“creativity is not a department”

Creativity is the quality or ability to create or invent something from nowhere. As Chiat Day says “creativity is not a department” and cannot be confined to simply the jobs that explicitly refer to it in their job titles like copywriters or art directors. It is also present in all other parts of the business by innovative thinking – known more as a ‘small c’. On the strategy side, creativity is important in understanding our audience, solving brand challenges, and formulating solutions to build brand awareness/love. It is also critical for creating impactful work with purpose and relevance yet still simple. A recent study by Millward Brown identified that the most important reason for an ad being shared is that it is uniquely creative and engaging, noticed amidst the noise. 

The power of two is a concept that many experts in the industry have noticed about the creative process. Essentially it is the blending of two unconnected things to create something entirely new, a never-before-seen combination. James Young, in 1939, wrote, “An idea is nothing more, nor less than a new combination of old elements” and Koestler coined the act of “conceptual blending” to create something curious and cherished.  

In order to create valuable creative ideas, one does not necessarily need to be creatively gifted. Although this is up for debate, most believe that anyone has the capability to change the world as long as they have the right tools and framework. Although there maybe truth to the fact that some people are more suited to the creative process and find generating ideas comes more easily to them. These people are known as ‘T-shaped people’ as they combine specialist knowledge with ‘outspiration’ from less familiar disciplines. Nevertheless, it is thought that people are able to become more creative with practice, time and effort, just like any other skill. The golfer, Ben Hogan, asserted that “the harder I work, the luckier I get”. 

The first element required is several different influences to draw inspiration from, far beyond what you are provided from the client and your desk. Sometimes the best nuggets come from totally unrelated fields which enable us to take a fresh perspective on the task at hand and approach it in an unexpected manner e.g. “a round peg in a square hole”. Secondly, being a creative ‘genius’ requires persistence as usually the obvious ideas start to emerge first or even the initial thoughts require refinement/building out. Eno and Schimdt created a set of cards called Oblique Strategies which supposedly help the mind through the creative process with a series of cues. This includes cliché it, fake it, repeat it, revert it, extreme it and exhaust it.  

The other aspect for good creativity is the environment you are in. In an ‘always on’ digital world, it certainly can be difficult to focus at one task at hand and allow you mind to ruminate ideas. There never seems to be enough time to just sit down and think creatively especially when the results are not immediately tangible. Some people may choose to tackle this issue by using an analogue desk with no tech around them or just disable the WiFi. 

Within the workplace, it is equally vital to foster a safe place to share ideas, opinions and constructive criticism. As mentioned earlier, creativity is not just for the ‘big C’ creative departments but for everyone in the business. Involving other departments and encouraging them for their thoughts can actually help to broaden the original perspective. This will allow people of different ages, gender, cultural backgrounds, religions, personalities and sexual orientations to contribute to the idea generation stage. Having this diversity is also critical for avoiding advertising faux pas such as Kylie Jenner’s Pepsi advert which appeared to mock the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Instead, powerful campaigns can emerge that tap into cultural moments in an appropriate way. An example of this is Jigsaw’s Love Immigration campaign at Oxford Circus. It showed the company standing up against racially motivated hate crimes whilst promoting the values of their brand. The emotive concept and resonates with people especially within London, a city with one of the highest diversity rates in the world. The use of the word ‘Immigration’ instead of ‘Diversity’ was less safe but received more attention for being more topical. 

There is no set method of making connections between random ideas and forming imaginative connections but there are a number of ways to help you develop your inner creative spark, no matter how small it may be. One must also remember the key principle for a better creative workplace which includes being curious, giving and accepting candid feedback, keeping the process ever-changing and being collaborative. With the opportunities for creativity increasing every year due to the evolving media landscape, the importance of effective creativity is vital to influence an audience emotionally (tap into their instinctive system 1 thinking), increase ROMI by about ten times and create an authentic narrative for the brand. 

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