As a dad of two young girls, I’m always looking for ways to instill a sense of creativity in their young spirits. Feed their curiosities. Let them not paint by numbers. To look up in the sky and see pigs and pillowcases in the clouds. We even play a game where I’ll take something as common as a stir stick and ask them, ‘What are 10 things this could be?’ The answers are wild and unchained, and once you get past ‘a giraffe with a broken neck’ you can easily see how this exercise can go from cute to frightening.
I do this because I remember reading about a study where researchers tested children of various ages for their level of creativity. Of the 1,600 children, the five-year-olds scored a 98% at ‘genius level creativity.’ The research also showed a slow, steady, and frankly, sad decline as children got older. And us adults? They scored less than 2%.
No. This isn’t me waving the Sir Ken Robinson flag about our education system in a post-industrial age. The facts are the facts. It just seems that creativity is a lot like a slow-leaking flat tire you barely notice until one day you’re stuck on the side of the road wondering, ‘what could have been’ with the opportunities out on the horizon. The question is, whether for your business, your organization or even for yourself—what do I do with the creativity I have?
In his book Disciplined Dreaming, Josh Linkner states that 93% of CEOs believe that cultivating innovation and creativity is a top priority, yet only 14% believe they currently have an adequate system in place to build and manage the creative capacity of their teams. For businesses to survive, they need creativity and innovation on their side—it’s the one thing that can’t be outsourced.
Stop saying you’re not ‘creative’
In the business world, it seems that at some point the term ‘creative’ was a way to ascribe responsibility to those people, in ‘that’ department, who create things like print ads, billboards and television spots. But these days creativity is everyone’s responsibility. Further proof? See how the citizens of Troy, Michigan, got creative to save their library.
Essentially, it all starts with your mindset. And telling yourself that you are indeed creative, so that when challenges and obstacles arise you can create bold, new, innovative ways to move around them.
If you want big, start small
If you’re looking for a big, breakthrough, innovative idea, seek the small ones. Let the small ideas add up and don’t put the pen down too early. If you do it consistently enough, you’ll get what you want.
Years ago, when I taught Intro to Creative Concepts at CU Boulder, there were only 30 students in the class, and out of that only 11 who would be accepted into next creative track. As the year went on the students got more competitive vying for those top spots. The one factor that differentiated those who made it and those who didn’t was the ability to bring more ideas. Not more great ideas. Just more ideas. Often, it was the small, quiet idea scribbled in the corner of a notebook that had the most potency.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we were laying bricks every hour.” —Anonymous
Remove fear from the equation
Creativity takes courage. It’s not easy to hear your idea reverberate off the office walls and through the ears of your coworkers. What sounded so good bouncing around your frontal cortex came out, well…not so good. It happens. Surround yourself with people you trust and build a network of vulnerability.
Say you have a big, audacious creative approach or idea that could really change things in your organization but you’re afraid to share it with coworkers. Then don’t. First, lower the stakes and share your idea with someone you trust. It will feel more like a conversation than a presentation. Once you hear your idea through someone else’s ears, you can get all the kinks worked out and share it in a more formal setting.
‘’Creativity is not the finding of a thing but making something out of it after it is found.”
—James Russell Lowell
We’re all made to make
Looking back at my 20-plus years in advertising, I realize I was drawn to this field because it was a space that celebrated creativity—the beauty of taking what we see inside ourselves and bringing it to life outside ourselves, to solve real problems for people, organizations and industries. I love that this same care for being creative is spreading to businesses and boardrooms and that we as a collective (of non-kindergartners) can get back to living and being creative geniuses.
Tools and tips
It’s easy for anyone to feel stuck in the creative process. So, if it’s 3 a.m. and you’re staring at a blank screen and need some inspiration, here are some resources to help get you unstuck.
Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.