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Team-Building: The Care And Feeding Of Creative People
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Team-Building: The Care And Feeding Of Creative People - Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: The Care And Feeding Of Creative People

Executive Leadership Articles

Team-Building: The Care And Feeding Of Creative People

Creativity is a tricky thing. Everybody wants it, but people who don’t have it never really understand it, and people who have it feel underappreciated. Whether creativity is a gift bestowed upon a special few or a skill that can be sown and nurtured in anyone, its psychological origins are outside the scope of this article, but its value in most realms is unquestionable. In the absence of truly understanding the creative people in your organization, you can still foster an environment that enables them to be their best.

Your creative people may be in the positions where creativity is part of the job, in your marketing and art departments, but they may also be among your accountants, engineers, secretaries, custodians, administrators, and pencil-pushers. Much of what follows applies to them, so keep them in mind as you fine-tune your team.

Although your creative people will tell you they dislike structure, most of them do best with some kind of destination in mind and some kind of deadline. Beyond that, it’s best to let them work at their own pace and in their own way. The creative process differs from one person to the next, and even with the same person from one task to the next. Trust your people to meet their deadlines, ask them to update you “once in a while,” and let them be. Writing for the Morton Report, Nancy Perkins suggests that “what actually works is leaving them alone for a bit, and only doing some checking in every few hours. That said, creativity also doesn’t work with a blank slate. You have to tell them what the specific desired end result is, so that their subconscious has something to process for a particular project.” Checking up on them but not too often, and giving them structure but not too much structure might sound like a tenuous, iffy kind of thing, but doesn’t that describe most of the truly creative people you know?

Give your creative people space. This means physical space where they can stretch out and look around, and it means creative space where they can test boundaries and ideas. Those little action figures, blocks of Lego, and tiny sandboxes on their desks aren’t toys: they’re ways to keep the mind occupied with simple tasks while the rest of their brains work on creative problems. Art people like their action figures; some writers like their crossword puzzles, magnetic poetry, or loose Scrabble tiles. Whatever it is, keep in mind that a walk around the block or some time spent with modeling clay is not distraction from the work. It is the work.

Buy your creative people iMacs. Or iPads. Or PCs. Or Android tablets. Whatever the primary vehicle for their creative output, indulge them if you can and get them the hardware and software they prefer. A website dedicated to Creativity in Business advises managers to “offer them what they need to be great. Give people the space and working conditions that suit them and they’ll be far more productive than if you try to squeeze them into your system.” This can take a lot of management, since other departments might look upon this treatment with some envy, but you wouldn’t expect a professional tennis player to use a racquet of your organization’s choice if all you cared about was winning a match. Get the tennis player the racquet that works best for him or her. And hey, if that works for your creatives, maybe it will work for everyone else on the team.

Creative people color outside the lines. You admire this when they come up with a great idea that helps your firm stand out, but it drives you crazy when it comes to administrative paperwork, meetings, and other super-structured tasks. We are not suggesting you waive all structured responsibility for your creative people, but understand that asking them to complete pages of daily paperwork is like asking your non-creative people to come up with a daily sonnet. It can be done, but it’s going to take a lot longer than it might take you, and appropriate accommodations may be necessary. Don’t write them a pass on these tasks, but give them a lot of leeway, wiggle room, and time.

This is difficult for many people to understand, but while everyone likes to get paid, understand that for your creative types, it’s not the pay that motivates them. Dangling bonuses in front of them as a means of encouragement will likely have the opposite effect. For many of them, the real pay is in the freedom they have to be creative; in other words, the creativity is the reward. Give your creative people, in addition to their paychecks, some acknowledgment of their creations, and reward them after the fact with time off, or paid time to work on personal projects. Paying them with more opportunity to be creative on their terms is worth far more to them (and to you, in the long run) than a mere monetary bonus.

When you’re counting on creative people to do great work, perhaps the best advice you can take is to make it safe for them to fail. Truly inventive thinking requires enormous risk-taking, and almost any artist, writer, photographer, or musician will tell you that for every great idea he or she comes up with, there are a hundred wastebaskets full of the ideas that didn’t work. Your creatives will come up with some terrible ideas, ideas they might even think are great. If you want the best results over time, this has to be okay. If you want a bunch of middle-of-the-roaders with regular, middle-of-the-road ideas, you’re probably not reading this article. But you are reading this, so expect a few disasters while you embrace your successes.

Nancy Perkins, The Morton Report: http://www.themortonreport.com/home-away/life/do-you-know-how-to-work-with-creative-talent/
Creativity in Business: http://creativityinbusiness.net/bc/attract-keep


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Team-Building: The Care And Feeding Of Creative People - Executive Leadership Articles

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