How to Successfully Resolve Creative Differences at Work
Categories: Work

How to Successfully Resolve Creative Differences at Work

Working in a creative industry has many perks. Not only does it give you the freedom to flex your creative muscles every work day, but you also get to surround yourself with like-minded peeps who want to make inspiring and original material just like you! Unfortunately, working closely with highly artistic individuals also means that creative differences are unavoidable. Instead of embracing the drama and corroding your project with pointless arguments, here are six expert-approved ways to help you successfully work through your creative differences with your peers. Let’s get to work!

1. Make sure the project’s goals are clear from the get-go. “There could be a thousand ways to approach a particular creative project, but very few will actually meet the core business need at hand,” Co-Founder and Design Director at Raygun Stacey Edelstein says. “We always begin our creative projects by defining our key goals and the problem we need to solve. If the team is at an impasse, we can go back to our planning documents and objectively discuss how each idea meets the stated goals. This helps to rule out subjective opinion, ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and collectively make a decision.”

2. Understand that different people have different priorities. “The reason why people have different thoughts on decisions is they have different priorities,” remarks Marc Prosser, co-founder of Fit Small Business Marc Prosser. For instance, while a social media manager might be pushing for something that will gain the company’s Twitter page a lot of traffic, the creative lead might have strong feelings about why a certain viral style won’t work for the integrity of the project. “More than one point of view can have validity,” notes Prosser. “If you are arbiter or final decision maker and you have different people presenting strong cases, it’s important not to make the person whose idea is not taken feel like a loser. Rather, if possible, make everyone understand that there are reasons that one approach was taken over the other.”

3. Avoid visceral and defensive reactions to constructive criticism. “It is never fun to have someone question your creative direction, but learning not to react to the criticism itself allows creatives to question why someone isn’t responding to that work,” notes Creative Director at Overflow Storytelling Lab Jeff Short. If possible, take a breather after getting constructive criticism about your work to give yourself some time to decompress. “Learning someone’s motives for why they don’t connect to creative work will not only help in communicating with that person during potentially uncomfortable meetings, but it will also better inform future decisions.”

4. Draw it out. “As a creative director for years, I would have my team draw out their concepts and do a mini show and tell,” says public speaker, marketing consultant, and brand designer Jacqueline Wolven. “Using one piece of paper, they sketch out their concept, their flow chart, or their thinking (even rudimentary artists can do this). Then they come back together to present them with either a neutral party or to each other. Really, it’s a de-escalation effort as well as a moment to really hone your concept and be able to present it back out.”

5. Make an effort to go offline and meet face-to-face. “We work remotely with most of our clients and use tools like Basecamp to collect ideas and feedback,” notes Edelstein. “If the conversation starts to derail, or if we can’t seem to reach a compromise on a particular direction, I immediately find a way to work it out face-to-face — either in person or Skype — so I can make eye contact and pay attention to signals like body language and tone. Most of the time, it will turn out that we wanted the same thing all along; we just had different ways of expressing it.”

6. Don’t be afraid to test out new ways of conflict resolution. When you’re really stuck, it can seem impossible to come up with viable solutions to overcome your creative differences that don’t involve some sort of verbal nitpicking or conflict. Author of The Power of Creative Paths ($3) Steven Savage encourages us to vigorously pursue diverse tactics to help creatives think about the project in a new way. “Have people in creative conflict come up with multiple versions of their ideas. Pick the one you like from each and have the person improve the ideas from their opponent, making three more iterations. After two or three revisions, they are usually in sync,” says Savage. Or if that doesn’t work, he suggests having each of the employees in conflict try and explain why the other person’s idea may be better. There are many different group exercises you can do to help get back on track — don’t be afraid to experiment until you find one that works for your particular office dynamic.

How do you deal with creative differences in the office? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)