Creating (In) A Team

Creating in a team can be complicated, especially if team members don’t agree to the direction of a particular element of the process. I’ve worked in a number of team situations, and in different positions within teams.

A garden friend I received as a gift from students.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about the creative team process is when members ideas are not used. Being a team member, does not mean the creative idea you come up with will be chosen, however, to work well and really enjoy the process you need to be willing to constantly offer up ideas. And that is all it is – just an idea, you’re not offering your soul, so there is no reason to take it personally.

At times this can be difficult as we think if our idea is not good enough for the project, we are not good enough – but that is not the case. If you were not good enough, you probably wouldn’t be on the team in the first place. The willingness to offer ideas and then sacrifice them confidently for another shows a huge ability to concentrate on the WORK rather than the SELF. The work is why you are there, the work is what you are projecting towards, the self needs to take a step back and let the work have priority in that moment. Even if you think you’re idea is better, you need to leave it behind and keep moving.

When my ideas are not in-line with the direction of the project, but I think they’re great  I usually put them on the back-burner for another time. You never know when you’re idea might just fit or solve an issue somewhere else.

Another difficult aspect of giving an idea forward is when the idea is initially taken up, but changed to the point that it is not your idea anymore. However, this is the definition of working in a team, everyone will add, change, adapt, transform – all the things, to push your idea into a place where it will best fit the work. Remember it’s about the WORK.

Also, when you start out in creative industries, often your ideas are not even asked for. Instead you are part of a larger department that is putting others ideas into practice or reality. At this point, it’s usually best to just learn from others or even learn from others’ mistakes.

Once I presented a creative idea to my manager and then that same person presented that idea to the management team as their own. This was difficult to stomach, however, in the end, I took it as a huge nod towards my own creativity – if they didn’t think the idea was good in the first place, it never would have been used.

There is so much to discuss about creating with a team and being a team member, but I’m going to change track here and discuss team leadership. I’m not an expert, there are many out there, a lot of books and information you can get on this topic, however, I’m just going to write about what I know and the experience I’ve had.

What I know that working as a team member and being a team leader, are very different – or at least they are for me.

I learnt quickly that sometimes I just needed to let go of my creative ideas, even though I had the vision for the project. Especially when I had brought in creative-specialists and crafts people. This is difficult, because I had envisioned the project outcome in a certain way and was adamant that it should stay the way I saw it. But letting go taught me a lot. First, just because someone else’s idea is better for the project or solves a problem more easily does not mean that it is not your vision. Taking on others ideas and advice is often essential to gain the outcome you need.

In my leadership experience I started with small teams, however projects grew very quickly, (probably too quickly). I found the same problems I had at the beginning, were still there but augmented in the larger projects. Once I realized this I tried to reflect on similar things I was doing. If I did the same things – I would get the same results, I wanted different results so I needed to change up what I was doing. Sounds logical – but you have to stop and reflect to actually make a change.  

There are often other issues to consider when working in creative teams, and first off is usually the budget. I have found that when the budget is bigger the freedom is tighter. There are more constrictions and more elements and people to contend with. When the team and budget is small it is often more creative (in a way), because you have to solve problems differently.

I actually have done a lot of reading around this topic for this post, but didn’t find anything I really wanted to use. However there is a ton of advice out-there. For me is was learning on the go, both with team work and leadership work. What helped the most in my own leadership was that I’m also a creative, so I understand the process – I think it would be more challenging not being a creative having to lead a creative team. One thing about creatives, I believe, is their plasticity and adaption in the testing stages when it comes to process. So often – it gets worse before it gets better. That messy part of the process is the process. The beginning stages of a creative project can be very slow, however once this incubator stage is over, usually creative projects have a cumulative effect with everything coming together. As I’ve written before you really do need to trust the process, and trust your team’s process.

I’d love to hear how you deal with your own creative process, or leadership methods you have instilled when leading a team.

Catch you next week xx

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