5 Positive Steps to Increasing Creative Content Development

The Lockdown during the Covid crisis has produced an explosion of creativity not only in the UK,  but also globally. This has ranged from performers in their own homes e.g. One World Together to Grayson Perry’s Art Club and innumerable individual rainbows and children’s craft activities. Evidence, if it was ever necessary, that people want to make creative outputs, if given the chance or a major reason to do so.  However, this is a long way from people creating careers and companies from their individual creative ideas.

Developing Intellectual Property

Content development is big business in the advertising world with new websites and campaigns exploding across the digital universes.  However, this is not where the major financial gains from content development are to be made. For this we need to look at ideas which can be developed into Intellectual Properties(IP) which are then sold and/or licensed globally.  These range from the obvious blockbuster films, and novels, to fashion and fine arts. It may still surprise some that globally the Visual Arts are second only to Television. Combined the cultural and creatives industries globally gross more than telecom services and employ more people than the automotive industries of Europe, USA, and Japan combined.

The UK government defines the creative industries as “those industries which have their origin in individual creativity, skill and talent and which have a potential for wealth and job creation through the generation and exploitation of intellectual property”

However, the lack of focus on content development with respect to IP potential within the various creative industries initiatives remains a major limiting factor in the development of creatives, but also future growth, employment and productivity with in the UK.  This is especially true when over 94% of creative businesses employ less than ten people.  So what are the problems with creating IP which is valued, and exploited throughout the world?

A Culture of Inaction

As with the belief in meritocracy and the class issue, cultural attitudes to content development play a large part in framing the inaction with regard to developing creative content IP in the UK.  IN addition to the reality of a failing meritocracy, the cultural presence of such phrases, as “No-one knows anything”  and “Talent will out” have  inhibited any serious attempt to improve content development over the last forty years.

This has had an impact not only within colleges and universities but also within whole industrial sectors and has substantially contributed to the failure of UK based creatives to successfully exploit their own creative work, and to build up successful careers and companies.  There are of course exceptions from J.K. Rowling to Damien Hirst, and Aardman Animation.  The problem being these are exceptions, they are not the norm of the UK creative environment. Going forward with the existing attitudes and approaches will clearly not solve this problem.

Why Content Development is difficult?

In order to foster good IP focused creative development we need to stop confusing creativity with content creation.

Many people are creative in their work. Many politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers are very creative in the way they use language, many engineers are creative in the way they use materials, many parents are creative in the way they occupy their children.  These expressions of creativity are about solving practical problems with existing or new  tools.  Content creation is of a different order of creativity.

IP development requires inventing something new in an apparently ‘white space’, that is capable of potentially engaging a minimum of hundreds and, generally, millions of different human beings in an emotional, and intellectual, experience, which they are prepared to pay for.

A New Creative Conversation

In all areas of creative conversation people talk about coming up with ‘The Idea’, ‘The High Concept’ ‘The Hook’ ‘The Vision’ ‘ The Voice’ or its equivalent – yet audiences, readers, players, etc. engage not with an idea but a complex narrative experience, which is pitched at the level of engagement which they find acceptable. Millions of people have come up with good ‘ideas’.  The issue is how do we turn them into complete narratives/experiences, that people want to engage with.

Without proper development an idea is worth nothing – other than as a potential marketing angle. In this context finding a good or even great idea is only the start of the process, which involves many conversations.

Creating a better informed, taught, and skilled, development culture is critical to future success.

IP Content Development is the application of skills and knowledge by creative individuals to a new work, from the point of creation to the work reaching its audience/s.

This involves the development of  Collaborative Teams.

Teams not Individuals

The dominant vision of the creative person in modern society is still wedded to a concept, born of a by-gone age, of the lone artist, often jokingly referred to as ‘living in a garret’. The reality is within a digital age the majority of content is developed by teams of creatives. However, the focus on the out-of-date ‘artist’ notion means most of our resources, training and education are focused on individuals not on building teams.

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”   Ed Catmul, Pixar : Creativity Inc. : 2014

The skill of development, which includes managing talent, and ideas development, is little understood in the UK.  Providing Mentors is a common offer to companies/individuals, often involving individual one-to-one sessions over a short time frame. Seen as an important tool within corporate structures, this has limited value in a micro company environment. In addition, content development is of a different order, involving often a lengthy and time consuming engagement. This is more akin to the role of some tutors in art colleges, and editors in publishing.

We Do Not Have Time

The first statement from most creatives with respect to content development is “We do not have time for our own development”. Trapped in a commissioning merry-go-round freelancers and micro companies have little or no time to undertake original content development outside their commissions. However, development takes time, and commitment.

This means there is no short term fix for a project which is failing, or a quick route to successful content development. If content development is to work we need to move from short term models, often confined by annual budgets, and commit to longer term team and ideas development.

In order to do this we need to change our IP content development culture. This involves moving away from finding the big idea, recognising the reality of IP content development and abandoning the notion that it is all a matter of genius and/or luck.

The failure to do this will mean UK Creative IP will continue to be exploited by non-UK companies, or worse never developed in the first place.

5 Positive Steps to Increasing IP Content Development

1. Provision for  a national IP content development training programme involving

  • Online courses in all practical aspects of creative development
  • FE/HE short courses for freelancers and micros on current developments in each of the creative industries
  • Marketing existing online resources to freelancers and micro-companies

2. Creation of a digital online content development network, a combination of mentors and funding for individual and micro-company development projects.

3. Development of online accelerator Labs for creative sole traders and micro-companies.

4. Provision of tiered development funding (see 7 Positive Steps to Increasing IP Content Investment)

5. An expansion in the support for the majority in the creative industry to sell direct to customers globally. (See 7 Positive Steps to Successful Content Marketing)

Images from Pixabay


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6 Responses to 5 Positive Steps to Increasing Creative Content Development

  1. ELEANOR YULE says:

    This aspirational blog focuses on solutions not problems! What a breath fo fresh air!! Here are excellent suggestions of how to link up our creative energies and empower UK creatives. Bring it on – something the gatekeepers of public funding could learn from.

  2. A fascinating blog on the need for change not just in the creative industries but also, by implication, in the ways creative people regard themselves. Our ‘IP development culture’ is where it’s at in the UK at the moment. This blog lays it all out and makes it clear what we need to do about it. Great stuff for thoughtful people. We really need to get some of these things done…

    • Phil says:

      The next step is sharing these steps and asking people, to act. Only through our own actions will things change.

  3. Speaking as someone who has often worked as part of a creative team, I think this blog brings up some interesting issues. Whatever the field, an idea means little until it has been developed into something bigger, more complete and perhaps more saleable – and collaborative effort is often the best way to achieve this. With the creative industries providing such an important part of GDP, it would be useful if funding bodies would take note.

    • Phil says:

      Thanks for this Chris. Yes collaboration is critical on all fronts, and as the blog states we need to take this into account in our support for developing creative work.

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