I have found myself thinking about creativity quite a bit lately. Normally when I think of it, it’s in the context of the arts such as music, painting, stories, movies, television shows but does it have a greater reach?
Just because we aren’t creating a piece of art doesn’t mean one isn’t creative.
It would be a mistake to believe that creativity only lies with the arts. There is plenty of creativity in marketing, public relations, advertising, and business in general.
Today, we are going to talk about creativity. What is it? How does it apply to marketing communication and how do we become more creative?
What is Creativity?
When I was a kid, I went to Back to the Future II with some friends. After the movie, one of my friends kept talking about how creative the film was. The hoverboards, self-tying shoes, flying cars…where had they come up with all this?
This world was certainly impressive but it was fantastic enough that we still don’t have any of these things.
But, let’s take a quick step back. What does it mean to be creative? I went to Webster’s dictionary to see what it said. It has creativity listed as an adjective and a noun.
1: marked by the ability or power to create: given to creating the creative impulse. a creative genius
2: having the quality of something created rather than imitated: IMAGINATIVE the creative arts creative writing
3: managed so as to get around legal or conventional limits creative financing also: deceptively arranged so as to conceal or defraud creative accounting
1: one who is creative especially: one involved in the creation of advertisements
2: creative activity or the material produced by it especially in advertising
It seems even the dictionary has a bias towards the arts.
Can we be creative if we aren’t an artist? I suggest that the convention that creativity is limited to the arts is simply ridiculous.
Think Outside the Box
In business, we often use different verbiage to note creativity. When you need to solve a problem you might hear that you need to “think outside the box”. This is just another way to say, “Let’s get creative.”
I have worked in a few call centers in the past (I don’t recommend it) and there is always a push to hit the numbers. There was one position where I struggled so I had a meeting with my manager. He suggested that maybe there were certain topics in which I might need more training. It made sense but how was I going to identify any problem areas?
I bought a stopwatch and then created a spreadsheet. At the beginning of every call, I would start the stopwatch. When I was done with the call, I would stop it and note the time. If it was below the call time I was supposed to hit, I went to the next call and started the process over again. If the time was above the average call time I would enter it into the spreadsheet.
After a few weeks, I had enough data to see some patterns. I identified a couple of topics and situations that took longer than other calls. I went back to my manager and presented my findings. He got me the help I needed.
What surprised me was that other managers within my group stopped by to tell me what great work I did. Can you guess what they said to me? I bet you know but it was, “That was some really good outside of the box thinking.”
Whether it’s being creative or thinking outside the box, what we are really saying is to approach the situation from a different viewpoint. Nobody in my group had approached the problem in this way so what I had done so it was viewed as outside the box thinking.
It’s Not Magic, It’s Work
I used to play music and one thing I have always been intrigued by is the creative process. While I was still playing I would consume interviews and articles on musicians. In fact, I still love to see interviews with my favorite musicians.
There were some musicians that just seemed to have an endless supply of creativity. I just assumed some of these people were born with this incredible gift. What I read didn’t bear this out.
Sometimes they experience a spark of inspiration that seemingly just appeared out of nowhere and they had a diamond. However, more often than not inspiration resulted in a lot of work.
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker didn’t set out to invent what we now know as be-bop. It took work and neither did it without the other.
Steve Jobs and Apple didn’t invent the graphical user interface. Xerox invented it but they didn’t know what to do with it. Steve Jobs recognized what it could do and he and his team, with much work, applied in a way that it would work.
You should have noticed something important in the previous paragraph. Apple’s creativity wasn’t in the invention it was in the application. This was the missing piece of the puzzle.
This is an important lesson. Sometimes the pieces are already there. The creativity is in putting them together. I’ve heard many a musician say that music uses only 12 notes but it is the way that they are used that makes it different. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easer. It takes work.
I’m going to bet that if your reading this it’s not to discover how to be more creative in the arts. How does creativity apply to a business? To your marketing communication efforts?
Being creative means solving problems in a different way than normal. In other words, think different.
Easier said than done? Maybe. The key to thinking different is to look at something from a different angle or point of view. Perspective can change everything.
If prospects are visiting your website but are only staying for a few seconds, there is an issue. You can solve it in part by looking at your website from a customer point of view. Does it have the information a customer might be looking for? Is information easy to find? What type of information might be missing for them to take the next step?
Are click-through rates with your Facebook ads low? Again look at it from a customer’s point of view. Is it the message? Is it the picture?
When looking for solutions try brainstorming options and write everything down regardless of how ridiculous it might seem. You can then determine how each option might be applied.
Growing Your Creativity
Want to grow your creativity? Read blogs and books. Listen to podcasts. Attend webinars. They will expand your knowledge and provide you with different viewpoints.
Search outside your realm expertise. Search in areas where creativity is a necessity.
My inspiration for writing this post was a talk I saw with Steve Vai, a guitarist, on YouTube. One of the things he talked about was the creative process and it made me look at it in a different way. I then thought, “How could I apply this to marketing communication and to business?”
Practice looking at things from different angles. When I was in school I took an organizational communication class. I had to write three papers on the same communication moment from three different perspectives. Each paper had a very different idea of what that moment meant.
Creativity is not limited to musicians, painters, or writers. We can not be any of those things and still be creative.
Whether in digital marketing, public relations, or in business creativity is in finding solutions. Sometimes they might be unconventional. This doesn’t matter. What matters is results.
With so much noise, you need to stand out and being creative isn’t an option. It’s a necessity.