Uncovering the vast and untouchable realm of creativity is perhaps our final frontier. As the mother of all invention, creativity is rarely underestimated and its significance evident. The ability to create, to innovate, to find hidden patterns, to connect the unconnected or to perceive the world around us in new ways is what makes us human. Creativity is what sets us apart…
I reckon most of you agree with the above, however, creativity is still one of the most complicated subjects in relation to running a business. Handling, or rather guiding your creative team can be an arduous task. Therefore I would like to provide you with my personal insights that might help you to make sure your creative team is flourishing. Keep in mind, these insights apply for businesses that use creativity to achieve certain goals. It might not be well suited for creativity for the purpose of creativity itself.
Science & creativity
Science and creativity can sound like a counter intuitive combination, however, quite the opposite is true. While creativity has always been a major part in any scientific breakthrough, creativity itself is also scientifically quantifiable. Researching creativity is essential for optimizing your creative team. That being said, creativity can not be compared to physics, or any other exact science for that matter. Creativity is something fundamentally human and it is that human component that makes it impossible to find universal rules.
(y)our own research
To truly optimize your creative team, you should do the research within your own company. In this way you can find out what works best for your own team. Since creativity is probably the most unlikely aspect of a business to ever get automated or replaced by AI technology, it is definitely worth the invested time and funds to explore the possibilities.
At our own headquarters we see this research more as a necessity than an advantage. Our latest investigation on creativity was focussed on how to make the creative team thrive. We started at the basis with the 4 p’s of creativity; product, process, person and press (place). The intensive research resulted in a new model especially designed to enhance the creative team. To avoid making this article too much of a long read I will, for now, focus on person & press related aspects.
Assembling your all-star team
Before tackling anything that requires creative thinking, you are going to need a team. Let’s cover some basics first… Firstly, a team needs to consist of enough members. Secondly, each member should fit well into your company and the team itself needs to be diverse. Diversity in cultures and subjects of inspiration are essential, according to Adam Grant as stated in his book ‘Originals’. Finally, each team member should be in possession of the three creative key components by Amabile, T (1998).
Relevant knowledge and experience is an absolute must have as well as a certain passion and affinity for the sector your company is in. For example, our own creatives should have extended knowledge about events, shows and live entertainment. Furthermore it is important that they are focussed, thorough, structured and goal oriented. Other skills like designing capabilities, copywriting or musical abilities are a big plus as well.
Creative thinking skills
Other than expertise, a copious amount of creative thinking skills is what you are looking for. They must have the competence to participate in an open dialogue with clients, be skilled in applicable creativity and must be able to generate elaborate concepts with not only their own imagination, but as a collective using different brainstorm techniques as well.
The urge to create
Last, but definitely not least, they have to possess the urge to create.
Intrinsic motivation might very well be the most important character trait that you are looking for when assembling your creative team. Not only should they have the urge to create ‘something’ or the drive to innovate, they should share a passion for what they do in your company.
Guiding your creative team
Having assembled your team, it is now time to take a look at how you can guide them to their creative pinnacle. It is often thought that a creative team needs unconditional freedom to thrive in their work. But granting your team too much freedom concerning the task at hand can be a huge mistake…
A solid framework
A crucial aspect in which their freedom must be severely limited, is the assignment itself. When you receive an assignment from a client it is of the utmost importance to enter an open dialogue with said client to create a solid framework. Discuss everything of influence ranging from strategic goals and expectations to the available time and financial budget. The more detailed the borders of this framework are the more effectively your creatives can work.
An area in which their freedom over the assignment must be extended is the concept of your project. When you assign a team to a certain task it is important to grant them freedom, authority and responsibility over that area, at least until they have completed their concept. By doing so, their sense of ownership will increase. They will be aware of their added value within the project and this will increase their overall intrinsic motivation.
In other words, not my own words though, “If you want people to build a boat and sail across the sea, you shouldn’t teach them how to build a boat. You should find a way to make them yearn for the ocean.”
Creating the right atmosphere
The atmosphere in which your creative team works is evidently of great impact on the creative process itself. You can divide this atmosphere into tangible and intangible aspects that will increase the overall creativity and effectiveness of your team.
Freedom to create
Significant tangible aspects include the actual office space in which they work, the authority to be in charge of the creative process and the clear framework and schedule with which they have to comply. You will notice that when they are given the complete freedom and authority over these components they will optimize their creative process in ways you haven’t even thought of.
Besides previously discussed intangible aspects like intrinsic motivation and responsibility there is one final aspect to be added which is, perhaps, the most important yet; a safe space, the atmosphere in which creativity can thrive. This includes several things which you should definitely NOT do.
Do not shoot down ideas. For people that are less creative it can be difficult to not say anything about certain ideas which, to them, sound awful. You need to understand that to reach a good or even great idea a creative team needs to have bad ideas first.
Secondly, never, ever, interrupt the creative process halfway down the line. You have allowed your team all the authority over the means, process and concept. So, the last thing you should do is walk in on them and start micromanaging them and giving your unwanted opinions over ideas that aren’t even halfway finished. Which is probably the most effective way to kill creativity.
So, what SHOULD you do? The answer is simple; facilitate them. They will indicate what they need, when they need it and how they want things to be. Listen to them and aid them in their process. Besides facilitating them there is really not much you can do other than be patient. When you are not directly involved in the creative process, patience is the name of the game.
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