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A great creative department needs everyone in the team being willing to fight

By Ian Haworth, Chief creative officer

January 4, 2017 | 5 min read

Much like boxing, creativity has a definite set of different styles and techniques – all each as important as the next and critical to achieving that creative excellence.

Ian Haworth

Creativity is fundamentally at its core a fine equilibrium of emotion and attitude. Marrying the ability to be creative yet strategic, and having the right mindset to back these up is no easy feat, even for the most experienced and talented creatives out there.

I like to imagine creativity in a boxing ring, as a relentless sparring of ideas. There are two sides to creativity – the fun and playful side and then perched formidably in the opposite corner you’ve got challenge and apprehension of rejection. They sound conflicting and that’s because they are, but they also complement each other. Being playful is imperative to coming up with a great story, but so is being challenged in the right way. After all a positive challenge is a breeding ground for creativity.

Facing a challenge head on

People often shy away from a challenge in everyday life for the simple, age-old fear of failure – a notion not uncommon in the creative space. However fear is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to free-flowing creativity. If you’re constantly worried about making a mistake or coming up with an idea that is shunned, you’ll never truly let that creativity unfold.

Making mistakes is a part of life, a part of the creative process. So you need to face that opponent face on, however intimidating. Be competitive – don’t backpedal, or you’ll never go the distance.

Think on your feet and take a load off

Pace yourself. The demand to create original and provocative ideas is increasing at an unfathomable pace and yes, thanks to technology, we as creatives are able to think on our feet (work on our feet too) and get an idea to execution a lot faster. This new pace has created a sense of immediacy and definitely increased competition in the marketplace, so we have to adapt our working methods and create quicker. The fact of the matter is that if you work in the old way you won’t keep up.

The jury’s out whether this is better or worse. What we are seeing is that the pace is forcing the idea of co-creation and creative technology to be part of the initial thinking process, making us work more iteratively. It’s an entire theory of evolution – having to be super creative faster and more often.

Whilst you need to be able to think on your feet, burnout is a really big thing. So it’s imperative to pace ourselves and protect the minds and wellbeing of our creatives – know when it’s time to take a load off. Find ways to keep your mind fresh – discover the yin and the yang.

Practice makes process

There’s a myth circling out there which says ‘Process stifles creativity’. I would be inclined to agree that ‘Bad process stifles creativity’, but process itself can be a positive element that contributes to reframing the way creatives think about things. Therefore process, if properly applied, can help spurn creativity and drive the freedom needed to tell a unique and compelling story.

It’s only the wrong type of process that stifles creativity. It depends on the process and the ambition of the process. If done properly it can help to change behaviour – a really tricky endeavour, particularly in larger organisations. Culturally, by default of doing the process over and over, it will become about finding a better solution and therefore you become more creative.

Getting to that knockout idea

A couple of great creatives does not a great creative department make. A great creative department is built when everyone in the team is willing to fight, not just for their ideas but each other in order to champion the best possible outcome. You need to face the fear head on and overcome your reservations and concerns of rejection. All this boils down to embedding creativity into the ethos of your team.

You can’t buy a creative ethos. It’s simply not for sale. But it is up for grabs if you get creative about it, by balancing that sense of emotion, tenacity and a healthy dose of attitude.

Ian Haworth is executive creative director at Wunderman UK

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