As in-house creative leaders, we're charged with inspiring our teams to be and stay creative. This can be daunting when there are many revisions, only one client, only two fonts to choose from (y'know: Book and Italic, or if you are lucky one serif and one sans serif) and the color palette is limited to three choices. So with all of this potential monotony, how do we inspire our teams to find and maintain creativity? Through two simultaneous routes to creativity: good management and changing your routine.
Good management means clarity and trust. In this category, here's how to inspire creativity:
1. Trust is the most vital fuel of creativity. Without trust, creativity dries up. Give your employee the benefit of the doubt and ask what happened or what she needs or what she wants. Invest in trust and you will get a huge and creative return on your investment.
2. Open communication. When a designer knows where he stands, he can push the envelope and try something new. When he isn't clear how his boss views his performance, he may live in fear and that crushes creativity. Direct, compassionate feedback on how a project meets or misses strategy is a helpful route towards open communication.
3. Thank you. These two words are the most inspiring and motivating words in existence. Say them with sincerity and only when genuinely felt. It always makes the recipient feel valued and appreciated.
Now, for the change factor--this is really about getting your team out of their heads and the corporate brand and thinking differently--most of which can take your team "away from it all" even as they're sitting in their cubicles. Here are a few to start with and then you can share this with your team and task them to define some other ways (that action alone is creatively inspiring!):
1. Create a "Blog of Inspiration." Any number of sources can be inspiring to people. It's the variety that is fascinating to witness and also inspires others. The blog is a central and shared space for your team to post what inspires them today, tomorrow, whenever they feel inspired. I recommend searching for sites that thrill you; some good starting points are Kerismith.com or theydrawandcook.com.
2. Photo shoots for fun. Ask everyone to bring in 2 pictures featuring the color yellow or sneakers or whatever, and you'll be amazed and inspired by what they bring back. You can then create a story from it and use it in your newsletter. This combines photography, typography and design in a non-branded way. This is both fun and good publicity.
3. Publish a newsletter. Have each team member contribute to a weekly newsletter that's shared with your clients or the company as a whole. It is a showcase for beyond-the-brand talent, as well as a good publicity measure.
4. Books. Magazines. Paper samples. Even though we live in a digital age, don't underestimate the power of the tangible. Provide your team with a selection of tangible materials so they can decompress and power up creatively alone or in a group.
5. Create Art. Standardize a piece of creative that each team member must create and display near their cubicle. One such example is providing each team member a 6"x6" canvas to paint however they please within 30 minutes. Your clients will enjoy the outcome of this exercise as much as your team will enjoy the process.
6. Host Ted.com sessions. This is my personal favorite. These 3- to 20-minute, free podcasts that feature speakers from all over the world are invaluable in bringing you from your cube to a whole new way of looking at the world. Now that's inspiring.
Noting the limitations of being an in-house creative team is important in that we don't want to deny our reality. It's equally important to note that we are creative; this way we embrace our inherent nature and find new ways to be inspired over and over.
For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching and training, please email [email protected].
*** Join Rena and two other former creative leaders at this Spring's "Beyond the Creative: Business Operations for Creative Leaders" training. Learn more, including what last year's attendees had to say, at https://www.cellaconsulting.com/beyond_the_creative. ***
Rena DeLevie, a Cella consultant, is a people-oriented transformational leader with 23 years experience in the creative industry (Talbots, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole, UBS, Cole Haan); first as an art director for 8 years, then in Creative Operations for the past 15+ years. Her passion is to help companies and people succeed by listening, analyzing and proposing solutions for organizational structure, streamlining communication, financial accountability, increasing efficiency and reducing expenses.