“I wish I was more creative.”
It’s a phrase most people who work in non-creative roles often utter. While creativity around most workplaces is assumed to be a rare and coveted trait, reserved for designers, writers, and photographers, it’s actually a skill that nearly anyone can acquire and practice.
Here’s the prerequisite: the ability to think strategically.
That’s right. Boiled down to its essence, creativity is synonymous with problem-solving. When it comes to learning how to be creative in business, marketing, advertising or other related sectors, the way we think has to be tactical.
I know, “tactical” sounds a little military-esque and not “creative” at all, but there’s a reason why “artful" is considered another word for planned, strategic, and calculated. Because it’s almost masterful when an idea isn’t just cool or cutting-edge, but when it’s also conceived out of a real problem and can act as a solution.
What’s blocking us?
Creativity, for most, can seem like an ambiguous state of mind or talent that comes in handy when inspiration strikes. For some artists, that might be true. But looking at creativity like a muscle is where we can begin to use creative ideas in business. More often than not, we stop ourselves from letting creative and strategic thinking happen. Whether it’s stress, a lack of confidence, or just not knowing how to approach creativity, a small task can seem like an arduous undertaking.
This is why getting out of your normal process for tackling a project is key.
Now, let’s get practical.
Your problem is not a lack of creativity; it’s a lack of critical thinking.
When a client or project comes through that requires some creativity, remember, it first starts with thinking critically. Look at an ask for a new idea or campaign or marketing strategy as an opportunity to solve a problem. Are low sales the problem? What’s going to get consumers to believe in and trust a brand, product or service? Is increasing awareness a must? What will be a tactic that won’t just get eyeballs to look in your direction, but what will make them stay engaged and intrigued? Start there.
Get to know the people you’re solving a problem for.
This means both clients and their audiences. For goodness’ sake, research your targeted demographic thoroughly. Where they live, how old they are, what other brands are they likely fans of, and similar questions can help you better understand who you’re thinking for. Consider the tone of language or ideas they’d respond to. In essence, think like them so you know how to speak to them.
Exhaust every idea.
In the brainstorming and execution stages, let the goals of creative work be your finish line and not the lane you have to run within. So no need to get too caught up with the desired outcome just yet. This time is for throwing every idea down on paper, even the bad ones. Plus, working with a team to kick around thoughts and concepts can help. When you get stuck, go back to the problem you’re trying to solve, and start again. Creativity in ideation comes from looking at a problem from all angles, with different thinking hats and approaches. Learning to shift from those different perspectives will be key.
When the ideas don’t come.
It happens to the best of us.
You’re knee-deep into a project and run out of steam or feel like all of your lines and designs are tired and lack depth.
There’s something to be said about closing your computer, walking away and turning your brain off for a few minutes. It’s why we get some of our best ideas in the shower. Because there’s a real correlation between relaxation and creative thinking. So take a few minutes to walk outside, do some menial tasks or even play a simple game or put a puzzle together. You’d be surprised how your brain responds.
Go talk to someone
Sometimes just interacting with people helps, in my experience. Ask them their thoughts on the project you’re on or any insight they might have. You never know where a conversation could lead or what ideas could spark from simple a chit-chat.
Resort back to research
There’s a reason why context is vital. Research the company or brand you’re working for. Read reviews of the products or read testimonials. Find out what people are saying or what the company itself is claiming. What’s the current audience perception, and how can that be supported or changed?
So the next time you doubt your creativity, remember it’s all in your head.