IRE14: Creating a culture of creativity

This is part of a series of posts from the Investigative Reporters and Editors 2014 conference. Follow along with the conference on Twitter with #IRE2014. Here’s the full schedule and a list of all conference tipsheets.

Managers track: Creating a culture of creativity – pushing your newsroom to push the envelope

Speakers: Shazna Nessa,  AP interactive and innovations chief; Andrew Donohue, Center for Investigative Reporting; Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, Stanford d school

9 tips for building a culture of creativity

  1. Collaborate radically: Pull together reporters, photographers, editors and others to brainstorm solutions to problems.
  2. Recruit people who aren’t like you: Diverse teams means diverse solutions.
  3. Incentivize the process, not just the outcomes: Reward the process, not the outcome. Example: When brainstorming, reward the people with the most ideas, not the best idea.
  4. Know when to own (and not own) your ideas: Feel ownership so you will be compelled to act. But don’t feel so attached that you can’t let go of bad ideas.
  5. Separate idea generation from idea judgement: The quickest way to kill a great brainstorming session is to shut down ideas that other people throw out. Have time to throw out ideas without any limits, then make time to cross off the bad ones.
  6. Lower the bar to publishing: Stress the facts. Be flexible and experiment with everything else.
  7. Have a bias toward action: Don’t form a committee. Just do it.
  8. Are you asking the right question: Solve the biggest problem. Don’t ask “What kind of map should this story have?” Ask: “What’s the most compelling way possible to tell this story visually?”
  9. Empower people to recreate systems: If people don’t like how things work, empower them to fix it.

Other ideas

  • How can you be creative on deadline: “Constraints drive creativity”
  • For brainstorming sessions, don’t skill any ideas at the end
  • In newsrooms, we don’t experiment with facts. We experiment with everything else.
  • If you say we’re going to experiment, that lowers people’s blood pressure. If you just say we’re going to experiment and try thi and see how it works.
  • Use the “what if” framing. What if we …
  • Let’s come up with 10 ideas that are completely crazy
  • Standing vs. sitting changes the energy
  • If you fail and didn’t learn anything, that’s failure
  • How to bring innovation into a skeptical newsroom. Show them results.
  • If you need new energy, change the meeting room. Go outside.

Reading list

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