Table of Contents
Creativity is a powerful problem solving tool for generating novel approaches and solutions. Creativity is about being able to adapt and thrive in a fast paced environment – it’s about being able to challenge oneself to move beyond the accepted patterns of thinking towards more innovative ideas.
“Applied” creativity is increasingly becoming a sought-after skill in business environments. More and more companies are recognizing creativity as an essential ingredient to be productive, grow and stay competitive, contributing to a company’s overall success. In the marketing and advertising industries especially, there has been a significant paradigm shift; now more than ever, there are expectations that all employees practice creativity in the work that they do – creativity isn’t strictly reserved to creative departments anymore.
This book is about understanding the skill of creative thinking so you can learn the tools to train your creative thinking habits. This, in turn, will help you communicate ideas more effectively, evaluate the quality of creative work, and ultimately, transform creative ideas into effective business solutions.
Numerous interviews with creative executives provide insights into how successful leaders can help build organizational cultures that foster creativity in organizations.
Throughout history, creativity has been critical to major innovations, from Ancient Greece to medieval Christianity and the renaissance periods. With the advent of the internet, we are now in a new era of creativity, as creative communities predominate the web, providing an easily accessible place where individuals can foster and share ideas.
Perceptions and definitions of creativity have changed over time. This chapter explores the traditional definition of creativity, how it has evolved, and how perceptions of creativity have changed today. With this knowledge as a basis, two new truths about creativity emerge. First: constant rapid change provides the perfect environment for creative thinking to flourish. Second: creativity can be learned and practiced.
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So what exactly is creativity? Creativity involves redefining old ideas in new ways to break through conceptual barriers. It helps add new perspectives when thinking about a problem. It’s about taking risks and moving away from previously established opinions and thought patterns. While there are many definitions of creativity, one thing is certain: current research shows that creativity is not reserved to a select few. In contrast to widely held beliefs about the creative “type” of individual, the reality is that anyone can learn to apply different methods of thinking when solving problems, which can greatly improve one’s creative ability.
When it comes to self-perceptions of creativity, interestingly, unless someone has practiced in a creative field such as writing, film, or design, the self-perception of one’s level of creative ability is often relatively low. Those who are not immersed in the typical creative environment are not automatically less effective creative thinkers. However, the creative thinking skill may come less naturally – so, it needs training and practice. Creative ability can be controlled by personal habits and self-perception. Give yourself the freedom and opportunity to create and think creatively, and you can become creative.
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What is creative thinking? How do our minds work creatively? What are creative thinking skills? To enhance your creative thinking ability, it helps to understand how the mind works and to have a set of creative skills that can be practiced. Understanding how we think and how we can improve our thinking skills provides you with the opportunity to practice and improve your thinking more methodically on a regular basis.
When it comes to left-brain versus right-brain thinking, it is common for individuals to associate with one side or the other. Left-brained people are said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, whereas right-brained people are said to be more creative. However, the truth is that both hemispheres are at work when your brain engages in creative thinking and creative activities. In fact, creativity flourishes the most when you are able to integrate both sides of the brain. With practice, anyone can train his or her brain to be creative.
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Improving creative thinking can be enhanced through process. Understanding the creative problem solving process can help solve major challenges – if we can identify how we are thinking, we can more readily guide our thinking in a different direction. Experts in the field have outlined different frameworks for the creative thinking process, but individuals should keep in mind there is not one single best approach. This chapter explores and dissects these processes into their components to allow individuals to determine which processes and elements work best for them.
The various processes discussed in this chapter can be helpful in any problem solving situation, from writing a research paper to developing a new market solution. Whatever the situation, having a clear creative problem solving process can increase the likelihood of coming up with the best possible solution.
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Developing and practicing creative thinking techniques will help you become better over time, more effective and more efficient in the work that you do. While the previous chapter emphasized the importance of having a creative process to guide our thinking in a more effective way, now we discuss the specific techniques that can be applied to generate more (and better) ideas.
The ideation phase – which involves developing as many ideas and solutions as possible – is crucial in order to develop original and unique solutions. From brainstorming to lateral thinking, to different methods of analysis, creative thinking techniques force our brain to think differently, which allows for the generation of more interesting and innovative ideas. This chapter explains how to apply these techniques to enable you to maximize your brain power and push for ideas beyond your expectations.
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How do you evaluate your ideas? How does your company filter good ideas from bad ideas? When evaluating ideas, the majority of creative directors interviewed for the book describe a more intuitive and ‘gut-feeling’ process. These intuitions have been honed for many years by developing an expertise in a specific field and having practiced the evaluation of ideas regularly.
In this chapter we will look at several frameworks and perspectives from which ideas can be evaluated. In addition to instinct and gut reaction, several creative directors provide specific criteria when filtering out bad or ‘not so great’ ideas to allow the best ideas to emerge.
It is crucial that an idea grabs the attention of the target audience, but execution alone cannot determine the success of an idea. Does your idea truly add value to the life of your target audience? Is it a novel idea? Is the idea sustainable? What are the tradeoffs involved in the solution? There are many evaluation criteria for ideas. This chapter aggregates these criteria from research experts, international agency networks, and creative directors of award winning agencies. In the end, a multitude of success factors emerge, which will help separate the best ideas.
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“There are many great ideas that do not go anywhere because the creator has not figured out how to tell the story and to see the idea through until the very end of its production. Often, ideas have to be resilient and pushed through internal and external organizations and budget constraints.” Johnny Vulkan of Mother New York emphasizes that the execution of an idea and communication go hand in hand. A good idea alone is only one part of the equation.
The difficultly of bringing ideas to market lies in selling the ideas to the target audience. This chapter reviews the important aspects to consider when executing ideas and bringing them to a new audience. Some of these aspects include barriers such as resistance, and opportunities such as simplicity and interactivity. Finally, when translating your idea from imagination to reality, focusing on the core communication mediums will greatly improve your chances for success. These core communication mediums – storytelling, visual imagery, sound, environment, and attitude – engage the senses of the audience, allowing your idea to resonate at various information processing levels.
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The physical space and the environment where ideas are being developed have a strong impact on creativity and the cultivation of a creative culture, whether it’s individual creativity or the creativity of an organization. Many agencies have started emphasizing the value of the physical environment by constructing more open workplaces to encourage collaboration and open communication.
In this chapter, interviews with top agency executives illustrate how collaboration is embraced by employees, and between departments and offices. Public displays of ideas, as well as communication across departments, contribute to a shared vision for a project and can strengthen the overall output of creative ideas. Combining the “collective intelligence” of every employee leads to a learning organization and the type of environment where people push the boundaries of their ideas to reach new and effective insights.
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A clear overarching agency philosophy helps guide the intrinsic motivation of employees as well as influence the climate of the organization. A strong philosophy, when applied to a specific project or a focus on the creative product, can help define a creative organization internally and externally, helping it to stand out from the competition.
This chapter explores different philosophies of award winning agencies and highlights consistencies across the board, suggesting that there might be a formula to construct the best creative environments.
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Throughout this book we have seen that many different aspects can influence creativity and creative thinking—and that there is not just one way to achieve these creative outputs. Anyone can practice creative thinking, but similar to many skills in life, it should be practiced regularly to maximize its potential.
In this chapter, you will find many examples of how my former students, who learned about creativity during a formal college course, practice and hone their creativity. Additionally, the creative executives interviewed in this book provide insight into how they practice their individual creative excellence and what has helped them become creativity champions in their respected industry. Hopefully these examples will inspire you to expand your own creative practices.
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This book would not have been possible without the help of many collaborators, contributors and helping hands. My deepest gratitude goes to: my research assistants Gillian Barbieri, Erica Olmstead and Kristina Shigaeva, who have helped tirelessly with various aspects of the manuscript (specifically Gillian Barbieri for helping write the profiles); Brenna McCormick, who was my former student, became my colleague at Emerson College and mediaman and helped structure and develop chapter seven, and shape the project in its initial phase; my research partner Dr. Jorge Villegas at the University of Illinois in Springfield for his collaboration and support analyzing the data and presenting our first results at the American Academy of Advertising conference in Mesa, AZ; Harini Chandrasekar for helping organize and create the many visuals and reworking several illustrations and exercises, my former student Siobhan O’Shaughnessy for reviewing the manuscript; my colleague Dr. David Emblidge at Emerson College for his editorial insights and constructive feedback; my business partners Armin Bieser and Stefan von den Driesch for supporting my visions and challenging me in many aspects of my work; Megan Patrick for accepting my proposal; my book editor Scott Francis for his patience and support and Claudean Wheeler for her beautiful design at HOW Books; and the faculty and administrators at Emerson College for supporting my work with a sabbatical semester.
I would like to thank my former students Noreen Arora, Lorelei Bandrovschi, Harini Chandrasekar, Kimberly Crunden, Alyse Dunn, Usen Esebiet, Matthew Fiorentino, Marissa (Missy) Goldstein, Milena Guzman, Samantha Gutglass, Sarah Hamilton, Rebecca Hempen Schäfer and Dan Higgins, who also helped connect me with some of the creative executives; and Dylan Klymenko, Summer Lambert, who helped me interview Margaret Johnson and Rich Silverstein; Veronica Marquez, Brenna McCormick, Shannon McGurrin, Michael Miller, Celia Nissen, Amanda Mooney, Siobhan O’Shaughnessy, Trang Phan, Eric Rosatti, Christiane Schaefer, Kristina Shigaeva, Michael Shek, Andrew (Andy) Staub, Cyril Urbano and Sara Wynkoop for sharing their personal experiences with every reader of this book and for illustrating that creativity can be taught, practiced and turned into one of the most powerful muscles we can have.
My sincerest appreciation goes out to the creative masterminds and thought leaders: Alex Bogusky, Edward Boches, Susan Credle, Andrew Deitchman, David Droga, Blake Ebel, Chris Foster, Mark Hunter, Roger Hurni, Margaret Johnson, Lance Jensen, Woody Kay, Tim Leake, Michael Lebowitz, Tom Moudry, Tom Ortega, Marshall Ross, Robert Sherlock, Norman Shearer, Rich Silverstein, Rob Schwartz, Doug Spong, Lynn Teo and Johnny Vulkan for donating their time, participating in the interviews and sharing their wisdom.
I would also like to acknowledge Dr. Joanne Montepare for her collaboration, feedback and encouragement of my early creativity research, which provided the foundation for the bonus chapter; Dr. Donald Hurwitz, who helped me stay on track and encouraged me to finish the book project instead of starting a completely new research agenda; Glenn Griffin for having published The Creative Process Illustrated with Debra Morrison and for being an inspiration, for encouraging my research and for recommending me to HOW Books.
Last but not least, many thanks go to: my former research assistants Sebastien Klein, Tracy Hwong, Suchismita Mohapatra, Orlindes Perez and Amy Yen for their help and support with my creativity research several years ago; Jodi Burrel, Jacqueline Holland, Dr. Kristin Lieb and Dr. Paul Mihailidis at Emerson College for their encouragement and constructive feedback with my book proposal.
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