Cephas Howard, the Innovation Director for Digital Play at LEGO, has extensive experience both working as a creative and managing creative teams.
THU spoke to him about his career and asked him for some advice to share with our community. Here are his Top 5 tips to succeed as a creative team player and individual.
1. Understand who you are working with
Multidisciplinary work places and university degrees prepared me to work as a better professional because they gave me a vast skillset which allowed me to understand the people I was working with. The more you know about the job of the people who work with you, the better you can brief them. The final result will be better and easier to achieve if the team members are synchronized and understand each other.
2. Don't do other people's job for them
I try to utilize all my skills as much as I can. You only need to be an expert in one field, but the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than your own is fundamental. If the UI person is down, I can do the UI, of course it's not my job and I won't be as good as they are at doing it, but it will be enough to allow the project to continue. It's important not to undermine the work of other people or to do their job for them, but to be able to help them improve what doesn't work by telling them why it doesn't work and where the problem is.
3. Managing and training takes time, do it long term
It often takes less to do something yourself rather than explain it to someone else, so when training new people, your perspective should always be a long-term one, because it takes time and effort to do this and it's not worth it short-term. I always tend to train people and build a team in a way that, if I'm succesful, when my job is done they don’t need me anymore. It's an investment and will be worth it only once you're done. Even internships should be no less than 6 months long or they won't end up being beneficial for either party.
4. Don't always take a promotion
Life isn't all about being promoted and sometimes you need to be prepared to quit. I went down at least three ranks when I moved to LEGO. When choosing what to do next, I always consider the creative potential over money or power. If I'm good at what I do, they'll have to promote me anyway eventually! It's not possible to maintain doing the same thing for too long and stay fresh, passionate, and creative. A different mindset keeps you young, so it's good to change, but not necessarily going for a promotion. The new job or position always needs to be interesting and challenging.
5. Surround yourself with great people
During my time at The Guardian, I learned how important it is to have a nice work environment. It's not easy to come up with creative solutions all the time, unless you are constantly inspired. And this is possible by having an office which is not very “officey”. Once during the World Cup, we wheeled in five big screen Tvs to watch the games. We always had music in the office. We'd take turns in being the “deejay” or make playlists to share. The friendly and stimulating atmosphere kept our juices flowing. The office needs to be your creative Nirvana or hotspot. I once went three years without a day off because I was having so much fun at work! Think of it like this: it's not work, it's play.