Tag Archives: creativity

Frank Gehry, Collaboration and the Creative Process

As a consultant, facilitator and event designer what can I learn from an architect? What can any of us learn from the creative process?

When I am approached by a client to do some work, it’s entirely possible that I can draw upon my 5 years and 150+ engagements worth of experience and do some work for them that is pretty close to what I’ve done for a past client. It would be relatively simple to do that. But I don’t.

There is something in the creative process of coming up with a new solution to a new problem that is intoxicating. As Frank Gehry talks about in this interview from TED, if he goes in to a project with a preconceived notion of how he’s going to do it, he’ll start again or avoid the project entirely.

From around five minutes into the conversation, he says this (roughly):

Every day is a new thing. I approach each project with a new insecurity almost like the first project that I ever did . I get the sweats. I go in, start working, not sure where I’m going. If I knew whereI was going, I wouldn’t do it. If I can predict it or plan it, I discard it.

I believe that this is a true characteristic of the creative process. It’s envisioning an end goal and having no idea how to accomplish it. This concept ties in very closely with the work of Robert Fritz, who writes that “creative types” don’t simply follow the Path of Least Resistance but carve new paths to realize their vision, despite the fact that the journey is bumpy and uncertain.

This approach to consulting and event design, even after 5+ years, causes sleepless nights, constant design iteration, occasional frenzied research and reassurance from my colleagues (and you know who you are) but in the end, it’s the most fulfilling and rewarding approach to collaborative work for us and the client. Part of the value that I bring to the client is this approach to work. I guide them through the process and their work is better off for it, even if it’s a bit messy in the beginning and middle stages of an event.

Once I have gained the trust of a client during an event, I will often reveal that I don’t know what the group should do next and that I’m figuring it out on the fly. I am engaging them in the improvisational creative process and they tend to enjoy the energy that the process often generates.

It’s living on the edge, but with a good team and a firm eye on the objectives, I haven’t fallen off yet!