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Derek Irvine


Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more about Derek Irvine

Blog: Danny Boyle’s secret to enabling creativity on an Olympic scale


Recognise This! – Creativity is not enough without delivery on the promise.

I’ll hazard a guess that 100% of my readers watched the Olympics opening ceremony, at least in part, or read about it, or saw elements of it on news coverage. What did you think of it? Most feedback seems to range from “spectacular!” to “what just happened?”.
Setting aside personal feelings and reactions to the opening ceremony, I think we could all agree that the effort and ingenuity required to deliver something that comprehensive, grand, and exciting – and keep it a secret for many, many months with thousands of volunteers involved – is nothing short of a miracle.
So how did director Danny Boyle do it? How did he create a culture of creativity? Frank Cottrell Boyce, the writer for Boyle’s team, gives us a glimpse in this article. The secret seems to be in a two-step process – eliminate all barriers, then put them back in place.

Step 1: Eliminate the Barriers for Creativity to Flow
“Danny created a room where no one was afraid to speak, no one had to stick to their own specialism, no one was afraid of sounding stupid or talking out of turn. He restored us to the people we were before we made career choices – to when we were just wondering.”
If you really want to set people free to come up with something new, give them free rein to do so. Don’t put false boundaries on people like, “That’s not your specialty. Focus on what you’re good at.” Instead, free everyone to explore, to share, to – yes – innovate.

Step 2: Resurrect the Barriers to Deliver on Creativity’s Promise
“And then it did get real. More people came on board – the galvanising presence of the musical director Rick Smith, the director Paulette Randall, the formidable producer Tracey Seaward, then the choreographers, and the thousands of volunteers.
We all ended up back in our original disciplines – and I found myself writing everything… the brochure, even the stadium announcements. Danny was bringing it all to life and taking on the brunt of the bureaucracy. And he became Prospero – presiding over rehearsals that looked like huge raves.”
The creative process itself cannot go on forever. At some point, we all must return to our specialties to make the dreams reality. Someone needs to take the reins, and everyone else needs to focus on what they know best to deliver results.
If you’re looking to create a culture of creativity in your organisation, ask yourself these questions:
  1. Are you giving people the opportunity to step outside their job roles to safely and comfortably express creative ideas?
  2. Are you empowering the right people at the right time to take control and bring about delivery on the creative process?
  3. Are you recognising and rewarding people for both being creative and taking the reins to guide the team or project to success?
Derek Irvine is senior vice president of global strategy at HR software provider, Globoforce.

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Derek Irvine

Senior Vice President of Global Strategy

Read more from Derek Irvine

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