As we step back from a hectic week at HOW, we see 4 key takeaways about the future of creativity
The theme at HOW Design Live 2019 in Chicago last week was “The Future of Creativity”. Many of the keynotes and breakout sessions focused on the different ways creativity and design will evolve in the future. As we step back from a hectic week at HOW, we can see 4 key takeaways about the future of creativity:
- Change is messy
- Good feedback drives growth
- Clear away the clutter
- Good Design is good business
Change is messy. As the world of design and creativity moves into the future, a lot of change will be coming our way. Change is a messy, but necessary process to keep our work as creative professionals fresh and impactful. It is by the mechanism of change that we are able to improve the world around us and be the agents of change that so many creatives strive to be. As Keynote Beth Comstock, author of “Imagine it Forward” puts it “change happens when you give yourself permission to imagine something better, and then make it happen.” She emphasized that there will always be gatekeepers that will tell you “no”, but when they tell you “no”, you should instead hear “not yet”, and keep pushing forward.
Continuing to push forward, even in the face of opposition, especially in the face of opposition, is crucial, because change is coming, and no one is bulletproof to it. As Terri Trespicio highlighted in her session, we must be constantly innovating to deliver fresh ideas. In order to do that, we have to be willing to lean in to change and embrace failure and risk-taking. That is why…
Good feedback drives growth. And bad feedback withers creativity on the vine. Terri pointed out that when we inhabit critical, negative environments we are physically incapable of creativity. In order to come up with our best ideas we need nurturing environments where we accentuate the positive and focus on building on top of what works, and not tearing down every idea with negativity.
Terri pulled heavily from a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review called “The Feedback Fallacy” which found that the way most people give feedback is not effective, as it is based on pointing out all the ways the recipient of that feedback is wrong, in an effort to show them the single “right” way. The reality, the study reported, is that there are an infinite number of ways to achieve excellence, and the best way to give feedback is to cultivate each person’s unique excellence with positive reinforcement. To quote Terri, as we move into the future of creativity we need to “silence the critic and cultivate the creative”.
Clear away the clutter. For so many creatives, especially those working on in-house teams, there is a cacophony of clutter that gets between them and the work they love. As Stephen Gates put in his keynote “Our problem is not coming up with ideas, its dealing with all the bullshit surrounding them”. By “bullshit” he means the drama, politics, drudge work, meetings, and client-tending that comes with creative work.
According to the 2019 In-House Creative Management Report, 48% of creatives spend a day or more on administrative tasks each week. Time spent chasing these admin tasks around the office, whether that’s trying to get enough information to get started on a project, or tracking down final approval on a proof, is time not spent creating. Stephen also emphasized that in order to clear out the clutter and be productive creatives, we need to be radically honest with ourselves and with our work.
Elizabeth Gilbert echoed this sentiment by asking us all a question that was a punch to the gut: “What are you willing to give up to have the life you are pretending you want?” The key word, of course, is “pretending”. Elizabeth Gilbert called us all to task by making it clear that we can have the creative, inspirational, productive life we want if only we are willing to put in the work.
Good design is good business. The final lesson from HOW is that both creativity and design will play crucial roles in all aspects of our lives, including business. In her breakout session “The World Needs More CDOs”, Elizabeth Kiehner talked about how important it is for businesses to embrace the creative department as strategic partners to the business. During their session, Ignite Creativity, Cassidee Owens, Creative Services Manager at the Denver Broncos and Courtney Brown, Creative Projects Manager at the Minnesota Timberwolves also showcased how their creative teams have focused on improving their collaborative relationships with their stakeholders to produce top-notch creative work that directly contributes to the business’s bottom line.
Coming away from HOW this year we can’t help but be excited for the future of creativity. It is creatives that will drive new innovations in technology and in society. As businesses continue to embrace the importance of creatives as strategic partners and as creatives of all stripes lean in and drive chance, we will see HOW design can change the world.