The Cohen-Miller Report: Dream Team Scheme Deux

Characteristics of the Ideal Creative Team – Part II

by Emily Cohen

In an earlier post, I highlighted core operational and organizational factors that shape a successful team. Today’s post will continue on that idea and identify another far less obvious aspect of a team that is rarely considered as one builds a creative team – that of core character types. This isn’t about role requirements or specific job descriptions, but essentially is summarized by what inherent passions or personality traits drive an individual and the impact of that drive on the larger team.

In my meetings with many great and not-so-great teams, there are always core character types that, when combined together within one team, that make for a powerful and effective unit. In creative teams, I’ve uncovered six core types that are particularly important when you have right and left-brain personalities working together.

These include:

1. cheerleader

2. industry activist

3. tech guru

4. emotional quarterback

5. enforcer

6. political navigator

The cheerleader is the person that makes people laugh or is the great storyteller (you know who they are!). They bring energy to the team, keeping everyone creative and excited about their jobs. Many corporate creative environments are unusually quiet and lack energy and passion. Often the energy of the team is squelched by the physical environment, particularly within cubicles where, literally, there is a barrier preventing interaction, collaboration, and spontaneous discussions. However, more often the quiet team is missing that one vibrant, dynamic and engaging personality that enlivens a work environment with their presence. The cheerleader will figuratively break down these walls and unify the team, socially, creatively and culturally. As a result, morale increases exponentially. The challenge is hiring the right cheerleader, as many can be overly perky and, sometimes, inappropriate in their energy. So picking that right person with authentic positive energy and a love for life and their work, especially in a creative team, is essential.

The industry activist loves to stay current with the latest design trends and attends industry events and disseminates this knowledge and passion to the entire team. They inspire the team by bringing in outside influences, demonstrating genuine passion for design and understanding that inspiration is what will ensure that the creative work developed is both fresh and relevant. In-house teams are notorious for working in isolation both internally and externally. They often feel disenfranchised from the outside creative industry and profession. Increasingly, the boundaries separating the in-house creative team from those of design firms and agencies have become blurred, and they are slowly realizing how much they share in common. Even in companies with tightly defined brand standards, having someone understand current trends in communication strategies, design, and culture is essential. An industry activist not only inspires the team but also ensures that the work is on-trend, current, and relevant for the ever-changing cultural environment our work must live within.

Emily has consulted with design firms and in-house corporate creative departments for over twenty years. During this time, she has provided confidential, best-practice insights and advice. She helps creatie teams improve operational effectiveness and helps companies build efficient teams and processes.

Emily currently serves on the board of advisors of InSource and on the AIGA In-House task force. Emily has also served as Secretary for the AIGA/NY Board of Directors and has taught classes and conducted seminars for many leading design schools and organizations. Emily is a frequently-requested speaker on business-related issues for the creative industry. Learn more at and

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