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What Creative Culture Encourages Design Excellence?

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Designers often do all-nighters together and their creative collaboration could be compared to a jazz jam session so what type of organizational culture would best support this flow of innovative ideas?

We invited creative professionals' to share their insights on the topic and from the comments received, it was clear that creative professionals respond well to many conventional management practices, such as:

- Having a team leader to whom everyone can refer and who is respected, professional, competent, informed, honest and excited about the assignment. This leader upholds the boundary conditions and guides the design process.

- A carefully selected team with diverse competencies, matching the assignment.

- Collectively determine objectives and goals, leveraging the wisdom and experience of everyone, which has the advantage of ensuring commitment rather than mere compliance.

- Delegate tasks, responsibility and accountability among team members, with each team member expected and encouraged to bring his or her unique perspective and approach to the project.

- Communication is key, so, update team members on new developments and make them aware of what is happening with other segments of the team.

- All team members participate in the important decision-making and disagreements need to be brought to the surface, made clear and discussed with follow up on the agreed upon actions.

- The team leader is the responsible facilitator and stands accountable for the project, while the team is a group of cross-functional experts that are determined to ensure the success of the team.

These recommendations address cultural, organizational, architectural and procedural aspects for how to achieve a high level of performance and seem useful across the board for all knowledge-workers and not just creative professionals. It may be time for the creative community to collectively develop management practices to address their own unique needs.

Below, is a list based upon my years of project management experience at BMW Group DesignworksUSA:

- A creative team leader provides lots of energy to the team by being realistic -- idealistic -- optimist (culture)

- A creative team needs commitment; compliance will not make for great design. Therefore, promote pro-activity even when it seems risky and costly as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (culture)

- A safe and calm environment is conducive to executing the creative process, so, set expectations and establish ownership, responsibilities and accountability (organizational architecture)

- Focus the team. There are many things one can do but few that really matter. Therefore, provide a strong Design Brief with an emphasis on Strategy (Philosophy, Structure and Innovation)

- Stay on track by clarifying and tracking deliverables, schedule and budget / resources (procedural)

- Develop the team's capabilities by providing mentoring and supporting learning (organizational architecture)

- Momentum is key for creativity, so keep the team moving by removing roadblocks and picking up the slack (procedural)

- At times, creative work can be brutal, so set an example by being present and always ready to assist (culture)

Studies of business model innovation performance suggest that including cultural considerations when executing design is essential to success and can represent a strong competitive advantage. So incorporating these practices could make a distinct difference in an organization's ability to create design excellence.