“What is good work?”

I write. I share. And wait with bated breath for validation: likes, comments, shares, re-tweets, recommendations, responses and umpteen other engagement indicators.

Why do we crave external validation? Why do we judge our work basis few performance metrics: 50 views, 10 shares, 40 likes? The metrics when positive has an anti-gravitational effect on us.

Does that mean our work is good?

I once had a conversation with my boss about not having enough opportunities to do good work. He asked me to name the favourite works my team and I had produced while at his firm. I listed a few.

He then asked, “What is good work?”

Stumped by the question, I replied, “Work that sparks conversations; work that will take someone places.”

He absorbed my response and asked me to find out what good work means to people I know in the creative industry.

For few, it’s award-worthy stuff. For others, it’s recognition and visibility. For few others, it’s the impact their work creates. For very few it’s satisfaction.

AWARD-WORTHY STUFF

If you believe award-winning work is good work, here is an example that’d change your opinion. At Cannes Creativity Festival 2016, an ad agency won the bronze lion for a mobile application they had developed to help and track refugees. Great idea! But the app never saw the light of the day.

Would you call this good work?

I don’t blame the agency or any of us for chasing awards. We run on a hamster wheel: aim for recognition–produce award-worthy stuff–step into bigger roles–make more money–grab better business opportunities.

There are people that don’t run on this to stay fit; to move forward; to do good work.

RECOGNITION AND VISIBILITY

Every role in the creative field is competitive. Each of us running on the hamster wheel works our ass off to produce work for recognition and visibility — at least in the beginning.

I’m sure you’d have watched the PPAP song — weird, entertaining, and retarded. It has got over 90 million views. There are parodies from across the world. Kazuhito Kosaka, PPAP’s creator has received humongous visibility. An impulsive creation, Kosaka probably didn’t expect widespread reception and response. Kolaveri di, another sensational video belongs to the same league.

Would you call this good work?

How a creator uses this momentum is for the world to expect and experience. Creators experience immense pressure and responsibility to exceed those expectations — to do good work.

WORK THAT CREATES POSITIVE IMPACT

In 2015, Save Aarey campaign appealed to the State Government of Maharashtra to cancel the Development Plan 2034 that threatened to clear the green cover of Aarey colony for expansion and commercial activities. The campaign backed by creative leadership resulted in the state government parking the thought for now.

Would you call this good work?

Work without an objective would suffer from existential crisis. The objective could be anything — it could be numbers or to solve a problem or to effect a change in perception, behaviour, habit, experience or to express your angst, anger, love, disgust, pride or to spread awareness, hatred, love, happiness, peace, and opinions.

How to create a compelling objective is a topic for another post.

Along with the Save Aarey campaign, there are several other works that have created a positive impact.

WORK THAT GIVES SATISFACTION

You have an objective. You got an idea. You have produced something. The work that you’ve produced — does it give you a sense of calm? I don’t mean perfection. If James Cameron watched ‘Titanic’ today, he might want to change a thousand things.

Once you have completed your work, see if you experience calm. If you do, you will know. If you do, you are content with the way your work has turned out in the given timeline. If you do, there isn’t a better tool to assess your work. If you do, external validation wouldn’t bother you.

So, what is good work?

It is work that gives you a sense of calm, work that achieves the set objective, and the work that gains recognition and visibility for creating a positive impact. Any work that does all the above is award-worthy. But not every award-worthy work enters the competition, and not every award-winning work is good work.

Now, how many times have you experienced calm?

P.S. I did not experience calm after producing this article.