When I was asked to speak at the Insight2Impact summit about “great creative,” my initial reaction was one of bewilderment. You see, “great creative” is a really subjective thing and depends on many often unrelated circumstances aligning perfectly. And even when they align just right one time, a matching alignment the next time doesn’t always result in “great creative.”
No matter how hard you try, great ideas don’t really seem to stem from a scientific process (which, for those of us in the creative industry, is a good thing, as it assures us of a job in the next few decades — one that relies on human touch, kismet, and happenstance is far harder to automate than, say, crunching numbers.)
But the longer I thought about my assigned topic — which to be precise, was to be “The Path to Great Creative” — the more I realized that there are many things that get in the way of great creative. And those can most certainly be quantified. Remove the obstacles, and you’re on the road to success. Great creative isn’t guaranteed, but it’s a whole lot easier to achieve.
In the light of the “path” paradigm, I chose to represent these challenges that interfere with “great creative” along the game board of a childhood game classic: Candy Land. It’s easy to see that removing these obstacles gets you to the finisher quicker and with a greater chance of winning. Obstacles like:
- Take-A-Risk Pass: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Conservative, safe thinking rarely stands out, and rarely leads to great, or successful, creative. Everyone needs to be willing to venture a little outside his or her comfort zone.
- Missing Information Forest: Nothing can stymie good work on a marketing project more than spending all your time brainstorming on incorrect information. It frustrates the creative team when they learn that they were missing details, and it often leads to “creative” solutions that don’t really affect the real issues. Be sure to give your creative thinkers all the information you can.
- New Ways of Thinking Mountains: As humans, we’re creatures of habit. Habit leads to complacency, boredom, and certainly not creativity. Allow yourself, and your creative team, to approach things differently. To not do so and force the thought process into the same old paradigm will lead to the same old solutions.
- House of Mistrust: Want to scuttle the chances of good creative? Make sure no one on the client or creative teams can trust one another. It leads to bitterness, frustration, and a CYA mentality that, of course, never produces anything good. Good creative comes from a place of trust — we trust that we’ve gotten good information and the client is supportive, and the client trusts that we know what we’re doing and have their best interests at heart.
- Hesitation Woods: Don’t hesitate. He who hesitates is lost. Someone will take your idea, get there before you, and you’re left looking like a “me-too.” Great creative comes from great confidence, and hesitation is the complete opposite.
- Pool of Personal Preferences: We all have tastes and biases. But we need to set those aside and be sure we’re evaluating our ideas based on what’s best, what gets the most attention, and what’s on strategy. Not whether we like purple better than chartreuse, or whether Comic Sans is our favorite typeface or not. (Well, Comic Sans is an exception. Nothing ever good gets produced in Comic Sans.)
- Not Enough Time Swamp (filled with rushes): (Get it? Rushes? Swamp?) Seriously, though — truly creative thinking requires percolation time. Occasionally, a great idea can be had in a stressful, deadline-induced moment. But for every epiphany that comes that way, another dozen come when there is time to think about the problem, brainstorm, let it sit, and come back later with a clear head. Rushes, short deadlines, and emergencies are the enemies of good, fresh thinking.
Will overcoming these obstacles automatically lead you to the Home of Great Creative? Possibly. Possibly not. But the path to “Great Creative” will certainly be much easier without them.