Battling Indifference within Service Work

A few years ago, we were working on a logo design project for a cities parks and recreation department. While putting together three examples, we decided to add a fourth alternative. Unlike the first three, this fourth option was dated and clearly inferior. It was an anchor to make the others look even better. Our hearts sunk when they selected and became unwavering about option four.
Polar Notion, like many creative teams, focuses on bringing ideas to life. Other people’s ideas. We have a talented team that has seen hundreds of projects. This experience allows us to track trends across the industry and dial in our intuition. Our team pours days, weeks, and months into the thoughtful execution of these projects.
From time to time, clients ignore our expertise. Whether direction shifts or minds change, our efforts are rendered unnecessary. It can be defeating and discouraging.
Eventually, this type of behavior can lead to indifference and burnout. As humans, we enjoy creating but the work should be seen, experienced, and enjoyed. Crafting something special only to live unshared is demoralizing.

Open-handed and Close-handed

Sitting in the tension of client services, I separate choices into two types. Our work yields open-handed solutions and close-handed solutions. An open-handed solutions is one in which there is ample flexibility. We may have an opinion, but can compromise without much resistance. A close-handed solution is one in which we have a strong opinion. Unlike an open-handed solution, we push harder on close-handed issues. These are choices there is a deep conviction about. They are the hills worth dying on.
A few years ago, I began practicing a three strike policy for close-handed issues. If convinced about a decision, I’ll make three attempts to plead my case. With each attempt, I become more deliberate with expressing the value and the risks of opting out. The third and final attempt comes to a head with me stating, “I can budge and we can move on. But what I hear you telling me is I need to do what I’m told. Is that correct?”
Hired for our expertise, acknowledgement here can shift us into a passive posture. If three such instances were to occur, we know it’s time to part ways.

Walking Well in the Tension

We want to be respectful, generous, and humble but we are also hired to do a job. When it’s clear our opinion is not valued, it undermines our value and wastes everyone’s time.
In the end, we’re in a constant battle against indifference. The three strike policy is a way of protecting our passion. It also provides a shared vocabulary that promotes credibility and trust with those who entrust our team with their ideas and inspiration.