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Why I moved into the Creative Pit March 11, 2010

Posted by schlanghole in company culture, Work.
Tags: ,

I started a company called Digital Effects (DFX) in 1995. In 2000 I merged my company with four other agencies in California, Washington, and Idaho to create Wirestone where I currently work. As we’ve grown over the years my Boise office has moved four different times. However, regardless of the location, what’s always been consistent is an area within the office that we call the “Creative Pit”. Currently this is one large room with no walls or cubicles where 14 of our art directors, animators, illustrators, writers, and motion designers all reside. I’m a big believer in creating environments that are conducive to creativity and collaboration and our Creative Pit is an example of that.

For a majority of the past 15 years I’ve sat in the Creative Pit. I’ve thrived in the Pit. However, three or four years ago some co-workers convinced me that with my growing responsibilities and a greater need for privacy, I should move out of the pit and into an office. So I did.

Ugly sweater party in the Founders Lounge.

For a while I ran solo in a private office but felt so isolated and alone that I convinced my best bud and partner Brad Mitchell to move in with me. It’s been great. Absolutely no complaints. Our office, which we branded the Founders Lounge, is pretty rad. It is complete with refrigerator, bar, walls and shelves for all my Red Sox crap, a beautiful view of the Boise River and plenty of cushy seating for guests. We’ve even hosted little parties in the Founders Lounge. It’s been good to me but still … something was missing.

A portion of the Creative Pit.

A peek into the Creative Pit.

Now, honestly I am the very furthest thing from being a micro-manager but, I had become too removed from what was going on day-to-day at a project level. Too removed from what everyone was creating each day. I was removed from the action. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was a couple versions behind in Photoshop/Illustrator and any interactive programming skills I had prior was completely gone. I understand the other areas of our business that I’m responsible for are important and I take that very seriously but it’s come at a cost. I’ve all but stopped doing what made me the happiest at work … being involved in the creative and collaborative process. Another unforeseen side effect is that the Creative Pit had also transformed and morphed into something different. It reminded me of a library. Everyone wears their headphones and quietly goes about their day. Granted, they’re all creating cool shit … but maybe it could be even cooler.

A little over two weeks ago I told Brad that I was moving back into the pit and he agreed to come with me.

My new spot in the back corner of the Creative Pit.

The first thing I did was gather the Creative Pit team together. I reminded those who lived in the Pit-of-old and educated those who didn’t know better, the purpose of the Creative Pit. I explained I was moving in for the next 30+ days and asked that they be patient with me as I introduce some new guidelines. I told them that headphones were no longer cool. I suggested we instead play music for all to hear (and take turns each day sharing our tunes). I asked if they have a conference call or client call, to take it in one of the six meeting rooms we’ve provided. There was to be no more shushing each other in the Pit. I warned them that I was going to be loud and fairly obnoxious and ask lots of questions all the time. I asked that they try this with me. I asked that they trust me for the next 30+ days after which I promised we would reevaluate.

The 30 day count down.

We are now into our second full week and I cannot speak for everyone else but I know that I feel reenergized. I am collaborating on projects again and I am witnessing some positive interactions occurring between others, even when they’re not assigned to the same project. Hell … I even caught Brad designing yesterday!

Our creative team is incredibly talented and over the next month I plan to learn from them, share successes and frustrations with them, and continue to collaborate with them as much as I possibly can. I am confident that with their help I can get to a happier place, we will rebuild the vibe in the Creative Pit and who knows, maybe they’ll even invite me to stay.