Managing Creativity

How do people manage creativity and creative types on projects? How do you identify it, capture it, encourage it, contain it, reward it? Creative people have a reputation for being difficult to manage - do you have particular experiences that shed light on this? What sort of project environment works best? How does the software process help and/or hinder creativity in your experience?

These (and many more) open questions have been floating around for a while, and especially since I read this article on creativity myths:

There are some very interesting findings in the paper discussed, with all sorts of implications for management, and moreover for software development.

The first myth is probably the most surprising on the face of it; creativity really doesn't only come from the obvious people, in our domain the "star programmers". So perhaps there are vast pools of untapped creative potential, waiting to be discovered and channeled. How can we create a project environment to tap into the rest of the team?

The next few are in some ways closely related: they all relate to what motivates people to not only work, but go further and work createively. And what we discover, to my utter lack of amazement, is that money, time and fear are not good motivators for creativity. This only reinforces Brooks' observation, for a start. It seems clear that providing a happy, low-streess environment where people can share is certainly a big factor here.

Software processes are often seen as stifling creativity, as processes tend to impose a structure that tends to be incompatible with the often chaotic nature of creativity. So how can we take advantage of it and best adapt our practices?

Now I think I'm going to read Paul Graham's Hackers and Painters essay; there's sure to be some interesting/relevant discussion there too.

:: Gavin Baker --