Between Creativity and Excel: Does Project Management Require Creativity, or is it reserved for Web Designers?

As a project manager at a web design and development company, I am surrounded by a group of people with extraordinary artistic talents, whose mission is to create and produce beauty daily. These people, to whom we affectionately call "our creatives," are integral to our company's identity.

Maria Reis da Cunha
Jun 18 2024 • 3 min reading
Between Creativity and Excel: Does Project Management Require Creativity, or is it reserved for Web Designers?

These tireless minds are responsible for the graphic design of hundreds of sites we currently have online. Their role is to translate clients' ideas and needs into unique visual and interactive experiences, ensuring each project stands out not only for its functionality and technical precision but also for its originality and aesthetics.

In contrast, the role of a project manager involves a series of more operational and less creative tasks: developing proposals, reviewing budgets, analyzing the market, managing the schedule and work order for the entire team, and planning weeks according to the milestones. But above all, anticipating potential problems, revisiting the initial plan whenever necessary, and constantly meeting with all stakeholders, including clients.

But is creativity then reserved for clearly “creative” jobs, like that of a web designer? Can creativity play a role in the effective management of projects and a team?

The Myth: Creativity Belongs to the Creatives
The truth is, since I joined the project management team at Softway last September, I have had the privilege of witnessing firsthand what can only be described as the art of working creatively. Over the past few months, I have observed how, when faced with the most complex problems, the project management team finds surprising and unconventional solutions that not only resolve the most obvious obstacles but also significantly and durably improve processes. Often, in the weekly rush to meet tight deadlines, it is precisely this creative approach that allows us to find effective alternatives, ensuring that projects are delivered on time while maintaining the expected quality and precision.

Planning: The Antithesis of Creativity?
Plan, plan, plan, and plan even more! This is the stereotype of a project manager. In truth, planning is essential for the smooth functioning of any company, not only to ensure deadlines are met but also because it is precisely the act of planning that gives us the security to deviate from plans. Confused? I believe it was the writer Afonso Cruz who, when confronted with a child's curiosity—"Why do we have to go to school?"—responded, "school is the best place to learn to skip classes." Similarly, planning is precisely what allows us to deviate from the plan.

Thus, planning can be an essential tool to ensure there is time for creative freedom. Planning a project does not just involve creating a timeline in Excel and trying to predict the future. It involves anticipating potential challenges, of course, but also having a global and strategic vision of the whole, so the team has the necessary time to create freely. In this strategic dance, it is also essential to think creatively about how to allocate resources, motivate the team, and deal with unforeseen events without ever compromising progress. We, the “planning geeks,” must be, in a way, guardians of Creativity. Without well-defined plans, there is no room for creativity, and without creativity, there are no magnificent websites going live.

I am well aware that, unlike our designers, I was not blessed at birth with that creative gene. I also know that our design team has one of the most challenging and daunting jobs possible—creating. In my case, if faced with the terrifying blank page, my reaction would be total panic. Suddenly, my tedious Excel sheet would have a whole new appeal. However, I recognize that as a project manager, I am regularly challenged to apply creative solutions in my work, and I understand the concept of creativity more broadly: an indispensable tool for facing the day-to-day challenges.

Similarly, I can see that creativity, in its broad concept, is not confined to the realm of design and can be a valuable resource in project and team management. In fact, I am fortunate to see very practical examples of this every day.

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