Escaping the routine for more creativity and better communication

Highly efficient digital design practice can narrow creativity

As digital designers nowadays it’s hard to imagine working outside of Sketch or Photoshop. When I start to think about a new project, I catch myself already thinking in grids, patterns and libraries. All the fancy new pre-styled templates encourage a process of getting right to the (style) point without even thinking about alternatives. While often helpful in daily business, these presets sometimes narrow your creativity to already established pattern.

So we were wondering if we would be able to escape from all preset methods, preset processes and the digital tools we’re using all the time, at least for one day.

4 times a year we take 2–3 days off for a team event an this time we wanted to escape from the daily routine but still be creative. No office, no Sketch & Photoshop, no fancy time boxed sprint methods, no yellow sticky note battles, not even internet.

We needed a place with no rules but all the possibilities

So we had to find an environment where we could start from scratch. We brainstormed a lot about where, what and how and finally found an approach that could focus us as a team and at the same time help us leaving the common work constrains.

It was Matias Becker, a great artist and a good friend I studied with, who proposed creating a „tableau vivant“.

R. B. Kitaj, The Ohio Gang, 1964 © R.B. Kitaj Estate 2012. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence

As a starting point Matias suggested classic art paintings, some more abstract than others, to be reinterpreted by our team in a spacial setting. We also needed the right location. A studio with tons of requisites and materials to be used. Since Matias also works as an artist coach with IMAL (International Munich Art Lab), we decided to use their great studio in Munich.

After a short discussion we choose a collage/painting of the artist R.B. Kitaj.

So the goal for the days was set. No more rules to follow.

No rules means lots of surprises and „happy little accidents“

As soon as the team knew about the picture and the goal, everyone first was unsecure how to start and what to do. There was a short period of time where everybody thought about how to manage a situation where there is no method, where you can do everything you want.

In the beginning this freedom was a burden.

But after a while, exploring the studio and recalibrating our mindset to the new situation, the team exploded into a burst of activism, occupying the studio and transforming it into a great hall of chaos.

There was not a fast way to re create the picture with pre-build pattern, we had to build everything from scratch. Find ways how to build things. A mistake or something that has been thrown away could inspire someone else and sometimes perfectly fit into different scenery.

For someone, who used to do concentrated work in front of a computer, doing something with your hands and finding out how to set that up in three-dimensional space, was a great experience.

Even with no rules, the team was able to communicate who’s working on what scenery, how to connect different pieces together, who has an idea on how to set up a difficult pice and even when it’s time to focus on the finalization.

A team is more the sum of its parts

Everybody was fully emerged in the situation. There was plenty of space and possibilities for each of us to participate, contribute, inspire, discuss and share. Everyone found his perfect spot in this (initially) chaotic group event. And by that everyone was able to give her very best and be part of a great outcome.

I was amazed and delighted how well our team worked together — even in such an unusual environment.

Our Takeaways

I think there are many aspects that made this happening such a great experience for our daily work. Here are our takeaways:

  • Getting out of daily routines and challenging yourself with unexpected problems makes you more flexible in finding solutions and helps you become more creative.
  • Creating something new together, especially in an environment where everybody is a beginner, creates great confidence in the own creative skills and helps focusing on the outcome instead of following hierarchies.
  • Different team members have different ways to solve problems. Such an event helps rewarding those who take creative risks and understanding different point of views through immediate examples.
  • Everyone needs an emotional safe environment where they can participate in a way that suits them, to perform best. Being able to safely articulate “silly” ideas is quite helpful to find the one that really matters.
  • Going through such an experience, makes communication between us (our remote offices and the teams who work on the client side) more relevant and personal.
  • Modern/Abstract art is great! It can surprise, enrich, inspire, communicate … no matter what job you’re in.
  • And hey, this was such an incredible fun! Humor is a very important part of the corporate culture!

You should try a tableau vivant with your team as well and let uns know if you could find it helpful for your team culture.

The great interpretation.

Many, many thanks to:

Matias Becker, who was responsible for the creative set up, preparation and inspirational vibes.

IMAL München, who do an amazing job (each year) giving so many millenials a safe and inspiring place where they can unfold their creativity.

Felix Maier, who supported with a creative and extraordinary delicious catering.

and the rest great ui/deation team, that is always happy to solve complex problems, especially Sarah.

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