Here at Brightwild, our CEO talks a lot about the positives of disagreement and challenging conventional thinking. These are two things I have grown to appreciate deeply, but didn't truly understand its benefit to creativity until recently.
You see, so often we creatives think only in the realm of traditional agency/studio hierarchy. Designer, Sr. designer, design director, art director, creative director, associate creative director, etc… and we believe those titles define the creative ability of people. We also believe that those titles dictate the most important voices in the room. [And God forbid an account manager OR client have an opinion – RUN!!!]
Hear me out – I agree there must be a final voice in the room, but how can the final voice know that the best solution has been created if no one is willing to challenge their thinking and if no one is willing to do the daunting task of disagreeing.
Let me quickly interrupt to share something with you: The creative team and I will be letting you sneak behind the curtain of our creative team values.
Last week our design intern, Sydney, walked into a meeting with myself and our design manager and said: ‘The evolution of this concept isn’t working for me.’ She was referring to the latest round of brand identity work that we had just fine tuned for a large real estate project over the course of a week. Her saying that was a big deal for three reasons.
It just so happens that one of our core values on our creative team is literally to “Challenge each other's thinking.” So as you can imagine, a smile appeared on our faces when she said that.
What transpired from that moment on was some type of magic that can only come from a place where you truly care about pushing the best ideas forward. Some would call it team ego vs personal ego.
Our conference room became a tennis match: Challenge – critique – tweak – I don’t like it, I hate it, OH I love that – why? Because. No, that's not a good reason. Try again.
And on and on it went.
A short time later we all stared at the screen with a grin on our faces. It made sense.
The work was better.
We added an icon to the system that didn’t exist only 30 minutes prior. Elizabeth, our design manager, would say, ‘We disagreed our way forward.’ I would agree. No one took the journey to get there as a personal attack, but everyone took pride in the collective outcome.
When was the last time you walked into a creative review meeting and halted everything to challenge the work? To disagree with the thinking of your peers and managers? Why are we so afraid to do so?
I think we oftentimes don’t challenge opinions out of a lack of trust for our leaders and teammates.
Are you willing to voice something and be told you’re wrong?
Do the egos of your managers outweigh their ability to think objectively and focus on best possible outcomes?
Do titles and passive aggressiveness overrule junior staff?
If yes, implementing what I just outlined would be close to impossible.
Leaders, take a step back.
Invite your team to be authentic, to disagree.
Remove the notion that your ideas are tied to your worth.
Facilitating the ideas of others to come to a better solution is far greater than being the only one with the good ideas. And trust me, you’re not the only one with good ideas. You just think you are and everyone’s afraid to tell you otherwise. 🙂
I’d be remitted if I didn’t articulate one other core value we operate off of when it comes to feedback: Disagree and Commit.
Sure, it may be easy for some of you reading this to walk into a design review tomorrow and tear it to shreds. To disagree all over the place. But what happens when you don’t win? That’s why I love this one, stolen from Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team The idea of disagree and commit is a requirement to bring your opinion to the group, always. However, if a different decision has been made, you now must commit fully to it.
Since we rolled this line of thinking out, it's amazing how many more opinions are voiced on a daily basis that lead to better discussions and ultimately better decisions. We also see more unity on decisions because everyone has had a chance to speak up - it removes the silent disagreeer from harboring resentment to decisions made because they had no opportunity to speak up.
I hope this helps you empower your teams to take more personal responsibility and pride in the work of your studio/agency/in-house team. It certainly has for us. We’ll see you back here soon enough more thoughts on the values that guide our department!