Imagine Michelangelo, poised on his scaffolding, pondering the sketched hands of God and Adam, when he hears observers below begin to weigh in.
“I don’t know why, but I just don’t like it,” one says. “That color doesn’t pop – maybe try more yellow,” another offers. “I think God’s hair would look better if it were red,” a third suggests.
It is said that the master artist kept his art under wraps until completion. Now ponder this: If Michelangelo had actually received feedback as shared above, would “The Creation of Adam” be the masterpiece we consider it to be today?
Any artist, designer or writer will tell you that groupthink can quash creative output. A team approach to creativity can go off the rails when there are too many voices given equal weight. Often, opinions overrule best practices. The safest option gets chosen because fresh, new ideas seem too risky.
In our connectional world, committees are often a reality. They can add value to the creative process. Collaboration can make ideas stronger, more diverse and help foster collective organizational pride. In fact, with the right approach, committees can even polish a project to perfection.
Here are some tips to make the most of committee-driven creative projects:
- Include only the necessary stakeholders. When a group is too large, it not only slows the process but can also water down the result.
- State the desired outcome and how it will be achieved from the beginning. Establish who will shepherd the group and filter all the input.
- Identify the key decision makers. Although team members may offer good ideas, not every opinion holds equal value.
- Outline the strategy behind the creative project. Lay out the problem you are trying to solve.
- Focus on where team members’ input is most valuable. Rely on them in their area of expertise. Trust that the creative pros doing the actual work are skilled experts.
- Recognize and share the pitfalls of working through a committee. Groups can tend to be critical rather than creative. They may focus on why an idea won’t work rather than why it can.
- Write a creative brief so that everyone involved is on the same page. List the assignment, desired tone, look, feel and project leads.
- Begin with a brainstorming session that allows minds to play with solutions.
- Consider having group members work autonomously. Then come back to the committee with thoughts and ideas. But remember, not every idea is worth pursuing.
- Determine the general tone and message and pass that along to the creatives. Allow those who are responsible for designing, writing or executing the work to do what they do best. Give them the space necessary to lean into their creative process.
- Communicate with team members often to keep them engaged. No matter if the project will take several weeks or months, remind them of the end goal and why they are involved.
- Trust your designer’s expertise. You may have a personal preference in regard to balance, color, space and typography. Rather than voice it, ask about the thinking that is behind their design choices.
- Be proactive in heading off negativity. Ask committee members what they like about a concept. Use questions such as, “What’s your favorite thing?” Give them time to think and respond.
- If feedback is more negative than positive, push for specifics. Ask why they think something should be changed. Try to uncover the rationale instead of dwelling on a gut feeling.
- Expect the committee leader to filter the feedback and make a final decision after the concept presentation.
Ultimately, collective creativity is a balance of individual effort and collaboration. When a group is tasked to participate in the process, enthusiasm is contagious and the organization will experience greater pride, buy-in and, most importantly, connection.
As the director of creative strategy for United Methodist Communications, Janni Snider leads a team of creative professionals who develop a variety of projects from strategy to execution.