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A Practical Utopia for Creatives

by | Aug 7, 2019 | Organizations, Pop Culture | 0 comments

I became obsessed with the NBC tv show, The Good Place, last winter. Something like … 47 people had emphatically recommended it; so, I binged it to keep my sanity while riding my bike on its trainer in the depths of last winter.

This network TV romp makes ethics, philosophy and theology raucously hilarious, while throwing in epic visual effects gags and delightful toilet humor. Oh, and did I mention that The Good Place has its own way of “bleeping” swear words? Case in Point: Holy Motherforking Shirtballs. Need I say more?

After I started watching it, another friend suggested that I listen to the podcast about the show. Each week usually two members of cast and crew discuss an episode. Conversations range from how they make such wild visual effects on a tight tv production schedule to the point of view of a particular character to painstaking costume color choices.

Regardless of the guests on the show, they almost always say why they love working on the show. They gush about how creator Mike Schur (also creator of tv series Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine) creates an environment in which “the best idea wins.” Meaning, the best — or, in this case, the funniest, idea — is the one that gets chosen regardless of whether it comes from the writers’ room, an actor, costume designer or grip. What happens because of that rule is that it is a profoundly collaborative place to work where everyone feels valued for their particular contribution to making a great show. Kinda like a practical utopia for creatives.

Listening to the podcast, I have definitely fantasized about working there … or at least visiting the set. Hmmmm … does a show about the afterlife need a chaplain? Definitely. … But, I digress.

As a student of team building and organizational psychology, my lesson from The Good Place is that a healthy, creative team must honor and respect all the ideas in the room. That doesn’t mean they all get selected, or even that all the ideas are good. That’s just not realistic. But, it does mean that everyone has the ability to spitball their ideas, regardless of how wacky or how bad it might be without fear of callous rejection.

This show about the afterlife is careful not to wade into the particularities of religioun or spirituality. But I will, because that is what I do. This “best idea” concept demonstrates so well how to honor each person as a unique creation of The Divine who has something to offer to the enterprise on which we are working.

What if all our organizations, our workplaces, our faith communities all embraced this notion? What if especially those entities that are re-imagining themselves embraced this practice? What would those teams, those organizations, those workplaces, those religious communities begin to look like?

Maybe a practical utopia for creatives.


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