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Chaos & Creativity: A Love Story



Huge's Patricia Korth-McDonnell spoke at SXSWi about building a creative culture

Chaos & Creativity: A Love Story

At SXSW Interactive 2014, Patricia Korth-McDonnell, Partner & Managing Director at digital agency Huge, presented a talk about creating a work environment that supports creativity and innovation.

When I joined Huge back in 2005, our company was very much a small startup where long hours and fighting to the death for ideas were the norm. I was hired as the agency’s 13th employee and was ready and willing to tackle any project that came my way - including figuring out how to build wireframes, booking travel for our CEO and debugging HTML.  Despite not always being qualified for the task at hand, I was given a lot of opportunities to do work outside of my job description and to learn, which ultimately helped me grow professionally.

As the agency grew, the leadership team noticed that something was changing. The scrappy startup we once knew was growing and rapidly adding new employees. We understood that our ways of working as a startup shop wouldn’t scale, so we tried to document our formula for producing great work by identifying and defining our process. What ended up happening, though, was that when we used a prescriptive set of rules to tackle every project it was a disaster. We found that every client and every project was an exception to the rule. Then, we realised the magic that was happening with our work wasn’t how we systematically approached the problems that our clients hired us to solve, but was actually the culture we created to give our teams the tools they needed to do their best work.

It’s important to aspire to make things you are proud of that will create passion and a sense of ownership for your creative teams. There are several things you can do to start creating an environment that supports creativity and innovation in the workplace, regardless of whether you work at a large company, small startup, or agency.

Encourage people to share ideas, regardless of title or seniority. If you can create an environment where the best idea wins no matter who it comes from, you will find that great creative ideas will come from all levels. It’s also important to remember to be fearless. Feel free to think outside the box and bring ideas to the table that might seem crazy. Even if 90% of those ideas turn out to be dead ends, 10% might be brilliant and really drive true innovation.

One of the hardest, but most important pieces of advice I like to give is to embrace the pain. Collaboration, having your ideas critiqued, and realising that great ideas mean more than titles can be hard to cope with for some people. Though these experiences can all be painful, they help employees and teams grow and flourish because they create healthy challenges that encourage people to strive to produce the best work.  

Ultimately, to successfully drive innovation and creativity, you need to embrace the chaos that comes with a workplace that isn’t defined by a rigid process. Hire people who are passionate about the work they do, give them the tools they need to do great work and stay inspired, and you will succeed.


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HUGE USA, Fri, 14 Mar 2014 13:22:15 GMT