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The playbook of a ‘reluctant creative’

The points to consider

David YoudsWhen I started Bedrock, I thought my first senior hire would be a real ‘creative’; someone who could dream up fabulous new communication programmes to engage audiences on healthcare matters while everyone else excelled at implementing them. It was some time later when I realised that this capability already existed within all of us. To this day my team pushes itself to unleash its ‘creative’. It pays off for us and our clients and it can for you.

I’m not a creative (?)

I hear the statement ‘I’m not creative’ as much as I hear ‘I’m not strategic’. For some reason both concepts seem ethereal to many. However, this attitude is often based on unrealistic comparisons to those who have seized the opportunity to try and who have the resilience to keep going.

One may perceive great business strategists as cerebral leaders in suits, cleverly calculating the correct way forward. We might consider creatives to be relaxed, spiritual types with no limits to their innovative capabilities. However, they share many characteristics; both seek to deeply understand their environment and their audience. Both consider (and often work up) several options before choosing a way forward. And often both work with others in their quest for differentiation. I am a great believer in the
power of individual viewpoints and the energy that this brings to the collective – never more so than in strategic and creative thinking.

A starting point

A blank piece of paper, no matter how white, can be a dark place. Surrounding yourself with appropriate stimuli will fill it with light, sometimes unexpectedly and often at strange times (right now I am literally standing in a queue for a boat trip, writing on my phone as thoughts enter my head). For me, stimuli can include people, pressure or space. Give yourself the permission to experiment and discover your inspirational stimuli. Oh, and remember to have something to write on!

Listening

Creativity is often considered to be an output – a deliverable. Worrying about the output often leads us straight into ‘writer’s block’. Instead, make your first question: ‘What is the input or the starting point?’ Enquiring and actively listening takes time but will help you understand your specific challenge and the needs of the audience.

Moreover, it will get your creative juices flowing in a focused way that leads to ideas: ‘Knowing that you need this, what if we tried that?’ Now we are testing, not creating – a much more comfortable, incremental state. ‘If that isn’t right, maybe this or that is?’

Colleagues and agencies can really help by bringing experience, insight and an alternative perspective, often spanning many sectors. This is valuable, effective co-creation.

Imagination

As Edgar Allan Poe said: “Those who dream by day are cognisant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.” Imagination is, of course, a fundamental part of the creative process. A creative challenge is in itself a great opportunity to develop the imagination – give yourself the time and permission to dream a little and remember there are no wrong answers; ideas breed new, often improved ideas.

Time

Time pressure can be good, but you risk ideas not maturing properly. Taking regular breaks has been shown to reduce stress and creative block when dealing with a creative challenge. Regardless of the mood you’re in, exercise has been found to increase creativity. I find putting a whole day aside for ‘creating’ is far less effective than going for a walk, or to the gym.

Bravery

Unfortunately, the creative process isn’t always comfortable. Making time in your busy calendar or committing yourself to an activity you consider to be a weakness takes bravery. This deserves reward and the first should simply be feeling proud of yourself for getting out of your comfort zone. So many people don’t.

Discomfort

‘Stopping power’ – the ability to get the audience to stop, look and engage is not achieved by fitting in with the environment. If you are agonising over how your creative idea fits in, then you may be looking at it wrong. If you want your idea to be memorable and to change the way our audience thinks, let’s first change the way that we think. Be prepared to push your ideas forward, bringing others along with you.

What is success?

If like many you are more of an implementer than a starter, the delivery of what you dreamt up will bring the real delight. You must stand back and reward yourself for what you have achieved – that’s the success that will bring you right back to your comfort zone!

David Youds is CEO at Bedrock Healthcare Communications

In association with

Bedrock

19th June 2018

From: Marketing

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