Balancing Creativity with Structure

My fifth week at my internship was an interesting one. Being July 4th, we had a very short week. However, we are also quickly approaching a major trade show, where we need to present an extensive product collection. With so many recent changes in the office, the team is definitely behind, and each day is increasingly stressful. Not only is everyone worried about how this show will turn out, but another tradeshow follows only a month behind. Through these stressful times, I am able to get a good look at the true leadership styles that have emerged.

In an office that has the word “innovation” in the title, there is a pressure to make everything perfect. Every product has to be as visually appealing as possible and the company needs to ensure that they stand out among the thousands of other companies at the trade show. My Vice President is a very particular person, who will keep making changes until she thinks necessary. I think that in a creative field, this is a great quality to have in a boss. However, with a very limited amount of time to complete things, her strive for perfection causes a lot of stress among the office.

The VP assigns countless projects to one person, expecting them to get it done in an unrealistic amount of time. Then, she can spend weeks sending back edits she thinks should be made. One of my coworkers thought she was done with a project last month and after a few weeks of silence, she received requests for brand new changes to be made.

I think the innovative attitude the Vice President has is admirable but can be detrimental when there is limited time. It sometimes seems like the VP has a very specific idea of what she wants and cannot communicate it effectively. This leads to chaos in the office and confusion among employees.

In terms of improving this leadership, I think proper communication is key. When the VP speaks with such conviction, employees get scared out of speaking up, even if they know something is wrong or have a better idea. Although the office is already pretty accepting of hearing everyone’s opinion, I think the leaders should make more of an effort to make everyone feel comfortable speaking up. The leaders need to recognize that sometimes, they may have the wrong idea or need to make some sacrifices.

That being said, I think the mindset of always needing to better the product/brand is necessary and cannot be diminished. I think one way to make communication better and lower stress while maintaining this innovative attitude is to make a strict timeline before any work is started. Having a structure to work by leaves each person accountable for finishing and perfecting their work, and keeps the team from leaving things until the last minute.

In a creative space, structure and clear communication can be hard to come by. It is difficult to manage the expectations of creative people while ensuring that everything can be done. However, I think implementing some sort of structure into the creative process is necessary for success and healthy work life.

One thought on “Balancing Creativity with Structure

  • July 11, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I can only imagine that in a creative space, organization and communication may get sidelined at times. I think your notion of laying out a timeline is a valuable one; seems it might be beneficial to also employ some kind of project management system/software (maybe you have this, but you haven’t mentioned it). If all the elements that go into a particular project are laid out in a timeline and are visible to everyone, and everyone can see who is working on what, the status of their work and/or projected finish date, who needs to work on the next piece, etc. – it seems it would be easier to track the collaborative work. Do you think you’d ever feel comfortable enough sharing some of your insights and suggesting some ways to perhaps enhance communication?

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