Creativity is at the core of every successful brand. It’s the essence of what makes the world go round, driven by new ideas and new better solutions. The digital world has blown-up traditional thinking with new concepts and business models never seen before literally at your finger-tips. The “blue ocean” has never been so big. Creativity has always ranked as one of the most crucial factors for a brand’s future success.
How do you build a creative culture to sustain a brand? It starts with leaderships’ understanding of creativity, then giving talented people the knowledge of how to be creative and the freedom to do so. Simple—right? If it were, every brand would be ahead of the game, anticipating every customer’s needs. To help with the learning process, I have collected ten simple secrets to help keep your brand creative:
1. Build A Creative Culture
Pixar is a good example of a company with a creative culture—the innovative animation giant has created 14 No. 1 movie in a row. Pixar President Ed Catmull, the coauthor of the book Creativity, Inc., points out some basic beliefs:
- Talent is rare.
- Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover from failure.
- The working environment must be safe, to tell the truth.
- Everyone must constantly challenge all assumptions and search for flaws.
- The ultimate goal is “making the product great.”
Creativity isn’t elusive or exclusive—diversity is key. According to a joint study between Harvard and Insead, it turns out that creativity is 85% a learned skill. All we need to do is learn it! Easier said than done for most of us.
2. Steal With Pride
Jim Jarmusch, an independent filmmaker, said it better than I could ever write, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, water bodies, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
3. Connect The Dots
Maria Popova, the creative genius behind BrainPickings.org, says that creativity is the ability to connect the unconnected – it is the melding of existing knowledge into new insight about the world around us. It’s the ability to connecting the dots between unrelated ideas. Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder, is so passionate about this concept that it is part of its growth philosophy. They call it the ABCD process: Always Be Connecting Dots.
Steve Jobs supports this secret, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it. They just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
Psychologist Todd Kashdan thinks curiosity “appears to be a fundamental motive in facilitating industry and creativity.” Curiosity goes hand-in-hand with creativity. B. F. Skinner, psychologist and author, said, “When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it.” Visit a bookstore or library and wander the rows of books and maybe get inspired to read something totally different. Buy a magazine from a section that you rarely view (stay away from the adult section). Watch a movie or TED Talks about a topic you know nothing about. Take a course on a skill set that you are interested in but know nothing about. Start asking the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ on everything around you.
5. See Things Differently
In Maria Konnikova’s book Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, she emphasizes the importance of observing your environment on a deeper level. Leonardo da Vinci observed that many people look, but few people see. Mindful seeing is the foundation of direct experience and the foundation of direct knowledge. Writer Joan Didion kept a notebook with her at all times and said that she wrote down observations about people and events to understand the complexities and contradictions of her own mind. Try to be in the moment.
Involve individuals from all walks of life to help collaborate. Google provides lunch every day for all their employees, but there is one catch – everyone must participate from all departments and levels. According to Caitlin Adair, from Google’s head office, their café and micro kitchens create collaborative spaces for employees to “discuss, brainstorm, meet and relax.”
Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with a fun environment, such as beach volleyball courts, mini-golf courses, and adult playgrounds. The goal is to create a safe, relaxed and comfortable environment for employees to vocalize creative, even wacky, ideas. Businesses that value creativity needs to provide an unstructured environment where unusual ideas can be generated and celebrated from anywhere in the organization.
7. Experiment – Appreciate That It’s A Process
Creativity is a process that is developed over time. Creativity can’t be rushed or delivered on-demand.
The first iPhone didn’t just happen. It took many hundreds of versions before it was finally released. Some of them, terrible versions that Apple never showed us, like the rumoured click wheel iPhone that never was.
“Creatives fail, and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.
“There is a deep and meaningful connection between risk-taking and creativity, and it’s one that’s often overlooked,” says Kotler. “Creativity is the act of making something from nothing. It requires making public those bets first placed by imagination. This is not a job for the timid. Time wasted, reputation tarnished, money not well spent – these are all by-products of creativity gone awry.”
Don’t be frustrated that you didn’t come up with a brilliant idea in five minutes. Creativity takes time – sleep on it, and get others to sleep on it.
8. Shake Things Up
Sitting in a room around a table or on a zoom call brainstorming isn’t thinking out-side-the-box. Get up. Move around. Change your perspective, literally. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive effect on creative thinking.
Take away an element (it could be something physical, environmental or conceptual) or add a new foreign element to generate new ideas or constructs.
Experience new things, take different routes to and from work, use your left hand for the things you would normally do with the right hand, avoid anything that makes life monotonous or mundane. Promise yourself you will do something different today.
9. The Philosophy Of Walking
Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg conducts meetings on foot – walking around the Facebook campus. Creative thinking improves while a person is walking and shortly thereafter, according to a study co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education.
Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, advocates that creative thinkers need time, space, and permission to play to do their jobs well; because playfulness helps us get to more creative solutions. Check out his TED Talk as he talks about the powerful relationship between creative thinking and play – with many examples you can try at home (and one that maybe you shouldn’t).
Start With A Problem
Creativity ultimately solves a problem, as does a successful brand. Nick Woodman couldn’t get any great action photographs of himself surfing in Australia. This problem inspired him to develop the GoPro camera. Doctor Joan Fallon noticed that many autistic children had a deficiency in a certain kind of enzyme for processing protein. She started Curemark and raised $50 million to develop a treatment to solve the problem. Today, she is taking her unique technology and tackling problems like schizophrenia and other neurological conditions. Maybe, Ingvar Kamprad couldn’t get a table into his trunk of his small Swedish car, so he took the legs off and then started IKEA.
As Steve Jobs said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”
It’s no secret that many brands were a solution to a problem. If you keep looking to solve customer problems, your brand will always be relevant and valued. To do this, you must cultivate a creative environment that is always seeking to do better.
The headline image is a protester whose Molotov cocktail has been morph into a bouquet. Banksy designed a famous English graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti executed in a distinctive stencilling technique.