Creative teams, creative ideas, creative processes, creative solutions. Working a creative project with minds that are wrapping themselves around solutions that require a lot of out-of-the-box thinking is not much different than working a very technical project with several very skilled technical individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions on emerging technologies. There will understandably be some clashes from time to time over strong egos and strong opinions on what the best route to take for a given project outcome is. It is a fact of life.
Now, consider the situation where these somewhat different to potentially VERY different creative minds start to really clash over a project direction or idea or concept. What then? It may resolve itself quickly…or it could get ugly fast. You’re the creative project manager and you need to get your team working together cohesively if you want to close the project out successfully. So if these clashes escalate, how do you react? How do you right the ship and get the team working together in the face of such conflict? Consider these practices…
Focus on solid team communication practices
The hope with focusing on solid communication is two-fold. First, with a steady team flow of cohesive communication among creative team members, this type of situation may be avoided altogether. However, since this article is assuming it is already happening, the second option is for solid team communication to draw the team back closer together and make everyone feel comfortable in sharing their creative differences and working together openly to resolve those differences – for the good of the team, for the good of the project and especially for the good of the client.
Talk through direction differences during weekly team meetings
Along with the communication theme, team meetings are an excellent way to smooth out issues. Weekly – or more often if needed – team meetings are probably the best way to make issues go away, keep everyone on the same page and focused on the same creative goals. They are also probably the best way to get all team members thinking as a creative team cohesively so that mission of the team and goals of the project can be achieved -- not the wants, needs and wishes of individual team members.
Brainstorming team session on best solution
When you have two or more team members butting heads on different creative directions on a project, you have to assume that your very talented and passionate project team has basically realized – albeit possibly separately – that there is more than one good creative path for the solution. What to do at that point? Brainstorm! Of course, come together as a team (with a white board or two) and conduct a brainstorming session on different possible directions you should be considering and – as a team – collectively discuss and decide which route to take.
Face to face with conflicting team members (if applicable)
Finally, if the issue is more personal between two or more team members, then conduct face-to-face meetings – as a subgroup of the team – with the individuals who are at conflict. If the project and team are to survive and continue to work together, the issue must be resolved. And the only way to make any progress toward that is to gather and discuss…and resolve.
The key is to not let these differences smolder or escalate beyond the point of being able to handle such an incident or situation with simple meetings. When it gets out of hand and the only solution is to replace resources, then you’ve failed the team, the project and the client as the project manager. Replacing resources – while sometimes necessary – should be a last resort because the time, work and dollars lost can be quite detrimental to the outcome of the project…and likely client satisfaction as well.
How do you handle creative differences on your teams? Not the small ones – the big ones? What actions do you take or recommend?