Applying Six Sigma to Creative – Good Idea?

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Creative services is one of the last parts of corporate America that has been relatively untouched by Six Sigma.  Many manufacturing companies apply it rigorously to their production lines, with the mathematical target of Six Sigma being to get errors as low as 3.4 per million items produced.  This is an outstanding goal if one of making pharmaceuticals (and, in fact, the pharmaceutical industry has even surpassed this very low error rate), but the general reaction of creative people is, “Developing creative output isn’t like making pills.”  This is very true.  Ogilvy attempted to apply Six Sigma to its business a few years ago – with mixed results.  Some say the lesson from their experience is that Six Sigma doesn’t work in the creative world; other say that it can work, but needs to be done in a manner that avoids negatively impacting innovation and client service.  I tend to agree somewhat with the latter point of view, concluding that the basic principles of Six Sigma can be applied to creative, but with only a fraction of the rigor that a Six Sigma Black Belt would recommend to other industries.
I haven’t coined a phrase for it, but it could be called Six Sigma Light or Six Sigma Thinking or Three Sigma (feel free to submit a reply with a better suggestion), but it means taking the underlying elements of Six Sigma and applying them – very gently – to an environment that is wary of making any sort of analogy between it and manufacturing processes or financial services back office execution.  What are these basic elements that can be applied?

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Written by Cella Consulting

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