March 6, 2013
Simpsons writer says bad ideas can be good for the industry
The keys to building a successful television comedy show worldwide are not the jokes themselves, but the creative process and environment in getting to the punch line, says The Simpsons executive producer.
“The greatest reason for the show’s success is actually the least known thing about the show,” explained Joel Cohen, The Simpsons executive producer and writer, to the 2013 Canadian Construction Association (CCA) conference attendees.
“When people talk about The Simpsons they talk about our amazing illustrators, our incredibly talented cast<0x2026> but the real success of the show is the function of the environment it is created in.”
Delivery of Cohen’s presentation itself, The Business Tao of Homer: Lessons in Creativity and Innovation from The Simpsons, was a tangible example of creativity and innovation.
The Canadian-born guest speaker could not make it to La Malbaie, Que. due to a sudden emergency but thanks to the use of Skype, he was able to still deliver his presentation over the Internet at the conference.
Work environment, relatability, group work, building on ideas, diversity of group members, fighting your first instincts, a “humble filter” and context are the foundation, which have shaped Cohen and his team’s work in delivering 24 years of successful television with development of the 25th year already underway.
“One of the things we have learned about ideas and in particular bad ideas, on the show, is that there will definitely be bad ideas. People on The Simpsons refer to them as the Joel Ideas,” joked Cohen.
There are two benefits to bad ideas, he explained with joking aside.
“The way a bad idea is received or welcomed in the group is another chance to reinforce that environment of creativity. It is an opportunity. If someone says a bad idea, they are not mocked for it<0x2026> they are not meant to feel bad for it,” Cohen explained.
“The other great thing about bad ideas or any idea is that upon creating an idea, we have found, there is always the potential. There is a little something in that idea that we can build upon. Then we get ourselves to a place that none of us would as individuals.”
Frank Rizzardo, 2013 CCA conference chair, said Cohen’s message about tackling bad ideas is one the industry should take to heart, as difficult as it appears to do.
“That can be difficult for construction companies and people in our industry,” he said.
“They have to think on their feet and build on ideas that they have worked on since day one, improving their quality of work as they go through a job.”
Cohen noted that his creative team draws from varied educational backgrounds and age groups, with the writers ranging from 22 to 55 years of age.
The fact one of the writers has grown up in a world in which The Simpsons are legendary pop culture staple amazes him.
Rizzardo said there is a message in that as well for industry.
“We have to keep attracting younger clientele and employees,” he noted.
“Mix in the ideas of the semi and nearly retired with those who have a lot experience and the ones who have none. That can provide our future.”
Rizzardo added that in construction the company which is innovative “will recognize a profit at the end of the day and will produce a quality project.”
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