This is something that everyone faces daily… it affects the simple day to day decisions we make and sucker punches us in creative meetings, leaving us staring blankly into space pressured to be the one with that ultimate idea that will nail that client brief…
Its name is perfection, and it’s a creative killer.
My first real understanding of the negative effects of perfection was around 12 years ago when I first started lecturing. I was working with a great group of young individuals all from different backgrounds and I had set a simple drawing project. The project wasn’t to create a drawing that resembled the objects the students had in front of them, it was about exploring the materials and media that they were using. At the end of the day I asked the students to share and discuss their work. This is what I discovered…
Those considered to be ‘high-flying’ A* students really struggled and had very little to show, but the students with very little art and design background had a healthy body of work. As I tried to understand why, I realised that students who approached the drawing project with little expectation made marks, tried new things and were starting to understand the importance of building a relationship with the materials they were using; which allowed them to think for themselves. The ‘high-flying’ A* students were holding back, unable to move past not being able to produce work that lived up to their own expectations. All their academic life they had been told to produce work that looked nothing less than perfect… their efforts were rewarded with high marks and status but unfortunately had left them with nothing more than good technical knowledge and the ability to tick criteria boxes.
Perfection had blunted their creative freedom and stunted their ability to grow into the project I had set them. This opened my eyes to the true effects of striving for perfection, finding that reaching for faultlessness means we rely on one solution to a problem.
Here at Top Banana, I have tried to counteract this creativity killer in Team Creative. These are my learners and my values, that I try to instil to the team, as well as the students who spend time with us through our Design Academy Initiative.
- Try to book in ‘thinking time’ and build a culture where thinking is valued as much as doing. This can be hard to justify with clients, but the proof is in the pudding. The client gets the best from you and both parties get work to be proud of.
- Run one to one sessions to develop reflective practice and critical thinking to better understand the creative process for individuals and remember one size doesn’t fit all. When you or someone in your team is lost in a project, this process will help you understand where you are and where you need to go.
- Feed yourselves, this stops you running on empty and will allow you to connect with the wider creative community.
- Flag ‘gun to the head’ creative sessions. Any meeting or conversation that starts with ‘so what’s the solution’ – try to take a step back and understand what’s needed not what’s wanted – these are two very different things.
- Focus on making, not finishing, so you can build a relationship between your thinking and your practice.
For both students that visit us and the team, at Top Banana it’s all about exposing ourselves to new ways of thinking in an environment that encourages cocking things up, starting over and making interesting work. Throw in client briefs and tight time scales and you get an environment that stretches and grows individuals.
To share these practices with your own team and maybe even yourself, download my flash cards to keep creativity alive and defeat the creativity killer.