Reaching out across the commercial divide can benefit creatives and their clients alike. Despite all that has been written on the subject of creativity – all the courses we can take, all the processes we can implement – it is still a frustratingly uncertain process. In a world that demands instant performance under ever greater pressure, are there better ways creatives can operate? Can we relieve the pressure and perform better at the same time? Maybe we can, but we’ll have to take some more uncomfortable creative steps to do it.
One of the problems I faced as a child was that I was creative and reasonably intelligent. Nice problems to have, you may think, but they come with downsides. Firstly, I was keenly aware of the many different roads I could travel, thanks to my creative imagination. Secondly, it was virtually impossible to decide what route to take in life because my active mind kept analyzing and, ultimately, rejecting options. Because my mind couldn’t actually experience each option to see if I would enjoy it, I couldn’t figure out what would bring the satisfaction and fulfillment that I craved.
It’s a conundrum that has followed me through life. On the one hand, it’s led to an exceptionally varied and colourful life. On the other, it’s kept me in a perpetual process of reinvention, which has also brought benefits – especially in business, and especially now. I have come to a new understanding of how creativity works and how it can help us make better decisions for our long-term success – both personally and in business.
As a ‘creative consultant’, I have often set myself up for unwelcome challenges. People hire me for my creative input – while absolving themselves of all responsibility for their role in the process.
“We’re hiring you. You deliver. We pay.”
It’s a dynamic that can effectively kill creativity at the gate, as anyone who has been tasked to think of a great idea against an impossible deadline can tell you. At best, the idea is compromised. At worst, it is flashy and shallow, driven by the whims of the client, rather than fully embracing its creative potential.
The best ideas emerge as a result of a very different process – a process that respects our human qualities and come from a deep understanding of the issue involved, giving emergent ideas more impact and life.
Creative inspiration doesn’t respect deadlines:
- it’s dynamic
- non-linear and
- usually socially driven.
What is becoming clear is that the complexity of our modern life is best addressed through a new kind of creativity that embraces this process but is also collective.
Limited thinking and unlimited data leads to limited solutions
Let me explain. When looking for a solution, we often limit our thinking to a narrow set of defined parameters – our only option, we may claim, since exploring all options would be impossible. Small companies don’t have the resources to consider the vast amounts of data that would be needed to develop a sure-fire creative idea. Even large companies struggle to relate, interpret and connect lots of data in meaningful ways – long before they even get started on the creative work.
Ultimately, this is a mind-numbing approach, and it’s certainly not going to get me fired up.
The key to a new kind of creativity
We need to get out of our heads and into our hearts to make the creative process work. After all, we are not machines. We have feelings, and it’s our feelings that dictate our actions – however much data we are presented with. Not only that, we need to do it together – and we’d be well-advised to lose the need for predetermined results in favour of discovering emergent results achieved through a process of developmental evaluation.
It’s becoming recognized in many organizations that collective creativity is the best way to address the complexity of our lives and create the biggest impact. An open process works far better than a closed one where we guard our ideas within a fortress of secrecy, and the creative process is much richer for it. It brings with it the opportunity for more people to learn, to synchronize efforts and find new and unexpected solutions to what would have been insurmountable problems in the traditional paradigm.
Not only that, it can engender great new thinking as a result of mixing seemingly unrelated factors within the framework of a common intention. In other words, rather than fixing on a predefined solution, (the definition of which may be based on insufficient data and knowledge) fresh, dynamic and more relevant developmental solutions are arrived at on an on-going basis through enriched interaction across a broader spectrum of knowledge and experience.
Well, it makes sense, if you think about it. We know that the process of creativity involves ‘joining the dots’ that we know in different ways, so that something new comes into being. Therefore, it makes sense to find as many ‘dots’ as you can and embrace as many thought processes as possible in cooperation with those who may be competing (sometimes unknowingly) with you.
Interestingly, it’s not the so-called ‘creative industry’ that seems to be leading the way in this thinking. I have seen great progress being made by local authorities, NGOs, city councils and other organizations that have discovered the benefits of breaking down the walls of their silos.
Using this type of creative process, they can each enjoy:
- collective benefit;
- synchronistic progress; and
- entirely new solutions.
Naturally, it can be argued that the lack of commercial imperative is a factor in helping such organizations embrace this process, but we already know that crowdsourcing ideas has been used extremely successfully for years by companies such as Proctor and Gamble. So, why not with the creative industry whose very purpose is creativity? And especially, why not with small creative agencies that lack the resources that they need to make better decisions and compete more effectively with larger companies?
As creatives, we know the value of brainstorming, but how far do we go with it?
How many of us reach out to our competitors and discover that collective creativity works so much better, lifts a weight off our shoulders and makes us all look better in the eyes of our clients? I would be fascinated to know if any readers have applied this way of operating in a commercial context, and to discover how well it works for them.
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