Almost twenty years ago, I took the biggest job I ever had.
I was running not an account or a group, but the entire creative department of 140 or so people and guiding the direction of an agency.
I was hired, as big wigs so often are, to work some kind of impossible magic. I'd bet there's not a CCO out there who, about three weeks or a month after they were hired, didn't realize she was sold a bill of goods.
You're always told the place is xxxxxxx and you just need to make it a little more xxxxxx. Like all you have to do to this well-oiled machine is flick the "inspire" switch and prides of Cannes Lions will be surging through your reception area like it's the Serengeti and they've spotted a couple thousand zebras dragging a lame limb.
The place I hung my hat was about two pulse beats up from coma. Worse, many of the creatives accepted their cadaver-hood.
What I quickly came to realize when teams showed me work was that everyone was doing what was asked of them--they were all doing the assignment.
They weren't questioning the assignment.
And they weren't challenging themselves--and their account people--to determine if there was a job to be done that's bigger than just doing an assignment.
Here it is in just a few words and the question I always ask myself: "Am I doing the assignment or doing the job?"
In other words, are you thinking big enough? Are you challenging convention? Are you, yes, upsetting the dominant complacency--the inherent mediocrity that so many organizations are willing to accept, simply because it's simpler to accept it than fight it. Status quos endure for these very reasons. Unfortunately.
The greatest dressing down I ever got came from the great Chris Wall. It wasn't directed at me alone, nevertheless, I took it to heart.
Chris was disappointed in a big campaign a couple dozen creatives were involved in. We were all sitting. All 6'10" of Chris was standing--looming over us. I remember what he said those 18 years ago like it was yesterday.
"I'm not pissed that the work sucks. I'm pissed that our level of ambition has started to drop."
Damn. That hurts.