Design Education: Keeping Creative Teams Creative

Imagination allows us to escape the predictable. It enables us to reply to the common wisdom that we cannot soar by saying, ‘Just watch!’ ~ Bill Bradley

pow237All for One and One for All
It’s hard to escape the intense media spotlight on AOL’s CEO, Tim Armstrong, these days after he publicly fired Patch’s Creative Director for filming a company-wide meeting. The design community obviously feels an affinity toward Abel Lenz, the employee who was singled out during Armstrong’s call with, “Abel, put that camera down right now! Abel, you’re fired. Out!”

Yes, it’s nice when the CEO knows your name, but, a public firing had to be humiliating.

When I posted a brief on about the story, one of our community members commented, “Remember watching that video where Abel got fired. How heartbreaking was that to listen to??”

Another responded on our HOW Facebook with, “This is a PR nightmare for AOL. They could offer me a million dollars a year and I wouldn’t take the job solely based on this exchange.”

Armstrong apologized later that day to the employees, not to Lenz, for the emotional firing, but creatives creativeteam2are a very tight-knit community and slow to forget. Projects can be exhausting. An in-house team is required to work with several departments and groups creating concepts that are often approved outside the creative team by boards of directors or executive committees, leaving some in-house teams unengaged and disillusioned by the entire creative process.

How is it possible to keep in-house creative teams not only motivated, but also happy and consistently producing great work without internal strife?

I’m always advocating the benefits that HOW Design Live offers in terms of online design education. Is it one of the best graphic design schools? I would put it in the category of a hands-on summer school program that offers interaction with the biggest and brightest names in design. It is simply design education at its best and all involved: — the speakers, staff, attendees — all are there to promote their craft and strengthen their industry.

Sam Harrison was the opening keynote for the InHOWse Managers’ Conference this year at HOW Design Live in San Francisco.

He followed up his talk with an article last week on that addresses proactively managing creative teams titled, Create a Nuturing Environment for Bold Ideas. Below is a excerpt:

When discussing “unsafe” ideas, I, of course, don’t mean careless or ineffective ideas; I’m referring to ideas that play it so safe that they are always average and ordinary, uninspiring and unimaginative.

And, with safe environments, I’m not describing sterile or silent ones. And I sure don’t mean insipid or uninspired workplaces. I’m talking about an environment where people feel totally safe to try something new, speak their minds and screw up from time to time.

Check out any highly creative workplace – Google, Nike, Apple or other usual suspects. You’ll no doubt see various degrees of the chaos and confusion that help fuel creativity. But you’ll also find environments where employees feel completely safe to express themselves, experiment and make mistakes.

For  you and your team to generate an ongoing stream of unsafe ideas, be sure your environment is safe for creativity to easily flow:

  • Experiment. Encourage yourself and team members to stretch beyond the ordinary and seek the extraordinary.
  • Express. Nourish an atmosphere where people are generous in sharing and in receiving ideas. Make brainstorming a judgment-free zone.
  • Stay Grounded. To have truly groundbreaking ideas, people need to work in a grounded environment.

Provide your team members with the safety necessary to express, experiment and make mistakes. But also train and inspire them to keep their extraordinary ideas squarely grounded in the heart, soul and mind of the organization and its stakeholders.

inhowsemanagersconf-500If your team meets monthly to discuss ideas, or if you’re looking for your own creative ways to build and inspire your in-house team, consider investing in HOW Design Live’s 2013 InHOWse Managers Conference Collection.

Included in this exclusive program is the Best of the InHOWse Managers Conference including Harrison’s keynote FedEx, Corn Sex, Prefrontal Cortex & Other Charms for In-House Hexes. Also included is Donna Farrugia from The Creative Group providing a peek inside The Creative Team of the Future, a program launched by AIGA and The Creative Group last year.

There are nine additional design education programs focused on in-house creative teams and challenges they can meet head on and overcome including Working with Outside Agencies, In-House Overhaul: A Case Study in Strategic Transformation and Inside In-House Project Managment – Controlled Chaos Panel. The investment of $149 is well worth the finanacial benefits of this exceptional program. Learn More.