On Creativity

Despite increased calls for efficiency and measurable results, marketing remains an inherently creative discipline. What can marketing leaders do to keep the creative flame burning bright? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

Edward de Bono, who passed in June 2021, coined the term “lateral thinking” back in 1967 and spent most of his life since then advocating for the power of creativity in business—and in life. Few would argue against creativity’s power, but turning theory into practice and actually harnessing that power is another thing entirely.

Put simply: creativity is a delicate thing—difficult to foster and remarkably easy to kill

So what can you do to avoid these pitfalls and help creativity take root? It’s mostly about understanding the things that can kill creativity—and then doing the opposite. 

Let’s start with you as an individual. Self-judgment is probably the single best way to talk yourself out of being creative. To overcome this, learn to postpone self-judgement until your ideas are down on paper. Next, learn how to unstick your brain with fresh stimulus. Musician and producer Brian Eno uses a deck of specially created cards, but a walk around the block can do the trick as well.

It’s also important not to confuse creativity with originality. Even the greatest creative works build on others that came before. If you don’t believe us, just ask Dave Grohl about the opening drum fill in Smells Like Teen Spirit. 

When it comes to your team, fostering creativity is about eliminating its deadliest enemy: fear. This feels like an opportune time to re-introduce the concept of psychological safety.

Another tip: beware of groupthink. This is the collective version of jumping to judgement too early. When the team is in creative mode, hold the critiques until another time. Of course, once creative mode is done those critiques still have their place. 

In his creative practice, New Yorker cover artist Christopher Niemann intentionally embodies two opposite personas: the careless artist and the ruthless editor. Evidence shows that the same principle can be applied to creative teams in the workplace. Safety and freedom must be counterbalanced with discipline, candor and accountability. 

We’re never 100% sure about Einstein quotes found on the internet, but this one seems legit—and worth sharing: “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.” With that in mind, here’s our final tip: Put productivity aside once in a while and make time to play and have fun together.
Issue #122
Feb 10, 2022

Further Reading