Do You Have To Define Your Creativity? No.

ovenI call myself a ‘creative’. It’s a standard term in the advertising/marketing world, where I’ve doddled about for the past few decades. In practice, I’m a copywriter, a manager, a strategist and a half dozen other titles, all of which fail to fully define what I do.

In the business world, it’s often a concern. Without titles, other people get nervous. What you do defines who you are. Can they know how to treat you if they don’t know what you do?



Of course they can, but it can be a struggle. The real issue is not letting what you do define your creativity. It’s a restriction that can creep up and throttle ideas in their sleep.

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Creative Techniques: Take Note… Take Notes

notesEveryone has those moments. Those eye popping instants when an idea hits you between the eyes. You give yourself a quick ‘Huzzah!’ and keep doing what you were doing, confident you’ll remember your idea in detail tomorrow, or the next day… or the middle of next Tuesday.

Yeah. Right.

Seriously, if you’re not a note taker, on smartphone or tablet or good old fashioned napkins, then you’re doing yourself a disservice. You can’t remember everything.

Take notes.

Half arsed, scribbled ramblings. Detailed, properly prepared pieces of prose.

It doesn’t matter how you do it, but take the strain off your brain and use notes to kick start your memory.

Never assume you’ll be able to remember that flash of inspiration tomorrow. Write it down today. Right now. Go on, quit reading this and get to work.

Creative Techniques: Does Your Idea S.U.C.K?







Idea generation is *cough* the easy part. The hard part, is making sure your ideas are heard, and acted on. o how do you successfully take your idea to market? One way, is to make sure it S.U.C.Ks

Is it Sharp? Don’t take half an idea to market if you don’t have to. Too many times I’ve seen ideas pitched which are really no more than a headline pretending to be an idea. Put some effort in. Take off the rough edges. Grind out some of the potential problems.

Is it Understandable? If you’re pitching your idea, don’t expect your audience to be able to see its potential as easily as you do. You must put yourselves in their shoes. Imagine you know nothing about your idea. How easily can you explain it? Create an Elevator Pitch for your idea. If you can’t explain it clearly in a paragraph, why not?

How will it Cut through? Be honest with yourself. There are millions of ideas floating around in the ether, and whatever field you work in, chances are thousands of new ideas are pitched each year. Why is yours different? Imagine your audience are cold hearted cynics. What will convince them your idea is the one? How will your idea cut through the clutter?

Is it backed by Knowledge? This is the one factor that is often ignored when pitching new ideas. Your credibility. An idea for a plutonium powered pen is unlikely to gain traction if it’s pitched by a potato farmer. Do you have the background knowledge to give your idea gravitas? Can you answer the hard questions? Why should anyone listen to you?

Creating ideas is only one part of the puzzle. Make sure you have all the parts under control. Ask yourself…. does my idea S.U.C.K?


Creative Techniques: What is The Focus Fail?

Thanks to Lifehack

Innovation and creativity are two of the biggest business buzz words of today. Companies are paying enormous amounts of lip service to becoming more innovative, and many are actually putting processes into place to move them selves beyond mere rhetoric.

Sadly, too few will succeed.

In my mind, innovation is a by-product of creativity. The primary product of creativity is awareness. Creativity opens our eyes to possibilities, and innovation is born out of that new awareness.

From a corporate perspective though, innovation is perceived as being the core product of creativity. Companies form creative teams with very strict guidelines and goals aimed purely at specific innovations. “We need to become more innovative with our distribution methods. Create a process to improve distribution costs by 10% and reduce delays by 8%”.

While I am a firm believer in having well defined goals, the problem comes when the innovation team becomes too focused on the end result, the innovation.

That’s the Focus Fail. The board, the CEO, the manager or team leader push the creative team to think purely around the problem. They consume swathes of of information about distribution channels, brainstorm relentlessly around tweaks and improvements and eventually design a a new system that achieves their goals. All good. The board smiles, the manager collects a bonus and the world turns.

The problem is, by focusing purely on the problem, the ‘innovation’ is often just a cost cutting or minor procedural tweak, rather than a true leap.

Creative teams need the freedom to lose focus. They need to be able to keep the end goal wedged in the back corner of their brains while they explore and absorb different snippets of information. Externally, the company may see inefficiency, or even laziness. But if they’ve hired or engaged the right people, they should trust that they’ll get the right result. A great result rather than a stopgap.

One of the biggest blockers of creativity is success, and that’s why the Focus Fail is so dangerous. It makes your team look efficient, it provides a measurable result, and it creates ‘innovation’ that management can easily understand.

If your company truly wants to embrace innovation, then embrace creativity first. Set up an open brief Skunk Works program. Like Google, give your teams time to play. Put a process in place that will build true innovation, rather than a makeover masquerading as a masterpiece.


Creative Techniques: The Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat

Sun Tzu

Throughout my adult life, ideas have been my occupation. I’ve studied how ideas work, why ideas work, how to apply ideas in the real world and how to look at real world issues and generate ideas to solve problems. Even though advertising/marketing is my industry, I’ve looked far and wide to better my understanding of ideas.

Apparently though, I’ve been wasting my time. I’ve met hundreds of people who believe good ideas are simply laying around on the ground, as some of us are lucky enough to trip over them and pick them up.

Of course, most of these people have a fantastic, quickly shared opinion about ideas in general, and they usually fall into one of 2 categories….

People who haven’t got a clue about the problem, but have an awesome ‘idea’ to solve it (tactics without strategy).

People who recognise the problem but suggest a totally impractical a flying widget to fix it (strategy without tactics).

These people are full of hot air, and neither opinion gets you where you need to be. The most important lesson I’ve learned over the past 30 years or so, is that Sun Tzu was right. Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

You have to understand the situation thoroughly if you’re going to think creatively, and you have to actually be able to generate solid, achievable ideas to solve the problem.

Hot air gets you nowhere unless you’re a balloonist.