Senior = not getting your hands dirty

Sometimes people give me career advice. They see so much potential, but feel my focus needs sharpening. Sharpening towards suits and boardrooms.

You do so much, that it is really unclear. You are a creative director; so focus on the consultancy and strategic development. Don’t share your drawings so much, and don’t mention that you make lessons too.

Doing too much

I am sure they meant well, but every time this happens I get a little confused. (And angry to be honest.)

It’s true. I do a lot. I am the creative director of a design agency (and have been an award-winning senior in the field for a long time) and the co-founder and chairman of a really cool foundation. I am also a strategist, designer, writer, illustrator and maker.

The combination of all this is my balance. The one feeds the other. But people don’t get that. When there is director or chairman in you job title, others thing cannot be.

  • As the creative director of the design agency, it is legit to do sales, boss around and give keynotes. But I shouldn’t do illustrations. Or assist the copywriter.
  • As the chairman of our foundation, I can do keynotes, and write complex, lengthy strategic plans. But I cannot make tinkering kits and lessons for kids.
  • As a senior, I can direct people, but I cannot make things. I cannot do actual work.

Valuable work

There is a rather scary, ugly trend hiding in this. People who talk in meetings and write reports are usually better paid and held in higher regard than the worker ants. There is this idea that ’thinking-work’ is more difficult and more important than manual labour. There may even be disdain towards the labourers. (Why are teachers so underpaid? And consultants in education so very well paid?)


And what hurts me most is the lack of appreciation for the knowledge that comes with experience. I am fully convinced the experience of a nurse is of the essence in making strategic plans for healthcare. And not as a story in a research-report, but in the actual room.

I once visited a hospital ward where all the staff were equally responsible for an optimal work flow. All inventions and innovation came from the staff that worked there. There was never any ‘expert’ involvement.

  • Are the nurses experts on innovation per se? No.
  • Are the nurses exerts on their job, yes!

And that qualifies them to be the start and heart of the innovation.

One week ill

And although I am a huge fan of making strategic master plans, I sometimes feel making a lesson that can be implemented the next day, might have a bigger impact. On the short term for sure.

 I always test my work along the one-week-ill measure. Would the world be different if I wasn’t there for a week? If the answer is yes, I am really pleased. If the answer is naaah, of maybe, or no, I need to rethink my focus.

All is everything

So yes, I do inspiring, eloquent, knowledgeable keynotes, I rock at that. And yes, I love to develop lessons for 10year olds too, I kick ass in lessons! And yes. Please call me for your high level strategic plans; I am really good at those. And I’d love to do a little illustration too.