Creative process Creativity comes as a result of reading, watching, viewing and understanding the world

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

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I’m a bit of a reader. I enjoy books of all kinds, from multiple genres spanning fiction (I once dressed as Dobby the House Elf to go to a Harry Potter premiere party) to nonfiction. Recently, I’ve started reading a fair amount about the marketing communications and brand development industry and was really inspired by the book “The Creative Process Illustrated.”

The book’s authors (one of whom, coincidentally enough, happens to have been a former professor of a coworker) interview multiple designers, writers and creative directors in the field and ask them to use one sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper to illustrate their personal process of coming up with an idea, developing it into a concept and, eventually, into an ad campaign of some sort.

The whole book was inspiring, and it made me really start to question my approach to creativity. Some of the things I did were represented well in the book, others weren’t. After several weeks of thinking, here are my personal top three ways I fuel my creativity.

Creativity is a byproduct of observation

I can’t tell you how many times I throw out an idea and people look a little amazed, almost as if I pulled a rabbit out of my hat. Creativity isn’t mysterious magic. Creativity comes as a result of reading, watching, viewing and understanding the world around you and making connections where connections otherwise haven’t been made.

Every moment is an opportunity to hone your creative muscles. I read online articles every night before bed from a diverse list of websites (BuzzFeed, Cracked, Inc., Mashable and StumbleUpon are among my favorites.) I listen to NPR on my drive to work. I watch TV and Netflix. I go to the movies. I even, on occasion, play video games.

All of these things fuel my creativity in incalculable ways by providing a source of inspiration, proverbial fuel for creativity. The key here is to not passively consume media, but to actively engage with it. A level of constant vigilance is required so you’re able to quickly make a connection from a dramatic scene in a blockbuster. Then, you have to be brave enough to make new connections that may seem unconventional. This can be as unexpected as taking a theme from a movie about colonization in space and using it to fuel and inspire your work on branding a real estate company (Pro tip: the common theme here is the never ending human desire to find a better home.)

This brings me to my next point...

Creativity means being unafraid

Some of my best ideas have started with, “You guys, this is going to sound crazy but...”

Creative people are brave people. Being creative means being unafraid to throw out ideas that fall apart or sound really odd. To be more creative you have to both silence your inner critic and be prepared to hear critics around you. This criticism isn’t bad, in fact, it is what allows an idea to evolve into an executable concept, but you have to be brave enough to follow the process.

This is why I’m so glad that more and more offices are embracing relaxed environments. This is incredibly helpful for creativity because creativity can’t flourish in a setting where you feel oppressed, judged or restrained. Culture among coworkers is also vital here. It becomes a lot more difficult to be unafraid when there isn’t a sense of safety when brainstorming. Teams have to be willing to quickly move past each other’s bad ideas without judgment to unearth the good ones.

Creativity comes from questioning

This is a loaded concept, but important one. Questioning here means multiple things, each of which are equally important to being able to come up with a creative idea.

You have to question to learn. If you’re charged with coming up with a creative idea for a specific client or industry, you have to ask questions to understand the space better. Ideas without context aren’t helpful and you have to ask questions (and lots of them!) to get that context.

You also have to question everything else with a healthy dose of skepticism towards the status quo. If you accept everything around you at face value, you’re putting tight restraints on yourself that create unfavorable creative conditions. There are dozens of real world success stories of bold, creative ideas that push the status quo. Everything from the Apple iPhone (a phone with no buttons certainly questioned conventional approaches) to the Dove Real Beauty Campaign are great case studies of creative outcomes that come from questioning the norm.

Let’s be creative together

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these, in addition to any tips you may have on fostering creativity. Reach out to us on Twitter via @IntrinzicSays to share your insights into creativity.