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Successfully resolve creative differences at work
September 12, 2017, 11:34 am
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Working in a creative industry has many perks. Not only does it give you the freedom to flex your creative muscles every work day, but you also get to surround yourself with like-minded professionals who want to make inspiring and original material just like you.  Unfortunately, working closely with highly artistic individuals also means that creative differences are unavoidable. Instead of embracing the drama and corroding your project with pointless arguments, here are expert-approved ways to help you successfully work through your creative differences with your peers.

Make sure the project’s goals are clear from the get-go:  There could be a thousand ways to approach a particular creative project, but very few will actually meet the core business need at hand.  Always begin your creative projects by defining your key goals and the problem you need to solve. If the team is at an impasse, you can go back to your planning documents and objectively discuss how each idea meets the stated goals. This helps to rule out subjective opinion, ensure everyone’s voice is heard, and collectively make a decision.

Understand that different people have different priorities: The reason why people have different thoughts on decisions is they have different priorities. More than one point of view can have validity. If you are arbiter or final decision maker and you have different people presenting strong cases, it’s important not to make the person whose idea is not taken feel like a loser. Rather, if possible, make everyone understand that there are reasons that one approach was taken over the other.

Avoid visceral and defensive reactions to constructive criticism: It is never fun to have someone question your creative direction, but learning not to react to the criticism itself allows creatives to question why someone isn’t responding to that work. If possible, take a breather after getting constructive criticism about your work to give yourself some time to decompress.  Learning someone’s motives for why they don’t connect to creative work will not only help in communicating with that person during potentially uncomfortable meetings, but it will also better inform future decisions.

Don’t be afraid to test out new ways of conflict resolution:  When you’re really stuck, it can seem impossible to come up with viable solutions to overcome your creative differences that don’t involve some sort of verbal nitpicking or conflict.  At this point, you should employ diverse tactics to help think about the project in a new way. Have people in creative conflict come up with multiple versions of their ideas. Pick the one you like from each and have the person improve the ideas from their opponent, making three more iterations. After two or three revisions, they are usually in sync. Or if that doesn’t work, have each of the employees in conflict try and explain why the other person’s idea may be better. There are many different group exercises you can do to help get back on track — don’t be afraid to experiment until you find one that works for your particular office dynamic.

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