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Top Tips for Accelerating Creative Innovation

Every year brings changes to the creative industry, but 2022 is shaping up to be one for the ages. Creatives will be tasked with everything from laying the foundational stones of the metaverse to navigating the likely permanent world of remote work. Designers will be needed to build better interactive experiences for brands that will never fully pivot back to brick-and-mortar business, and product designers will need to learn the ins and outs of 3D printing to help their firms bypass supply delays.

Creatives will be called upon to innovate, take more risks and work together in completely new ways. The changes already in progress will give creatives new opportunities to inspire and influence their organizations, create new value and take center stage as business changemakers. For creative leaders, it means finding new ways to inspire in order to drive the best results from their peers and even different functional teams — without sacrificing quality.

To help drive this transformation forward, we’ve created this checklist for creative leaders looking to drive creative innovation in the new year.

Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Every piece of design work has stakeholders across your organization. Bring these stakeholders into the design process early to provide feedback on ideas and every stage of the process — not just final products. This collaborative and iterative approach not only helps produce a better product, but creates more organizational buy-in. Creative teams have more opportunities than ever to influence how their organizations operate, but that influence is amplified when contributors from outside the creative team are able to see and participate in its process.

Well-connected teams see a 20% to 25% increase in overall productivity, according to McKinsey. But maintaining communication can be challenging in the era of remote work, and even more so when leading a team of designers and creatives whose work is somewhat solitary and in focused environments. Creative leaders should make an effort to keep their teams informed about changing plans and new goals. Communicating regularly with your team across multiple channels, including video check-ins, real-time chat and other methods, can not only increase awareness of goals and planning but also drive more engagement around organizational objectives.

Creative leaders need to manage multiple concurrent priorities to succeed. Creating a plan that provides regular weekly or daily standup meetings allows designers to share their progress and give team leaders greater visibility into the status of ongoing projects. These regular standups also provide a forum for designers to discuss blockers and challenges that might slow down projects without disrupting their creative workflow. While it’s easy to think that meetings are more essential for remote workers, a recent study found that in-person and remote teams value meetings almost equally.

Creatives will be called upon to solve increasingly complex problems in 2022 and it won’t always be possible on the first try. Continuous testing will ultimately yield the best outputs. When building project timelines, leave time for your team to test and iterate on their latest work. It’s always part of the process but will loom even larger as paradigms shift in 2022.

The last few years have brought a wave of ambitious new collaboration tools for creatives. In the age of remote work, many of these tools have focused on recreating key parts of the in-person creative process. Many of these tools make it possible to whiteboard with a large remote group. They easily convert those sessions into project management tasks, presentations, videos, and other assets needed to gain buy-in and complete projects quickly. Here is a short list:

  • Miro – A whiteboarding tool that lets creatives develop ideas and turn them into specific tasks to bridge the gap between ideation and project management.
  • Stormboard – Another whiteboard solution focused on enabling team collaboration, Stormboard users can create multiple whiteboards for a single brainstorming session.
  • MURAL – MURAL is a tool designed to support whiteboards in large multi-member team meetings with many remote participants.
  • Conceptboard – This whiteboard solution makes it easy to turn a brainstorming session into a formal presentation to quickly gain buy-in from key stakeholders.
  • Explain Everything – For many people, motion and interactivity are the keys to understanding new concepts. Explain Everything converts your whiteboard session into a video presentation to help other stakeholders follow the creative development process.

The creative process is never truly finished. Seeking feedback from inside your organization and from a select group of customers or beta users can be a great way to learn what’s working and what needs to be changed. Feedback loops for your audience and consumers help you better gauge the value and impact of your work. They also help you ensure your work is continuously improving and that your designs are responsive to changing conditions in the wider world.

Leading a creative team is a high-pressure job. It requires quick ideation, responding to new challenges, managing designers and creatives, and managing up. If successful, creative leaders can ensure that their group has influence and voice within the larger organization. With all this on their shoulders, creative leaders should designate a group of trusted advisors they can rely on for valuable feedback. Consider building an advisory board of internal stakeholders who show good creative judgment or who have a vested interest in creative team outputs even if they themselves are not designers. This formal or informal group can provide feedback on big ideas before the team invests time in making them a reality.