Ideas for enabling creativity in an agency.
I’m sure you have tried to do something creative, and experienced frustration when you start because either nothing happens, or it doesn’t turn out the way it was supposed to. Writers, designers, artists, coders and others who incorporate creativity in their professions often encounter this frustrating cycle. Executing upon a new idea is hard. So it is very important to create and invest in the right kind of people and culture to bring forth creativity in the company.
As a professional, you will encounter different cultures at different companies. A creative company must invest in potential or “promise” because it encourages reciprocity and as a result, people will be equally invested in the trust and vision. This is the foundation for a healthy and supportive workplace. All employers look for skills and experience, but what is equally important is the ability to listen, be empathic, disciplined and self reflect. These soft skills are often neglected during the hiring and vetting process.
As a leader, you will identify that some people need more hand-holding while others only need a nudge. Identifying what people need is an important part of building a team with a strong culture. Regular check-ins and reflection sessions are a part of this process. Telling an employee what to do and how to do it doesn’t allow them to learn anything, it only creates a culture of dependence. People learn by listening, watching and being guided towards new ideas and ways. Practicing this can be an uncomfortable process because it is open ended. Solutions are not given, they are sought; but the end result is exponentially better. As designers, we talk about Human Centred Design, and what this really is, is human centred management. The best thing a leader can is to give people the time and space to learn by themselves.
“…Practicing this can be an uncomfortable process because it is open ended. Solutions are not given, they are sought; but the end result is exponentially better.”
At 1st Main, this approach has sometimes slapped us in the face. We have had instances where people have misused this trust or taken advantage of it and as a result, the individual and the company have both been dissapointed. Building a team is difficult; balance is hard to achieve and even harder to maintain. But we, like other more mature companies, have learnt from our failures (and success) and have better control now.
Assembling capable, diverse and promising professionals is one thing. Building the conditions for them to function as a team however, is another challenge. We try to foster a sense of togetherness, transparency and communication by working in a single large room, eating together often and heading out for a drink every now and then. We aim to be honest, non-judgemental and learn from each person that joins the team and constantly re-learn and evaluate what people need and want. These things inform our culture, which in turn informs our work.
There is a shift in the way people build their careers these days. A growing digital industry means that people will come and learn for a few years (if you’re lucky) and then move on over to something else. Some people are looking for varied experiences while others are primarily focused on any kind of pay bump. This is the reality of the industry and as a company it’s best for us to embrace this vs. constantly fight it. It allows for different energies in the studio and this is often beneficial to the culture. Of course—let’s acknowledge—that the best kind of leaders are the ones that stuck around through the ups and downs to demonstrate maturity in thinking.
However, when people move to their next job they should do so with more skills, experience and confidence. Those skills can be varied and across a number of areas: design, technology, marketing, communication, management, personal growth and more, it isn’t always in your profession that you will learn. Creating an environment for learning is fulfilling for everyone, and well, happy people do better work, and there really is no arguing with that.