This article, written by former Cogswell student Daniel Codella, first appeared on Wrike, where he is a Senior Content Marketing Manager. It has been lightly edited.
There has never been a better time to be a creative. Design is finally being recognized as an integral part of good business and design-led companies are outperforming the market by 219%. Marketers are pumping out more content, putting creatives to work. 83% of marketers are even citing higher quality content as the main driver of campaign success. Even life insurance companies have been enamored with “Design Thinking.” By all measures, creatives have arrived.
Despite all of these wins under their belts, creatives remain misunderstood around the office. Their processes are often a frustrating mystery to their non-creative counterparts. They view creative methods as messy and unstructured, which leads to unreal expectations and deadlines.
“It shouldn’t take long…” is often the estimated timeline others with little understanding of creative work impose on creatives.
You can win them over through educating them about the creative process and inviting them to participate.
We’ve collected the seven top stereotypes about creatives overheard around the office with some easy tactics to debunk them.
Myth 1: “Creative Teams Lack Structure”
How your team completes their work can be a mystery for a layman, who may see chaos and not the process behind it. Work seemingly passes to-and-fro between people without much rhyme or reason. The confusion stems from the multiple mediums and formats creatives use. And that adds another unfortunate assumption—that all creatives are equally capable and equipped to do it all. They don’t realize that the diversity of creative work combined with disparate tools and disciplines requires well-executed organization and planning. Structure actually breeds creativity. The best teams don’t shy away from it, but use it to make the best use of people and resources
Debunk this myth: Provide visibility into the plan—either through public work boards, status updates or having a single source of truth. Good planning aligns the right people with the most important work. When others in the organization can actually see it in action and are exposed to some of the thinking behind it, it builds confidence in the work and a greater appreciation for the decisions of the team.
- Use data to define your goals
- Map individual work to overall goals
- Communicate at every stage
Myth 2: “Everyone Has Their Own Creative Process”
Many non-creatives confuse creative work with art. Art can be free-form, creative work usually is not. As creatives, your team has their own favored tools or techniques, but the basic workflow remains pretty standard. A request is submitted. A project brief is created outlining the project’s scope. The assets undergo a thorough review and approval process before being delivered.
Debunk this myth:
Educate non-creatives in the organization about your team’s specific processes. Build an intake system to handle requests, which encourage outside participation. Teach all how to properly fill out a creative brief. A well-defined process, understood by all, moves work forward faster and eliminates many roadblocks. It’ll also help bring clarity to projects, ensuring all involved—including outside team members—have a level playing field.
- Map out and document each step of every process
- Analyze where improvements can be made
- Automate where possible
- Identify your approval chains
Myth 3: “Creatives Like to Work Alone”
Our view of innovation for centuries is explained in these three stages: a single person makes an observation, has a flash of brilliance, and then creates some amazing new thing. It’s called “The Myth of the Lone Genius.” With figures like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in recent years, the myth is as prominent now as it’s ever been. What we don’t see are the years—sometimes decades—of collaborative work to get their best ideas. The digital revolution was built from collaboration. After all, the best creative work is done in teams with as much sharing as possible.
Debunk this myth:
Make your communications focused, organized, and visible to all. With a work management system, such as Wrike, you can keep all communications in one place—a single source of truth, if you will. You can preserve the conversation around the work so all can see how the ideas evolved over time. When the right people are given shared access to work, they can more easily build on each others’ ideas. Lastly, shared dashboards allow everyone on the team or in the organization to see how creative work is progressing.
- Use a single source of truth
- Bring all the conversations into one place
- Create shared dashboards
Myth 4: “Designers Hate Data”
Some people are just born with creative ability while others aren’t. That’s something we’ve heard time and time again. Sure, some people have a natural creative flair, but the actual creative process can be taught and skills can be developed over time. Some of those skills don’t require a creative bone, just an analytical one. The best creative decisions are influenced by data. Through collecting and analyzing data, creative teams are able to successfully iterate on work to make it more effective.
Debunk this myth:
Creative work typically supports OKRs and other goals. To do this effectively, the outcomes of that work must be understood and measured regularly. The first step is to identify what the metrics of success are for each piece. Once those metrics are defined, track that data and feed it into your work management system so your creative team can see exactly how their work is performing. Representing the data with charts and graphs can make it easier for all members of your team to take action.
- Tie all of your tools together
- Define your metrics for success
- Visualize your reporting
Myth 5: “Creatives Hate Feedback”
You’ve probably received feedback from other departments that your creatives aren’t open to feedback. Of course, it’s not the feedback itself that is aggravating, but the way in which it was given. Laymen often don’t know how to give proper feedback, so they might critique for the sake of doing so. A poor understanding of the creative process can be the biggest roadblock on a project. Last-minute revisions and outrageous request keep your team frazzled trying to meet deadlines. The truth is that creatives actually crave feedback. It just needs to be in context with enough advance notice so that the project can be completed on time.
Debunk this myth:
From the start, your team needs to outline what kind of feedback they want and when they need it. Key stakeholders need to be identified early and that number should be limited to those who can provide critical insights. Proofing tools that allow for in-context notes like Wrike for Marketers can help keep the feedback focused and actionable.
- Identify key stakeholders
- Provide deadlines on when feedback can be accepted
- Outline exactly what your team needs feedback on to keep the feedback focused
Myth 6: “Creative Work Must Be Done From Scratch”
This is yet another stereotype born from a poor understanding of the creative process. Because laymen aren’t familiar with the methods and tools of creation, it’s often assumed every new piece starts with a blank slate.In reality, templates are a huge part of creative work. They’ve probably saved your team a lot of time on tough projects. Using pre-existing material is often preferable as it increases the amount of work that can be completed within the allotted time.
Debunk this myth:
Automate as much of the process as possible. This will allow you and your team to focus on more impactful work. Use templates to ensure consistency and uniformity in deliverables. Show others in the education the value of using templates—consistency, uniformity and, more importantly, saving time for more important work.
- Create templates for your most repeated work
- Use automation wherever possible
- Provide options for what can be accomplished with existing resources
Myth 7: “Design Is Just Window Dressing”
When most people think of creative work, they think aesthetics. Visuals are certainly important, but design is first and foremost about communication. The best creative work is about more than simply looking nice, it’s about successfully conveying its intended message. Great design can help clarify content and enhance its impact. When the creative team is brought in too late into the process, the content loses much of the benefit of great design.
Debunk this myth:
Bringing design to the planning stage can ensure everyone is working toward the same goal. Gaps and holes can be addressed early and more accurate timelines can be set for the work, ensuring that the creative pieces are not roadblocks.
- Work in tandem with marketing on campaigns
- Prototype quickly as the content is drafted
- Work backward from desired outcomes and suggest the best formats and channels
Become a Mythbuster
You have a unique opportunity to exponentially add value to your organization. You can be a champion for the creative work you and your team do. More than that, you can be a mythbuster confronting these stereotypes head-on.
- Document all of your team’s processes in a work management system
- Share how data supports your team’s decision making
- Provide visibility to the work at every stage and iteration
- Measure how the work contributes to business outcomes and share the results
Opening up the creative process and inviting other parts of the organization into it yields rich rewards. The trust and credibility earned by this transparency can help creative leaders get access to greater resources and cement their place at the table.