Collective Creativity: The Importance of Clients and Users Being A Part of the Creative Process
“A study comparing the works of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso suggests that their creativity was based on strikingly similar elements (Miller, 2001): both strived to understand the underlying properties of space and how different observers experienced it.”
The idea of collective creativity can be intimidating. There is a misconception, especially with clients, that creativity is reserved for designers. Some might think because they cannot paint, draw, or even match their socks, that there is no way they can be part of the creative process. Collective creativity is an important part of any project’s process and participation from client’s and their users is essential to create the best solutions. It is important we breakdown these misconceptions of collective creativity.
Misconception #1: Creativity is a Solo Act
People tend to think of creativity as a solo act where a designer goes into their studio with a vision and after a few days, viola, project complete! This couldn’t be further from the truth. Creating the best solutions can only happen as a team between many minds with different perspectives. Just as Apple wasn’t created by one man (nope, Steve Jobs didn’t do it on his own), neither can a client’s next innovative solution. We have all heard, ‘two heads are better than one’ so why would we trust one person to solely create the solution for a company? Sure at the beginning, an individual may start with an idea and create a solution, but the first idea won’t necessarily be the best idea and definitely shouldn’t be the last. The first ideas are merely one step in a long, arduous process to create the perfect solution.
Misconception #2: The Boss is Always Right
In many corporations there is a hierarchy with a very strong, dominant Boss, and in the corporate world what your Boss says, you do, because your Boss is always right. In the creative process this can get in the way of creating the best solution. It is important to establish a ‘free-flowing hierarchy’ where everyone feels comfortable and that they have the freedom to communicate with anyone and even to disagree with the boss. Now this is easier said than done but it is essential. Otherwise, to be on the Boss’ ‘good side’, employees may go along with an ineffective solution even though they know it will not solve the problem completely. There needs to be an environment that is supportive but not conformist… not everyone has to like everyone’s ideas! Opportunities for important, constructive conversations, where effective solutions can be created, are sometimes lost in the spirit of making everyone feel good about participating. It is important while leading these sessions, we help build up the group and relationships to establish a ‘free-flowing hierarchy’ but also to foster constructive debates.
Misconception #3: Users Don’t Know What they Want
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!” is a famous quote by Henry Ford and for good reasons! Problem is… it has become an excuse for companies to not get users involved in the creative process and do user testing. Let’s look at Henry Ford’s quote from a different perspective. If he did go out and ask people what they wanted, they could have said faster horses… this isn’t bad feedback! As UX designers, we can use this information. We won’t focus on the user wanting a horse, we will focus on the user wanting to go faster and that alone can help us create a better solution. Another reason to involve the users during the creative process is because they can validate ideas. It is better to ask while you’re still prototyping and learn from the users feedback rather than when you finish the final product. That’s when the wrong solution can become costly.
The Bottom Line Collective creativity can have a powerful impact on a project when misconceptions are tossed aside. So how do we fit into this collective creativity as we lead them? It is important to help set a direction and aggregate viewpoints. Even though client’s and users have great ideas, it is our job to sort through the mass of ideas to find the ones that fit together into a coherent whole - then, collectively, we can create the best solutions.