Smart Creatives – The Team You Need To Succeed


I’m currently reading the book How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. Despite the fact that I have not read the entire book yet, I’m fascinated by the concept of “Smart Creatives” introduced by Eric and jonathan in the book and described as one of the foundational elements that makes Google who they are. The book contains a detailed description of what a smart creative is and why we (I consider myself one) are the future of the 21st Century Workforce.

I tried to find a consolidated list of characteristics of a Smart Creative but everything points back to the book but not a simple list. so I decided to take action and build one.

I will still recommend you to read the entire book. The Smart Creative is a fantastic read in the introduction section, but not the only one. If you would like to know about Smart Creatives only, you can check a sample of the book in the book’s website. With that said, I extracted and listed the Smart Creative characteristics in a list format. Keep it as a source of knowledge when you are in a hiring process for two things: To identify a smart creative when you see it and to assess your current culture if it is attractive for smart creatives.

Please note that the content I’m about to list below is the exact content of the Book Sample. No content has been updated. I’ve only separated the skills and attributes of smart creatives into a list. I’m not claiming any intellectual property of the content. Full credit is associated with Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg. Enjoy

From the introduction of How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg:

The “Smart Creative”

When we contrast the traditional knowledge worker with the engineers and other talented people who have surrounded us at Google over the past decade+, we see that our Google peers represent a quite different type of employee:

  • They are not confined to specific tasks
  • They are not limited in their access to the company’s information and computing power
  • They are not averse to taking risks, nor are they punished or held back in any way when those risky initiatives fail
  • They are not hemmed in by role definitions or organizational structures
  • In fact, they are encouraged to exercise their own ideas
  • They don’t keep quiet when they disagree with something
  • They get bored easily and shift jobs a lot
  • They are multidimensional, usually combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair
  • In other words, they are not knowledge workers, at least not in the traditional sense.

They are a new kind of animal, a type we call a “smart creative,” They are the key to achieving success in the Internet Century. The primary objective of any business today must be to increase the speed of the product development process and the quality of its output. Since the industrial revolution, operating processes have been biased toward lowering risk and avoiding mistakes. These processes, and the overall management approach from which they were derived, result in environments that stifle smart creatives. Now, though, the defining characteristic of today’s successful companies is the ability to continually deliver great products. And the only way to do that is to attract smart creatives and create an environment where they can succeed at scale.

And who, exactly, is this smart creative?

  • A smart creative has deep technical knowledge in how to use the tools of her trade, and plenty of hands‑on experience
  • In our industry, that means she is most likely a computer scientist, or at least under‑ stands the tenets and structure of the systems behind the magic you see on your screens every day. But in other industries she may be a doc‑ tor, designer, scientist, filmmaker, engineer, chef, or mathematician
  • She is an expert in doing
  • She doesn’t just design concepts, she builds prototypes
  • She is analytically smart
  • She is comfortable with data and can use it to make decisions
  • She also understands its fallacies and is wary of endless analysis
  • Let data decide, she believes, but don’t let it take over
  • She is business smart
  • She sees a direct line from technical expertise to product excellence to business success, and understands the value of all three
  • She is competitive smart
  • Her stock‑in‑trade starts with innovation, but it also includes a lot of work
  • She is driven to be great, and that doesn’t happen 9‑to‑5
  • She is user smart
  • No matter the industry, she understands her product from the user or consumer’s perspective better than almost anyone
  • We call her a “power user,” not just casual but almost obsessive in her interest
  • She is the automotive designer who spends her weekends fixing up that ’69 GTO, the architect who can’t stop redesigning her house
  • She is her own focus group, alpha tester, and guinea pig
  • A smart creative is a firehose of new ideas that are genuinely new
  • Her perspective is different from yours or ours
  • It’s even occasionally different from her own perspective, for a smart creative can play the perspective chameleon when she needs to
  • She is curious creative
  • She is always questioning, never satisfied with the status quo
  • Seeing problems to solve everywhere and thinking that she is just the person to solve them
  • She can be overbearing
  • She is risky creative
  • She is not afraid to fail, because she believes that in failure there is usually something valuable she can salvage
  • Either that, or she is just so damned confident she knows that even in the event that she does fail, she can pick herself up and get it right the next time around
  • She is self-​­directed creative
  • She doesn’t wait to be told what to do and sometimes ignores direction if she doesn’t agree with it
  • She takes action based on her own initiative, which is considerable
  • She is open creative
  • She freely collaborates, and judges ideas and analyses on their merits and not their provenance
  • If she were into needle‑point, she would sew a pillow that said, “If I give you a penny, then you’re a penny richer and I’m a penny poorer, but if I give you an idea, then you will have a new idea but I’ll have it too”
  • Then she would figure out a way to make the pillow fly around the room and shoot lasers
  • She is thorough creative
  • She is always on and can recite the details, not because she studies and memorizes, but because she knows them. They are her details
  • She is communicative creative
  • She is funny and expresses herself with flair and even charisma, either one‑to‑one or one‑to‑many
  • Not every smart creative has all of these characteristics, in fact very few of them do. But they all must possess business savvy, technical knowledge, creative energy, and a hands‑on approach to getting things done.

Those are the fundamentals

  • Perhaps the best thing about smart creatives is that they are everywhere
  • We have worked with plenty of smart creatives who boast computer science degrees from elite universities, but plenty more who don’t.
  • In fact, smart creatives can be found in every city, in every school, in every class and demographic, and in most businesses, non‑ profits, and government organizations
  • The ambitious ones of all ages who are eager (and able) to use the tools of technology to do a lot more. Their common characteristic is that they work hard and are willing to question the status quo and attack things differently.

This is why they can have such an impact. It is also why they are uniquely difficult to manage, especially under old models, because no matter how hard you try, you can’t tell people like that how to think. If you can’t tell someone how to think, then you have to learn to manage the environment where they think. And make it a place where they want to come every day.

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