Whether in the realm of sport, business, fashion or beyond, creativity is fuelled by collective experience. The wider the collective experiences you have in your team, the greater the source of creative possibilities you have. Building a more diverse team means we can rely on a variety of perspectives to shape the final output – and create work that more accurately reflects the world we live in.
Create to innovate
Broadly speaking, most creative processes begin with the intention of producing something original. This demands free thinking, and the ability to see endless possibilities rather than obstacles. When we allow our minds the space to truly wander, the potential for innovation increases. In diverse creative teams, each member is permitted to wander through inner worlds that differ from their own, as a variety of unique perspectives are brought to the table.
If each team member is drawn from the same background, we could miss a golden opportunity to enrich the final creative output. That all-important innovation could be compromised and the chance to create something that represents a broader audience lost.
Read on to discover why building a diverse team should be integral to future creativity.
Diversity in the workplace cultivates a more inclusive brand culture
Diversity and inclusion is all about recognising and celebrating our differences. To be truly inclusive, we should consider all the factors that contribute to identity. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, body size, religion and socio-economic status are among the elements that should be taken into account, if we are to represent as broadly as possible.
Carving out an inclusive brand culture has been the impetus of Jameela Elfaki’s oeuvre so far. The Sudanese-English photographer, DJ and creative director founded AZEEMA in 2017. The creative agency/magazine/community explores women and non-binary people within West Asia, North Africa and South Asia and their respective diasporas.
AZEEMA’s community of contributors and followers grows with the release of each new project. “Having a diverse team enriches any work, and creative output naturally,” says Jameela. “It can only benefit the project in adding knowledge, insight, creativity and different skills.”
We can probably all agree that knowledge is power. Whether we’re catching up with a colleague about their weekend or joining internal committees and initiatives, learning about different diversities on a more micro, personal scale will undoubtedly feed into how we see the world and what we create.
The joy of diverse collaboration
The creative process is a much mused-over topic, and we often rely on certain rituals to help us on our way to that holiest of grails: inspiration.
But a reluctance to deviate from our preferred processes can mean we become stagnant and stifled by our own rigidity. At moments like these, it’s well worth trying to break from the norm and take a look at the creative processes of others: How do they kick off ideation? Where do they find inspiration?
One of the most fruitful ways we can shake things up is to step outside of our tried and tested ways. And the most effective way to do that is to work as part of a team. Collaboration forces creative ideas to collide, often resulting in a new process altogether – perhaps it’s a hybrid of how each person within that team prefers to operate, or something built on entirely new foundations. Original ways of working produce original work.
Building on that, if we work within a diverse and creative team, collaboration is likely to be supercharged; there will be a wider range of perspectives, experiences, and abilities to draw from. This cross-pollination of ideas and experiences can completely re-energise the creative process, not to mention contribute to a final customer-facing output that more broadly represents. Diverse groups disrupt homogeneity and make way for new ideas.
How diverse collaboration can unlock the power of your team
When it comes to delivering creative results that really resonate, Jameela Elfaki is a huge advocate of building a more diverse team: “On shoots and projects where the cast, crew and production team is really diverse, you can physically see that the work created is really considered, handled with care and celebratory. The work becomes really powerful.”
Creating a sense of equality and openness within creative teams to enable this power is invaluable to the creative process. When we feel comfortable to contribute, express our point of view and put ideas forward, the discussion can flow freely, and we are more likely to arrive at an idea that really resonates. It also creates an environment where people feel represented. This vetting and honing process can lead to stronger, more inclusive results, which evade the usual traps of ego and self-interest.
On the flipside, if an individual does not feel part of the team, they cannot be expected to perform to the best of their abilities. After all, different abilities and skillsets are what makes a teamwork, so everyone should feel they have a voice that can be heard.
Writer and editor Dominic Cadogan adds another perspective: “Creating an inclusive work environment where underrepresented voices feel they can share their experiences is going to help a lot with blind spots – [this is] not something that should be seen as shameful, we all have them!
“The importance is around fostering conversation to be able to identify blind spots – whether it’s LGBTQ+, POC, or disabled representation – and work towards ways that bring those communities into the fold.”
Diverse teams aid authentic storytelling
The power of storytelling as a way of connecting a brand with its audience cannot be underestimated. When storytelling is successful, it will cut through the competitor noise and resonate with its audience, which can nurture and build brand affection
Let’s consider the power of diversity within storytelling. By engaging diverse storytellers within customer-facing projects, we are making way for broader representation. Handing authorship over to underrepresented voices is one of the most powerful and authentic things a brand can do, which is probably why we are seeing more and more brands taking this approach to creative projects.
The AZEEMA platform is a true champion of authentic storytelling. Everything they do is made by its community, for its community – and according to Jameela Elfaki, this authenticity makes for maximum cut-through: “Everything comes from a place of passion and determination, for accurate and authentic representation of our bodies and voices. The benefit is that thoughtful, authentic work really speaks to others.”
f the authenticity is diluted, the message will be compromised and is likely to have an adverse effect on your audience. For brands, this can be a common pitfall – trying to shoehorn an agenda into an authentic narrative or riding the wave of awareness days within underrepresented communities.
The impact of false authenticity within brand storytelling is a topic that creative consultant and LGBTQ+ activist, Tom Sykes, feels passionately about. “During Pride month, many brands just plaster a rainbow flag – often an outdated version – over their social media content, products and their stores. And every year the same conversation happens across the Queer community: are brands doing this with conviction and sincerity or is it done to seem politically correct? What are these brands doing with their profits? Why do we only see visibility through the month of June?
Audiences aren’t naive. The more creative freedom a brand hands over to authentic storytellers, the more likely the audience is to connect with it. According to Dominic Cadogan, authentic storytelling has become a non-negotiable: “Consumers are so savvy and switched-on these days. Authentic storytelling is high up on their list of demands.
“If you’re a brand that wants to survive beyond 2022, it’s imperative that authenticity is woven through your brand morals and beyond. From a bigger picture perspective, authentic storytelling produces better content and gets the message and products to the communities you’re trying to reach.”
If a company’s aim is to truly connect with its audience, then the audience needs to see themselves within that company’s messaging. They need to be represented. Which is why diversity and inclusion is absolutely integral to creative output. When an audience is genuinely engaged, what might that lead to next? It’s possible that its impact lives on to spark more conversations, more validation, and even more creativity.
3 tips for unlocking creativity
1: Build a diverse and inclusive team – an inclusive team makes for inclusive results
2: Create an open forum for everyone to be heard – interrogation leads to stronger ideas
3: Keep the creative process as flexible as possible – new ways of working can re-energise a team