The Core Process of Creativity
Posted by Ben Zeigler on August 17, 2010
I’d been meaning to write a bit about what kind of creative/design processes seem to work for collaborative work, but then danc over at Lost Garden writes the entire article for me, with a variety of attractive and useful diagrams! I suggest anyone who’s even vaguely interested in the process of creating something of interest take a look, as it beautifully explains the concrete process that leads to collaborative creativity.
The software world tends to go through various development fads, from Extreme Programming to Scrum to Agile. Each of these approaches are attempts to codify a set of specific rules that may not be well adapted to a specific project (ie, pair programming may not make sense for a specific company), but at the core they all share one commonality: a vision of iterative development that is closely aligned to what is laid out at Lost Garden. It’s not super important what specific methodology is followed, but any process that is both creative and requires high quality output is best performed using the same model: brainstorm, cull, repeat, practice.
What makes danc’s article so useful is that he goes through all of the possible ways the process can fail, and I think I’ve experienced all of them in the last few years. The biggest danger spot in my experience has clearly been the Culling phase. As a single creator it’s pretty easy to cull your own ideas, but as soon as you bring group dynamics into it it starts to get way more emotional. When I make an idea and it doesn’t work out, I can tell myself that without bringing up any sort of resentment. But if I tell someone else their idea doesn’t work there are hundreds of ways to screw up.
I could say it in a rude manner because I am a programmer and make them personally offended. I could hit on the insecurities of the other party accidentally and bring on a bout of self consciousness that paralyzes future brainstorming. I could do it in a way that implies I could do their job better, pushing them to defend their flawed idea in order to defend their position at the company.
Setting criteria for evaluation and a strong vision up front is vital to this process, but even with it things can get uncomfortable. We’re all cranky, creative humans who have histories and an emotional life outside of work. I think dealing with the human element of the culling process in a productive manner is what separates a competent producer/director from a truly great one.