Taking risks is a key element of creativity

Later this month a dozen luminaries from inside and outside the creative community will meet at the Royal College of Art to kick off a debate about creativity. Why? Because the term design and advertising have long claimed as their own, is being bandied about as the key to Britain’s future, only it’s not being used to mean “arty” as of old. It’s more to do with a mind set that allows people to push boundaries.

Creatives therefore need to take stock of what they mean by creativity and how they can integrate it more into their output and into the culture of their consultancies. That is the idea behind the session organised by Design Week and British Design and Art Direction, and chaired by RCA rector Christopher Frayling.

Some consultancies are increasingly using their brains to help clients evolve management or product strategies of which design is but a part. Global product design group Ideo, for example, is revered by US business guru Tom Peters not just for its design, but for the creative buzz in its offices. This buzz feeds through to clients, not least through the “what if?” sessions Ideo runs, mixing clients, its own people and others. But too few creatives have the confidence to involve clients in this way.

It would be wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the RCA session. But participants are likely to identify risk-taking as one of the keys to creativity. Great designs come from challenging convention and risk underpins the operations of trail-blazing clients such as Orange, Psion and Virgin.

Too many designers have lost their taste for risk. It’s partly a legacy of recession, when few had the guts to break the mould. Too many have since put their creative energy into restructuring their businesses, rather than into the quality of their work or their services to clients. But the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Consultancies are quick to blame the tyranny of the client. Yet a designer/client workshop held last week by BAA and the Royal Institute of British Architects showed there is common ground when it comes to getting the best out of a project. Delegates agreed that communication throughout a job is key to achieving optimum results for the end-user and meeting business goals. Teamwork was also seen as crucial, with creativity coming from the fusion of minds rather than being the province of any individual.

Like the RCA creativity debate, the BAA/RIBA initiative is but the start of a programme of action. We need to get more of the issues into the open in this way to dispel the myths and break down the “us and them” scenario. Then we can really move forward.

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