Share more and make better work
It’s tempting to only share things you know to be brilliant and perfect, right? But why is that… and is there a better way?
It used to be the case that all the artists and designers I admired most seemed to make work that was faultless. No mis-steps. All brilliant 100 percent of the time. I still love their work, but it’s a hard path to follow. Yes you want to be proud of what you make, but if you only share when things are perfect you risk paralysis, making the process a bit a joyless trudge.
It’s taken me years to realise I don’t work best this way. Now I share a lot and I’m pretty shameless about it. Half-baked ideas, executions that are mis-fires at best are all put out there. Why? What’s the value in doing so? For me it gives ideas oxygen, enabling them to grow quicker. This enrichment happens by simply getting a feeling for how people respond to the idea, but people also build on what you share — taking it somewhere you may never have considered had you kept it to yourself. What do you lose? Your aura of invincibility… your need to be right…
One of the best arguments for more openness is that it’s more fun. It makes you more fun to work with and I believe it brings the best out in those around you.
This is something I’ve learnt from working at Red Badger, a group of people that really understand and use lean/agile ways of working in everything they do. A big principle there is to share early and often because it keeps the work on track and it makes it better. To do so you need to put your ego on the back seat, accepting that you may not actually know best, that your client and their customers are the experts. It’s not that you become passive, you’re still there to solve their problems, but it’s a conversation and a partnership.
The big bang reveal of an idea you believe to be awesome, that you’ve crafted behind closed doors, will always be tempting as an approach because it feels like you’re fully in control and that you’re minimising the risk of failure. But I’d say what you lose in terms of control you gain in risk management because by constantly sharing you’re also constantly testing, learning, feeding back and improving. You lose the thrill of the unveiling something completely new, but you gain a process that’s more open, engaging and for me, more enjoyable.
In my personal work I explore the world through ideas, observations, drawings, prints and objects, sharing work at all stages on Instagram, using it like a public sketchbook. It’s not genuinely collaborative because it’s just me, but that openness means I can see how people react to things — and if something really resonates I can then look to explore why. In the comments you also open yourself to feedback. As with this platform it’s something that can make you feel vulnerable, but fortunately the vast proportion of comments on here and Instagram have been supportive, funny and helpful — sometimes all three at once. They can genuinely help you make things better.
Writer and artist Austin Kleon recognises the importance and value of openness in his book Show Your Work. I’d also recommend Daring Greatly by Brené Brown who makes a very compelling case for the value in making yourself vulnerable.
In the spirit of this post I’d love to hear your feedback. I’d also love to hear any thoughts you have on the benefits and drawbacks of openness in your life and the way you work.