4 lessons in managing creativity in media enterprises

Most media companies claim they are creative, believing that merely producing
 content makes them inventive and artistic. Most media firms are not particularly creative, however, and we recognize it daily as we are confronted with formulaic and derivative content of limited quality.

But some companies are consistently notable for unique and ground-breaking content that meet higher standards. What makes them successful is their ability to manage creativity.

The concept of managing creativity may at first seem like an oxymoron. Anyone who has worked with talented writers, designers, directors, actors, or musicians knows that the muse of creativity is capricious and does not present itself on a predictable schedule.

This does not mean it is impossible for an enterprise to manage creativity, however. Organizations that consistently produce highly creative content spend a great deal of effort managing the environment and processes in which creativity takes place. They do so to make certain that creativity can blossom and be nurtured within their operations.

Four important lessons emerge from enterprises that are regularly creative:

1)    Hire the right people The first organizational challenge is to identify and attract creative people who can work within an organizational setting. There are many highly creative individuals who are unable to contribute cooperatively and serially to the development creative content. Such people often work well outside organizations, and can even contribute to organizational activities as outsiders, but they can harm creativity if employed within the enterprise. Working successfully inside organizations require more than mere creative capacities. It requires people with the abilities to align their individual creative activity with the goals, culture, brand, and deadlines of the media organization and abilities to collaborate with others in doing so.

2)    Structure to facilitate creativity Successful creative enterprises understand the needs for creative collaboration and the importance of teams in pursuing creativity. Consequently, they tend to create working groups that cut across functions and reduce the stifling influences of rigid organizational structures and unnecessary hierarchy.

3)    Get the processes right The most creative organizations focus on improving processes that facilitate creativity. They ensure that work systems and practices provide incentives and support for the idea creation, risk taking, and failures that are inevitable when high levels of creativity are involved. This sometimes involves hiring writers on contracts that are not limited to a particular television productions, regularly replacing portions of creative teams with new individuals to keep ideas fresh, and giving adequate time for creative processes to work.
4)    Provide the right leadership Creative people require leaders who value and understand creativity and are able to balance the demands of organization and the individuals, keep engagement and energy high, and ensure an ongoing flow of creative content. Unfortunately, such leaders are few and far between and most tend to be charismatic leaders with unique attributes. These film and television producers, magazine editors, audio producers and other leaders are able to convey their vision, sensitivity, and motivational attitudes in ways that induce others to produce and contribute peak creativity. Most of the desirable qualities of these individuals are innate, however, which means managers must spend significant time finding, developing, and retaining such creative leaders.

Enterprises that want to be leaders in content must pay attention to how that content is produced. Creativity must be supported within the firms or claims of being part of a creative industry quickly become fallacious.

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