Creative traits are essential for projects. The ability to bring new ideas into reality is at the core of getting things done – and projects are all about getting things done.
Often it’s not as straightforward as that. More often than not there are challenges for creatives that project management can help resolve.
Here’s our guide to the 3 reasons why project management is essential for creatives.
1. Problem solving
Solving problems, and grabbing opportunities, are commonplace in successful projects. The ability to use your brain power to figure out the best way to overcome an obstacle, or exploit a great situation, is bloody great in projects.
The creative mindset tends to focus on solving technical problems. They’re the problems where technical know-how is important and elements of research, design, testing, manufacture all come into play. It’s the stuff that creatives live for.
The project mindset looks at the broader picture. Is the technical problem worth solving? Once it’s solved, how will it be helpful towards the completion of the project? Are we the best people to solve it? Is everyone in the team doing ok? Does everyone have what they need to get their work done?
When presented with the maze below the creative mindset will instinctively try and figure out the best way to solve it, exploring options to get to the centre. The project mindset will look at the maze and ask, ‘Is everyone on the team still with us?’ and ‘can we just walk round the maze?’.
Using the two approaches together means that the project mindset can potentially dodge the maze which can save time. It also means the creative energy that would have been used to solve the maze can now be used on something more productive.
Being able to focus your attention is totally necessary in a project. Focus allows you to develop a ‘flow’ where your brain power really starts cranking at its maximum potential.
The creative mindset will focus in the short-term, at the task in hand. It will want quick results to show that the effort being used is worthwhile.
The project mindset is looking wider than the short-term. It will look look at historical performance to see how best to plan for ‘now’ and in the future. The focus is much wider to ensure that the overall project is successful – a short term victory may compromise the very success of an entire project.
As an example in the photograph below, the creative mindset girl is keen to focus on the task in hand – taking the photograph. But the project mindset boy is looking around and has noticed something in the wider world that will compromise the task in hand. Perhaps some rain clouds, or the angry farmer who thinks they’re trespassing!
With a balance of focus on the tasks at hand and also the wider project, the right tasks can be done at the right time for the right results for the overall project.
3. Direction of travel
The ‘journey’ reference gets used a lot in projects because it’s a very useful metaphor. The destination for a project can move and change as the requirements for the project are altered. That’s not a problem, in fact it’s to be expected. But because there is always more than one person involved in a project it’s vital that everyone knows what’s going on and how the changed requirements affect their work.
The creative mindset is always looking for the best solution and because of that it can be easy to be drawn away from the planned path and not necessarily let people know or realise that they have deviated. Pulled either by a sense of exploration, curiosity, distraction or a genuinely better solution, the creative mindset can meander and wander as new ideas emerge.
The project mindset will be mapping out where the current direction of travel will take everyone. If changes occur that’s fine and when they do everyone will be told how it affects them on the course of the journey. The project mindset will also be looking for creatives who have strayed from the path, to see whether they need to be brought back to the plan or whether the new route is better in the wider context of the project.
In the image below the project mindset is documenting the route ahead. It’s looking for key points in the journey to be able to mark progress and the overall destination. The creative mindset will likely already be wondering what’s off to the side of the road for the route ahead. Where could those other paths lead?
A combination of the exploratory creative nature with the need to ensure everyone arrives at the destination together can create a powerful project environment.
Project + Creative = Great projects
The two mindsets have different perspectives on given situations. In isolation they won’t be enough to make a project successful, but in combination they provide a powerful basis on which to create a fantastic project.
It is this reason, this need for balance, that project managers do project management and creatives do creative roles (designers, engineers, craftsmen, etc).
The project manager will help place the creative person in just the right place so that they can use their skills to their advantage. In this way, the project manager can use their skills for the good of the project too.
Bonus: Shared traits
At first glance it may seem that there is only ever going to be conflict between the two mindsets. While there are grounds for conflict – and conflict isn’t always a bad thing – there are shared outlooks too.
Both mindsets are vital for the success of a project. And the shared values of the creative and project mindset mean that the best traits can be drawn out from each other.
Both mindsets want:
- To have a successful project
- To delight the client
- To feel valued for their contribution
The 3 reasons why project management is helpful for creatives
- Help to solve wider project problems so that the creative problems that you work on are the ones worth solving and you have the tools to get them done
- Help plan the work to be done so that you can focus on the creative task at hand
- Help to keep track of progress on the project to either keep you on course or to incorporate your great ideas into the project
If you need any project help with your creative projects then e-mail us at email@example.com
We look forward to hearing from you!