As an integrated marketing communications agency, we like to think of ourselves as creative folk. Strategic? Always. Data-driven? That too. These skills all work in harmony to help us deliver the best work possible for our clients. But let’s be real. We can’t honestly say that any one of us feels our most creative 100% of the time. You won’t find any toxic positivity here. Creative block can happen to even the best of us (and often at the worst times). But it’s important to spot and tackle it head-on, without falling into negative thought patterns. So we wanted to share some tips from our team that might help to spark your creative thinking.
Before we get started, what is creative thinking?
Creative thinking is ultimately the ability to come up with unique, original solutions or ideas. It’s a valuable skill for anyone to have no matter what industry you work in, helping with problem-solving, strategic thinking and decision-making. But for marketers, it’s our North Star for imagination and innovation.
So, how can you inspire creative thinking?
1. Step away from your desk (and your screen!)
We’re big believers in stepping away from our desks and getting outside. And it’s not just a personal preference – science backs us up on this. Research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that exposure to natural environments can significantly increase creativity levels, curiosity, imagination, and diversity of ideas. As humans, we’re just not meant to be glued to our desks (or our devices). Being sedentary can cause physical and mental health problems too – it’s why sitting is often called the ‘new smoking’ when it comes to health risks – and it contributes to over 3 million preventable deaths worldwide every year.
As someone who’s regularly inspired by the latest wellbeing insights (and will often tell the rest of us all about it), our CEO, Lyanna Tsakiris, launched a networking group earlier this year called Wander & Wonder. It allows people to connect in nature and explore the benefits of wonder to encourage creativity and open-mindedness while building relationships and improving well-being. If you fancy popping along, you can find all upcoming events here >>>
2. Talk it out
You’ve heard the phrase, a problem shared is a problem halved. And it’s true. Turning to others in your team or your network can help you feel less alone and might help inspire more creative thinking. This could be done through creative brainstorming, constructive feedback, internal reviews, or even just having an informal conversation over a cup of coffee. In our agency, we open up the floor for our team to share the challenges and opportunities they’re facing every week, and we tend to find that others will volunteer support when it’s needed. But whether you’re part of a team or a freelancer, find your ‘tribe’ and people you can lean on. Because none of us can be expected to have all the answers.
3. Seek out new sources of inspiration
Creative ideas can’t always be pulled out of thin air – no matter how hard we try. That’s why it’s important to regularly seek out new sources of ideas and inspiration. You’ll know the regular spaces – events, conferences, online webinars, podcasts etc. We’ll often share our recommendations on LinkedIn if you want to follow us there.
But don’t be afraid to look around your industry and beyond too. What are your peers doing? What do you like or can you learn from other sectors that you can carry forward into your organisation? Remember to keep your eyes and ears open – ideas can be found even in the strangest of places. As humans, we have over 6,000 thoughts every single day. There’s a good chance that at least some of them will be creative – especially if you feed it the good stuff.
4. Don’t fight it
You can’t force creativity. Sometimes you just need to embrace that fact. Sure, this might not seem like helpful advice when you’re on a tight deadline (we’ve been there). But submitting work that you’re unhappy with isn’t going to do you any favours either – even if you meet the deadline promised to your team or your client. It’s okay to walk away and come back to the task later. If you listen to Steven Bartlett’s podcast, the Diary of a CEO, you’ll know that he often says that his best ideas typically come when he’s doing something completely mundane – like having a shower. He’s not the only one. Cognitive Scientist Scott Barry Kaufman did a study that found 72% of people get their creative ideas in this location. It might seem like a coincidence but it’s all down to how your brain is wired. Let’s go back to the science again for a minute. The shower is a safe place that provides a dopamine high, a relaxed state and a distracted mind. Plus, let’s not forget we have two basic functions of the brain:
- The default network – which we engage when we are doing something passive or repetitive;
- The executive network- which we engage when focussing on something more tricky or mentally demanding.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia used fMRI scanners to see what’s going on in the brain when we daydream. Far from shutting down when engaged in daydreaming, both the default and the executive network in the brain light up. Meaning that there’s a clear link between the daydreaming state and idea production. So instead of trying to force ideas, do something mundane instead, let your brain wander (and wonder) and see what happens.
5. Let go of perfectionism
For those of you who know us well, you’ll know we always strive to do our very best so this one may come as a surprise. But hear us out. Perfectionism may sound good on paper but in reality, you’re pretty much striving for the impossible. Have you heard the saying? You can be the juiciest peach but there will always be someone out there who doesn’t like peaches. No matter how good the idea, piece of content, design collateral etc (insert example of work here), 90% of the time there will be feedback, and sometimes from multiple people who may have a very different perspective to yours. Research shows that 66% of workplaces struggle with perfectionism, and 86% believe that perfectionist expectations have an impact on work. We’re not exempt – we have high standards – but this is where Emotional Intelligence and recognising this behaviour comes in.
So how can you address perfectionism and different perspectives? Have a strategy and a clear brief in place so you know what you’re striving for and how this particular example of work supports that. After all, how can you know if a creative idea or solution is ‘good’ if you don’t first fully understand the end goal?
Here are a few questions you may need to come back to:
- What are we trying to achieve and why?
- Is this what our audience wants or needs?
- How will we measure success? What are our KPIs?
- How does it align with our organisation’s values, vision and mission?
- Is this a ‘nice-to-have’ or will it make a positive impact?
- Is the brief clear and does anyone else need to feed into it?
If you want to work with a team that takes a strategic approach and keeps it real, then get in touch. Now that you know more about us, we’d love to know more about you. So let’s talk.