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The Newsletter | Edition 077
Progress Report is dedicated to providing inspiration for action. In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now.

But in this special newsletter series, The State Of, we dive a little deeper into the long-term work that comes after, in the places where we’re seeing new types of progress in action. From brand strategy to design, internet trends to sustainability, music to science, beauty to travel, and more.

And this time, our illustrations from Marques Oden.


Entrepreneurial players in the business world are letting amoral creativity run amok. For the sake of our economy, we need to stop worshiping creativity as an economic cure-all and imbue our personal creativity with optimism, responsibility, and substance.


As a society, and as an industry, we worship creativity. We believe it will bring us salvation. We believe it’s an innate, immutable character trait, rather than a trained skill. And we believe that only some are touched with this otherworldly magic.

But creativity isn’t inherently virtuous. And this false premise is potentially catastrophic right now for one simple reason: recession.

The fast-approaching global recession (if we’re not already in it now) is sending seismic waves through major American institutions. And if history serves as a guide, economic downturns are a breeding ground for creativity. They are moments of an intense spike in problem solving and an intense demand for change.

But before we celebrate, many businesses choose to unleash their creativity as though creativity itself is the solution. However, creativity unchecked can lead to disastrous outcomes. This type of creativity is almost nihilistic in its aims: it seems to crow “make it bigger, first, faster, and different, consequences be damned.”

Virtuous creativity demands optimism, but optimism and positivity are different things. Positivity lacks substance, is easy to deliver, and can be just as toxic as unchecked creativity. Optimism on the other hand, takes work to access and pushes against our default cultural state of pessimism. Due to the intentionality wrapped around it, optimism gives creativity direction. It steers us away from convenience, through substance, and toward better outcomes.

No matter the product, the brand, or the category, the coming months—and maybe years—will test our ability to create solutions that glitter like intellectual candy, but contain the strategic nutrition that meaningfully meet consumers' and employees’ needs.


Demanding times require a higher bar. Discarding your next three solutions will result in one of two outcomes: (1) enough meditation to rescue and elevate an idea that was in the bin, or (2) freedom from your “business as usual” mindset. How are you pushing yourself and your teams to deliver greater substance in the thinking behind their solutions? When might you reward substance over speed? How might you infuse real impact into your sexiest ideas?

The truth can be as easy to avoid as it is unsettling to face. But when we start with the truth, the answers simply work. And that means we need to steep our work in the truth, fact check the presumptions of others, and challenge the notion of “common sense” whenever it arises. This commitment to objectivity has a ripple effect on everyone around you, imbuing the creative process with collective conviction.

There is no question: creative work can be flat-out fun. In order to keep our race for the next emotional high from overcoming the effectiveness of our ideas, though, we need to stay humble in the face of creative forces. The true act of creation—introducing something completely new, resurfacing that which has been forgotten, or ascribing new meaning to age-old ideas—is the most powerful force in the galaxy. When we’re doing so, we need to treat it with respect. Because that power in the wrong hands can be catastrophic.
Thank goodness it’s in yours.

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