Working with artists
Let’s be clear from the start: artists I worked with were unpredictable, emotional, had no stress control, requested one thing then the opposite many times in the same day (same hour?). On top of that they sound more like jerks when trying to justify their mistake.
Ha! Like managing wild horses (herding cats) you say. Good analogy. Yes, you clearly cannot ask them to follow processes, be compliant with well formatted corporate-like reports about their work progress. And don’t expect them to deliver something within budget and time because there is always a change to be made. Don’t even think of asking them to be realistic or comply with the guidelines.
That said, Artists are must. Basically, they make all the difference regarding your products, approach, and detail. The negatives previously described are the necessary counterbalance of the genius part you don’t have. Artists usually pay an expensive price for this: they are often alone even though they wish they could be surrounded. It requires extreme patience and sometimes a very clever communication channel to make sure you utilize their genius for the good of your company.
Also, they clearly cannot work like others, will probably do nothing for a week and then will spurt through something exceptional by working 3 days in a row without sleeping or eating, and sometimes without a shower.
So yes, they should not be treated as regular people. Tolerance of the way they live, think, speak and behave is a must. But that’s only the start. They might have something you don’t get at the beginning: charisma. For some unknown reason, this beats common sense, and they will be able to persuade people in a way you just won’t understand.
On occasions of course, the tension becomes so stressful you have to back off and let someone else take over. Unfortunately, you won’t be the first or the last, so just accept it. There are however ways to avoid getting burned.
1. Always be the second. The artist is the first, no matter what. If you work with him-her, you are just his extension, an additional brain that helps processing data in a different way.
2. Never take things personally. Artists are rude, unfair, have no empathy. You have to accept being treated like this. Whenever they say something, they say it without the “civilized” control module we others have.
3. Prism perception control. Artists see things their own way. There will be a big gap between what they say and what they really understand: face it, you will have to repeat it more than once, in different ways, a situation, a problem or even a simple explanation.
What is the trade-off you say? If you are able to overcome all those obstacles, you will really be proud of the work you have accomplished. In short, you are building History.