Thursday, October 31, 2013

Creativity: To Be or Not to Be?

Many of us in the marketing and PR worlds have fallen prey to second guessing our individual creative capacity.  Are we all inherently creative in some shape or form? Or are our creative genes shut down at an early age when a 5th grade art teacher sneers at a drawing or ‘artistic project’ we thought (and Mum and Dad told us!!) was a great piece of creative work?

Think about how you define yourself as the creative type before dismissing that ideal, picking something else to define you – like an analytical type, an Alpha type or even a diplomatic type and then moving on to fulfill that prophecy.

Our continual societal reinforcement that creativity is a special ‘gift’ that only some people are born with while others aren’t is what David Burkus, author of The Myths of Creativity says perpetuates these various myths.

“The truth is, we’re all born with the ability to think creatively,” says Burkus.
As we grow older, depending on our upbringing and experiences, we either go on to develop this ability or let it take a backseat.

My view on the “creativity myth” is this: Creativity is like a muscle that needs to be appropriately nourished, stimulated and exercised. In other words, creative people push past psychological barriers to act on their seemingly absurd ideas when noncreative people don’t.

Burkus shares the example of how Kodak invented the digital camera but rejected it because the executives didn’t think people would be willing to give up the quality produced by film pictures. Sony then went on to develop a different prototype and became the pioneers of digital photography… and the rest is history.

In disciplines like marketing, advertising and public relations, it’s very common to be pigeonholed into one of two broad categories, creative or noncreative. While a demarcation between the two categories is slowly becoming less rigid, it still exists.

Here’s another example that hits closer to home. Bill Bernbach, regarded as the father of the Creative Revolution (and Modern Advertising), was instrumental in transforming the advertising world with his campaigns for Volkswagen and Avis Car Rentals. He’s also credited with being the first to combine copywriters and art directors into two-person teams—they commonly had been in separate departments—a model that exists in advertising agencies today. In fact, that approach is now being applied across different types of business models, i.e., bringing design, marketing and engineering teams together (see this example in action at Electrolux).

What does all this mean for the enterprise of today? Can the knowledge that anyone is ‘creative’ change the way creativity is perceived and therefore cultivated? And how can this perpetuate the way ideas are accepted, critiqued and developed within these companies?

I’m constantly challenging my team to find solutions to any problems and challenges that we’re facing – and to think creatively about problem-solving.

What are some of the ways in which you apply creativity, beyond the obvious, to your business? Or are you still struggling with the “creativity myth” and putting people – and even your own creative capabilities – into a stifling box?