Taking Responsibility as a Creative

I read Michael Hyatt’s post today on how successful creatives think. One of his points was “successful creatives take responsibility.” He went on to say that the successful creative has to “accept responsibility for how [their work] is received by the market.” I’ve not written a book or created an album, but I do write code for my employer. They need something done and I code it.

I have seen internal projects falter and never get used and others have been successful. I could point fingers at different people. Some of the blame could legitimately be placed on others. But I have to realize that I have to shoulder some of the blame. I come up against users not fully knowing what they need. Other times the users are resistant to change. They are given a tool they don’t want to use but mandated by leadership to use it.

With some projects I could have been more proactive in obtaining feedback. I also don’t work very hard to cultivate change. I try my best to show the user how much time they will save with the tool I have created. To borrow from Dan & Chip Heath, I can do a better job at helping them see what the destination is and make the changes as palatable as possible. But those steps will only get me so far. If the user still won’t use the tool then what else can I do?

I wonder though. Do I have a sense of entitlement as Michael discusses later in his post? Do I expect everyone to congratulate me on a job well done and bask in my brilliance? I honestly don’t believe that but perhaps I do have the idea that if I create something, people should use it.

As I worked on this post, I came across Todd Henry’s new post about the culture of blame. One of the symptoms of a culture of blame is a lack of team accountability. With some of our projects we know where the buck stops. Others, however, have no direction or accountability. I’m not naive enough to say that blame doesn’t go on but I don’t think that is the overlying issue. I think we’ve lost our direction, at least in regards to IT. I think everyone is focused on keeping the business running that all our projects get pushed to the side.

And this is the place I find myself. I have found myself in this place before. There is a tension between working to provide change and feeling like it is time to move on. It feels as though my job has transitioned from problem-solver to insurance policy. They just want me around in case something breaks. I need to take responsibility for my work and improve where possible. But if I continue to see projects fail, because of forces outside my control, then what do I do? At what point do the creative, mental and emotional costs become too high and it is time to move on?

Let me know what you think. Am I just an entitled Gen Xer that wants to whine because people don’t love my work? Or is this a legitimate tension that creatives have to wrestle through?