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The love/hate relationship between creativity and data in healthcare

by Alisa Shakarian

Creativity yearns for constraint; it uses it to focus its direction and force – to pierce through the monotonous – to go where none has gone before.

And nowhere is that constraint more abundant than in healthcare. It comes from business strategies, market access landscapes, regulatory bodies, focus groups, patient outcomes and even market research studies – all of which come bearing an interpretation of data or insights that defne creative constraint.

So how much constraint is too much? The answer has a lot more to do with the interpretation of data rather than the data itself. After all, if religion or government has taught us anything, people’s interpretations of most things vary across a broad range – some people prefer more literal interpretations while others love the figurative.

On the one hand, you end up with the prototypical healthcare ad of people running their hands through fields of wheat in slow motion. On the other, you get the infamous ‘Chairs are like Facebook’ ad. Google it – it’s the epitome of figurative interpretation run amok.

The truth is that some people use data as a crutch to feel safe and assured about the decisions they are making... often on their way to validating one direction as the single path of truth for the creative endeavour at hand; this is called convergent thinking. While others use data as a broad jumping-off point to obscure metaphors between their brand and inanimate objects – did you know that Facebook is like chairs?

The future of creativity in healthcare lies in the middle – precisely because it’s hard. It’s hard for creativity to know the places it can and cannot go without having its head fully wrapped around all of the ways that data can be interpreted.

Conversely, data begs for interpretative bias to give it meaning and direction – to turn to it into action. The key is knowing how to balance courageous creativity with a deep understanding of the full range of possible interpretations –and to continually cultivate and broaden that range over time – so that you create the space to take leaps of faith.

Alisa Shakarian is Global Creative Director at Mind+Matter

In association with

2nd July 2021

From: Marketing

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