The Death of Creative Director. The Birth of the Multi-Disciplinary Design Thinker.

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by: Idris Mootee

What do we know about creativity? We mistakenly narrowly associate creativity with film director, musician or an egotistic advertising creative director. The very idea of a creative director is so 70’s. It may be still relevant in the field of performance art as it is more about personal style, but in the world of marketing and design, it is an irrelevant role. I’ve seen many account planners who are more creative than the “creative directors” although they don’t wear that hat.

I think the advertising industry (particular the digital agencies) should stop using this title as it’s so irrelevant. Are we saying that only the creative director is responsible for creative outputs and everyone else are paper pushers? True creativity is not necessarily a product of a single mind.  Although a creative act may be stimulated by dialogues and debates (and often a good bottle of wine), the human brain usually synthesizes all facts or impressions. 

In a world when competition are moving faster than the new 3g iPhones. Creativity has typically been defined by ideas that are both novel and useful. Most research on creativity was person-centered, focusing on the personality traits of highly creative people. They are saying either you are a creative person or not. How simple. Highly creative individuals were found to have traits such as independence of judgment, autonomy and self-confidence and may be non-conformist too. Because creative ideas are often deviant most people are reluctant to express them out of fear of receiving negative evaluations from other people. If you can create an environment where judgment is encouraged and there is a high level of trust among the team, then these traits are less relevant.

Let’s talk about the two types of thinking, convergent vs. divergent thinking. Convergent thinking tends to move toward a single solution to a problem, and involves the generation of multiple ideas that are of the same general category. And for divergent thinking, it involves the generation of many ideas that are qualitatively divergent from one another. Divergent thinking is widely considered to be an important antecedent to creativity because creative solutions are defined as unique or original in nature. I don’t think this is the case. You need both to optimize any group creative output.

If you have worked in a group environment, you’ve probably experienced how it can hamper creativity (or how bad it can get). Animosities arise, adrenaline starts flowing, and before you know it, group members are thinking about territory instead of constructive creative dialogue. People zealously protect theirs especially they were given glorify titles such as Global Chief Executive Creative Directors.

First thing about productive group creativity is to reduce turf-consciousness and promote a spirit of jamming, the creativity of such a group can be unleashed. Creative group dynamics is not a popular practice but lots of techniques are available to improve group creative productivity.

The multi-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary nature of a team is a key factor and the team spirit that often develops nourishes imagination and creativity. Is size an issue? Yes, imagine a group of 30 people jamming in a room. Although the optimum size depends on many things, five or six is often a good one. I personally prefer no more than 8 but I’ve seen it worked even at 10 but suggest avoid it if you can. A few large innovation labs have succeeded at innovation in big teams (aerospace etc), but in terms of creativity per person, I’d bet history has favored the 4-5 person groups.

Although outside stimulation can promote creativity, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. Some creative people are often better left alone, immersed in problems for as long as a week at a stretch. I know many very creative people who can only work in a cave. Although interruptions are not preferred, but I find the value of creative loners are way lower than creative collaborators. The best creative minds not only create ideas but are also good at real time remixing ideas from others. That, to me, is the true creative mind.

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