What Every Creative Needs-Perimeter

Featuring Scott Allen Posted on May 4, 2009

Every creative professional needs a perimeter in which to work. The biggest issues that I have witnessed in the creative process have been in relation to project boundaries. Can I let you in on a little secret? Creatives and creative teams usually work at their best when they are given defined boundaries, then freedom to explore all of that space.

Webster defines perimeter as a line or strip bounding or protecting an area. In the creative process, perimeters should do both. Creative people need a definition of the line between outer-limits and off-limits. That is when the perimeter is a bounding strip. It may be hard for some to believe, but those who create feel much safer when they know where the boundaries lie.

Perimeters also protect, and this is just as important as the boundary. “Protection from what?” you may ask. Answer: mostly protection of roles and context. In this, I see the need for revealing two more of our little secrets. This is where project management should tune in…

Little secret number two: Creative professionals usually don’t perform well when they are micro-managed. The process works at peak performance when the project management process is almost invisible to the creatives. As exciting as Gant Charts can be, they should be used to frame the process and set the timelines at a high level. This will allow the creative team to understand the expectation and accountability without someone constantly looking over their shoulder.

Little secret number three: Beware of the “I want to play, too” syndrome. The creative process should be handled by creative teams. They are professionals and make what they do look really easy. It can look so easy that it can be perceived as “play time” for non-creatives who want to have fun. The truth is, it’s not easy to be creatively great. It’s even harder when the team has to spend their time humoring someone who wants to play.

So… what are the take-aways from this? Make the project perimeter clear, let the creative team explore the entire space and protect the creative space and team.