Creative thinking is essential for developing innovation in products and services. But applying creative thinking in business can run into a brick wall — the philosophy of business is to apply uniform production processes to permit scale, making the unique aspects of creativity play second fiddle to cost and productivity concerns.
The key to solve this impasse is to find strategies to leverage creativity where its value can be unleashed to benefit a business. A book that offers advice on how to address this impasse is Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking Into Your Company by Jon Kolko. It highlights creative skills and management products for use in running your business.
Kolko is a partner at Modernist Studio and the founder of Austin Center for Design. He has worked with both startups and Fortune 500 companies so he brings a unique perspective and set of experiences to business management.
What is Creative Clarity About?
Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking Into Your Company is about applying creative skills as a way of finding new solutions to the rigorous demands of a business environment. As Koljo states on the opening page:
“Most companies don’t know what creativity really is, so they can’t benefit from it.”
The book encourages the reader to seek a problem solving framework — particularly when working with creative professionals like designers, graphic artists and journalists.
Kolko goes on to provide a few frameworks for the reader to consider. The aim is to incorporate good processes that leverage what creatives bring to the table and yet at the same time fit within the business constraints of product development.
The fourth chapter Managing Spin, explains the idea of wasted creative cycles that do not push an idea forward. Chapter 5 offers insights on managing critiques, while the last chapter deals with building a creative culture. The book is a good read, only about 180 pages with supporting material at the end.
What I Liked about Creative Clarity
I like that the chapters within Creative Clarity: A Practical Guide for Bringing Creative Thinking Into Your Company focus on a mix of project management and methods for unleashing creative insights. It does so with an emphasis on production though many incorrectly assume creatives are not production-oriented.
For example, in Chapter 3 Exploring a Problem Space, Kolko explains how to apply iteration:
“Creativity is actually a process that you can articulate and manage. It emphasizes iteration: the act of doing something over and over again but with constant improvement.”
This is a good approach for allowing a design to be refined or for developing ways to solve problems. It is a good approach for helping newbie entrepreneurs with a creative product find the right balance between being active and doing activities that really do not move your business forward. Kolko goes on to include looking at constraints and breaking a problem into experiential parts and then solving each part individually.
I felt this approach dovetailed nicely into what happens with software development. It can be a real management enhancement to decisions involving creativity but also echoing the approach often used in computer programing.
Kolko also mentioned a second concept — variation — to complement iterations. Variation is “trying many many different solutions to a single problem. Variation is about quantity, rather than quality.”
Kolko applies both concepts throughout the book, helping the reader see where they can be best applied in a particular organization. I liked how Kolko debunks common creative myths, such as this mention about “eureka” vs building momentum.
“Momentum of creative energy comes form a variety of places but rarely, in contrast to popular belief, in a “eureka” moment of insight. Instead, according to most creativity research, it comes through a more methodical and often-implicit process that stretches over time.”
With chapter 4, the reader learns some ideas for managing teams such as fostering flow and managing the ripple effect from design changes. Read this book to know how to effectively guard against operational decisions that can waste time. Kolko is very consistent with the ideas, preparing the reader to be a better manager or creative resources against project deadlines.
Why Creative Clarity?
Kolko sets the right tone for managers who work with creative professionals and whose success with key product launches depend on the innovation these professionals provide, whether they be full-timer or freelancer. The book fits today’s economy in which creative value is strongly correlated to branding value and ultimately dollar value. Get this book to determine the right mix of technical and creative professionals, an increasingly needed business essential for standing out from the competition.