Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and VP of Product and Community at Adobe, closed out Friday’s CMX Summit in New York. In his talk, he shared with us his realization about connecting the often-disorganized creative world at Behance.

When he first started Behance, he created a thesis for creative careers and has worked hard to get his community to reflect this vision and build the future of the creative professional. This vision was crucial in creating a community different from everything else that exists today.

His vision is a world in which the creative professional is:

  • More independent
  • More collaborative
  • More judged and deemed successful by merit

The Three Challenges in Connecting Creative People

1. The Long Tail is Backfiring

One of the challenges that Scott’s team identified early on was that when people specialize and find their unique niches, they tend not to go out and try new things outside of their comfort zone. When communities separate themselves into silos, the camaraderie is great, but it’s rare that people build transformative things.

Real creative discovery happens when different communities come into contact with one another, and Scott wanted to make sure that Behance allowed for cross-pollination of ideas.

They realized that if Behance hosted the overlap in different creative communities, they would inspire innovation. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.

On Behance today:

  • 95% of creatives follow creatives in other fields
  • 50% of creatives publish a portfolio project in a field that isn’t their own

2. We’ve empowered the masses without discernment

One question that Scott posed to the group was, Is the crowd a good judge? Or is there an alternative to non-discerning crowd-sourcing (especially in design)? 

The team at Behance works hard to distinguish between the critical mass versus the credible mass. These are two very different entities. When it comes to our communities, we must think in much the same way. Is every voice as powerful as every other voice? Or are there some people who have worked hard to connect others, think in-depth on a subject, and their opinion should be weighed more heavily?

With this idea in mind, Behance is creating a data-driven perpetual talent audition, in which they hope to find a way to mechanize social capital and credibility within the creative community.

The final realization about this aspect of community was this: Identifying and rewarding the credible mass is the best route to a meritocracy. 

3. Attribution is a lost art

As many of us know, attribution is key when you use other people’s work to supplement your own. When you use a photo to enhance a blog post, you always link back to the photographer (you do, right?). Scott explained that if we continue to attribute works properly, designers and creative builders will no longer need to rely solely on word-of-mouth referrals to get work. Instead, discovery will be more important than these old-fashioned referrals. That’s a significant point for creative professionals and signals a turning point in their career trajectory.

Our community needs to foster attribution. We need to give credit where it is due. When we do so, we empower others to do so as well, and we create an ecosystem that values creative work.

A Vision Creates Bridges That Build Community

One of the key points that we took away from Scott’s talk was that Behance’s mission is not simply to build a social network or to inspire more creativity. Truly creative people don’t need these things. What they need are bridges to one another and to creative attribution. Just as Caleb Gardner of OFA argued, the strongest branded communities are mission-oriented. And Behance’s mission is to build a creative meritocracy that transforms the way creative professionals work. 

Scott Belsky’s talk moved me personally so much that I ran off to The Strand the next day and bought his book, Making Ideas Happen. It’s about much more than the creative process. It’s about having ideas to build something enormous and executing on them from start to finish. That just sounds like the community managers’ bible to me.

You can now watch the entire video from CMX Summit:

Carrie Melissa Jones

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