Back to Basics

How to improve creativity
Image: Craig Carper

Halfway through making the fourth Foo Fighters album, Dave Grohl unstrapped his guitar and walked out of the studio. The pressure of being the driving force behind the band had become too much, leading to the singer songwriter falling out of love with music.

So Dave decided to leave his job as frontman of one of the world’s biggest bands and step out of the limelight to play drums for the far lesser known Queens of the Stone Age. No writing. No singing. Just drumming. He worked on their entire Songs for the Dead album and subsequent global tour. But far from making him leave Foo Fighters, the experience had the opposite effect. Grohl would later say the band wouldn’t be around today if he hadn’t left and done something entirely different.

Taking a backseat may not seem a wise career move but it could be the very thing that saves it. The higher you climb, the further you go from the things that attracted you to the business in the first place. Instead of cracking briefs and dreaming up killer insights, you’re analysing Q2 forecasts and discussing data analytics. Is it any surprise many lose their love for the business?

Getting back to basics allows you to focus on the things that matter, or used to matter. I’ve had a few friends leave senior management just to go back and focus on the work. They may not earn the same bucks they once commanded but whenever we meet up, they’re always the ones wearing the biggest smiles.

I’m not saying great success and creativity can’t be experienced at the top. But you need variety. It’s hard to keep the fire in your belly alight when you’re stuck in meetings instead of briefs.

No One Knows, Queens of the Stone Age (with Dave).

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