It has been quite a roller coaster ride for the past couple of years in our beloved creative and technology spaces. In fact, there seems to be more rolling and very little coasting! It is time for all directors, managers, designers, developers and marketers to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Change is the only thing we can count on moving forward in our careers. So rather than cowering in fear, or reminiscing about how things used to be, take some time to figure out how you will embrace change and take advantage of all the opportunities that are within reach of you, your team/department and your company. To start list the companies you admire today that are successful. Why are they successful? Why are they sought after? What do they have that you don’t have? And how can you get it?
Managing and developing a creative team by today’s standards of success will take a different approach than what might have worked yesterday. The strategy and goals of your team/department, client market and company must be identified so everyone is aware of what lies ahead and the expectations that will follow. As a creative leader, it is up to you to outline this new path. You won’t be able to show anyone the way or identify the kinds of skills they will need to get there, unless you have a clear understanding on how to assess and develop the expertise, talent and potential of each member on your team.
For example, is your department/in-house agency based on print communications and marketing? Where do your customers get most of their information these days? Has that changed? Do you need to re-evaluate how to reach your customers? If so, you have a lot of work to do. You are going to need to strengthen your own skills in becoming agile and decisive about how to change course since the technical landscape of your consumers has so radically changed. And that means redefining the kind of work your team will be producing and learning about the skills required in today’s changing talent market to get the work done.
This does not mean abandon all the methods and processes you used before, but now you need to incorporate the abilities, ideas, skills and experience from those around you, including current team members and individuals from outside professional networks. The learning curve is very steep in keeping up with every technological change and mobile device—you cannot do this alone. Top-down management is not going to work like before; you must incorporate input from the bottom-up to foster positive change. People who will thrive and succeed in the future are those who are willing to adapt and be flexible who have a passion for life-long learning; and are decisive about what they want to do and how they are going to do it.
Where do you see your department/in-house agency going? What is on the horizon for your product(s), team, and customers/users? Is your newspaper or magazine going digital? Are your websites moving off desktops and onto an Apple iPad, Google Nexus 7 or a Kindle Fire? Are you a Mac or a PC? Does it matter? Who is watching, fanning, following and liking you? If you want to be viable next year… you need to make the decision to be viable this WEEK. Make it your mission to care.
So where do you begin? How do you assess the type of skills required for your team in this new digital landscape? Positions such as UX Designer, Interactive Designer, Web Developer, Interactive Project Manager, Interactive Art Director, Information Architect and Mobile Developer seem to be on everyone’s “hot” list. Where can you find these people? Do you even need them?? Remember skills required for these positions— problem solving, critical thinking, exceptional design—have always been in demand, but are now also essential for a growing number of new and developing communication channels. Many of these positions didn’t even exist a few years ago; or maybe they did but under a different title. Either way, the BIG problem we’re seeing is that everyone is just beginning—there are no experts—and with technology changing rapidly, employers and team members must continuously play catch up, all the time, everyday.
Specific creative and technical skill sets have always been required and sought after, but companies continue to cite a growing talent shortage. Professionals with the aforementioned skills need to adapt to the tech side of the spectrum and vice versa. (Yes developers… using yellow type on a green background is a no-no.) For example, to be a good UX Designer you need a creative outlook, technical skills and knowledge about different platforms to thrive within each medium. So, it’s not necessarily the way of thinking that’s “new” or “in demand,” but the ability to quickly adapt and use technology to target diverse business goals, to be integrated onto multiple devices and ensure that the message is communicated to all audiences.
Let’s face it, this is a fast-changing job market, and while there is a shortage of experts, both parties must alter their views. For example, employers must accept this is the new normal—they must take the lead to develop their top talent who prove their ability to adapt and learn quickly. ALL professionals need to be agile with what they can do; as what’s “hot” now might not be relevant within the next few months. Everyone needs to be a self-governing professional who actively builds upon their skillsets to remain current in their field. For example, while Flash might be the language in which you are most proficient, HTML5 is growing in importance, especially regarding mobile. That’s not to say HTML5 will ever replace Flash for what Flash does,best, but mobile technology is here to stay and that includes HTML5 which the demand for talent to learn this coding language.
I was reading an article on BAMagazine.com and was struck by something that has bothered me for the past couple of years. “Our industry—the creative field—no longer makes masters. Change comes so fast that everyone is just starting out; skills and entire professions now run a 100-year life cycle in less than a decade. Professionals no longer gain the wisdom or experience of years.” Managers and creative talent need to become knowledgeable about the new type of workforce needed in today’s marketplace. Professionals need to have a minimum of “three suits” they are comfortable wearing; and “one suit” that reflects their absolute best skill set. Without agility and the proven ability to transition from one medium to another, remaining viable in our industry will no longer be an option. It is time for us all to assess and develop our skills to become more than we were yesterday, and better than we dreamed of tomorrow.
Linda Daniels has been deeply engaged in the creative industry for over twenty years. As an Instructional Design and Assessment Specialist, she is responsible for the strategic direction, management, development and design of assessment and training processes for The BOSS Group. This includes serving as a thought leader for industry best practices, developing ongoing F2F and web-based training programs, and growing multidisciplinary partner networks.
Her talent and experience as a design thinker is apparent, as it is reflected in her ability to lead, educate and motivate both traditional and interactive teams. Today, Linda remains at the crest of innovation working with industry top thinkers to educate professionals and students on the ever-changing roles in the creative and technology spaces while promoting the need for life-long learning.