Herding kittens

5 handy hints on how to manage creativity and the creative process in yourself and others.

In marketing, in business, in music and food; we all know the value of creativity. In almost all forms of human endeavour, we understand the importance of creative thinking because we are told that it is important practically every single day.

Well, I understand the importance and value of money, but I find that hard enough to manage. Managing something as mercurial as ‘creativity’ must be as easy as herding kittens, surely.

Fortunately, I’ve worked in two industries where managing creativity is part of the business model; advertising and film.

If what you are selling is creativity, it’s good to know that you can generate a reasonable supply of it, so…

Hint No.1 Get the brief right.

Define the purpose accurately and tightly.

People sometimes think that saying, ‘Do anything you want’ to a creative person is Nirvana for them. Wrong, it’s hell.


There are a couple of good reasons for this.

Transactional Analysis says that an individual spends time in one of three different states; adult, parent or child.

Well, creativity takes place in the ‘child’ state. That doesn’t mean creative people are childish, it just means that creativity is play and creative thought likes a nice, safe, clearly defined playpen.

So say, ‘Do anything you want – but within these boundaries.’

I think the second good reason is this; creativity is often a translation service from the logical to the likeable. If the meaning, message or purpose is properly defined, the creative product will have the intended affect.

Hint No. 2 It’s a left-brain, right-brain thing.

The creative process needs to be separated into two parts.

The first stage is idea generation. Have as many ideas as you can and don’t censor them. Don’t judge them.

Get the ideas out on paper. Yes, paper.

Computers are good for realising an idea but not so good for helping people generate one. You can’t easily doodle on a computer and doodling is what you do while your child state is coming up with new ideas.

Let’s call this stage right-brain thinking. It’s intuitive, thoughtful, and subjective.

Now use the more logical and analytical left-brain to judge those ideas and sort out the good from the bad.

Repeat the process as often as you can. Which leads us to…

Hint No. 3 Creativity needs a lot of an increasingly scarce resource. Time.

Sometimes your first ideas are your best. But not very often.

Leave enough time for the whole left-brain, right-brain thing but also leave enough time to step back from the task.

The subconscious is powerfully good at creativity but it needs to be left alone to do its work and not constantly asked, ‘How are things going on?’

One of the worst things that the pace of modern business has done is to deny the creative process enough time.

Hint No 4 Cheat, copy and steal – but do it from the best.

Truly original ideas are increasingly scarce. Successful creativity is more often about combing ideas, styles and influences in a unique and innovative way.

If that’s the case then a creative thinker needs to be open to a wide range of stimulus and inspiration but in the same way a great chef combines only the best ingredients, choose your influences with care.

Hint No 5 Be brave.

Creativity is powerful stuff. It breaks rules, challenges perceptions and overturns opinions.

Don’t expect everyone to love your idea. Certainly don’t expect everyone to love you for having it.

But if you believe in your idea, fight for it. After all, it’s a gift from your inner child.


About the Author

SIMON MINCHIN CREATIVE DIRECTOR I like to make a difference. I like to work with clients rather than for them. I think my role is to see the wood for the trees; to make thinking, communicating and doing as simple as possible, rather than as clever as possible.

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