The art (and science) of creativity

Why do some people appear to be more creative than others? What allows them to think more creatively than others? And how do we tap into creativity to drive business forward?

The essence of creativity

Creativity, often hailed as the lifeblood of progress and innovation, is not just about producing remarkable art or developing ground-breaking technologies.

It’s about approaching situations, challenges and tasks in unconventional ways, offering a fresh perspective, using lateral thinking and often delivering ‘outside-of-the-box’ solutions.

According to a Psychology Today article, the essence of creativity lies in the ability to adapt and make the most of any situation. The most creative individuals can walk the line between imagination and reality, extroversion and introversion, discipline and playfulness, responsibility and irresponsibility.

This suggests that creativity thrives on versatility, fluidity, and the ability to embrace contrasting tendencies.

Cultivating a Creative Mindset

But are people born with a creative gene, or is it a cultivated trait? While there will always presumably be debate on nature versus nurture, most psychologists appear to agree it’s likely a mix of both; there are individuals who exhibit an innate disposition towards creativity, often encouraged by an environment that nurtures their tendencies.

No surprise there then.

However, for those who might not identify as naturally creative, the good news is that creativity isn’t a fixed attribute – it’s a muscle that can be developed. And as a starting point, we can recognise and look to mimic the traits of those ‘creative types’.

3d brain rendering illustration template background. The concept of intelligence, brainstorm, creative idea, human mind, artificial intelligence.

Creative people often tend to be those who:

Embrace curiosity:
Ask questions, no matter how trivial they might seem. Exploration broadens your perspective, pushing you beyond the known and into the realm of possibilities.

Cultivate diversity:
Seek out a range of perspectives, experiences, and cultures. Creativity flourishes when different ideas collide, sparking new thoughts and connections.

Embrace failure:
Innovation is often born from missteps. Failures and mistakes provide valuable lessons that can steer your creative process in unexpected directions.

Reflect objectively:
Quiet introspection can foster deep thinking, giving you the space to explore your inner world and its unique ideas.

Practice mindfulness:
Mindfulness enhances your ability to observe and appreciate details, providing rich material for creative thought.

Embrace constraints:
Limitations force us to be resourceful, often stimulating our most innovative solutions.

So, is it just about a state of mind? Well, to a degree, yes it is.

But it can take time to learn these behaviours – anyone in marketing knows that it takes time for any individual to change the way they think – so even by adopting this mindset, you won’t suddenly become creative overnight.

And sometimes it’s difficult to think creatively, when we have deadlines to hit, budgets to meet, meetings to impress at…

Sometimes you need to create the right environment and scenarios that ‘force’ this way of thinking – and there of plenty of ‘brainstorming’ techniques you can adopt.

Want to ‘Ideate’?

Creativity is entirely attainable for us all – just adopt the right mindset (see above) and learn some simple brainstorming techniques. Remember, in brainstorms you’re trying to encourage free thinking and welcome all ideas, no matter how outlandish. Here, quantity breeds quality and no idea is a bad idea.

Develop ideas by all means, but never diss an idea. Use the phrase. “‘yes, and” but not “but” or “however”.

Don’t critique any ideas until the session is over.

And hoof the naysayers out of the room. Seriously, do it.  If they can’t play by the rules, they shouldn’t play at all.

Try any or all of these approaches you’ll soon be in creative paradise – generating ideas should be fun.

Mind Mapping:
This visual tool helps you explore relationships between ideas, making it easier to spot patterns, associations, and insights.

A method for stimulating creative thinking by questioning existing norms – to improve a product or service, and potentially invent new ideas. The acronym represents seven techniques: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify (or Magnify/Minify), Put to another use, Eliminate, and Rearrange (or Reverse).

Free Writing:
Great if you’re on your own. Write continuously without worrying about grammar, spelling, or punctuation. A method that can unlock new ideas by bypassing your inner critic.

Role Storming:
In this technique, individuals pretend to be someone else and suggest ideas as if they were that person. By seeing the issue from a different perspective we encourage new thought processes.

Reverse Thinking or Negative Brainstorming:
Rather than thinking about achieving the goal, think about how you could cause the problem. This can often highlight indirect solutions, and it’s another great way to see the world differently.

Rapid Ideation:
I hate the phrase ‘ideation’ but this approach can work really well. Under time constraints, individuals are asked to generate as many ideas as possible. It’s a high-energy activity and can lead to some really innovative solutions.

Businesses breathing creativity

Apple Store in ChinaWe all know that companies like Google, Apple, and Tesla are renowned for their creative approaches. These are companies that foster a culture of innovation, encouraging employees to think differently and embrace risk.

Plus, they combine internal creativity with external agencies to drive their marketing forward.

Google, for example, uses a combination of in-house experts and external agencies to fuel its advertising creativity. Internal teams understand the brand intimately and can produce consistent and efficient content. At the same time, external agencies bring extensive expertise, specialised creative talent and importantly, a different perspective to the table.

The creative agency can take you to another level

The creative agency has an important role to play in business – the vast majority of client businesses out there do not have a genuinely creative environment. Most marketing departments are under pressure to deliver content, to hit deadlines, to achieve targets and deliver leads.

Agencies, on the other hand, exist to be creative.

Creative teams are used to utilising techniques of lateral or metaphorical thinking to understand ideas from different angles, challenge patterns and norms, make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and ‘ladder up’ to identify how products can satisfy human needs.

Agencies understand that advertising isn’t about catchy slogans and pretty pictures – it’s about finding ways to resonate with audiences – in that sense, creative thinking is an essential ingredient in the recipe for business success.

So, if you’re finding that your environment, circumstances or business pressures are stifling creative thought – ask an agency.

They just might be able to help.