Still making my way through the dConstruct podcasts.
John Gruber’s talk, the Auteur Theory of Design was an interesting counterpoint to Hannah Donovan’s wonderful Jam Session: what improvisation can teach us about design. Donovan’s arguments really appealed to me, because I’m fascinated by collaboration and the processes you can employ for productive group work, what with being an ITP alum and all that. Gruber’s argument is that ultimately all worthwhile creative endeavour is the work of one mind. No matter how many people are involved in a project, creativity only works well as a benign dictatorship.
It’s an argument that reminds me of the lionising of CEOs – the absolute identification of the success or failure of a company with one person at the top. The guy at the top (and it’s nearly always a man) is the one who makes everything else happen. He is the prime mover. The corollary is that he must be paid enormous sums of money. David Prosser wrote about the Cult of the CEO in the Independent some months back:
It’s no coincidence that it is impossible to talk to a modern chief executive for more than five minutes before he begins using words such as vision, transformation and historic. These messianic leaders often regard actually running their companies as secondary to working on the dynamic dream of the future.
Prosser talks in the article about the tendency to see people in binary terms – the good guy and the bad guy. The more important binary to my mind is that between the people that matter and the people that don’t. The men at the top who earn massive salaries, have visions, and create success (in whatever form), and the rest of the drones who carry our the orders bring the vision to reality. That’s what I hear in Gruber’s argument too – that in creative endeavours involving multiple people, one person matters and everyone else is just doing their bidding. One person has vision and everyone else buys into it.
I guess I am more interested in what is happening with the people downstairs than with the bigshot thinking the thoughts and giving the orders. There is creativity down there, and ingenuity, even if it is not so well remunerated or celebrated.