Artisan Blog

Working with Non-Millennials

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Working with Non-Millennials

In the last few decades technology has changed the world of business rapidly and profoundly. This rate of change continues to accelerate. To overcome the widening gap in knowledge and to be able to collaborate more effectively, it is essential for members of different generations to understand each other in a spirit of teamwork, empathy, and mutual respect.

With their range of experiences, Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Millennials can often generate more useful and exciting ideas together. Cross-generational diversity and cross-collaboration can become a great organizational strength and lead to expanded creatvity and new solutions to solving challenges.

We've explored some of the cultural attitudes that make members of the Millennial generation unique and valuable coworkers. Today, we'll share tips for Millennials who strive to work more effectively with seasoned teammates.

Respect Their Independence and Set Expectations

Members of Generation X, in particular, are often distinguished by a rebellious, skeptical, and iconoclastic spirit. They grew up mostly before the advent of smartphone communications and always-on social networking. Compared to Millennials, they tend to be motivated less by community and more by a sense of individuality, as do many Boomers.

"When working with an X-er, don’t be surprised or offended if they choose to work alone," writes Mira Zaslove in Fortune . She adds, "X-ers tend to be hands-off, low face-time managers. So when working for an X-er, ask them to clearly define their expectations. When you do receive a compliment from an X-er, you’ve done a great job."

Help Them Understand New Technologies and Trends

Many Millennial workers are digital natives, having had access to fast paced technologies and the internet their entire lives. Thus, it may be difficult for them to appreciate how wondrous and strange these innovations can seem to those who did not always have them, or who witnessed their rapid proliferation firsthand from the 1980s through today.

When working with colleagues on new technology, "never say, 'This is so easy,'" writes Ann Friedman of The Los Angeles Times . "Recognize that baby boomers have a lot of fear and anger about technology, and tread gently."

It is important to appreciate how glorious our new technological breakthroughs really are. Demonstrating the utility of a new application or device to someone who doesn't regularly use it may even renew your own sense of delight.

It All Comes Down to Communication

When communication is optimized, almost any group of people can come together to pursue shared goals. Working to achieve that understanding is how we mine the greatest value from our work and our lives.

Appreciating and working with our differences requires well-honed active listening skills, along with an appreciation for different learning styles and preferences in communication and collaboration.

When we respect our shared and individual goals and work together to continuously improve our company cultures, our differences make us much stronger through our diverstiy.

At Artisan Creative, our experience has shown us how great teams are built among individuals from all walks of life. Contact us today to take your career or your business to the next level.

We hope you enjoy our 471th a.blog.

 



Project Management Triangle

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Project Management Triangle

 

"Fast. Cheap. Good. Pick two."

This is a summation of the Project Management Triangle, a framework for project scoping and resource allocation that has been in use since the 1950s, and has long been embraced by freelance software developers in particular.

The basic idea is that an emphasis on any one or two corners of the triangle requires constraints in the third. What we emphasize shows the world who we are and what we value. Project managers, hiring managers, and creative professionals must determine what areas are most important, and realize the value of compromise in some areas to achieve excellence in others.

If you are filling a role or scoping a project, or you want to make sure your clients understand your constraints and give you appropriate support, the Project Management Triangle is a useful model for negotiating fairly and setting appropriate expectations.

In any profession, it is useful to keep these rules in mind:

If you want work done at high quality, with a quick turnaround, it may be expensive.

Time is perhaps the most precious resource of all. The work that goes into completing complex projects on tight turnarounds doesn't begin when you sign the contract - it requires years of study, experience, and preparation on the part of those who complete the assignment. Under such demands, you will need to work with the best, and you can expect them to charge what they're worth.

If you want your work done quickly, and you have a tight budget, it may not be of top quality.

If you make harsh demands and don't pay well, you may run the risk of being "penny wise and pound foolish," or sacrificing big returns in the future for small savings now. You can offset this by shifting from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. If you don't have a lot of money, what other sorts of value can you offer talent to get them excited about your projects and build strong, ongoing relationships based on collective appreciation? To set the stage for great work, establish realistic expectations based on mutual respect.

If you want to build something of high quality at low cost, it may take a long time.

As Billie Holiday sings, "The difficult, I'll do right now. The impossible may take a little while." If you have high expectations and a low budget, your most crucial virtues are patience and persistence. Your success depends on building long-term relationships with passionate professionals who care about your project and have the expertise to get it done.

Every project is different. That's why we use flexible mental models to determine how we can best accomplish our goals. For instance, under the "lean startup" framework, we would not gauge "fast," "cheap," or "good" in the same way as we would in a typical corporate setting. However, for most projects, the Project Management Triangle provides the most useful values system for determining the scope and setting expectations.

If you're hiring skilled and qualified professionals for your project, or you're an ambitious creative in search of the perfect challenge, contact Artisan Creative today. Leverage our decades of business experience to build relationships that lead to mutual flourishing.

We hope you've enjoyed the 464th issue of our a.blog.

 


How to Build a Referral Business

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

How to Build a Referral Business

As a freelancer, doing excellent work is only one part of your job - you have to make sure that potential customers know about it. According to survey results, freelance creative professionals rate referrals, (particularly traditional word-of-mouth referrals) as their single most important source of new business. It pays to be deliberate about getting as many referrals as possible.

As you build your freelancing career, developing a strong referral network will ensure you have access to the best opportunities you need to grow, build your skills, and make more money. Here are a few techniques that freelancers use to get more referrals that generate a steady increase in business.

Build Your Personal Brand

As a freelancer, you must think of yourself as a small business that represents a certain attitude and system of values. According to brand-building coach Rajiv Nathan, it requires a deeper process of discovering who you are, what you do, and why it matters to you.

"It’s really about figuring out the core of what you believe in as a person and using that to structure how you think about yourself, talk about yourself, and the lifestyle you want to live," says Nathan. "What is your definition of success? How do you know when you’ve made it? The pursuit of answering those big questions is what leads to the development of everything that we’re doing."

Nathan advises thinking of your brand in terms of storytelling and constructing your own "Hero's Journey" outline to define who you are in a way that resonates with others.

“Look at everything that people gravitate towards – it is the story," Nathan says. "People want a hero, a villain, and a plot. That’s basically how life is constructed as well. You make yourself out to be the heroes of your own life. There are villains along the way, climaxes, and valleys. We’re telling you to architect your story. You’re playing a character in your own life – where do you want to take the story?"

The more intriguing your story, the easier it is for it to spread. If you have a clear and compelling brand, you can generate positive word of mouth and get much more mileage from social media, where concise and specific stories cut through the clutter.

Refine Your Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch is the distilled essence of your personal brand. It is a fifteen-second summation of the value you offer, one you could use if you met your ideal client anywhere and had only a small slice of time in which to make a memorable impression.

Michael Katz at Freelancers Union advises thinking of your elevator pitch, not in terms of being dazzling or unique, and instead in terms of filling a need that others may have. "Stop trying to impress the people you meet with fancy-pants phrases that shine brightly for a minute and then evaporate," Katz says. "Instead, just help others understand and remember what you do."

Taking this approach to describing yourself will make it easy for others to recommend your work to people who ask if they know someone who can fill a particular role or niche.

Ask

The easiest way to get referrals from existing customers or connections is to ask for them. When you've worked well with a client, you can ask that client directly - it will help their reputation to be associated with a skilled and diligent freelancer. You must be bold about soliciting referrals - when you believe in your work, you cannot be shy about making sure it's available to anyone who wants it.

However, for such a request to be successful, it is important to pick the right time and the right circumstances in which to pose it.

"Ideal times to ask for referrals is right after they compliment you, or right before a final deal closes," says freelance blogger Kayla Sloan. "If things are going well, build off of that momentum. Ask if they would refer you, or if they know of anyone who could benefit from your services. Knowing when to ask for referrals is just as important as asking for them."

It may also make sense to add a referral link to your website, social media, or email signature so that anyone inclined to give you a referral finds it easy to do so.

Be Grateful

In some cases, offer incentives for referrals that result in new business. According to USA Today, more than 50% of people are more likely to give referrals if there is a modest incentive involved, such as a gift card or some branded swag.

Whether or not you offer incentives, you should go out of your way to show your appreciation to those who give you referrals. When a client gives you a referral, give them public kudos on social media or send a private, personal email to give thanks. You may even want to invest in old-fashioned thank-you cards sent through the mail, which can really brighten a client's day.

"I don’t ever send a thank-you message expecting something in return from a client, prospect, or contact," says Cherese Cobb, a writer, multimedia artist, and "Thank You Marketing" evangelist. "I do it because it’s polite. It’s like spreading a confetti of kindness that can have a positive impact on others. And I know it works to build relationships, get referrals, and land more freelance writing jobs."

If you are a freelancer working hard to turn your talent into a business, Artisan Creative has many resources and connections, and we're here to help you. Contact us today to learn more. 

 

We hope you've enjoyed the 458th issue of our weekly a.blog.

 

 


Working with Millennials

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Working with Millennials

The Millennial generation, loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 1999, now comprises the largest group of living adults. They are the first generation to come of age with high-speed internet access as a central part of their lives, which has shaped their culture and collective worldview. This Millennial generation is having a noticeable impact on the world of business, which will only increase as Baby Boomers retire.

Of course, no group as large as Millennials is going to be uniform, and there are some trends in thought and behavior that are unique to this generation of digital natives. The experiences of Millennials position them to offer insight that can ultimately make the workplace more modern, more productive, and more exciting for everyone.

If you are nervous about working with Millennials, relax - they are much more like previous generations than they are different. You can collaborate more effectively with team members if you keep these four principles in mind.

1. Be Flexible - Keep an Open Mind

The lifelong adventures of Millennials on the internet and social media have made them less rooted to fixed locations. They have friends all over the world; their social groups aren't anchored by geography, and their careers won't be, either.

As teleconferencing technologies continue to improve, expect telecommuting and offsite work to grow more popular. If you can, create flexible work schedules for Millennials. They work as hard as any other generation, just not necessarily according to the strict parameters of the traditional 9-to-5.

Likewise, be open to new technological innovations of all sorts, including those that may disrupt your existing workflow. Millennials have spent their whole lives living through massive technological upheaval, and can adapt quickly and effectively to change.

2. Lead With Your Mission

Studies show that Millennials are less interested in perks, social status, or lavish compensation than they are in making a positive difference in the world and living in ways that are congruent with their values.

To hire and retain top Millennial talent, be clear on the values that drive your culture and never waiver from what matters. Be a good corporate citizen and have a zero-tolerance policy toward hypocrisy. Make sure your culture welcomes and supports everyone on the team. Be a good corporate citizen, even if it may seem to make things more difficult in the short run.

If your company is unclear on its core mission, this is a strong call to consider your values, rediscover the reasons your company was founded, and consider what sort of world you want to live in.

3. Be Transparent, Be Human

Social media and other digital breakthroughs are a mixed blessing. In some ways, they have brought us closer together.

Millennials are less covetous of privacy and more comfortable with sharing. They are less inclined to compartmentalize their lives or to hide their "private" selves from their employers and coworkers.

To be an effective manager, you must reciprocate this transparency and trust. It’s okay to be flawed and even rough around the edges, as long as you embrace the unique contours of your personality.

No one is perfect. Everyone is human. In our modern digital landscape, it doesn’t make sense to hide. This creates an opportunity to embrace who we are and to be our best selves.

Get comfortable with informality. Being a serious worker doesn't always require strict conformity and decorum. Encourage your younger team members to nurture a variety of interests and to have robust lives outside of work.

4. Keep the lines of communciation Open

Communicating effectively with millennials will allow them to fully integrate with your company and garner respect for you and your product if they understand the company's vision, mission And values. This generation needs to feel they have a voice that is heard. Taking the time to listen and giving a platform to share ideas will mean that they will talk openly and honestly with your team and management. This input is invaluable as a manager and should provide a meaningful and long-lasting communication style.

As the world rapidly changes, those members of your team with diverse interests and full lives will offer the confidence, creativity, and adaptability you need to stay relevant and successful.

In our decades of experience working with top creative clients and talent, we have learned how businesses can use change to their advantage and thrive in interesting times. Contact Artisan today to learn what we can do for you.

 

We hope you enjoy the 453rd issue of our weekly a.blog.


Holiday Prep for Freelancers

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Holiday Prep for Freelancers

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday has passed, everyone is gearing up to bring the final weeks to a close and prepare for the new year. For many, this includes vacations and paid time off. As a freelancer, your year-end to-dos may be a little different and can be just as rewarding.

Here are a few tips to help you celebrate your success as a creative freelancer during the holiday season.

Pick Up Extra Work

If you want to keep working during the holidays, you may still find work that needs doing. When full-time designers, developers, or other creative professionals are out of town, employers may need someone to pick up quick assignments that otherwise wouldn’t be turned around in time.

If you are ready, willing, and able to work during the holidays, make sure to let your important professional contacts know and update your social profile with your availability.

Additionally, this is a good opportunity to work on personal passion projects and expand your portfolio with new pieces.

Tend To Your Infrastructure

A successful freelancing career involves much more than client work. It requires managing and marketing, taking care of financial obligations, and making sure you have the infrastructure in place to get work, get paid, and stay connected.

The holiday slowdown provides an opportunity to take care of professional details that aren't often a part of your usual assignments.

For freelancers, paying taxes and doing other paperwork is often a challenge; why not tackle it during the slow days?

You can also take online classes to learn new professional skills, to be more marketable during the new year.

Now that your clients are on a break, this is an ideal time to handle all obligations of running your own business. Organizing your paper files, managing digital declutter or achieving inbox zero can be great projects to get ready for 2018.

Prepare for Down Time

Even in our super-connected, always-on culture, the business world tends to slow down during the holiday season. Starting on the week of Thanksgiving and continuing through the first week of January, offices take on a different rhythm and often focus on staff and family celebrations.

It is always wise to have plenty of money socked away for such dry spells. Lots of personal finance and accounting programs will automatically save a certain amount each month, or you may be able to set up automatic savings through your bank.

With a buffer in your bank account, you can spend your holiday season relaxing, not fretting about money.

Take a Break

If you can find regular work and manage your career, freelancing can give you the freedom to travel, spend time with your loved ones, and set your own schedule. If you are able to and have handled all your obligations, why not take off for a week or two? Time to reflect and unplug is a great opportunity to recharge and get the creative juices flowing.

Set an "away" message, letting everyone know you are taking some much-needed R&R. You can go entirely off the grid or put your hours on "emergency mode," in which you let it be known you are only available for very important matters.

Prepare for Next Year

Set your goals, create a vision board and plan ahead for a successful year ahead.This month leading up to the holidays can be a great opportunity to research companies you want to target.

If you haven't had time to update your resume, website, or online portfolio, block off some time and make sure you are showcasing all your current work in a manner that does it justice.

Give Thanks

The holiday season is an appropriate time to acknowledge the people who have supported your career.

Send a note to your clients, vendors, and colleagues, letting them know you've appreciated the opportunity to work with them and wish them the best in the new year. If you're a designer, you can send a special holiday card, extending your gratitude and ensuring that clients will keep you in mind.

Here at Artisan, we are grateful for another rich and rewarding year of working with top creative talent and clients. We look forward to celebrating continued success in 2018 and developing new ways to support you and your work.

 

Contact us today to learn more. We hope you enjoy the 452nd issue of our weekly a.blog.


Nurturing Your Team's Culture

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nurturing Your Team's Culture

 

A few weeks ago, I traveled to San Francisco for SHIFT: The Culture Conference, where I saw entrepreneurial legend Arianna Huffington speak. With wisdom, empathy, and sharp comic timing, Huffington shared her ten rules for creating a healthy company culture.

You can watch the whole conference here (Huffington's segment begins near the 35-minute mark). Just in case you're strapped for time, we've summarized her ten principles below.

1. Make Sure Everyone Gets Enough Sleep

Huffington's recent work on corporate culture and self-improvement has focused heavily on the necessity of getting a full eight hours' sleep. While she concedes that a few rare individuals can function on less, you are almost definitely among the vast majority who need plenty of sleep to perform at your best.

This principle extends to working with your body's needs and rhythms, rather than against them. Instead of pounding coffee, take a deep breath, get some real rest, or walk outside. If you treat your body and mind well, you will feel good, and do better at work.

2. Let Go of the Growth-Above-All Mindset

A truly successful company will have a vision, mission, purpose, and values outside of growth for growth's sake. Even from a purely practical standpoint, making your work meaningful is a better way to retain good employees, keep your team together, and meet your important objectives.

If your only purpose as a company is perpetual growth, examine your priorities and reflect on why you got started and what sort of world you want to be a part of.

3. No Brilliant Jerks Allowed

Huffington decries the "cult of top performers" and warns against lionizing aggressive, antisocial personalities at the expense of team cohesion and harmony. If your company is too beholden to employees who behave like arrogant celebrities, consider that they may do more harm than good.

4. Learn to Build Teams

On a similar note, Huffington suggests thinking of your team as a networked unit, rather than a collection of individuals. While humans need eight hours of sleep and plenty of down time, your company should in some sense, be "always on," so your team can consistently communicate in one voice, reflect one vision, and share the same methods and objectives

5. Treat Culture as Your Immune System

Anyone with an active lifestyle will be exposed to germs, and any company that's taking on serious challenges will face threats and encounter toxicity. If your culture is healthy and strong, you will be able to survive these attacks, and improve through exposure to the elements. With a strong immune system, you won't need to be quarantined or use too much disinfectant.

6. Empower Women

In the wake of ongoing debates around gender gaps in hiring and compensation, along with recent controversies around issues such as harassment, the culture of business is now becoming more friendly to women. This is a long overdue awakening, and make sure your company is ahead of the curve in this regard.

Allow for a generous maternity leave and areas for nursing mothers. Companies that put a priority on empowering women to thrive and succeed will have an ethical and practical advantage.

7. Meet the Growing Demand for Purpose

The Millennial Generation will soon make up the majority of America's workforce, and numerous studies have found that Millennials demand not just money, not just flexibility, they also require a strong sense of purpose in their work.

This goes back to Rule #2; as Millennials assume power, the world's culture is changing around them. This creates an opportunity for your own culture to aspire to a greater sense of meaning.

8. Model Culture Changes at the Top

Your employees will model their actions less on what you demand or expect than on the behaviors and values you manifest in your own behavior. If you want to change your culture, set the example. Once your actions are consistent with your values, your team will know that these are values worth following.

9. As Much As You Can, Work Out Problems Face-To-Face

Huffington celebrates transparency. She encourages creating a culture where people feel safe airing their grievances and finding solutions together in a spirit of cooperation, rather than going behind each other's backs.

Although certain issues must be hashed out behind the scenes, aspire to make honesty, openness, and transparency among your core values.

10. Turn Crisis Into Opportunity

As a board member, Huffington has witnessed several companies in the throes of serious crisis marshal their resources to correct mistakes and reemerge better,and stronger than before.

The most fearsome struggles and challenges can often create the greatest opportunities for insight, perseverance, and excellence. Aspire not to avoid difficulties; aspire to transcend them.

Attending events like this is one of the ways Artisan Creative stays engaged with the world of ideas and continually improves its own culture. When you work with us, we will motivate you to do the same, and give you all the tools you need to be your best and continuously improve. Contact us today to learn more.

 

We hope you enjoy the 447th issue of our weekly a.blog.

 



6 Questions for Coaching Your Staff

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

6 Questions for Coaching Your Staff

Concepts proven to be successful at the top levels of the business world are often just as effective throughout every level of the organization. To make the most of your team's engagement and growth as well as improve retention and morale, we’re sharing a few models from the world of executive coaching.

When he works with high-powered executives, well-known and in-demand business coach Marshall Goldsmith, uses a "six question" model, which he summarizes in a Huffington Post article. His model works equally well when helping employees maximize their potential and determine how they can best fit with their team and help drive the company mission.

Use these six questions in your coaching or review sessions to empower your staff.

1. Where are we going?

Each member of the team has a unique perspective that lends itself to specific, valuable insights on how the company can evolve to better meet its objectives. Asking team members for their observations and insights on the company at large can generate useful ideas for growth and change. It also makes them feel invested in the company's future and lets them know that their perspectives are valued.

2. Where are you going?

Many job interviews include questions such as, "where do you want to be in three to five years?" As employees become tenured and experienced, it is important to maintain that conscious focus on the future. Change is the only constant, for organizations and individuals alike. Check in on how individual team members are changing and growing, and how that relates to the company and their roles within it.

3. What is going well?

Share where the employee is excelling, then allow them to point out, celebrate, and take credit for their strengths and achievements. This will help them focus on what they do best and continue to build their strongest skills. It helps set a positive tone, so that any challenge can be tackled with optimism.

4. What are key areas for improvement?

Start this section with their suggestions for self improvement, as it’s important to ask the employee to commit, via greater self awareness. Everyone has areas where they could be a bit more effective. Gently drawing attention to these areas of potential growth casts a light on them and makes it easier to improve through mindfulness, effort, and diligence.

5. How can I help?

As much as you may foster an atmosphere of collaboration and inclusion, some employees may feel isolated, left out of important decisions and discussions, or insecure about asking for the resources and guidance. This question lets them know that they have your support and opens an opportunity for dialog.

6. What suggestions do you have for me?

This brings the conversation full-circle. Just as team members may have revealing perspectives on the company as a whole, they might also be able to provide insights that can help their supervisors and hiring managers grow. Let them know that you value their feedback, and you also appreciate opportunities to strengthen your skills as a manager, and create an atmosphere of mutual respect.

In our 20+ years of connecting creative talent with top clients, we have gained knowledge and built strong networks.  Contact us today to discover how we can apply our expertise to help you build your dream team.

We hope you enjoy the 442nd issue of our weekly a.blog.


Tips for Employee Engagement

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Tips for Employee Engagement

Creating a strong, engaged, efficient and successful team results from diligent recruiting, targeted hiring, effective onboarding, and ongoing training. When properly orchestrated, this process can lead to higher retention, attracting fresh talent while keeping your existing core members engaged.

According to recent statistics, nearly half of American workers leave their jobs within a year of being hired. More than 40% leave within their first six months. Numbers vary across industries, but clearly, in all areas, there are opportunities for organized, mindful, and emphatic practices to improve staff retention.

Keeping the right people happy and engaged for the long haul makes all the difference. At Artisan Creative, some of our greatest satisfaction comes from watching teams connect and grow over time.

To that end, we’d like to share a few guiding principles to help hiring managers select and retain top talent.

Set Expectations

Whether you’re onboarding new talent or working with tenured team members, it is crucial to be as transparent as possible. Each position has its own challenges and responsibilities that may not be immediately apparent and may shift over time. 

Communicate goals, responsibilities and expectations early and as needed.  Include the team in the big picture so they understand why a specific task is being requested.

Foster an all-pervasive atmosphere of transparency, and trust, in order to retain the talent you need to succeed.

Share Feedback

Many employees report leaving their jobs due in part to a lack of appreciation, understanding, and feedback. As a hiring manager, best practices include holding regular check-ins and creating buddy systems. 

To make sure employees have the support they need to succeed, provide specific, honest, and constructive feedback on a regular basis. Depending on your company culture, team size, or location of your team members, you may have to define what a “regular check-in” means to you. Marshall Goldsmith, a leadership coach and author of several management books recommends at minimum to set quarterly meetings.

Acknowledge that team members have lives outside of work and do what it takes to make sure their jobs support them through any significant life transitions. Be prepared to work with them to strengthen the professional relationship through whatever outside forces may arise. Holistic support builds ironclad loyalty.

Reward Success with Opportunity

When employees adapt to their responsibilities, accept their challenges, and make their jobs their own, they have earned opportunities to build on their success.

Make sure that all employees can clearly envision a path to advancement, whether this comes through promotions, increases, or other rewards. As with any relationship, it is important to maintain the sense of optimism with which it began. Make sure that no one ever feels taken for granted.

When employees find that more focused effort reaps richer rewards, they will reciprocate and make the most of your shared opportunities.  Building success is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

Artisan Creative is celebrating 20+ years in staffing and recruitment of creative professionals. Over the years, we have worked with a range of creative talent and clients. Our experience gives us the tools and understanding to help professional relationships thrive. We would love to share that with you and your organization. Contact us today to learn more.

We hope you enjoy the 441st issue of our weekly a.blog.


4 Tips for Better Brainstorming

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

 


While generating fresh ideas requires limber and liberated thought, there is more to consider than the standard group brainstorming techniques.

The most productive and galvanizing idea generating sessions are guided by qualified facilitators applying best practices under the right conditions. According to one study, brainstorming sessions that meet these guidelines can generate more than four times the number of useful ideas than those that don't.

While there's no substitute for a group brainstorming session led by a trained professional, if you know and apply the following best practices, you will likely get more out of your brainstorming session, making it a more satisfying experience for your group and a more fruitful pursuit for an organization.

Establish Ground Rules

Make sure all participants understand what a brainstorming session involves, and don’t get caught up in problem solving. Add ground rules that best reflect your group and culture and set expectations ahead of time.

Set the Setting

Make sure all participants have the opportunity to plan ahead for the session and think about the key questions and issues in advance. Allow space for solo thinking ahead of time to enable members to contribute freely, avoid groupthink and generate a larger number of ideas.

The session itself should take place in a quiet and comfortable place, free of the normal workday distractions. Some organizations rent off-site rooms (such as those available in co-working spaces). A change of scenery may help shake up established assumptions and patterns of thought.

Ask the Right Questions

To be useful, brainstorming must be more than a group of people talking. To borrow from Proust, the right questions, games, and structure can inspire participants to ideate "like good poets whom the tyranny of rhyme forces into the discovery of their finest lines."

This excellent piece offers a menu of structured brainstorming exercises that may help generate more productive thinking and discussion. The most important factor for success is to build the session around a powerful central question. According to the research of Flow author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the brightest thinking is prompted by the strongest questions. Create a central question or theme that best describes the issue you are brainstorming around.

Write First, Talk Second

In a piece for Fast Company, Rebecca Greenfield recommends that much of the mental action take place before the group convenes. All participants submit their ideas in advance, which can then be made anonymous and put to a group vote. This mitigates the influence of more dominant and vocal personalities, empowering everyone to contribute more and establishing a "meritocracy of ideas."

At the least, the session should be set up and run in such a way that constructive criticism is encouraged and the loudest voices don't dominate the exchange. This requires rigorous adherence to time limits and other rules, and a pervasive atmosphere of mutual respect. This can be a delicate balance to establish and maintain.

Each organization is different. Its particular decision-making criteria will factor into whether or not actionable ideas emerge from brainstorming. Thus, leading a productive brainstorming session can take some trial and error, but the investment will pay off in greater satisfaction, innovation, and organizational cohesion.

 

Artisan Creative's a.team is here to help you build your dream team. Contact us today for assistance with your hiring needs.

Artisan Creative is celebrating 20+ years in staffing and recruitment of creative professionals. Over the years, we've learned a thing or two that we'd like to share with you. We hope you enjoy the 436th issue of our weekly a.blog.



Understanding Team Dynamics

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


As hiring managers, we have to think about our existing team dynamics each time we add a new team member.

Our new hires will need to be fully integrated into our existing team structure—and the success or failure of that integration depends on our orientation and on-boarding best practices, our timing, and the team’s group performance requirements.

Additional considerations range from current interpersonal team structure to culture and skills level of the current team.

What type of environment are we adding the new person into and what is our goal? Are we looking for someone to strengthen missing skills, to complement the current thinking, or to challenge the team and take their performance to the next level?

In 1965, Dr. Bruce Tuckman introduced the team-development model of Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing.

It’s an interesting study based on recognizing where your current team is, and what happens as a new member is added.

In this example, we’ll use a marketing team to demonstrate.

Forming

In the marketing team’s forming stage, the Marketing Manager or Director will be very hands-on to set the tone for team, establish direction, set individual roles and responsibilities and provide overall vision and guidance.

The Marketing Manager must be prepared to manage every aspect of decision making, and answer questions about the team's goals and objectives, as well as set expectations internally and with external stakeholders.

At this stage, the team tends to avoid conflict or push boundaries. The team is just in the process of forming—and there are more individual thinkers operating in silos.

This is a perfect opportunity for individuals to get to know the strengths of one another, create friendships, and align in order to move from silo-ed thinkers towards a larger team mentality.

Storming

In the storming phase, the team may not be in total agreement or come to consensus quickly. Individual members may try to find their own voice within the group and establish presence. There may be some challenges and conflict—this is OK! Breaking paradigms and new ideas can emerge here, and the team has the ability to grow. The Marketing Manager guides the team through this stage, allowing the team to confront their diversity of thought, and ensuring that challenges or drama don’t derail the team’s success.

Norming

In the norming phase, the new team starts to hit its stride. There is harmony, and synergy amongst the group and the Marketing Manager moves to be more of a facilitator than a hands-on implementer. The team is aware of responsibilities, and natural leaders develop within the group to handle simpler decision making on their own.

There is commitment, strong workflow, good discussions as well as building friendships amongst teammates.

Performing

In the performing phase, the team is high-functioning with a shared strategic plan.The vision is clear, and the team knows its purpose and its why.The team is focused, and clear on goals, takes responsibility for achieving them, and makes most of their decisions against criteria agreed upon with the leader.

The team has a high degree of independence, and can delegate tasks internally. They can resolve internal conflicts as they come up, and have strong interpersonal relationships.

The Manager moves into more of a coaching role and can assist with growth and development, as they are no longer being called upon to manage day-to-day tasks. However, it remains important for the manager to ensure the team is still being innovative and not falling into complacency of thought, or group think.

Sharing the knowledge of the concept of "Team development” can be helpful to a team—especially in the storming phase.

As you look to add to your teams, dissolve project teams, or move team members to other groups, it’s a good idea to be aware of the overall team dynamics and recognize what stage the group is in. It will certainly play an integral part into your orientation and onboarding practices.

Artisan Creative's a.team is here to help you build your dream team. Contact us today for assistance with your hiring needs.

Artisan Creative is celebrating 20+ years in staffing and recruitment of creative professionals. Over the years, we've learned a thing or two that we'd like to share with you. We hope you enjoy the 435th issue of our weekly a.blog.



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