5 ways to drive cultural creativity

What are the best conditions to enable great creativity to flourish? I’ve drawn on my time in agencies, asked friends in agencies and googled.

In no particular order, here are 5 areas to consider:


Does a deadline focus the mind or add unwanted pressure? Douglas Adams quipped, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” I’d like to see him responding to the FD’s Friday email entitled, ‘The importance of timesheets’.

Unfortunately, agencies run on billable hours and are only made profitably by hitting their utilisation levels.

So, what’s the answer? Yes, we need to know when we can share ideas, but provide everything needed to the creative folks, so they can use all their allotted time focusing on the ideas, not scrabbling around for insights.

2. Help people to fight fear of failure

No one likes to get knocked back and may take the safe road, rather than the right road. But who remembers mediocre work – although I may suggest this as a new category for The Drum Awards.

We can’t just tell people to grow a thicker skin. But how about adopting the idea that feedback makes the ideas better? At Amazon, their senior leads have to share their plans with their peers – and then welcome challenges and feedback to these plans, with the same idea in mind. They are not being criticised by their peers, they are being helped by their peers to make the plan better.

3. Stop brainstorming and try brainwriting instead

How do you ensure that everyone is heard during those brainstorm sessions? How do you encourage the juniors to speak up and not have the seniors dominating the conversation.

Try this. Stop out-loud brainstorms, instead brain-write. Everyone writes their ideas down – ideally using an online board – and when ready to share, you read them out and everyone can add to those written down thought starters.

4. See the world through a child’s eyes

Sir Ken Robinson, during his Ted Talk ‘Do schools kill creativity’, outlines how we are all born creative, it’s just societal expectations that knocks it out of us as we grow up. Sir Ken tells us, “I heard a great story recently – I love telling it – of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson. She was six, and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson, she did. The teacher was fascinated. She went over to her, and she said, ‘What are you drawing?’ And the girl said, ‘I’m drawing a picture of God.’ And the teacher said, ‘But nobody knows what God looks like.’ And the girl said, ‘They will in a minute.’”

It’s a tough thing to achieve, but try and let the many years of societal feedback wash off.

5. Physical environment

I’ve grouped together a few ideas under this subject, which has been made more complicated when a lot of us are working from the kitchen table.

Go for a walk: actually get out in the fresh air and take some time away from staring at the Mac.

Daydream: let your mind wonder. Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, uses the idea in his novel ‘Rant’ about driving around until you slip into an alpha state to open your mind. Maybe just sit on the toilet.

Surround yourself with inspiration: not another ECD’s office with the guitar on the wall and the poster of Bowie, instead try getting as much of the colour blue in the room as possible. Blue is associated with tranquillity and nature; it makes people feel safe to explore.

Try different combinations of people: changing the team can change the results. Try mixing disciplines for more interesting outcomes. At Glue London we’d team Above the Line creatives (just people who think big), with technologists who could then pair their big ideas with the latest tech to make it happen.

Make loads of crap ideas quickly: they’ll improve faster than trying to make just one amazing thing.

Involve clients in the process: ideally work hand in glove with them from the start, rather than at arms-length. Then they will be emotionally tied in and will actively sell-in the creative ideas they helped to shape.

In summary:

Let someone else worry about the amount of time you’ve been allocated to crack an idea. Spend that extra time taking an inspiring walk away from the office that allows your mind to wander, while seeing things for the first time like a six year old. Then come back and sit in your blue room and write all your thoughts down quickly.

Let me know if it helped.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.

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