Don't stifle the creative instinct

Everybody knows that managing creative people is like herding cats into a sack, and everybody knows that most organisations struggle with it.

So, how do they get better at it? According to research just published by Roffey Park Management Institute, one the things that managements can do is to play down the traditional view of leadership.

"Creative people tend to be self-motivated; they are unlikely to look for innovative solutions if they are led by someone who slavishly follows the corporate line," said John Whatmore, who has headed the two-year project.

Successful creative team leaders, the researchers add, are also likely to be experts with strategic knowledge of the field; able to choose team members with complementary differences; able to help team members know each other quickly; supporters of others; developers of the creative skills and talents of team members; and "empathetic, warm and approachable".

On the other hand, the study at the West Sussex management centre, backed by the Department of Trade and Industry's Innovation Unit and several organisations with an interest in managing creativity, identified eight ways of stifling creativity. These included keeping too tight a rein on creative teams; letting go of the reins completely; abandoning support for personal development; appointing accountants, lawyers and administrators, rather than experts in the area concerned, to head teams; keeping people separated from one another through divide-and-rule policies; and only rewarding prima donnas.

Mr Whatmore looked at a range of activities - from scientific research at organisations such as the Wellcome Foundation, through BBC Radio to Olympic athletics coaches - in his analysis of the work of 38 project group leaders. "Our findings indicate that creative groups are different; and they require different skills to manage them successfully," he said. He added that organisations can limit creativity by being either too bureaucratic or too market-oriented.

"Organisations can be awkward settings for creative output. Too heavy an emphasis on success can discourage risk-taking. Companies that do not encourage personal development tend to be the very antithesis of those in which creativity flourishes."

Mr Whatmore, who has extensive experience of a variety of businesses, said the study came at a time when creativity and the leadership of creative groups are of ever greater importance in organisations of all kinds, while abilities in this area were still limited.

Another apparent paradox was that success seemed to depend on fostering both "chaos and its opposite". Doing that was a great art since it meant having what one person involved in the study called "freedom and control at the same time".

Consequently, the skills and talents of people who manage or lead creative groups appear to be distinctly different from those required in other types of group. They are more to do with the general development of individuals and their talents and with creating or sustaining culture and atmosphere than with achieving specific objectives.

Moreover, although creative people are often regarded as difficult to manage, there are some managers, according to Mr Whatmore, who have a gift for getting the best out of them.

The aims of the study were to discover at the level of first line supervisor (because that is the biggest and most influential area) what makes one person more effective than another, the ways in which different projects call for different characteristics, and the factors that have contributed to the development of effectiveness in managers and leaders.

The idea is that greater understanding might help in the development of the processes of selection and training of managers in other organisations where innovation is becoming increasingly important.

As a result, Mr Whatmore and his colleagues are planning seminars with participants to pursue the issues thrown up by the study.

"We're going to experiment with ways of helping people to get better at it," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Sport
footballLive: All the latest from today's Premier League matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee