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Don’t Be a Beige Brain

An art director friend and I used to joke that people who demand the ordinary are “Beige Brains” — about as much fun as the color itself. They’re the ones who always do what’s safe, never reaching for something new and innovative. Let’s face it, more people are simply comfortable with beige than iridescent fuchsia.

Corporations are hotbeds of beige thinking, especially in times of insecurity. Sure, they aspire to compete with the smaller companies that are truly cutting-edge and they pay lip-service to “innovative thinking” and “the entrepreneurial mindset,” but in the end the lipstick is beige.

Being different is hard

Those who try to do what’s different or present something other than what has already been done a million times had better watch out. They’re likely in for a tough battle; navigating the hierarchies and balancing the politics — trying to get the necessary buy-in and holding onto some degree of ownership in case it actually goes somewhere and becomes a success.

Usually, the life is sucked out of the idea and watered down to a point that rarely has any semblance to the original proposal. Just more of the same ol’, same ol.’

Such is the nature of being a team player and incorporating everybody else’s “great” ideas. Another good evaluation is on the way, but the work has suffered. And shouldn’t it really be about the work?

In the end, it’s the company that has paid the price, but nobody notices. Everything is beige. Everyone is happy.

Robots and wallflowers need not apply

But times have changed and the old ways aren’t working anymore. Big companies know this and are desperately trying to figure it all out.

Social media is forcing companies to put on a more human face as they seek to join the “conversation,” but I can see them tweeting-by-committee as I write this. After all, a lot is at stake when the barriers start coming down.

Creative people, by their very nature, are square pegs in round holes (or rather, ROUND pegs in square holes). Let’s face it, that’s what they’re paid to do. If the work they do always feels comfortable, they probably aren’t doing a good job.

The worst kind of “Beige Brains” are the ones who are supposed to be creative, but really aren’t. They do the tried and true — copying trends rather than leading them.

Standing out from a sea of sameness

Creative people are the ones charged with pushing the envelope, seeking to do good work that stands out. And that’s what businesses need to do, today more than ever: STAND OUT and be themselves. If done correctly, success will follow.

It never feels comfortable. Good creative work rarely does. It’s risky.

Or is it riskier being lost in the crowd with everyone else?

Featured image courtesy of djwingsia via Creative Commons.

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