Developer 20 years later: Vasily Lebedev about ICRE, education, his book and programming
In mid-September, we met with the head of the IKRA creative thinking school. It is unlikely that in 1998, the programmer Vasily Lebedev could have imagined that 20 years later the director of CAVI Vasily Lebedev would sit in the kitchen of his own school and give interviews about creative methodology. The CRAFT methodology and the book of the same name talk about how to create working ideas. But in order to understand why they turned out exactly such, I had to rewind everything to the very beginning.
Tell me how you stopped being a developer and became a director?
I studied at MIEM as a programmer, but there they gave us arrays on Pascal, and at that time spacecraft were already flying in Flash: all sorts of Papervision objects, skeletal animation. In the meantime, what I did, already earning money, and what I was teaching at the university, was a monstrous gap. Therefore, I quickly settled with the institute.
At first I was a backend developer: PHP, MySQL, databases. He worked in those wondrous times - the end of the 90s - the beginning of the 2000s - when everyone sawed their admins and made websites for $ 300. Then I went over to the front end, I was captured by a flash programming mania. And since 2001, I first at the first, then at the second, and then at the third actionscript I created all sorts of flash sites. I wanted to learn how to do Big Spaceship and 2Advanced: with all sorts of departing menus, parodies of real objects. I studied mathematical models in animation, looked at how to connect offline flash interface with all sorts of xml sockets to arrange data exchange in real time. In general, it was a wonderful romantic time, and then advertisers and marketers noticed me.
My further life was connected with media and creative agencies, which began to order flash sites from me. And then I met my wonderful partners: Vitaly Bykov and Valery Golnikov. We then famously made friends on a project about extreme sports, and the guys just opened Red Keds. Just six months after the opening, they called me, and we began to kolbasit crazy sites. The guys always brought tough customers, Red Keds had freaky designers, and I poured flash-backing into it all. The desire was to make sites so cool to win awards. So little by little, I began to move from programmers to the "dark side of power." By 2008, I managed to go to Cannes, win a couple of festivals here, several Favorite Web Awards and a big tender Coca Cola at the end of 2008.
It was a milestone when I began to engage not in development, but in creativity for development. Then such a profession as a creative producer was just born. At first I was a producer of digital projects, but very soon I finally went into creative work and became the creative director of Red Keds, preparing a variety of creative and communication concepts. And since I am a system dude and I didn’t like the way in which the concept of copywriters and agencies brought us, I decided to find out what creative thinking is in general. I did not believe that it was possible to simply invent chaotically and not rely on any system. I, as a programmer, have always looked for the interrelation of elements, the inheritance of objects. I needed logic in the construction of thoughts. And now, for 10 years I have been studying creative thinking.
There are many great things about this in the world: methods, approaches, ways to streamline work. But in general, I saw three approaches: design thinking, TRIZ and lateral thinking. The fourth approach we created at ICRE is the CRAFT methodology. It is based on communication and advertising approaches and terms such as insight, big idea, mechanics, activation, and social modeling techniques. Recently, I was fascinated by the construction of social models, which then turn into objects for development.
How the creative works
That is, in your opinion, you can systematize the creative process? To what extent?
It can be highly systematized. But it is important not to oppose the creative process and the muse, inspiration. No one says that when performing a sequence of actions, you should not be inspired and at some point inadvertently take certain data. Moreover, if you read the works of Edward de Bono , we will see that you need to create a lot of provocative ideas and create provocative contexts so that there are a lot of "members" in your brain, from which you can then "land" ideas to fully realizable solutions.
What is a creative process? He shows you how you can transfer data in your head, step by step. If you put it in the language of IT, then the creative methodology is the operating system of thinking, within which the API is laid. A separate function is a technique that requires input data and provides output data. For example, associative mental map. In order for you to build it and get a result, you need to set the root element at the entrance, agree on what level you are building associations, build them. And after that you additionally do something with them, for example, you combine them, or you directly take the data for future work.
Or here is the segmentation of insights. You have a task to formulate insight, but first you need to understand what it is. Insight - the hidden truth about human behavior. There is a specific model: motive + barrier = resulting action .
Understanding this construction, you can start looking for individual motifs and individual barriers at the entrance. You segment them into cultural, social, food and media, and then you look where the tension is greatest. Everything, at the exit you have insight, where motive and barrier are joined. Almost every technique you can describe in such a step-by-step mode. But this does not exclude the need for life experience, inspiration and the desire to invent.
By the way, the fallacy that children come up with a super cool.
Yes, they can only invent on the basis of what they already have in mind.
By and large, yes. Your brain combines and synthesizes the meanings that you have learned in your life. There are parameters that can be developed: flexibility, fluency of thinking, which will accelerate this process. For example, it is faster to use metaphorical hyphenation, to look wider at some things. Life experience has not been canceled. What you can get from the children's chaotic creative is a random number machine gun, random. Of course, sometimes he is needed, but agree, it does not build all the systems in the world.
I understand that when it comes to children's creativity, they mean that they are not yet constrained by a set of rules and social attitudes.
Yes, they are not afraid to blurt out something, to express. They will not consider that it will damage their symbolic capital. Sometimes this pure fine randomizer happens to be in place.
Is it possible to develop the creative process to such an extent that it will become mechanical?
Creative techniques is a skill. You can develop it to some kind of unconscious skill that you begin to use situationally in life. If you have been studying TRIZ for a long time and studied how contradictions are formulated, then in each problem you will try to identify contradictions and solve them in four ways at once: in time, space, systems and relations. And it really turns into such ... everyday genre. We in CERA, do sometimes deal with contradictions, insights - it just comes into use. If you listen to our brainstorming about educational models, then from the outside it looks like a conversation of magicians who think out how meaningful schemes can be “wrapped around”. We know the result of each specific technique and we can assume which ones fit together perfectly. We, naturally, use in our work those methods
And how is the process built: do you first test the techniques and then give the students or is it a parallel process?
Over the past 10 years, everything has been. Sometimes we just collect experimental free groups - with students, teachers - and we warn that we will test different new stuff that we’ve dug up. We test, reflect: what comes in, what does not go in, what is bad, what is good. We have an ongoing process of research, mistakes.
Here plays a big role knowledge management system. We in CERC have a knowledge base in which we drop all the results of workshops and programs. The methodologist takes a collection of presentations and drives 2–3 pieces every day, draws techniques from there, fixes for which categories a particular technique was used, what was the result, what type of training it was. All this happens in Notion - it is convenient to categorize and systematize there.
Plus, we have a monthly Pipeline methodology - for all curators, we “strain out” new techniques and send them to them. Even for a week, something new will appear. And we are looking at techniques not only from creative motodologii, but also on educational, pedagogical practices, game mechanics. Once every two weeks we take a board game and reverse engineer it. We are looking to see whether we can transfer such mechanics to a workshop.
But I'm a dude from Habr, so the question of the mechanization of the creative process led, of course, to machine learning. Is it possible to give something to the input of the neural network so that it produces a creative result?
Now I don’t like to fantasize on this topic very much, because it is ... pops. Artificial intelligence, who comes up with ideas? Based on the accumulated experience of other guys, I think, sooner or later he will be able to generate new meanings. But what [now] AI really doesn’t know is how to make system creative concepts. This is a document that shows a causal relationship between the needs of people, the market, trends, ideas that you can implement, and their development in custom ways, mechanics and production. A creative concept is such a complex document with three blocks: strategy, creativity, production. The generalization of ideas and their binding in a holistic form is a creative process. In my opinion, it cannot yet be digitized as easily as the process of generating naming or slogans.
Don't you think that systematization of creativity will lead to the devaluation of creativity? If a person is good at creativity, but "sells" sneakers and diapers, then he does not express himself as a person.
I must say: I'm on the side of the "dark forces of evil." I have always been on the side of corporations, commercial creative director. I have never been a creator. I believe that creativity should be targeted - useful, meeting the needs of people, to give an answer to their contextual problem. For me, creativity is a way to drive progress on a global scale. Systematization of creative processes does not kill creativity, but creates a market for creative professionals. As long as they don’t pay money, people don’t want to be creative. You want to draw or sing - no one bothers to do this - but at the same time you spend 10-12 hours of life on some non-creative work and hate yourself for it.
We launched the ICRU from insight "I studied for five years as a shipbuilder, I hate my profession and want to find myself." In essence, we create a market and say: we create demand by teaching b2b companies and helping them build in-house creative agencies. On the other hand, we create a proposal by training specialists: copywriters, creators, inventors, who can then go to these companies to work. I think we help people become a little happier. Anyone who wanted to become an artist, will become an artist without our help, and where we need to develop the invention, we can help.
And tell me, is it possible to objectively evaluate subjective things? I was always interested in this moment in the creative process.
There are two points of view on this question:
- We found a need for it and came up with a solution.
- We came up with a solution and created a new need.
The creative methodology of design thinking follows the first path. And the five-phase algorithm for developing an idea begins with an empathy stage and a search for need.
Lateral techniques first shoot a fan of ideas with a machine gun, and then land them, depending on where that need is not yet closed, or it can be created.
That is, in none of these approaches can you give a 100% chance that one or another idea will work?
This is probably what creates excitement in our profession. Otherwise everything would be too predictable. You can remove the need that people want to eat cheese. But this does not mean that they will buy your cheese just like that.
How are the work processes in ICRE
In the summer you wrote in FB that IKRA is expanding. How many people work in the company now?
Now we have 23 people working in Moscow. Plus three people in St. Petersburg and three in Minsk. And our curator group is about 30 people, of which 12 are residents of caviar with 5-6 years of experience. The curators do not “work” with us; they, together with the school, teach, develop the market, conduct consulting sessions. But at the same time, each of them has his own work: almost all of our curators are directors of their companies.
How to organize the work process so that everyone is comfortable, but at the same time the company also brought profit?
Probably, it would be fair to say that I still have not found the ideal management structure. Over the past 10 years of the development team, we have had different approaches. We tried power verticals, tried meritocratic approaches, holacratic approaches. And we haven’t yet found any ideal frame suitable for us. I can not say that we are family here, but we are a very friendly team - this is 100%. We have now rented several villas in Cyprus for two weeks to try to spend time together and work remotely in the middle of autumn. This is such a social experiment for us - whether we can work effectively, if we also live together.
We have been doing quite a lot of HR processes for the last year. We hold regular coaching sessions. We inside CERIA have a goal-setting system for employees. And once a quarter, we have a global development meeting for departments.
In general, the school has four blocks: a methodical center, a business department, marketing and administration. Everyone has their own keyword, for which he is responsible: methodological center - for the senses, business - for money, marketing - knowledge, administration - comfort and safety.
Are there any developers in the team?
We have a technical producer who runs all the digital projects. He manages freelance development teams. That is, it is always an outsource, we do not have our own development team. There are several teams with which we have been working fruitfully for a long time. There are developed that support all our internal resources such as the site. Others help launch educational modules for clients. Something similar to how agencies work: there is a concept, TK, and further we move from small MVP to increased functionality.
We are now developing an online platform with a training program, and this is largely within. For her, we hung a separate Kanban, there is a backlog with tasks, weekly sprints ...
What percentage of your projects require IT participation?
Not very big, 10 percent now. But I would like more. And their share is indeed gradually increasing. We ourselves usually become the initiators - to take the same online platform. We also made a "designer experience" in digital format. Just now for QIWI we’ve finished making a learning path planning system. But not that we force this much. And besides, the market for digital educational products is now just beginning to actively develop. So far we have been following the almost scientific process of studying methods.
Do you highlight any global trends in educational methods for yourself?
Everyone is now in a good sense of the word tore the tower from learning. It's cool that people realized that you can learn all your life.
We are particularly interested in the influence of “4K competencies” (critical thinking, creativity, communication and cooperation) and “soft” skills on development and training. Breaking through the channels of creative thinking in Russia, we suddenly got into the ocean, in which it all mixed up in the wildest cocktail of requests from Eychar.
Last year, we compiled a competency map at the intersection of creative and other thinking. Creative thinking + critical is about evaluating ideas and their development. Creative thinking + cooperation is Brainstorming, facilitation, and group sessions. The result was a list of eight synthetic competencies.
I have not met recently a single company (even a state-owned), where they would not be concerned about how employees develop soft skills. How to make the product scientist come up with cool pitch presentations? How to make managers great to generate ideas? How to make copywriters quickly generate slogans? A request for how to develop soft competencies is one of the main trends in educational programs. We are not even talking about specific people who want to develop, but about the owners of companies who would like to embed a creative process inside their television channel / bank / school.
By the way, for the third year, Pavlovskaya Gymnasia and I have been in the process of introducing creative competencies into the educational program. In addition to mathematics and the Russian language, they have a lesson “Creating Creative Concepts” or “Mastering Presentation”, “Brainstorming”. While this is high school, but now we are trying to run it in the younger groups. I think it's awesome. If you can brainstorm, then your resume immediately +100.
In high school, by the way, it is often necessary to make a choice: to study further technical disciplines or humanities. What do you think about this separation?
It seems to me that the difference between humanities and techies is fictional. This is absolutely outdated segmentation, because one of the most popular professions today - Product Owner - requires a wide variety of competencies, both humanitarian and technical.
The segmentation has clear roots, but it does not meet the requirements of today's market. The separation of humanities / techie implies your performing role in society. That is, the techie is just a Python developer, and the humanist is a translator from English at the publishing house. But such a division of professions is simply not relevant. Product Owner - who is this? Is a creative director in a digital agency - is he a techie or a humanist?
There is another popular belief that the Russian education system provides a huge store of theoretical knowledge, but does not teach how to apply them.
Watch it. I became interested in design in '98. At first I came to the web and wanted to draw, complete and program everything myself. And I could not find where these skills shake. I now envy my son and younger sister, who have a scattering of opportunities: creative schools, DJing courses, floristics. Here's a DIY-academy for you, and here is an intensive IKRA. And the only thing you need to learn to do is to be oriented in this to everyone. And then, in the 98th, you studied for some tutorials like "Photoshop for Dummies", random manuals on the Internet. All generation Y is a generation of self-taught people who did everything on their knees and learned from their mistakes. We reached the necessary skills much later. Imagine being taught from school to technical design or programming as a basic skill. I generally think
That was my next question.
One hundred percent! Without programming, you will not understand now how world systems are built. The PLO formatted my brain so much that the perception of everything in general has changed. Including the perception of language, advertising, communications. Through programming, I learned how to make communication strategies, to understand cause-effect relationships. It's just a bomb! Now programming is promoted, of course, but still not as much as needed. I believe that from the first grade of school you need to hrenachit programming.
We were in the third grade on computer science gave Basic. But he was even at that time helpless and divorced from life.
Yes, this is another pain. Teaching such disciplines is needed contextually. You need to program your blog, for example, and you are asked to sort the array in BASIC. The student will receive no pleasure from this.
About the CRAFT book and methodology
Your book CRAFT is the result ...
... eight years of work. This time has passed for the study of creative techniques and the formulation of communication methodology. For a long time I could not understand what a big idea and insight is. In the brief they write to you: we need a new big idea! And what the fuck is, is nowhere to be found. Therefore, step by step, solving practical problems with clients, I collected knowledge. By the end of 2015, there was a complete picture of the techniques, terms, concepts. I spent the year 2016 writing a draft, and in 2017 we released a book.
After all, she came out in two parts?
Yes, there are theoretical and practical parts. The first is about how it all works: what is a big idea, and what are its key parameters. And in practical you will find specific combos that you can use on real-life tasks.
Why did you release a book on paper?
I really wanted to use the example of a book to show that even a physical object can interact with a person. In fact, my main thought is that the idea is primarily a form of relationship with a person. You perceive an object as you treat it. I wanted the book to communicate with the person, and different pages and sections represent different ideas. You can find in the book glued pages that need to be broken. And the act of breaking is an act of communication. Therefore, in the book there is a place where you need to sign, as in the contract. There is even a dialogue of pages in the book. Through all this I show how you can create new forms of relationships: in the book, on the website, at events, in the educational process, no matter where.
Heard of the Gorbunov Bureau 's digital interactive books ? There's a similar approach + the ability to update information without having to release a new edition.
Yes, someday you will have to reprint the book. And I respect the Gorbunov Bureau, and this is a cool topic. They are sitting here, by the way, not far on Flacon. Finding a new form for books is a great idea. I would love to take part in this, and if there is such an opportunity, I also thought how the book might sound in a new way in a different format.
And by the way, for the first time I met this kind of interactive books through my father. At the dawn of the 90s there were such multimedia books on the Top crust: Cyril and Methodius Encyclopedia, an interactive encyclopedia on musical instruments, according to this. In 1993, my father produced such books. With the creation of such interactive multimedia tools, where there is inheritance and nesting of meanings, I met even then. And I replicated this, of course, in flash-sites that imply complex information constructions. In short, the topic is very interesting, I would have come back to it.
I have many books and lectures - let's call them conditionally "How to do cool" - there is a complaint. They usually talk about the path traveled, but you never get an answer to the question “how”. CRAFT answers the question "how"?
In general, I try to answer this question in all my developments. That is, it’s not just to show a “look at what a cool cup” case, because the question is not whether it brought a million dollars to the owner. The question is how to get to this cup, how to make one. I concentrate on this. In all our workshops, we try to identify this step-by-step path.
And in my book, I struggle to explain how. Perhaps, sometimes too complex words, so next time I will write something simpler. But I definitely give an answer to this question.
About this about this
You are familiar with the situation when friends gather in the kitchen and at some point, on the second bottle of brandy, an IDEA arises - to make a service or a dream game, for example? Is there a recipe how to bring ideas to implementation?
Yes, familiar. There are three main blocks that help develop an idea from an abstract meaning to a concrete thing that you launch “on the air.” First comes the stage of the abstract hypothesis, then the stage of forming a big idea, a system of relations. And next is the stage of transforming a big idea into user ways and concrete actions that a person must perform as part of a big idea. At these stages there are techniques that help either to land the idea, or, conversely, to abstract.
My first advice is to fix the idea from the point of view of the user path, to understand what are the roles of interaction within it. And cascade elements of this user path into separate elements of the system that you will implement. Roughly speaking, in which channels of communication or with the help of what subjects will you start the idea.
If you decide to do a drawing school, you need to understand who you will have in this school - to create a role model. Suppose you do not have students and teachers, and you want to make a school peer-to-peer, where students will teach students. Will it be offline or online? What will the classes look like? How will the communication be built: website, mobile application, real premises? Or all together?
After you have described it approximately and understood that everything is in principle realizable, you can put some minimum MVP to launch in order to test this idea. I don’t really support the idea to make MVP for any idea. It is better to prescribe a little bit of concept at first - this can be done in a day if you try.
And how do you feel about the idea of constant growth - this has become almost a new religion.
Fanaticism around growth weighs heavily on everyone around. It seems that if you are not like the dude with TED, who became a billionaire in 20 years, then you are a loser and you have to shoot. This gives rise to many negative qualities: envy, jealousy, greed. I even notice it in myself - I open Facebook, and all the winners are there. Therefore, I now use FB only as a messenger.
I have launched 10 different companies for my practice. Three of them have risen and are still working. The rest fell and closed. For some, I was experiencing more, for some - less, but every time there were strengths and new partners to launch something new. Now there is such a flow of information around that it is not worth wasting time on experiences, it is better to try to do something else. If I focused on failures, I would die from these emotions.
There is no feeling that most educational platforms provide not so much knowledge as motivation and even entertainment to some extent?
Probably do not agree. After all, the platform platform - discord, and content on the same platform - also discord. I, for example, on the Treehouse platform, taught Python at the beginning of this year and I really liked it. I made my own small website, ordered the O'Reilly book, studied Flask, SQLite and saw that the world had changed. There is a beautiful Bootstrap, React conquers the universe! I realized that I was lagging behind what was happening, but I got a huge buzz from diving into it all again. Romance. So, the platform is cool. She does not entertain you, but vice versa - she is banging and she is preparing to build a back-end for websites and social networks. There are, of course, more abstract courses about culture and history, but I personally am looking for specific workshops where you can hone your skills. And in CERA, we will now try to launch just such creative workshops.