of my age.

Now as I said, this existence of the generational gap can be attributed to all professionals, young and old. Authority has been drilled into us millenials for as long as we can remember, from parents, teachers, coaches, and now bosses. A general mentality that because we are younger, our ideas are not worthy of full consideration is something that has been apparent our entire lives. On the other end, many millenials have convinced themselves that their ideas are better than an older professional’s ideas.  They think that older professionals are too committed to tradition and have no innovation left in them.  Both mentalities hinder cooperation and are not productive.

A big step in bridging the gap is to break this mindset.  Young professionals must acknowledge that…

  • their ideas are just as good (but not necessarily better) as any other professional’s ideas, regardless of age
  • experienced professionals are experienced professionals for a reason… their ideas are what made them who they are and should be respected

Older professionals have to

  • encourage millenials to express their thoughts and ideas
  • give those thoughts an ideas equal consideration to that of their own
  • realize that incorporating those ideas does not make them look bad, but rather emphasizes their ability to spot a good idea

Ultimately, we all have to realize that there is nothing to gain from “creative authority”and everything to gain from “mentorial authority”.

“Creative Authority” should not exist.

10 thoughts on ““Creative Authority” and Why It Shouldn’t Exist

  1. What a great post, David! I think that once our generation can get over the awe/fear mindset of “My idea just isn’t good enough” that we will find the bridge is much smaller. You’re right, creative authority should not exist, especially if a person is working toward bettering their company. Having only one person’s ideas does not make an organization better – in fact, it might hinder it to the possibilities.

    Great post!

  2. Great job, David. I think you post brings up an interesting discussion. In my opinion, we need to destroy the fear that students have. Throughout many student’s academic careers some (definitely not all) teachers instill a fear of inadequacy. I don’t know about other students, but I have been told that my work wasn’t good enough. Maybe this has translated into the professional lives of young adults. I think students have to lose the fear and become bigger risk takers while being more confident in their ideas.
    That being said, some CEOs are begging to get the our generations input. Our generation has a lot to offer and it is now impossible to overlook those students who are already using various tools to create a voice for themselves.

    A mixture of old and new has always been the path to success. Everyone has to remember that old/ classic ideas with a young/ fresh twist are the successful ones!

    1. Thanks Lauren. I think the argument that many teachers and professionals turn this issue into is that students don’t have the experience to really come up with good ideas and so they shut down those ideas. What they should be doing is apply their experience to the idea’s concept, and get the best of both worlds. A good mixture is where you’ll find the most success.

  3. Such a great post! Its great that you had a positive internship where you were encouraged to bring in your own ideas. Unfortunately, my first internship was pretty much the opposite- interns were to be seen but not heard. I tried to put in my input but stopped after I realized that no one was listening. It took me awhile to build my confidence up again to the point where I could share my ideas. Luckily, my supervisors now are very responsive and encouraging!

    I agree with Lauren, in school we do have some sort of fear put into us where we believe that our opinions aren’t good enough because we’re young. However, our youth puts us at an advantage because we can bring a fresh perspective, so we need to learn to speak up!

    1. Sheesidd, I’m glad you enjoyed the post and sorry you had a bad first internship experience. I realize how fortunate I was to participate in an internship that was welcoming and embraced my ideas. I felt as if I was part of the team and learned so much from them at the same time. Managers like Yan are few and far between.

      Building confidence to express our ideas is definitely a big step that our generation needs to take. As we’ve seen though, when those of us that have that confidence speak out, it is often looked at as over-confidence, or arrogance. Sometimes it is, but often times, it’s merely a young professional trying to gain equal consideration for their ideas. There has to be a middle ground. I just hope it’s created sooner than later.

  4. David,
    I like that you tackled a subject that surely everyone has experienced at one point or another. As a student and intern I have been fortunate to have had supportive professors and supervisors willing to listen to new ideas and even thank me(!) for coming up with them.

    I think when we do encounter “creative authority” the best approach is to do your homework and make a stronger case for why your idea trumps the alternative. Of course we must keep in mind maybe things were done a certain way for a reason. Be open to communication between the young and old “authority” and it can only expand or improve an idea.

    Great post!

  5. Lauren, that’s some very sound advice. It may not be as easy for us to express our ideas as a result of creative authority, but it is inevitably going to be an issue. Supporting your ideas with research and data will help overcome such barriers. It’s easy to turn down an idea. It’s a lot hard to turn down an idea that has been proven successful by others.

    It is very important to realize that things were done a certain way for a reason, and that’s were “mentorial authority” comes in handy.

    Thanks for reading.

  6. David, excellent thoughts. The difference in thinking between boomer and millennials is no more apparent then in the workforce today. The interesting dilemma is that their is a definite lack of a consistent intermediate presence. I’m talking of course about Generation X. This leads to a lack of commonality that is difficult for both parties to make up for. Mentoring is great, but it often isn’t used effectively or with great regularity. I wish I had as great an experience as you did David. Otherwise my outlook might be very different.

    1. Stuart, thanks for sharing your insights and you make a very good point about Gen X. It seems like Gen X is more similar to the Boomer generation and has not provided a transition into Gen Y. There’s a drastic change in mentality and culture when you look at Gen Y compared to older generations. Perhaps that is where the gap lies, where that intermediary presence should be.

      You seem to be doing well enough for yourself Stuart. Keep an optimistic outlook because as it has been said over and over again on my blog, we all have something to gain from cooperation. There are still great experiences to be had!

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