There’s more than one key to unlock creativity

Of all the issues affecting design, the one that touches the heart of the best consultancies is how to boost creativity. It’s not just a question of managing designers – a whole issue in itself. It’s about building an environment that allows them, and the entire team, to give their best and have a great time doing it. It’s as much about personal growth as about servicing clients.

An acknowledged method is to help people broaden their experience. Some groups organise trips to art galleries for the whole studio, others have introduced drawing classes in the evenings to develop craft skills and foster a different way of looking at things.

These ideas are great. But, like softball leagues between creative teams and the traditional annual outing, there is an element of the school trip about them – something removed from everyday life. The secret is to integrate them into the culture of the consultancy, finding an outlet in the work for the team spirit or new skills they bring.

There is no single way of doing this. Consultancies should have their own approach. But I was struck by three different examples that are worth consideration.

First is Leeds consultancy Elmwood, which managed to do itself some good while doing good for others. It ran a Thinkathon in London on Red Nose Day, generating ideas – some serious, some outrageous – for companies that had pledged cash to get their problems solved. The 24-hour brainstorm raised 6500 for Comic Relief, but it also involved members of the Elmwood team pitting their wits against a host of other folk, from academics to creatives.

Second, Stocks Austin Sice has two schemes to broaden the collective outlook. Under one it funds individuals to go and research something and present their findings to the group. An example is Frank Gehry’s stunning Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which a couple of SAS people visited at the consultancy’s expense. The other scheme allows staff to bring their own projects into the studio and run them alongside SAS work, enriching the mix.

Third is Enterprise IG, the corporate identity giant, which is trying to boost the creativity of its designers through a series of cross-consultancy projects, notably to design wine labels. It runs crits of the work, to which it is now inviting outside “assessors”.

These consultancies have found a way to boost creativity that suits their style. What are you doing? Why not share your experiences with others through the pages of the magazine? We’d love to hear from you.

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