Creative people have a reputation in popular culture and the imagination of being unpredictable, mold-breaking, and loath to keep a routine. A chart showing the daily routines of some famous creatives supports this reputation.

It’s true that everyone approaches creativity a little bit differently. But that doesn’t mean that a regular and predictable creative process isn’t important. In fact, in a professional and team-based setting, it’s a necessity.

A smart team needs to have a system in place for researching, coming up with, judging, and optimizing ideas. There’s no right answer to what that system is, because there are plenty that will do the job. From Systematic Inventive Thinking to Al Fahden, many creative collectives and individuals have published their processes. Research some, and see what works and what doesn’t. You can mold an existing process to fit your team, or take bits and pieces from several and build them into a cohesive whole, or you can simply use them for inspiration and create your own from scratch.

What’s important is that you have a structure. It helps guarantee good work, as long as it’s understood by all in the group and it’s repeatable. But your whole group needs to buy in, and know and follow the process. Otherwise, it will just be a big mess, and the product will reflect that mess.

Within that process, team members will learn and grow. The first time a new process is implemented, everyone’s not going to have it mastered. But there are three things that are critical you get a handle on as soon as possible.

The Three Principles You Must Follow in Your Team’s Creative Process

1) First, know how and when to give feedback. Feedback is an important part of creativity, but it has its right place. Don’t give feedback on ideas during a brainstorm. Wait until it’s time to pick ideas to work with further, or to fine-tune the ideas you have. Give constructive feedback only – it may seem obvious, but something like “I don’t like that” with no follow-up doesn’t add a lot to the process. It just breeds negativity and hurt feelings.

2) Know when to collaborate and when to split up. Collaboration is a powerful tool, but like any other tool, it can be used improperly. If you’re butting in where someone else in your team has expertise and you don’t, that’s not helping – it’s meddling. Writers can give valuable insights about design, and designers’ perspective on copy can do wonders, but know where the lines are.

3) Finally, it’s important to know where you’re supposed to be in the process at any given time, and have the discipline to stay there. A process is in place for a reason. The steps of the process are in a certain order for a reason. And if someone in your team dawdles on one step or another and keeps trying to pull the rest back, or jumps ahead to try to speed things up, that affects the whole group. It delays progress and throws off the creative process.

So why exactly is this process so important? The most obvious reason is that with a little more structure, you’ll have a happier and healthier work environment. Rather than arguments lasting for hours, your process helps move things forward when they need to be moved forward, and it keeps teams on the same page and cohesive. But it also makes your creative work cycle more predictable. And that makes selling easier. You’ll know exactly how long your process takes and how much work goes into what you do. That means you don’t have to give prospects vague estimates or guesswork.

Defining your creative process, and following that process as closely as possible, means better work, happier creatives, and better-informed clients. You can still stay unpredictable, to an extent, but this is the best way to let a team’s creativity shine.

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Thomas Wachtel

When things get written here, whether it’s a blog post, a print ad or a comprehensive brand plan, Thomas is the one who makes sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. Because nothing ruins written work like a typo.