The Ideal Studio – An interview with Eugene Hughes

16 April 2014

Posted By artgym

Eugene Hughes – People Brands

Eugene Hughes is the founder and chief executive of People Brands which advises on organisational strategy and leadership coaching. He has worked with clients like adidas, the US Navy, Microsoft and the BBC and he specializes in unlocking creative potential in the workplace and developing collaborative workplace culture.

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Eugene Hughes on…

The benefits of virtual working environments…

“Most creative activity happens in the right hand side of the brain and one of the fundamental issues is that the way we work is geared towards left brain thinking. There is a lot of research that shows virtual environments are more conducive to getting people to use right brain thinking. In a virtual system you have to think differently in order to work together, to use another way of thinking than you normally would in a physical team.”

Design studios being behind…

“Some of the most uncreative cultures I have experienced have been in design communities. You see far more creativity in industries that you wouldn’t necessarily expect like engineering. I don’t think design studios get it right, they don’t really use technology to their advantage for example. Design studios could and should be leading the way but I am not sure they are. Technology is our friend if we fully embrace a flexible way of working. Flexible hours allow people to find their way.”

“There is a crucial distinction between critiquing – which is such an important part of the design process – and criticising. It can easily slip into a crucial culture which can be very destructive and very hard to transform. One of the big blockers to creative teams being creative is that they can actually be very cynical.”

Resolving the individual/group tension…

“In a lot of teams there’s a tension between working collaboratively – which is where everything’s going these days – and the need for reflection and solo working. There is a difference between individual creative genius and collective creative genius. One of the challenges is that in contemporary culture there is a bias towards the extrovert – it’s all about speaking up – but a lot of people do their thinking inwardly. There is a client I coach who is always being pushed into brainstorms but they hate it and freeze – they think better if they’re walking up a mountain or something.”

Managing people’s changing roles… 

“It’s always difficult. A creative director is really a creative facilitator so they are giving up their individual creative genius which can lead to an identity crisis. The transformation from designer to design manager is so tricky, we work with some clients specifically on development for first-time managers because it’s such a different skillset.”

Why leaders have to know what they stand for…

“We live in a creative age and everything is changing so quickly in terms of new technology or a new competitor. The old models of leadership skills are all up in the air – so what do you use as the foundation for your decision making? Your values and the principles that are important to you. There is a lot of research that shows teams with shared values and a vision outperform teams without so there is a direct correlation. It’s really important to have conversations not just about what you are doing but how you are doing it.”

Why it’s not too important where the boss sits…

“I think the main thing is communication. A client of mine is a creative director who needs their office because they need no distractions to help them think and I think that’s fine but they need to compensate, to pay more attention to their team, to make sure they are proactively communicating with them.”

“But some people might not like sitting by the leader and feeling that they are always under scrutiny, they might feel pressured. It all comes down to the dynamic between the leaders and the wider team.”



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