December 15, 2006

Thoughts on Creative Teams

The early part of this week I spent in Kansas City. I went back (I lived there for 9 years) to do some freelance work for the company I used to work for. I was an editor and communications coordinator for a publishing house. I got to reconnect with friends (Thanks, Jeff), and I got to reminisce about some good times I had.

When I got to the office on Monday morning, I attended a brainstorming session in preparation for the work I would be doing. We had several of these brainstorm/evaluation session. For many, these meetings are inane and frustrating, but these creative session are probably the best part of what I used to do. I actually miss them.


Because these meetings represent creative, concerned people pushing to make the product better. We fight, push, concede, and change during these meetings. Meetings likes these help everyone in every field. Imagine what could happen to the Sunday morning service if a creative team helped develop it.

Here are some thoughts on Creative Team Meetings:

1. Trust is necessary. You have to be able to trust the other people around the table. These meetings can get heated. But people need to be able to be honest without hurting other people's feelings. The ability to do this means that each person has to trust that the other person says what they are saying because they are passionate about making the end product better.

2. Honesty is important. You can't hold something back in meetings like this. You have to be able to air all your concerns, reservations, and wacky ideas. Honesty does not, however, mean you have the right to disregard someone else's ideas because you don't like them. In fact, it means that you have to put your ego aside and realize that someone else might possibly have a better idea than you.

3. Meet regularly. These meeting require time, and they require multiple meetings. It takes time to develop an idea, and to rethink and rework things. You may have to revisit the idea several times in order to get something worthwhile.

4. Anything goes (well...almost). In the idea sessions, anything goes in terms of ideas. You are just brain-dumping to get something on paper. Over time, things must become more focused, but at the beginning just get things on paper.

5. Allow time to think about other things. Often the best ideas develop when the "team" (or more likely-one person) is on a rabbit trail. (Often that person is me!) I once heard a story about how they wrote some of the stuff on SNL. The writers would lock themselves in a white-walled room with a table, chairs, a wastbasket, paper, and pencils and pens. They would stay there till they went crazy with wacky ideas...that is when they knew they had something. Rabbit trails help people think about ideas in new ways. They also give the mind a break from concentrating so hard on one thing.

6. There must be a leader. By this I mean there must be an adult in the room. At some point something has to be accomplished, an idea must be developed, and other ideas must be rejected. The leader is the one who pushes the vision for the end product, and knows when to pull people back from the rabbit trails (but not too soon).

How do you lead your team meetings? What value do you find in them? What items would you add?

The Creative Think blog has a good post with an emphasis on personal creativity.

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