Defining Success in a Creative Team

It’s ironic that when I work with clients, one of the first things we do is define success. What is your KPI? How will you know when your product is successful? How is this theme front and center when working with clients, but not internally when working within a creative team? I’ve found that this, too, is extremely important as we begin to change the way we lead. Is it personal growth? Will you look at others for comments on how you can continually change?

Leading a creative team has its obstacles. You have to know when to lead by example and when to take a step back. For those of us that have a Type A personality, you constantly want to take charge in directing and leading by making sure you’re on top of your game. This will likely lead to quick burnout and perhaps a disinterest in your current project line-up. Although the professional health of your team is important, you have to put yourself front in line in order to ensure a positive mentality and fresh perspective to each project that you take on.

When planning your upcoming weeks’ scheduling, give your team a buffer for those impromptu hiccups along the way. Working in an inclusive creative environment takes time. When leading UX/UI phases, there will be times when certain design concepts work better than others, but you have to allow the time for experimentation. Drop shadows and bold colors may be more successful in some projects when compared to others. Unlike some industries where scheduling is predictable, working in design requires the additional time to allow to try things out and see which elements work better. There’s a quote that I love that’s extremely relevant to this field:

Source: QuoteAddicts

The design industry, no matter whether you’re in product design, visual or web, requires an element of humility. My inbox gets flooded with RSS feeds from design blogs, newsletters, and platform alerts. Working in a creative team environment allows for continual learning along the way. If your work style (and personality) encompasses a “know-all” attitude, you’re likely in the wrong industry. Similarly to other fields like law and medicine, working in design requires constantly staying in tune with new products, developments, and insights. I have a core ethos of being a sponge: continually learning to become a domain expert. When working with clients in various industries, you’ll be expected to know which typefaces, colors, and wireframes are more effective than others. Just because your favorite app uses a specific format, don’t assume that it’ll work in your next product. As creative leads, your responsibility is to challenge assumptions and new ideas. Before you get down the path of passing on a design approach to the development team, test your team’s hypothesis to determine its efficiency. Your job is not always to have the right answers — it’s to ask the right, open-ended questions to stimulate conversation.

As I finish up IDEO’s Leading in Creativity course and embark on the start of a new year, I wanted to share my new perspective in leading through creativity. There was a quote from IDEO’s CEO, Tim Brown, that particularly resonated with me:

“Your role is to be eye level with someone… Your role is to stir the embers, not to start a fire.”
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