Creativity. What is it good for?
Creativity. When you say that word, what type of person or job role do you think of? Artist? Writer? Designer?
Many people think that creativity is just for “creatives”. But it’s not. Everyone can benefit from being and thinking creatively. As Dave Trott, a creative director and the author of Creative Mischief, says: “Creativity isn’t a particular discipline. It’s the quality of originality and unexpectedness that you bring to whatever you do.“
Creativity is about putting new and different – often unanticipated and unpredictable – things together, which causes you and others to think about them in a new way. This isn’t just something for people who work in the creative industries. No matter what your role, you are likely to have to think creatively about the tasks at hand.
Often the need to think creatively is associated with problem solving:
- Can you turn a problem into an opportunity?
- Can you turn a problem into a competitive advantage?
- Do you need to fight a problem head on, or can you circumnavigate it in some way?
Finding solutions to problems; seeing opportunities where no one else does – this is how new products and services come to be every day. The business world is littered with stories of entrepreneurs who have built businesses by being creative.
Richard Branson, for instance, started Virgin Atlantic when his flight from Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands was cancelled. Rather than waiting for the next available flight, he hired a charter plane and sold seats to all of the other passengers who had also been bumped.
After questioning why Coco-Cola could be found almost anywhere in the world but aid couldn’t, ColaLife worked with the soft drinks company to develop the AidPod, a wedge-shaped container that fits between the necks of bottles in a CocaCola crate and allows aid to be transported using CocaCola’s distribution routes.
Back in 1984, Anderson Erickson Dairy in Des Moines, America wanted to do something to help find two boys who had gone missing on their paper-round. Knowing that their milk cartons would be seen by many families in the area, they printed the photo of the boys on the packaging – and so began the practice of publishing photos of missing children on milk cartons, a tool that remained in use until the mid 90s.
Thinking creatively means questioning the norms and challenging the status quo. It means doing things differently.
This is where surrounding yourself with people just like you can become a problem. If everyone thinks and acts the same, and have had the same life experiences, you’re going to keep getting the same responses. Real creativity happens when different people from different disciplines, genders, age, race and backgrounds etc get together. Diversity is a driver of creativity.
For instance, when you bring together people who think with the right brain (sensory and emotional) with those who are more ‘left brain’ (rational and logical), brilliance can be achieved. The right-brainers have flashes of inspiration and great ideas; the left-brainers find a way to deliver the solution and keep the whole process on track. I’m thinking of visionary CEO’s working well with their finance directors, or creative directors working with planners on branding projects.
The same principle applies with skills: as the old saying goes, when the only tool you’ve got is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail.
Hence why it can be really helpful for left brain people to take training in art, theatre and creative writing, and for right brainers to learn about structure, logic and analytics. Learning about difference disciplines is how new ideas are borne. We don’t always have to use those new skills but they can help get us out of stale thinking and into new ways of working.
So whether you’re a fundraiser or a finance director; a campaigner or volunteer manager, creativity could be just what you need to get out of a rut, take advantage over your competitors and help you to be even more brilliant than you already are.
Becky Slack is the managing director of the PR and comms agency, Slack Communications, and the co-host of L’atelier des écrivains – The Writers’ Workshop, France, a four-day creative writing retreat in southwest France, 20-24 September 2018.