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Strategic thinking

Creativity and efficiency are not always aligned

By 22/07/2016January 11th, 2023No Comments

So how do you manage and develop a team without inhibiting creativity? Vicky explains all at OutDoor 2016.

Last Thursday, Brandwave’s Head of International Vicky Stickland took to the stage once again at OutDoor to share some tips and practical advice on how to manage creativity in-house. Exploring in-depth what makes a creative team tick and how creativity can be harmonised alongside efficiency.

As an agency, we have learned a lot over the last 10 years. Working with large international brands and smaller start-ups alike on a range of creative projects. We’ve seen many briefs, witnessed creative ideas flourish from scribbles on a notepad to full concepts and final artwork distributed globally. We’ve also developed our processes along the way and nurtured our own approach when it comes to consistently executing creative projects and maximising workflow.

So, what is the agency project process when it comes to creativity and how can you implement this to improve creative output and efficiency in your teams and projects?

No 1. Understand Your Team

The single most valuable asset to any creative project is the team involved. As a marketing team there will naturally be those who love to get stuck into a creative project and there will also be the self-proclaimed non-creative types.

To maximise creative output, it’s crucial to gain a greater understanding of your team’s strengths. Psychometric profiling is a great way of finding out more about your team and what drives them, you can then use this information to help build better creative teams. The psychometric profile we use at Brandwave – Strength Finder, suggests everyone falls under four distinct categories of personal strengths and it is a fantastic tool that we have used as an agency to build more effective and rounded creative teams.

As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a bad idea. Everyone should be encouraged to share his or her ideas. We’re all creative and a healthy creative team is an amalgamation of the four domains of strengths.

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” – Phil Jackson, New York Knicks.

The Brief

The best creative outcome will undoubtedly come from the best brief. Without a solid brief in place, you will essentially drift through the creative process without really knowing where you are heading or what you are trying to achieve.

When managing a team in-house or working on an internal creative project, it can often be tempting to jump straight into a project two feet first without establishing a full creative brief.

We’ll hold our hands up, we have even tripped at this hurdle several times in the past. Working on your own marketing as an agency is the hardest kind of work, as everyone in the team has such a strong opinion and vested interest. The team is also incredibly passionate about what they do, which is of course the way it needs to be – but as managers we have to ensure that we nurture this passion with a clear direction, otherwise it can be wasted. The solution of course is creating a great brief. Something we have been preaching to our clients for years.

Verbal conversations, email trails and WhatsApp messages between a team can all be interpreted differently. Although a brief will take time to write amidst busy schedules and other deadlines, it will help solidify what you want to achieve. It will ensure everyone in your team understands the objective and will help the team to gauge when you have collectively achieved your aims. It doesn’t necessarily have to be really long and detailed, sometimes the most simple briefs are the best. 

One interesting way to approach a creative brief is to consider;

What do we want our audience to feel when they interact with this project?

What do we want our audience to say when they interact with this project?

What do we want our audience to do in reaction to this project?


Something as simple as this can help to really decipher the key requirements of your creative project, without stifling the creative process and team. 

To summarise, whether working with an agency or in-house on a creative project, always ensure everyone is aware of the strategic and emotional objective of the project.

In principle a good brief will:

– Follow a clear template.

– Be concise. Detail is great but may not highlight the important things to achieve.

– State x3 key aims of the project.

– Keep you focused on the objectives. You should be able to refer to the key information quickly and do this on a regular basis throughout the process to ensure you have not drifted too far from your original objective.

The Kick-Off

With your brief in place it’s time to get the ball rolling. Surprisingly, out of the 50 strong audience which consisted of marketing, brand and team managers from across the outdoor industry, only two people claimed to have a creative team kick-off meeting at the start of their creative process.

For Brandwave, a strong kick-off meeting forms the strong foundations necessary to build a successful creative project. Within this meeting we discuss the brief in detail, question the brief and explore ideas alongside all project stakeholders. If possible, distribute the brief a few days before kick-off to start the creative process and get minds thinking.

Harbour the team’s thoughts and make everyone feel included. Don’t just disregard an idea at face value, question it and delve deeper. It’s these ideas which can be developed and spark inspiration for the next.

New Ground

Last year we held a workshop at our offices for a local sports University who were keen to learn more about our process and approach to creativity. The feedback was very positive and key action points were put in place moving forwards. Upon reflection of the afternoon, the University said that the most valuable take-away point from the time they spent at Brandwave HQ was realising how important it was to be away from their own offices and to be in a creative environment to get the creative juices flowing.

New ground essentially means getting your team away from their desks or usual area of work. It could either mean getting your team together into a shared space similar to our “Forrest Room” or away from the office entirely. A new environment and neutral ground is invaluable to fuel creativity. Goodbye desk distractions, hello to new ideas in a new environment.

Time vs Creativity

If time is in the red corner and creativity is in the blue corner, then project management is the referee. Time is strict, definitive and fixed. Creativity on the other hand is flexible, ideas driven and a thought pattern of combining two seemingly unrelated things into something new and unique. They are polar opposites. Good project management is essential in order to effectively maximise output and is the backbone of any creative project.

With any creative project there inevitably will be a deadline meaning there will be timescales. Whether this is a tradeshow, sales meeting or product-launch. Time has already entered the ring and the clock is ticking. As every project is different there is no set definitive time that should be allocated to creativity, however the following can be employed in support of good time and project management:

– Regular project meetings.

– Utilise time that the team are together to generate ideas.

– Maintain a flow of conversation around the project. Use tools such as Basecamp.

– Don’t let projects sit on the shelf and become stale.

The Outcome

After a creative project is finished it’s very tempting to move onto the next task or project. Taking time to reflect on how a creative project went is crucial in order to highlight what went well, what could be improved and most importantly, what didn’t go quite so well and why. Subsequently, it will help to streamline the in-house creative process for next time and potentially enrich creative projects moving forwards.

At Brandwave, we’ve tried the more formal project feedback forms and we’ve tried a more casual approach of having a Lunch and Learn. Covering the positives and negatives the project teams regroup over lunch to take time to openly reflect. The essence of creativity is uniqueness and no two briefs are ever the same for a project so there’s always room to learn.

Questions from the floor…

How do you deal with an unrealistic brief?

Push back if required on a brief at the very start of a project. If you have objections or reservations, be honest about this and have an open conversation to discuss your thoughts. Highlight that budgets, timescales or aims are not aligned or achievable. Discuss why they are not achievable and suggest approaches that would realistic work towards a same objective. You’re much more likely to collectively create a better brief this way..

What measurements do you have in place to measure the outcomes?

An effective measurement matrix depends on the project. A digital project may be easier to measure through social stats, views and analytics. Focus groups or questionnaires are a favoured method by Brandwave to measure creative campaign effectiveness.

As a creative team what mediums do you have in place to encourage creativity?

Encouraging wider forms of creativity is key at Brandwave. It could mean sketching, drawing or it has been known for the paintbrushes and easel to make an appearance. Naturally, we always encourage the team to practice what we preach and take part in sports together as a team at lunch time. We find that this really helps the creative process. It’s when we are at our very busiest that it is most crucial for us to play sports together, as this bonds the team and fuels our passion, it also reignites the understanding of our reasoning for doing what we do.

Rounding Up

In summary:

– Your team is the biggest asset. Harbour creative ideas and support with constructive criticism.

– To gain a deeper understanding of your team and create effective projects teams, utilise psychometric profiling.

– Put the project into perspective create a brief. Don’t get too overloaded with the detail. List x3 key aims of project.

– Kick-off meetings are key.

– Get away from the usual surroundings.

– Don’t let a project dwindle, create timescales.

– Focus on the project aims, maintain an open conversation.

– Reflect, what went well and what could be improved.

– Take time out together to play sports or similar, this can really help the creative process and drive the project forwards.

Need some help with your creative process? Speak to us:

Call: +44 1243 550008

Email: [email protected]

Oliver Robinson