Process is how we make order out of our lives. We squeeze the toothpaste. Turn on the water. Brush tops. Brush bottoms. Water. Rinse. Ideally, we want a process that delivers predictable results. We don’t want our teeth to fall out.
The same goes when making a creative product that is surprising, interesting. Good ideas with strong execution don’t just happen. Once, a client suggested that all we did was smoke pot and stare at the bear clock. We tried it, but to no real success.
We look at what you do, who you are. We look at why you do it [I talked in more detail about articulating purpose here]. Then, we look at your business sector.
Our thinking crystallized when we read Advertising for People Who Don’t Like Advertising. This book talks about the unwritten rules that every sector observes. You have to figure out what these rules are. You have to systematically figure out which ones to break. That’s the only way to make something that stands out from the competition. It is the only way to avoid the clichés we expect.
Looking at creative people, what makes them tick is now wildly popular. The importance of taking a break from the problem is always a consistent theme in this work. Advertising creative Jon Steel had his employees schedule time out every day to sit in a public space and just observe. Ideo founder David Kelley kept a marker in the shower. I ride my bicycle.
Whatever you do, it is essential that you let your brain hit neutral. The great thing about the brain is that it works on the problem when you aren’t consciously thinking about it.
The good news is that you don’t have to be terribly smart to be creative, just smart enough. But, you have to be smart in a certain way.
Most of us have been educated in convergent thinking. What happened in 1066? Spell the word of the week. Learn your multiplication tables. While the facts are important, complex business problems do not have just one answer. You may have an idea in the shower, as you wake up from your nap, but it will take work to assess if the idea is usable.
We think through a field of potential solutions. We value divergent thinking. The first idea is obvious. The second is interesting, and the third and fourth might just be good. Interesting things happen when you combine ideas that don’t normally go together.
“Good work is uncomfortable for the client.”
It’s uncomfortable for us too. There is a positive correlation between how nervous we are presenting the work and how good the work is. That’s always been our experience.
Here’s to being uncomfortable, and doing great things