All my life I have been blessed with having a creative mind. However, like many creative, my teachers and counselors had a different opinion. Now, I find that my ways of thinking are more of an asset than a hindrance. Being labeled a “creative” in a sea of technicians can be intimidating at times, but there is one equalizer that I find comforting – Communication. When technical minds get together they can easily talk to one another about complex concepts using jargon and tech-speak without too much trouble. When they have to pitch an idea or concept to a new audience they often turn to the “creatives.” It’s our job to make sure their ideas and concepts are clearly illustrated, as complex ideas are much easier to understand when they are shown rather than told or read.
Stereotypes over the years have created a rift between creative thinkers and technical thinkers with categorizing both as either right or left brain thinkers. Today we know enough about how the human brain works to say that we all process information the same, with both sides of our brains, there is no right/left paradigm. As businesses evolve with the idea that this paradigm no longer exists, the visual world is making its way into more and more board rooms.
Many successful companies have been aware of the power of design for a couple of decades. There have been many studies over the years stating the effectiveness of visual thinking and using symbolism to communicate. Some companies use these concepts very well and are rewarded when they do.
If you look closely you can see it; a shift, the web and its sister technologies have done enumerable things to bring us to where we are today. Businesses that couldn’t have existed 20-years ago are flourishing and making old business models obsolete daily. Tools and capabilities never imagined possible are now commonplace. All of these rely on design and the visualization processes and techniques to communicate. Our world has become a highly visual space.
This shift has been steadily building over the past decade or so, design and creativity are used more and more to solve complex business problems. Companies like Autodesk are pioneering new visual ways to virtually design and test products in real-life scenarios, using design and simulation throughout the engineering process instead of just at conception. Visual meetings which have been in vogue since the 1980s in companies like Hewlett Packard, Apple and Nike, are becoming more popular. Products like Smart Boards and Presi are proving effective ways to communicate to new and diverse audiences.
As the old adage goes, image is everything, and in an ever more mobile and connected world perceptions weigh on consumers. If those consumers are looking for the latest in handheld gaming or looking for a supplier of a new composite material, how your product and company is perceived will inevitably contribute to its success or failure.
Design thinking allows you and your team to visualize connections where none previously existed. It helps your entire team see all things at all times. It brings people together to collaborate on problems. It puts everyone on the same page and allows brainstorming through entire projects.
One of the first ways you learned to communicate was with a crayon. Embrace the creativity inside of you and draw, doodle, sketch and share. Don’t hide your creativity in meetings and over teleconferences; share it, you never know where a simple doodle might lead.
Christopher C. Fick is the Art Director at the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences; with a background in both manufacturing and visual design he is looking to bridge the gap between the creative and technical fields.
Check out www.ncms.org/CreativeSolutions for more information.