Top tips to build a creative team

Our modus operandi at RizkMcCay is Listen, Think, Create, Deliver… which I shared with a prospective client recently. Quite rightly, she pushed me by asking how we nurtured a creative environment. I think it’s less about beanbags and endless coffee – for us it’s down to some quick rules.

1. Diversity in the team

If you want new thinking you need to mix it up a bit. Our diversity is not just a mix of age or gender – the best ideas often come from a non-expert. The cross-fertilisation of ideas across sectors and industries is an easy first base. Some of our best work is with a client we have limited experience or knowledge of to begin with, and therefore no preconceptions. But beware –­ teams can develop an identity and pride in their performance but beware the clique! Team members can get to know each other too well and can become predictable and possibly even bored. So, it is good to give teams time to jell, but don’t keep them together for too long. Mix up your teams.

2. Recognise a team effort

The ultimate solution is rarely from one individual. Even if one person appears to be the source it should be recognised that all the conversations, debates and workshops up to that point will undoubtedly be a source of inspiration or the prompter to the creative thinking. When you credit the entire team for its creative ideas, they will be motivated to collaborate better as a team, to devise and develop creative ideas and to celebrate the team success. Individual recognition is great in an appraisal but not good for team harmony.

3. Share teams’ best work

What works in one team, may not work in another. Equally, teams can learn from each other. We often use two creative teams to work separately on the same brief. When the two teams share their results the responses create even more debate, another solution or some very useful refinement! Get a fresh perspective from another team.

4. Encourage banter

The stress and pressure to find ‘the creative solution’ can be oppressive. The creative process is not linear and sometimes pressure has been shown to frustrate creativity – and individual competition can result in anxiety. On the other hand, good-humoured competition and banter between teams adds a competitive edge with minimal stress. Moreover, it can make things more fun. Fun is almost always conducive to creativity.

5. Creativity and structure deliver together

At RizkMcCay we are often asked by clients to lead a creative workshop with their teams. The leader starts with a loose structure of stages but lets the team debate and talk around each stage. It’s much easier to be creative in small stages than to tackle the whole solution. Move to the next stage when the ideas dry up or the team start repeating themselves. Spontaneity works better with a bit of preparation.

6. Solve relationship problems quickly

Team members do not have to like each other to get results, but they do have to respect each other, both personally and professionally. You do not have to like the expert that will help you with market and customers’ insights or experience. If two team members have problems with each other, the team leader needs to solve any conflict quickly. Think about stating rules that mitigate conflict.

7. Everyone is equal

Hierarchies can cause problems in teams – particularly in bureaucratic organisations. Team members can look to their superiors for approval and this tends to result in generating ideas to please superiors rather than generating ideas that are truly creative. There are two alternatives. You can either build teams of people who are at similar levels within the hierarchy, or you can establish basic team rules to encourage trust and openness. It’s ok to express whatever came into your head, no matter how silly or poorly articulated and each person, no matter their rank, need to trust that they will not be ridiculed or judged for the ideas that on first assessment appear random.  Thinking must remain free, spontaneous and free of any negativity or judgment. Rank does not equate to good ideas.

8. Get the environment right

This does not mean conference rooms with beanbags and table football – lots of paper, pens, post it notes, refreshments and the like are key to getting the job done. Even a small library of books, journals and other literature is highly useful. Access to online is crucial for references. But what is vital is no interruptions and often a change of scenery. Make it new for everyone, and accessible to all. If everyone arrives with a clear head after an easy journey the atmosphere will be more relaxed. Change the location for everyone, but make it easy for everyone.

As Einstein said: "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." At RizkMCay we start with the premise: “If you have a bad idea and wrap it up in good design it will still always be a bad idea." We can support your team with innovation and creative workshops for business strategies, product launches, marketing campaigns and conferences and events. Why not add our team to your team for a bit of diversity. Rule one tick!




Posted by: Kate Swarbrooke

Date: 17 April 2018

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