We Need Creative Diversity From All Departments

Through my career, I have had many diverse roles, e.g. designing speakers and televisions for Bang & Olufsen, creating artwork and games for LEGO®, concepts and marketing for Coca-Cola®, system architecture and strategies for SONY® or server engineering and tactics for Turner®. This diversity of skills, a hybrid between the technical and creative worlds, has often been perceived with either skepticism or disbelieve in my abilities, as how can that be possible? How can you truly master that many skills, in contrast to mastering one skill? How can you be a programmer capable of creating advanced enterprise systems, while also being an artist, creating luxurious products?

The ability to be a hybrid is not about weakening your abilities, but instead strengthening your perspective and understanding. People who only speak one language, don’t hear nor see the contrast, while people who speak many languages strengthening their understanding, as they start to see the denominators, reaching a higher meaning in expression and articulation. Mathematics is a class that must people avoid, as in “why do I need to learn algebra?”. We need to learn about diversity in all areas of knowledge, as we then learn to see the contrast, the creative grey area of knowledge. If we don’t strive to understand each other, we will never be able to work towards a common goal.

Creativity Is Everywhere

Creativity is a word often perceived as a synonym for artistry, the ability to create ideas by applying methods to a process. It is also a word which often divides departments and people into the creative and the non-creative types.

In all my past jobs and projects, there has always been a negative culture, supporting the creative versus the technical employees, fighting over budgets, diversities and opinions. The creative departments feels lost in the inability to convince the technical department to support their rapid ideas and attention to details in every inch of the product. The technical department feel overburden by the unstructured and abstract nature of the creative department, unable to facilitate and bring their many ideas to market. Furthermore, the artistic mind is often driven by visual ideas, in contrast to the technical mind, driven by results. This diversity creates priority issues on matters of opinions, that must be managed.

Every time I planted my feet on creative territory as an engineer, I got the look, “Oh no, what now!”. The frighten and annoyed looks from colleagues, who didn’t want me to limit their ideas and change their visions into reality.

Every time I planted my feet on technical territory as an artist, I got the look, “Oh no, what now!”. The frighten and annoyed look from colleagues, who where under pressure from management and approaching deadlines, keeping their eyes on errors, which only yield a number, a narrow goal to minimize.

This look, was always the initial reaction from people who didn’t know me or my progressive approach to design, as a creative balance between different people and different jobs.

The analytical poet is a creative story teller, envisioning the customers insight into product ideas. The engineer is a creative innovator, bringing new ideas to life through technical achievements. The architect is a creative organizer, structuring innovations into system- and user interactions. The artist is a creative expressionist, relating to the customers emotions and their ongoing experience. The project manager is a creative game keeper, keeping the ball at play, planning resources and processes. The director is a creative strategist, analyzing the market and upcoming obstacles.

Though we all have a different perspective on creativity, it is part of all job descriptions, as it is the life blood in every task performed. From algorithms and mathematical breakthroughs, to emotional and artistic expressions, we are all creative people. The ability to be creative, is the ability to be smart, intuitive and job efficient.

This article is from the book, Product Design Dilemmas. A modern design ideology for customer driven designers and managers.