Process may not be sexy, but it helps creative teams improve project success, boost creativity, and increase the value of the creative team.
HOW Design Live 2018 in Boston was a wonderful four-day whirlwind of new ideas and inspiration. From Dropbox and Target to Brian Collins and Nick Law, I loved hearing some of the biggest names in Creative and Marketing share their best practices and top tips. Some of the things I learned are easier to apply than others – for example, I’ll never set doctor appointments in the afternoon thanks to Daniel Pink’s presentation on The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. However, as a Product Manager at inMotionNow, my job is to ensure the most important and powerful insights are incorporated into new features and improvements within the inMotion product suite. To help me make sense of the whirlwind, I started to type out my top takeways from the conference and found that the sessions I enjoyed the most focused on the seemingly opposite ideas of process and creativity.
Here are my top takeaways from HOW Design Live 2018:
1. Experiment to Find What Works & Improve What Doesn’t
Justin Ahrens delivered one of my favorite sessions at the conference entitled Designer Therapy: You Are Not Alone. There were SO many good insights, but my favorite was his suggestion to always experiment. Nothing is wrong with trial and error. His advice hammered home the need stick to your processes (!!!), but also continuously look at them once a quarter to tweak as necessary. At the end of every project he suggests having a retrospective (something we love in the world of product development!) and asking your teams questions like “What did we do well?” and “What could we do better?” to help improve future processes and project outcomes. In addition, he recommends always asking your customers for feedback to make sure you’re validating internal consensus.
2. Creativity = Pressure + Play
I loved Sam Harrison’s session on Ten Things To Zap So You Can Zing! where he spoke at length about how true creativity comes from a balance of pressure and play. Anyone who has ever had that one stroke of brilliance while rushing to complete a deadline can attest to this (me included!). Deadlines and shared expectations about the projects you’re working on can help create the pressure necessary to produce truly creative work. What matters is making sure the deadlines are realistic and project progress is visible. And of course, it is important to make sure your team and culture encourages play so you’re not under pressure 100% of the time!
3. A Clear and Strong Process Lets Creativity FLOURISH
My absolute favorite session of the conference, In-House Powerhouse: How to Build and Manage an Empowered In-House Creative Team, was delivered by Stephen Gates. Stephen started his career at a traditional external agency, but soon found that building a brand and creating true solutions for an organization was more interesting than building an advertisement. Stephen argued passionately that creativity is how we solve the problem, while design is the visual expression of the solution. Creative teams should ensure they are included in the creation of the solution, which will ensure organizations value their creative teams more. It was clear that most of the designers that attended the session felt that their teams were disrespected and underfunded, so this resonated deeply. Stephen’s recommendation was to start with a strong internal process that is inclusive of stakeholders and encourages design thinking (creativity + empathy). It may not be sexy, but defining a clear and strong process – thinking through everything from the creative brief to shared calendars and design reviews – will help ensure your team starts solving true problems (not just design pre-defined solutions), increasing your overall value within the organization.
These sessions and so many others help dispel the notion that creatives can’t be process driven. Process is NOT the enemy! Sure, process may not be sexy, but it certainly helps ensure your team can improve project successes, boost creativity, and increase the value of your department within your company.
Did you also attend HOW? What were your favorite sessions and takeaways?
Brittany Pais is the Product Manager for inMotion’s online and mobile review environments. Armed with a background in digital marketing, her Project Management Professional certification, and a passion for building customer-focused products, she helps us deliver workflow management solutions for marketing and creative teams.