How to guide your creative team and make them flourish

April 11, 2018 / An article by Koen Colmbijn

It has been said that creativity is the mother of all invention and I reckon most of you can acknowledge the truth in that statement. 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…

Although the significance of creativity is evident and the power of it rarely underestimated, it still is 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 insights that might help you to make sure your creative team is flourishing.

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. Especially when you move away from the creativity for the purpose of creativity itself and move towards creativity for the purpose of achieving goals.

In 2010, the creative sector was officially recognized as on of the world’s top sectors, causing a rapid increase in the amount of scientific research on creativity. This research is essential for optimizing your creative team and facilitating them into reaching their full potential. 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.

 

The research done by Loes Teunissen, our expert on creativity theory.

(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 Plugged headquarters we see this research more as a necessity than an advantage. Last year, Loes Teunissen started researching creativity for us and needless to say… it has helped us a great deal. Loes started uncovering this immense subject by starting at the beginning… The 4 p’s of creativity; product, process, person and press. Her intensive research resulted in a new model especially designed to enhance your creative team focusing mainly on the last two p’s; person and press. (as shown above).

The 4 P’s of creativity on which our researched is based.

 

Assembling your all-star team
Before tackling anything that requires creative thinking, you are going to need a team. But how do you find the perfect fit for your business? Personally, I was fortunate enough to meet Chris Kuijten about ten years ago. We have been creative counterparts ever since, adding strength to each others creative capabilities. For those less lucky than me, Loes’ model can aid you in your queste to assemble the perfect 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 key components as shown in the picture below (Amabile T. , How to kill creativity, 1998)

Expertise

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. Drawing up this framework is an essential part of the creative process. Discuss everything that can possibly have influence on the project like strategic goals, expectations, the available time and off course, the financial budget. The more detailed the borders of this framework are the more effective your creatives can work and the happier your client will eventually be with the outcome.

Every company should have creative-friendly spaces.

Responsibility

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 creativeness and effectiveness of your team.

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 within the given time frame and solid framework, they will optimize their creative process in ways you haven’t even thought of.

Safety first

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 and absolutely necessary to make sure your team flourishes; a safe space, the atmosphere in which creativity can thrive. This includes several things which you should definitely NOT do.

First of all… 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.

 

Crossing the bridge
Creatives can make an effort as well to cross the bridge that separates the creative and less creative people. For instance, it can be hard to comprehend the existing gap in imaginative abilities. Whereas they understand each other when talking about abstract ideas, for someone less creative it can be hard to follow or to see what they see. A possible solution to bridge this gap is to put more effort into visualizing your idea to make sure everyone is on the same page.

We want to create a boat,….                                 But no worries, it will look more like this!

 

Also, one of many things that can induce miscommunication is not explaining ‘the why’. Substantiate your ideas when you pitch them, give rational arguments as to why you chose certain parts of the concept to be what they are. Explain the ‘why’ thoroughly and success will be guaranteed.

 

NOTE TO READER:

In order to keep this article readable and somewhat compressed I focussed mainly on person- and press related aspects of creativity, as researched for us by Loes Theunissen. However, as we have more deep dives planned to attempt to uncover the vast and untouchable realm of creativity, I can promise you that we will keep you up to date with all of our latest breakthroughs and discoveries.