10 Tips for Managing a Creative Environment

March 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Adaptive Path Folks
Thanks Jason for the Photo

Listening to folks from “Adaptive Path” talk about interactive design.

Here are a few references to companies that are putting out creative content that were studied to come up with 10 tips to managing a creative environment:

  1. Neo-Futurists do a play in Chicago called “Too Much Light Will Make the Baby Go Blind”.
  2. The Kitchen
  3. Orchestras – Very creative and have a long standing method for staying together
  4. The Job Factory -Produces movies and has no hierarchical structure
  5. Steppenwolf – Gary Sinise has a theater troop that work together in the theater
  6. Avenue Q – Creative puppet show
  7. Webtechniques – Magazine written by professionals

Here are the management tips:

  1. Cross-training the entire team: Neo-Futurists look for people that can do multiple tasks and they screen for that level of talent.
  2. Rotate Creative Leadership: The Job Factory shares rolls based on who the originator of the content is.
  3. Actively Turning the Corner: Making the shift from divergence to convergence. Divergence is the creative building phase where you brainstorm and move forward. Then you turn the corner to convergence, where you move into production and development and start illuminating things that are not going to be part of the project. It is dangerous to have folks in the wrong state of mind in the wrong stage of divergence or convergence. Make it a clear shift from one stage to another.
  4. Know Your Roles: Really successful teams have folks that know what to do when they begin to shift into convergence. “Know when to shutup”. In orchestras, someone orchestrates the movement of the bows for violinists. It is there job to organize it… and others to follow.
  5. Practice, Practice, Practice: In crunch time you need to know what needs to happen will happen. Repeat a process over and over again. Teams need to practice to make sure they work together.
  6. Make Sure Everyone Knows the Mission: In avenue Q the development of the story was measured against the main character’s struggle to find his meaning in life. Google wants to organize the world’s information. Designers need to really know the mission. You need an explicit set of understood values. Most successful artists will have constraints that make you discover things new.
  7. Killing Your Darlings: Avenue Q had a way of respectfully way of killing darlings that would not cause people to have a “huge problem”. They would say we will put that on the TV show because it doesn’t fit in the program. In the kitchen the lead chef will say, you can put that on your menu when you open your own restaurant. In other words, you have good work and good ideas that don’t fit. Those have to be removed respectfully.
  8. Leadership is Service: Hell Yeah… I totally agree. This reminds me of “Good to Great”. Directors listen to every person on the project from day 1. This makes a huge difference down the line when you have to make tough decisions. Everyone needs a voice and respect. Be a facilitator and not a dictator.
  9. Generate Projects Around: Everyone is bottom up and works together and find someone that is very passionate about your project. Find out what people are actually interested in so that your team will be more engaged. If Adaptive Path takes work that team members are not interested in… the projects go badly.
  10. Remember your Audience: Be near the audience to find out what they want. Be immersed in your audience and get their feedback. The Kitchen segments the audience to two audiences, regulars and new diners. Regular diners want the same quality each time, so you have to cover that. New diners want something exciting and the chefs are fed by working toward new innovations.

Bonus tip

  1. Celebrate Failures: Talk about what went wrong and what you can do better. Have these celebrations at the end of a project and find ways to share.

Overall this was one of the best panels… the speakers seemed genuinely intelligent and not “technocrats”. The last tow panels were refreshing.

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Frank Warren of PostSecret Keynote Pimp my Non Profit with Ed Schipul and the Gang

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March 2008



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