I just returned from my first AdobeMax conference and wanted to jot down a few of my takeaways before diving back into the everyday grind. Usually when I attend a conference I aim to have one major takeaway, but this time I was overwhelmed by the insights discovered during my week in San Diego. The conference’s purpose is to re-spark the creativity of every attendee, and I can say for certain that I accomplished that feat. From seeing the added functionality of Creative Cloud to the incredible keynotes by Quentin Tarantino, Lynsey Addario and Janet Echelman, I left with an energy that can only be attained by being surrounded by 10,000 creatives for 3 days.

Here are some quick takeaways:

The Creative Field

The creative field is growing rapidly. For instance, among the top 20 hiring jobs in the states, 13 of them are in the tech/creative field.  However it’s challenging hiring for the positions due to the number of reasons. Some quick stats:

41% of execs said its challenging to find creative professionals

52% are concerned about retaining top talent

62% see highest turnover in entry level creative jobs

31% said general interest in top talent is biggest hiring obstacle

One of the biggest problems is the lack of creatives in the hiring positions or HR departments that don’t design postings to the best talent or aren’t always the best reflection of job duties. Interviews are another hurdle, as they often can’t actually determine the best fit for the job.

One of the top skills for designers to learn is being able to explain things; to explain why they designed, edited, laid out copy in the certain way. This helps justification up the chain.

Top tips for creatives:

1) Put your skills to use

2) Perfect the basics

3) Display your work

4) Polish your presence

5) Always be networking

The Creative Process

 We all have very distinct creative processes. We find inspiration in our own ways and craft our solutions in unique ways. Understanding that is the key to working well within a creative team.

During his AdobeMax address, Quentin Tarantino talked about the process he uses to develop a script for a movie. Once he has an idea fleshed out for a story, he goes into his record room and starts looking for the song for his opening credit. That song then serves as the beat to the story. Using this method, he’s gone on to direct some of the greatest movies of our generation. That being said, that’s only his particular method. It’s important to find a method that gets you in the right headspace to create.

The ability to  explain this process (from ideation to execution) is paramount. It helps your team deliver information in the best way for you to be able to complete projects to the best of your ability. As a creative we should be able to explain our work: the why AND the how.

In sum, creative managers need to understand, value and help grow everyone’s process and learn how to satisfy them all in their organization’s flow.

Creativity, Leadership and Success

Out of all the sessions, Stephen Gates’ “Success Is A Choice:BuildIng Creativity And Leadership In Your Team” was by far my favourite. It’s hard to distill the session down into one single takeaway, but if I had to it would be that leadership has more to do with people than execution. I’ve believed this for a long time, and my co-founder, Hamza Khan, talked about it in his TedTalk.

Stephen focused on 5 particular challenges you must overcome in terms of “managing” a creative team:

1) Perspective – You Have to be an Insider and an Outsider

2) Progress – Big Problems Don’t Get Solved Because People Can Solve Small Problems Faster

3) Fear – People are Afraid of Change and Speaking Up

4) Futility – People Think Nothing is Going to Change

5) Comfort – People Choose Comfort Over Greatness

You conquer these problems by focusing on these points:

1) Have an Obsessive Focus on the Fundamentals

2) Walk Your Talk

3) Understand, Value and Grow Everyone’s Creative Process

4) Your Products are Trust and Confidence

5) You Don’t Get The Luxury of Bad Days

6) Your Leadership has to be Stronger Than Their Excuses

7) Regular and Consistent Coaching and Feedback

8) Question Everything

The session itself was far more robust, but these were the big takeaways. 


Interested in more insights gained at AdobeMax? Check out the keynotes here.