October 4, 2022

The underrated creativity of project management

Sarah Wilke

Associate Project Manager

There is no question of creativity in the advertising world. Strategists bring ideas to life with unconventional thinking and undeniable intellect. The media team ideates and activates everything from social posts to billboards without missing a beat. Designers, copywriters, and photographers on the creative team put their craft to the test by transforming storyboards into award-winning campaigns. And we project managers use unbridled creativity and grit to hold it all together.

I know what you’re thinking: On the surface, project management isn’t the most creative discipline in the agency world. But hey, it’s not all timesheets and meeting notes. It’s fast-paced problem-solving with heart. And let me tell you: getting a project from a loose idea to launch – both smoothly and on time – is an absolute feat of ideation, accountability, and flexibility. I say this because I think it’s time we PMs accept and celebrate our own creativity. 

Growing up, I would have definitely labeled myself as “creative”. In grade school, I was designing over-the-top signs for my lemonade stand. And in college, I was thrifting and upcycling outfits for sale on Instagram. That’s why, when I chose to pursue business in college – I never wanted to lose that part of myself. And, although I’m surrounded by people at work who are paid to write and design, I know that creativity manifests itself in many forms – and we ALL, including project managers – tap into it every day. 

Project managers are known for their organization, color-coded calendars, and reminders for every little detail. But in reality: Every project manager is different, and the beauty of that means every PM brings their own experiences and perspectives – professional and personal – to the table. We’re prepared for any client, any scope, any situation – and have the ability to execute with grace. Our industry’s enriching (and sometimes insane) environment allows for quick problem-solving, strategic thinking, and whimsy to be the driving force for a PM’s day-to-day schedule. To successfully work in tandem with the account team while supporting the creative, media, and strategy means being creative and flexible enough to piece together all the moving parts. This balance isn’t easy, but it’s what allows everyone at Curiosity to do their best work. And being the glue that holds everything together is pretty cool.

But it’s not all about innovative scopes and processes. I believe creative thoughts and ideas should be encouraged and welcomed no matter your job title or role description. The beauty of creative thinking is that there is no box and no limits. And, in this industry, you never know what conversation, passing thought, or joke could spark a winning idea. An example of this is when I was taking meeting notes for a social media brainstorm and the idea of having a “Dude with a Sign” recruitment post popped into my head. A week later, this became our most engaged-with social post of all time. Another example is when our office experience manager Libby Mock had the idea to fly a plane over our holiday party for a giveaway and it got written up in Ad Age. Don’t be afraid to trust yourself, speak up, and let your creative flag fly – even if it’s nontraditional. I am lucky to work with the most creative people I have ever met at Curiosity – and claiming that “creative” title for myself has only made me a stronger project manager. So, if you’re reading this and you’re on the operations side of the business, I challenge you to bring your full creative self to work. You never know when tapping into your talents will change the game for a project.

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