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Marrying Right-Brain and Left-Brain Thinking

As the regard for in-house creative has risen in recent years, so has the scrutiny. It is no longer enough to produce outstanding work that drives business goals – you need to do it in a way that shows the firm your team is smart about using the resources you’ve been given. In other words, your creative team needs to be a well-run business within a business — and you better be prepared to prove it.

Most of us got into this profession because we are decidedly right- brain dominant — which is all well and good. But if you don’t have some left-brain-dominant types on your team, you are missing out on analytical thinking that can lead to greater output, higher team and client satisfaction and a verifiable case for growth.

A few years ago, when we reorganized three regional teams into one global creative team, we hired a consultant to do an operations assessment. We knew there was a lot that we were doing well and a lot that would need to be improved.

When the consultant came back with recommendations, hiring a director of creative operations was near the top of the list. What the ops assessment helped us better understand was that many team members — creative directors, account managers, graphic designers — were spending time on tasks that were clearly operational, leaving less time for creative pursuits. While we certainly had an understanding of that before the assessment, we always felt that in a resource-constrained environment using precious headcount for a non-creative role seemed a bit extravagant.

Once we brought on a creative operations director, we consolidated duties related to systems and technology, metrics and reporting, and financial and vendor management to one person and immediately saw the benefits of good left-brain thinking.

Those benefits included best-in- class reporting that really spoke the language of our global marketing COO; a dedicated focus on operations, standardization and consistency of process across three regional locations; and increased efficiency due to specialization of roles.

Designers today can produce outstanding creative and not have to worry about managing systems upgrades. Now when our COO wants to know last month’s utilization rates, project volume and other key performance metrics, the data is readily available.

Just a few years ago, hiring a director of creative operations seemed like a luxury we couldn’t afford. Today, we can’t afford to be without one.


Carol Carter

The Head of the Global Creative Services team at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. She leads a 48-person in-house creative team, within the firm’s Global Marketing and Communications group, responsible for the development of an array of marketing materials and corporate communications including brochures, direct mail, sales support tools, event materials, promotional items and booth-ware. Carol has more than 30 years of experience in marketing and communications, of which the last 17 years have been in the financial services industry.