Building a creative team

Building a creative team

To be personally creative is to speed your promotion faster than any other single skill could. The bonus is that it enhances your life. The treasure of personal creativity is misunderstood. For some reason it is thought not to be adequately commercial, conjuring up pictures, as it so often does, of geeks, artists and poets. As we know, creativity has little to do with such images. From creative beginnings came Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon et al.

One creative person on his or her own is rather lost in today’s fast and VUCA world. Even great minds like Stephen Hawking found collaboration an essential part of their creativity. In business it is quite common for the boss, often at the behest of the board, to instigate the building of a creative team. Putting this in place, it is thought, will keep us up to date, start new ventures from which we can profit and ensure that we do not end up on the Kodak rack.

Building a creative team is not, however, like applying an elastoplast to a wound. It is more like planting a tropical tree in soil that has for centuries been tilled and fertilised to grow temperate climate plants. The environment will be hostile to an upstart creativity. The newcomers will certainly find it antagonistic towards them. In the natives versus creatives battle natives will win if special care is not taken to see that both can flourish side by side.

For that reason they must not be segregated as though dangerous animals but integrated to ensure that the differing cultures blend and the entrepreneurial juices of the established are aroused even as they try to resist change. Lectures about how both sides should behave will, if they have any effect at all, alienate the new hopeful collaborators. As with all newcomers the change agents must be taught to ask questions that demonstrate their respect for – and keenness to learn – the hitherto successful ways of the trade.

The creatives must share their skills and entice the natives to join in the innovation process. They will do this best by team-building. The critical difference this time is that the team must be the whole business, not just the ‘creative team’. It is simple to understand. To change the culture of an organisation – and many need their culture changing right now – you must live with the existing culture and work the long process from inside not from a remote consultant with drones, however clever and forceful they are.

When we are asked to help change the culture of a business we start with diagnosis. Too often we see examples of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater to speed the process of culture change. But the existing culture of a business has been one of its principal causes of success. As with the temperate soil plant border we need to weed meticulously and nourish those plants that enhance the business and ensure its stability.

Choosing the members of a creative team is therefore important to its success. Beware of stars. They can be helpful but they are often there to polish their own shine and this can happen at the expense of others or of the business as a whole. Seek more for creatives who can be mentors and coaches to younger innovators. Good examples of this, like Ivan Heng at Wild Rice, transform a culture by example and nudging the young into the limelight.

Nobody finds that easy. We all have to fight for recognition right through our lives these days. When you see a successful creative who is also truly humble, hang onto them. They are worth their weight in gold. Their influence is far greater than the overt leaders who flaunt their power as if they had won it by themselves.

Great creativity comes from happenings not from trappings.

Most important of all in the search for a creative team is the ability to care about what others have achieved before you. Think of the great masters of the arts, of thought and philosophy. They all revere – and learn from – those who experimented many years earlier.

A creative team is not a succession of goal scorers. It is an almost instinctive communication between the forwards and the backs. An instinct to know when they swop places.

An instinct to share the glory, always.