In-House Designers Enjoy InHOWse Managers Conference

The 2013 InHOWse Managers Conference started out on a high note Saturday with keynote speaker Sam Harrison, a longtime HOW Conference favorite. Harrison set the tone for the three-day event by encouraging attendees to approach their work with courage, commitment and community. He echoed the common refrain of “to have great successes you have to be willing to make mistakes,” but took it a step further to explain that when you do make mistakes, you can’t just throw up your hands in despair—you have to be willing to rescue those mistakes. He also stressed to the managers in the audience that in order for employees to have unsafe ideas, they have to create safe environments for their teams.

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Following Harrison, Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group, shared the 5 Trends Affecting Every In-House Team. The most interesting insight Farrugia revealed was that, although the national unemployment rate is 8–9%, the rate is for creative talent is much lower—well below 5%, and below 3% for workers with digital- and web-related skills. That means that it’s really challenging to find good candidates for open positions, despite the high number of people out of work in general.

The always entertaining Stefan Mumaw, author of “Creative Bootcamp,” got the group moving and connecting by offering networking prompts and encouraging attendees to form groups of 3 and stay connected throughout and after the event. He stressed the importance of having a small network to share problems with and to keep you accountable to the ideas you’ve committed to.

Michael Lejeune from Metro Design Studio, and Scott Stovall and Annie Riker from the National Parks Conservation Association, both presented compelling case studies of how they’ve transformed their in-house teams. Attendees were inspired by the creative environments and award-winning work from both of these in-house studios.

InHOWse Managers Conference co-host and programming partner Andy Epstein, author of “The Corporate Creative,” offered some hard-hitting practical advice about working with outside agencies, something that presents both challenges and opportunities for in-house teams of all sizes. His session segued nicely into a networking happy hour with attendees of the Creative Freelancer Conference, where freelancers had a chance to show their work to in-house managers looking to hire independent contractors to supplement their corporate projects.


“There’s a real right-brain/left-brain dynamic at the conference this year,” Epstein says. “What’s really showing up, I believe, is just how critical both mindsets are to successfully managing an in-house creative team and the fact that they can be seamlessly blended in practice. It’s not just like you turn one side off or on and then the other. We can use them in tandem when we’re coming up with and sorting through options on how to address challenging situations.”

Day two kicked off with practical advice from Rena DeLevie about how to lead creatives using what she calls “compassionate management.” She asked attendees to share their own management challenges and offered tips on how to overcome them.

“Rena was awesome (and a natural)! She had me at ‘good morning,’ says Glenn John Arnowitz, a longtime HOW Conference and HOW magazine contributor and co-founder of InSource. “Her self-awareness, confidence, empathy and humor immediately pulled me in, and the strategies she shared were powerful reminders that we are all just people trying to make connections and do good work. As creative leaders we need to find the right balance and positively impact business results without losing sight of the fact that the creative soul is a fragile entity and requires special care.” Arnowitz will be speaking today about his In-House Survival Guide.

Ed Roberts, a regular contributor to HOW’s In-House Blog and HOW magazine, also commented on Delevie’s session.

“I thoroughly enjoyed Rena Delevie’s funny and insightful session How to Manage a Creative Team,” he says. “Delevie revealed three characteristics of how to become a compassionate manager and suggested that bringing your heart into the workplace will nurture and empower your team. I found the information provided in this session pertinent, rich and packed with fresh ideas! I can’t wait to share my notes from Rena Delevie’s presentation with my team.”

The day continued with sessions from Jackie Schaffer of Cella Consulting about chargeback systems and a panel discussion about project management.

“I’m having a great time catching up with colleagues who I haven’t seen in a while, and also meeting new in-house leaders who face the same challenges. The amount of problem-solving power at this conference is astounding,” says Andy Brenits, president of InSource,  a national trade organization for in-house creative leaders. “I’m feeling really inspired by Sam Harrison, Rena Delevie and Michael Lejeune. When I get back to work (both Arizona Public Service and InSource), I plan to:
– Ensure a safe environment for my team in order to have unsafe ideas. (Sam)
– Be the most fun in the building. (Michael)
– Be. Trust. Own. (Rena)”

Check back here tomorrow for more snippets from HOW Design Live, including all the juicy details from the HOW Design Live Networking Kickoff sponsored by The Creative Group, the keynote address about How to Steal Like an Artists from Austin Kleon, and the opening party sponsored by Mohawk Paper.


Want more great advice from in-house experts? Pick up HOW’s In-House Design Handbook from My Design Shop.

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