Creating for a client

creating-for-a-client.pptThe process of creating insights for a client is helped by a creative team leader. This post offers a systems model for such insight leadership.

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Project leaders have sometimes told me they do not understand how they might support team creativity (rather than individual creativity). This has been the topic of earlier posts, under the Project Leadership category (To be found in the Categories list in the sidebar, right). In this post, I offer a descriptive model or conceptual framework with which to explore the processes of creative leadership. The abstract ideas will be easier to follow if you are actually involved in a ‘live’ project, and follow the powerpoint presentation as an additional explanatory aid.

The framework

The framework draws on the basic principle of a creative leader which I came across many years ago. My mentor was George Prince, co-founder of the Synectics organization, and author of an excellent practitioner handbook, The Practice of Creativity.

A recent web posting gives some idea of the principles of synectics. That post under-estimates the importance of a team-leader as facilitator. However, it does illustrate the kinds of micro-structures which have become adapted and borrowed over time, into other various non-proprietory systems.

Many years of work with experimentation with versions of techniques and principles for creative teamwork have led me to the view that the role of the creative team leader lies in supporting the team members through various ‘process’ interventions for enhanced positivity, extended effort, and various ways for seeking unobvious ideas of value.

The creative team leader in projects

We may apply the principles to the context of a creative team leader within a project for a client or sponsor. The dynamics have some similarity with the facilitator in the original synectics writing, but also some contextual differences.

First, the similarities. In a synectics session, the facilitative leader attends to process. The client or ‘problem-owner’ is the arbiter of insights. That is to say, the client receives the suggestions of team members, in search of any ideas which trigger insights into the client’s belief systems. The key roles:

Creative facilitator: who sets the climate for insight through ‘creativity-triggers’
Team members: who generate their ideas
Client: who seeks insights which go beyond his or her prior beliefs and assumptions.

Differences: The insights in a project (compared with a creativity session) are likely to occur when with the client, creative team leader and team members are not co-located. As a result, the ideas from team members have to be transferred and tested.

The creative leader, and the creative team

The differences between the creativity session and a project are shown in the powerpoint presentation. I hope to revise this. In its current form, the slides show how a formal leader is a restriction of insights, and a process leader in contrast balances freedom and structure.

The presentation indicates how a client will have a world-view or Platform of Understanding (POU -c), which can only be glimpsed in a project brief. During any project, the team will build up its shared Platform of Understanding (POU – t). For the client, team suggestions become opportunities for confirming or disconfirming the original (POU – c). An insight will tend to disconfirm some aspect of the earlier POU – c.

The team in its efforts to understand and help the client will seek to operate with a POU- t which they believe to be a close representation of POU – c. With or without help from a creative (process) leader team members seek insights arising from their emerging POU- t and which they believe will also be insights for the client.

If this process were to take place in a creativity session, the team would be encouraged by the process leader to listen and learn from the client, and vice-versa. My experience is that teams who engage in such sessions frequently find that the process indeed helps a client reach creative insights.

In a project team, the creative leader has to work towards the same sort of open climate. The context is now different. In practice, team leader and client (and perhaps members) have to find a way to recreate the conditions of exploring (POU -c) and (POU -t) together

One important opportunity will be the final meeting when the team and its process leader presents findings to the client, as closure on the project brief. This is where the proposed ideas or ideas have to find a client prepared to receive them.

If the POUs are well-matched, there will be more chances that the client will be open to ideas that disrupt the original POU -c and assumptions carried into the project brief. If they are not well-matched, the outcome is highly uncertain. Some clients will be able to make the required ajustments; other will not.

What do you think?

This has all been very abstract. I think it helps explain how some teams are able to spark off creative insights, and how others fail for reasons to do with failing to understand where the client is coming from’ and where he or she is likely to go.

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