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Democratizing Creativity


Democratizing Creativity


  • New faces of collaboration

    From the ubiquitous Post-it® Note to Post-it® Dry Erase Surface, Post-it® Brand offers a number of tools to bring out the very best collaborative experiences amongst your colleagues. However, we know that collaboration isn’t simply limited to tools — nor is it confined to a handful of techniques. That’s why we’ve teamed with Jeff Gothelf — a speaker and thought leader on the future of user experience and design — to offer his approach to collaboration and the benefits gained from sharing & working together.

  • In the Industrial Era model of managing a company, creativity was reserved for the executive suite. Only leaders and managers were allowed to determine what the company was going to build and how to implement it. These decisions were then pushed down to the execution teams who took this direction and carried it to the letter.

    In a known domain with established constraints, market forces and consumer behavior this was a productive and efficient way to work.

    In software there are too many unknowns. We have no idea how complex a project truly is until we begin it. We have no idea how the product will be used by our customers. In fact, we have no idea IF it will even be used at all. Dictating a fully thought out solution from the executive suite down to execution teams is most likely a recipe for failure.

    Instead, your company should strive to democratize creativity. Take advantage of the entire wealth of talent available in your organization — not just “the creative team” —  and task them with coming up with the solutions for your business’ problems. Build diverse cross-functional teams and ensure that the freedom to be creative is distributed evenly – not just to the designers. Let them try solutions. Encourage brainstorming and getting ideas out into the open. Let them fail quickly and learn. Teach them that ideas are only precious when they’re validated and expertly executed. Promote activities that allow anyone to offer up their ideas on how to fix a broken workflow or satisfy a customer need. The products these autonomous, self­organizing teams develop will be far more successful and innovative than anything you could have dictated to them.

  • Here are 3 ways to get started:

    1. Hold “design studios”— Adapted from the design charettes popular in architecture schools, these “design studios” are similar to many brainstorming techniques with one exception — participants sketch instead of using verbal communication. There are many explanations available online of how to facilitate a design studio. The thing to remember is that by opening up new ways for colleagues to contribute, you are directly tapping into a broader reserve of creativity.
    2. Provide design reviews for the entire team — Often design reviews are limited to the creators of the work and executives. Instead, open up the design review process to the entire team. This simple technique implicitly asks everyone to provide their input — including others who have not been asked before. This is empowering for those with opinions on the work. In addition, they can add their own “creativity” to the mix, ensuring that — as the work evolves — it’s taking increasingly realistic steps forward.
    3. Use retrospectives — A retrospective is a technique that comes from the Agile Engineering world. It’s a regularly scheduled meeting where the team gets together to discuss how the last iteration went. The team covers things they’d like to continue doing, things that could use improvement and things they’d like to stop doing. At first these feel a bit awkward as they run the risk of becoming blame sessions or feel too much like group therapy. Once teams get comfortable, however, retrospectives serve to extract new, creative ideas out of the entire team about how to improve not just the product but the process as well.

  • Jeff Gothelf

    Jeff Gothelf is a lean UX evangelist, spreading the gospel of great team collaboration, product innovation and evidence-based decision making. He is the co-author (with Josh Seiden) of “Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience” and the upcoming “Sense and Respond” (sensingbook.com)

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