I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately and a specific group of them has managed to surprise me a lot. Coming from the software industry I am all about efficiency and performance, and I was struck by the fact that some people don’t really care about that, and besides, they are able to do their jobs “really well”. At least that’s what they claim.
This strange phenomenon happens mostly with creative guys (marketers, designers, etc.) and that’s understandable. The “linear” way of engineering thinking cannot be applied to creativity, or at least not in the same way that we do it with algorithms, hardware and so on. Though, I believe that creatives often use this as an excuse for the lack of discipline, which does not necessarily hurt creativity.
A bit off-topic, but this picture just won’t get out of my mind;
So the question is: “How do we become disciplined and efficient without losing our creative thinking?“.
A tough question to answer and as usually, the answer to tough questions is “It depends”. It depends on
- The balance you achieve
- The goals you have and the context you are in
Let’s dig a little bit further into that.
The balance between “creativity” and “discipline”.
If you have talked to at least five marketing guys, you must know that they hate discipline, rules and tend to generate a thousand ideas per day. That’s natural and that’s the reason why we need them in the first place – they are different and they can do things that others can’t. Though, if a marketer is only good at generating ideas and cannot execute on them, then a lot of waste could be generated and the value for the company becomes questionable. Another possible damage is the frequent changes in priority (mind), which tends to be daily in the “creative” business where projects are thrown away when the boss forgets about them.
Having that said, what would be a good way to streamline the work of such people? Kanban helps with two major concepts:
- Try to do as few things as possible at a time
- Finish the work you have stared before taking new one
I don’t see any issue being creative and still keeping these simple rules. It’s just a bit of discipline to make you much much more efficient and still does not imply strict limits that would convert a designer into a poor mind-crippled engineer :).
In just a few words – don’t be extreme when creativity is important. Have some basic rules that allow you to accomplish, but not too much to be hurting new ideas generation and brainstorming.
How do our goals and context matter?
Goals always matter as they are what make you do one thing or another. If your goal is to explore ten different ways of doing the same project and you don’t care how much money it costs you, but you care about the learning, then probably Kanban is not necessary (although you could still be researching the ten options one by one and by that be more efficient). If your goal, though, is to make your organization as efficient as possible and save time, money and resources, you need to be looking into the Lean culture, which Kanban is part of (you can read more about the lean principles here).
On top of that, there are numerous companies out there that have plenty of resources and don’t really care about efficiency. I don’t have experience in the oil industry, but my gut feeling is that folks in Saudi Arabia don’t really care how fast they extract oil, as long as they are able to meet their demand. I believe that efficiency in their minds is something like “The fastest sports car I can get with my change from the restaurant yesterday”, but for many others it’s a matter of growth and even survival.
My point is that context matters a great deal and unless you have the luxury of being a “Saudi” in what you do, you should be looking for ways to optimize and I would strongly suggest Kanban as a method to employ. It has proven to be highly effective as multiple companies report improvements in the ranges of 500-700% or sometimes even higher.
If you want to try Kanban and you need help, drop us a mail or a comment in the comments section below. This is what we do best, and we would be glad to help.
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