Oh No, Sunday Is Coming…

It was a great series that only lasted one season. Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip (Written and produced by Aaron Sorkin) was an undervalued and under appreciated glimpse behind the scenes of a weekly comedy/variety show (ala SNL). The personal lives of each of the characters were on display and spirituality was a reoccurring theme, but the real drama involved the writers and producers as they scrambled each week to build a compelling 60 minutes of content.

What_Kind_of_Day_Has_It_Been

The close of each episode coincided with the conclusion of the live taping of the weekly show and as the audience applauded, the camera would pan to a large digital clock located on the wall of the Executive Producer.  He would slowly walk over and push the reset button. The countdown would begin. In just 167 hours, another show would go live. And as the clock ticked down, the anxiety would tick up.

In the current culture of church leadership and Weekend Experiences, this scene plays out in church after church in the current culture of church leadership and weekend experiences. With the advent of more intense and complicated weekly worship experiences, it has raised the bar of creativity. Our team feels that burden each week.

Though there are many more, our Creative Team has narrowed the scope to five specific areas to combat the dreaded countdown clock and to sustain creativity for the long game…

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”

  • Preemptive Planning
    • We have learned the hard way that if we are not intentional and disciplined with our planning, the weekly demands of our worship experience will crush our creativity and implode our innovation. Curiously, planning allows for the brilliant last minute idea to actually emerge and gives space for it to be implemented. Our entire job as a Creative team is to support, prepare or land the message so people can understand and respond. This includes leaning into our communicators to have enough information in regards to direction in order to be in sync. Our largest bucket of “fails” have most often centered around a disconnect between message and creative. We have to work hard to avoid this. When we are scrambling just to pull off what we have planned (albeit poorly) there is little from for the late inspiration or what is known in our world as “the last 10%”.  Plan well and you will be shocked and amazed at the unplanned that emerges.
      Prior Planning allows for Later Innovation
  • Clear Actions and Owners
    • Too many teams have lots of conversations, but no real owners of execution and confusion as to what needs to happen and exactly in what order of priority. Because we believe language creates culture, one of the key questions in our creative language is “Who owns this?” Creative environments are very susceptible to inspired ideas that linger out in the abyss waiting for someone to grab ahold. Unfortunately, many an impacting moment have been lost merely because a team failed to identify a passionate champion. In our case, this is not just paid staff. We have integrated our team with other key individuals who bring a unique perspective, skill set, or creative “juice” to the process. Many times these individuals will own specific projects or key elements. For example, on our large opening Christmas element this year, Script, Casting, and Direction was provide by a key volunteer with expertise in this area who became the Lead. Our Video Director then was responsible to execute the shoot in cooperation with our Lead on this project.
      Every Idea Needs An Owner. 
  • Unhindered Collaboration and Conversation
    • Our Arts team believes that we are always meeting. Though we are not in the same room or following a specific agenda, the collaboration continues. Hallway conversations, group texts, doorway creativity are all part of our creative process. An idea is like Playdoh. It is something to be rolled, kneaded, twisted and flattened until the best result is obtained. Unhindered communication is the key no matter what position you may hold in our department. Be very aware of barriers to your collaboration and limitations on your conversations. Eliminate them as soon as they arise. Your team must feel completely to create and comment at will in order to consistently produce content that meets the ultimate objective. This means that we can’t wait for things to be perfect before they are shared. This is where the battle with ego largely wages war. It is important to note that the organizational leader must set the tone. If there is a sense that critique equals disloyalty, then there is no real collaboration happening. Ideas must be held loosely so that as the best one emerges, it can rise to the top from wherever it surfaces. Ultimately when there is a call that has to be made either based on time or lack of clarity, the Creative Lead must make the decision. But our hope and actually reality is that this would be a rare occurrence.
      Unhindered Collaboration breeds Originality
  • Multiple Mental Touches
    • Though every idea has an owner, every idea also has a village. The owner of an idea on the team should never operate in isolation. Feedback, proofing, wrestling, and pondering should all be part of the creative process. The more minds that are involved, the more powerful moments will be created. In a healthy creative process, feedback is not just randomly received, it is asked for and sought out. So are those invites happening in the “laboratory” of your creative team? Are you producing content merely in isolation or in a vacuum? If so, it’s time to put your work out there. Tough? Yes, but necessary. The “third way” is almost always discovered by accident. And those accidents happen as ideas are thrown around viciously and intentionally. Ed Catmull (Pixar and Disney) says, “If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources”. This principle demands that you put the right people around the table and around an idea. Simple gathering more minds does not bring breakthrough. This will only breed random, often unhelpful input. Be strategic about the strengths and personalities you gather around the table.
      More Minds around ideas produces More Breakthrough Moments.
  • 2-4-6 Planning Rhythm
    • This is better discussed in an entire blog post for sure. But suffice it to say, this is our green, yellow, read production strategy. We attack each weekend based on this priority. For example, a worship experience 2-wks out is green and the elements should be in full execution mode and locked in. However, a 6-wk out idea is on the radar, but red and probably still in a holding pattern. Because we are daily having conversations and weekly formally meeting to pour through these ideas, we know that the red weeks will become the yellow weeks (3-4 weeks out) and eventually the green weeks (1-2 weeks out). In the process, ideas will be honed, changed, or eliminated all together. This strategy allows for 6 different conversations of a single weekend experience, separated by time, to help to insure it will be fully thought through. Working week to week creatively is much like living paycheck to paycheck financially. It leaves no room for the crisis that is always just around the corner. Your team’s ability to respond to that crisis is largely dependent on the rhythm of planning that has previously been in place.
      Disciplined Process is the mechanism that allows for the Inevitable Crisis

The ability of a team to integrate these principles into their processes and repeat them consistently over a long period of time that will produce the necessary results. Creativity is unexpected connection between unrelated concepts. Finding that connection is a process that needs intentionality, time, and continuity to reach its full potential. But remember the process itself is not the goal. Working on these processes is essential, but only because it produces an actual experience where the impact and life-change happen.

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