Do tight deadlines improve your creativity?
One of the eternal questions in doing creative work is whether your creativity is improved by working to tight deadlines or not. Many people feel their creativity improves when their adrenaline kicks in as they face a tight deadline. But others feel this type of pressure doesn’t lead to their best results. What is the impact of time pressure on people’s work?
In PR you are always working to tight timelines, and usually you have to do the creative work yourself due to small budgets and lack of staff. This is what PR pros are faced with every day, especially when consulting. In marketing and advertising, the creative work is usually done by creative specialists.
When people are most creative at work
Professor Teresa Amabile from Harvard Business School recently researched this topic in 3 industries and 7 companies. She is co-author of a famous article published in the Harvard Business Review in May 2011: “The Power of Small Wins,” and has specialized in researching workplace creativity and productivity. Amabile found employees generally do not feel they have enough time to do their work, and they feel they can’t do it as creatively and innovatively as they would like.
We found that people were most creative most of the time when they were under low to moderate time pressure. That’s when the new ideas came out; that’s when the creative solutions to problems came out. Alone-time or working with just one close collaborator seemed to be the key to best creativity.”
Running on a treadmill
If people are in a big team where they don’t have solo time, they tend not to be as creative. Their days are fragmented, and they have to deal with unexpected problems. They feel they are running on a treadmill under pressure – feeling like they are doing a lot, and they often are, but not getting anywhere.
Finding better creativity in a big team
Amabile says people should be helped to understand the meaning of their work, the importance of what they’re doing, their own individual actions, and how that translates into something that will contribute to a customer need, to a societal need, to something that the company really needs to move forward.
She says workers should be given enough time for projects so they can explore and do that background research to get the information they need, and then they can play with it somewhat. That doesn’t mean indefinite time frames, but it probably means longer time frames than people are usually given in most companies for most projects.
Let people work in a focused way. If co-workers can allow each other some protected time each day to focus on their most important work undistracted, this is valuable quiet time, where you’re not going to each other for things that you need, or you’re not getting in each other’s mental space. That can really improve productivity and creativity.”