At a recent Leadership Conversation we focused on creativity as it pertains to collaborative projects. We based our discussion on ideas from the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull who was one of the founders and is the current President of Pixar Animation. (For those of us who didn’t read the book, we got the Coles Notes version from a short video of Ed Catmull speaking about some of what he later wrote in this book. It’s well worth the time to watch!)
Heather Ross, who facilitated this conversation, focused our conversation around the following three questions:
1. What was one thing that you took away from what Catmull said in his talk?
2. How do you encourage people to show off their failures or works-in-progress to get better? How do you get yourself to do this?
3. How do you as a leader do those “deep assessments” even when your unit is piling up successes (so that little things don’t become nightmares)? If you’re not currently in a leadership role, or even if you are, how do you do this on a personally professional level?
From our discussion we came to a half dozen key takeaways for fostering effective creativity in collaborative situations:
- Take care of yourself (“regular maintenance of self”). Creativity is like any kind of exercise—eat right, get enough sleep, know your limits, take time for yourself to keep at your best. Come to the creative team ready to roll and with the energy to do so.
- Be candid in your dealings with yourself and with others. If we don’t share our ideas openly with the groups we are working in, those ideas—that may seem crazy to our internal critics—may be exactly the spark that takes the group to the next level. If you are afraid to speak up with your ideas you are doing you and your group a great disservice. Having confidence makes a person better able to contribute.
- Do not place yourself above or below anyone else. Regardless of positional power differentials, realize that everyone has something to contribute and all ideas are worthy of respect. See yourself as equal to all other group members.
- What you view as success needs to be embedded in a larger context. Clearly define what the most desirable outcomes are for your time together and for the project. “Success” is a very slippery concept. In fact, according to one group member, the word “success” does not even exist in the Cree language!
- On the flip side, “failure” is simply failing to meet the established criteria at given time. Criteria and timing both shift making what might have been a “failure” at one time, a great leap forward at another. Find your way through “mistakes” [miss-takes] and keep going as you clarify and refine.
- Watch your language! It speaks volumes! Watch your language for judgmental and victim statements. Keep focused on the shared goal and direct all energies towards the achievement of that goal. Clear and neutral language, asking for clarification, and assuming you didn’t understand before thinking that you did are all helpful for constructively working together on creative projects.
If you are interested in other Leadership Conversation topics, more on creativity, or on effective creative teamwork, please get in touch with us at the Gwenna Moss Centre.