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Managing Creativity

How to manage the design creature ...

In my ongoing effort to regain employment, I occasionally get asked to do a design test or fill out a questionnaire. Here's a portion of one I thought I'd share. The questionnaire asked me to describe a problem and a solution in various areas of my expertise. In this case it was Designer Management.

Problem:

I'll pull this from my own experience being managed as well as my experience managing people. There's a fundamental problem when trying to manage creative people. Innovation, brilliance, the spark of a good idea doesn't always happen on demand, nor will it necessarily take the game in the direction you want it to. Give him total freedom and no direction, and you shouldn't be surprised if he gives you something you don't like. Stick him into a box where he can only produce within the parameters that you tell him, and he could fail, get frustrated and quit or be a total tool and give you exactly what you asked for, no more, no less, and be totally uninspired.  Either way, the designer's performance is in question.

Solution:

I've found that sometimes putting an under-performing designer in another situation or area of the product will turn him into a star performer. So fitting the right designer to the right role sometimes solves it. But this raises the question as to whether his previous situation was fair.

If you put the designer in a situation where the goals are too vague, or they change, or they conflict, then of course the designer can fail. If the goals are too restrictive then you'll dampen their creativity and you'll get uninspired work devoid of passion.  Proper goals should provide a framework within which designers can exercise their creative passion.  Innovation requires goals that leave room for interpretation and license to experiment.

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