Finding the best creative talent is among the most difficult tasks any leader faces. Most of us only get it right every once in a while. There are lots of reasons why: structure, communication, timing, vibe, process. I often hear colleagues and peers lament the challenge.
Where does the best creative talent come from? How do we find it?
When I was asked to write a chapter for a new book called “Unscrolled,” I resisted. The assignment was to interpret — or intentionally misiniterpret — the Bible.
I’m happy to misinterpret most anything; I usually do. That’s what my TED talk was about.
But the Bible? Yeesh.
When the editor of the book, Roger Bennett, assigned me my portion, Exodus 35:30-35, I read it skeptically. It’s the chapter in which God instructs Moses to hire a master craftsman named Bezalel (who was just 13 years old) to design and build the Tabernacle. Big job, yo!
The more I read about Bezalel, the clearer it became: Bezalel was the world’s first creative director.
The guy wasn’t just tasked with designing and overseeing the construction of the Tabernacle. He also oversaw the interior design, all materials, even the oils and ritual objects to be used in ceremony and worship.
The brief was vague: “To make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.”
Biggest question is, why Bezalel?
Historians have struggled with that for a long time, or maybe they haven’t. I was surprised to find so little critical discourse. Especially when you consider it’s the best example we have of an artist deputized by God directly. For Christ’s sake, Bezalel’s name literally translates to “in the shadow of God.”
Today, deciding on who should lead your creative work can be a brutal, painstaking experience. It shouldn’t be, but it is. You don’t know until you dig in and get dirty whether you’ve chosen right. And by then it’s often too late. So many ways for things not to work out.
Maybe God knew that, going in. Maybe that’s why the Almighty ECD first asked Moses if he was cool with Bezalel getting the job. Moses famously replied, “Lord, if he is acceptable to Thee, surely he must be so to me!” But that wasn’t enough, God made Moses ask “the people” if his choice of Bezalel was acceptable to them.
Turns out, it was. The people rallied around their new creative director, and the Tabernacle became, well, a hit.
God imbued Bezalel with quite a bit to prepare him for the gig: “He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.” Not bad on a resume.
More than that, though, the best creative directors know they can’t be given the job by anyone, not even the boss. They have to earn it from the team. All the time. They must prove an inspired touch of the divine. And they must make everyone around them better. That’s why the greatest skill God gave Bezalel was “the ability to teach others.”
That’s exactly what Bezalel did. And in doing so, he earned the job he was given.