UBER OR TAXI? WHICH ONE IS BEST FOR BUSINESSNovember 21, 2019
CREATIVITY WITHIN A FRAMEWORK
Why commerciality won’t cramp your style
Words by Amy McArthur
As a commercially minded designer and now business leader, my regularly shared opinions on efficiency, budgets and business data have been met with much eye rolling and little enthusiasm. Why are so many Architects and Designers afraid that a little commerciality will cramp their creative style?
I get that we are not all driven by profits, so why should you build some better business practices into your processes?
As a sole trader, knock yourself out, be as indulgent as like. Work through the night redesigning that super important junction ten times over, spend a month’s rent on a laser cut model with working lights. But as an Employer, you have an obligation to build a little commerciality into your practice. Your staff and your clients are relying on you to be sustainable; they have signed up and have backed you in.
I admit that no designer ever has said “the budgeted hours you gave me to document this house made me feel so much more creative!” We don’t normally associate rules and boundaries with problem solving and innovation, it’s a bit like asking a designer to come up with a ground-breaking design solution, but make sure you only colour within the lines. The idea of it makes you start looking for the exits, right?
But here’s the thing, spending less time on the things that don’t need as much of your creative attention such as the repetitive, process driven tasks, will free you up to innovate in the areas that really add value to your project and to your business.
Just as we enjoy the challenge of designing within a context, placing some boundaries around the way in which a project is delivered can also lead to innovation. I once worked in a studio that had its employees dress to a strict black and white code. I enjoyed the challenge of designing my daily outfit within guidelines. I don’t believe that a commercial framework that integrates efficient systems and processes into a business will limit creativity, but rather it can provide structure and focus.
There have been many great studies on the role structure plays in creativity. Published in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour, Sagiv et al. specifically studied how creativity is influenced by a free versus a structured environment and found that while working environments completely free from structure may lead to disorganisation and chaos, providing some boundaries promotes creativity by restricting options and leading outcomes toward a core focus. Examples given by Sagiv, include templates with a step-by-step sequence of operations. A documentation standards manual, is a great example of this.
Harvard’s Ranjay Gulati also wrote about a structure that is not stifling, he suggests that ”guidelines are not the death of freedom if they’re well designed and implemented” and further noted that a framework is an effective way of embedding your organisations purpose and principles, a living set of guidelines.
Embedding a framework of operational efficiency into your practice will free you up to do those super important but often left behind business tasks like marketing, strategic planning or smashing the office Ping Pong comp. Similarly, your projects will also benefit from the implementation of more efficient systems and processes. The occurrence of human errors will be reduced, and the repetitive tasks automated. This will free you up to redesign that super important junction 10 times.
So, if you are ready to up your creative game and find some oh-so-hard-to-come-by free time, don’t be afraid to inject some commerciality into your practice, it won’t cramp your style.