Creative Chaos: Teaching Creativity

This week, at the GDC 2015 Education Summit, Drew Davidson gave a talk about about how to get teams to be innovative together entitled, "Creative Chaos: Teaching Creativity." The talk is about the best practices and lessons learned on how to support and teach the creative process through project-based work with students from multiple disciplines working together at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center after a four-year study. They learned that more diverse teams lead to more conflict, which in turn leads to more innovative work. Entertainment Technology Center is a two-year Masters program where the bulk of the curriculum is filled with semester-long projects where students with different backgrounds are on the same team. They intentionally throw a lot of different people with different backgrounds on the same team. Interdisciplinary students with expertise diversity, like programmers, artists, designers, musicians, biology majors, etc. are all thrown together and made to work together. "It's a design process where you're going to problem solve your ways through the ideas," Davidson said about the interdisciplinary teams. In trying encourage teams to be more successful and create more innovative work, the ETC found that expertise diversity created better projects, even though they also found that more expertise diversity leads to more conflict in the actual process. The conflict the students went through helped to create better work. When creating these teams, demographic data is also taken into account. Well balanced teams, gender-wise, tend to do better. Anna Mayo, a student, did research on the impact of dividing groups by gender. Women tend to agree with each other a lot more than men do. Men tend to want to "do" and not discuss, and women spend more time discussing than "doing". The study found that well-balanced gender teams do best. All types of diversity is good, however, whether it be age, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Well-balanced teams matter more than the type of project you're working on, as long as the team had a good expertise balance, the team would do well. Familiarity, meaning that you're working with people you already know, doesn't mean that you'll work best. There still need to be a little bit of conflict for the best results. Also, as in instructor or leader, if you value diverse teams, they'll be more successful.Inclusivity and being supportive is extremely important to the success of the team. "If you want more and more different types of products, you need different types of people helping make them," Davidson said. Improvosiation acting is a necessity for all students at ETC, because the instructors want the students to get comfortable with chaos and it's a great way for them to think about making games or anything interactive. The reason for that is because improv teaches you to do something from nothing. Brainstorming, shaping experiences, and working together all come out of improv acting as well. Feedback is also important. At ETC, the instructors strive to give 10 years worth of feedback within the two years students are in their program. They get feedback from facutly, peers, and guests – sometimes even guest from the industry who can affirm what they faculty has already shared with their students. "We like to remind people that people can suck," Davidson said. "You're working on teams and people might be having a bad day, or they might disagree with you, or they might undercut you, all kinds of reasons. But people can have a really interesting impact on your day." They teach the students that because they want their students to take responsibility for their own actions, their failures and their regrets, what they don't know, and for being their best. They've also learned that teams work better together if everyone on the team makes equal contributions and feeling like their colleagues are listening when they speak up. If teams show empathy and emotional intelligence they'll do better too. Become comfortable doing things you haven't done before and working with a diverse group will help you in your career, especially in a constantly changing industry like game design. "Diversity of people leads to the diversity of processes, which leads to the diversity of products," Davidson said. "Which I think is just good for the industry, and it's something we'll have to do together."