People often think that creativity is something you’re born with or you’re not. “My sister is the creative one in the family; she goes to art school,” you might hear an accountant say. Advertising agencies even label their departments as such: project managers deal directly with clients, while “creatives” are given the space to write and direct campaigns.
It turns out that narrative is flawed. A new book, Building Your Creativity: Tools For Having Ideas And Bringing Them To Be, argues that creativity is hardly a fixed trait. Rather, like any other skill, creativity is something you can train yourself to cultivate with the right kind of practice. In fact, it’s more of a science than an art.
I talked to one of the book’s authors, Esteban Gast, to find out what that kind of training looks like. Gast teaches a course on creativity at an unexpected place: the University of Illinois’ College of Engineering. “Creativity and engineering have been separated culturally, but at their core, they’re both systematic disciplines,” he says. “People are shocked to find that there are multiple studies that show creativity can be enhanced. You can teach yourself to be creative just as you can teach yourself any skill, be that piano or long division.”
According to Gast, this process requires more than just “believing in yourself” — a common refrain in many of the creativity self-help guides out there. His team’s approach involves tangible techniques and specific action plans, which his book brings to life for readers through a series of hands-on exercises.
Gast is quick to point out that, like piano and long division, building creativity requires patience and hours of practice. So reading all the way to the end of this blog post won’t make you instantly more creative. But it will give you seven things you can start doing now, whether you’re an accountant or an art student, to bring more creativity into your life.
The dream team is back. With coach Ivan Lendl once again by his side, Andy Murray was crowned Wimbledon champion for the second time this Sunday.
Despite parting from Murray in 2014, Lendl had been drafted in to turbocharge the tournament alongside Murray’s permanent coach Jamie Delgado. It’s anticipated Lendl will then assume his previous part-time arrangement of working with the tennis star for 20 to 25 weeks a year.
Agencies, which are themselves expert support teams for brands, have much to learn from Murray’s exceptionally high standards and lively approach to maintaining his own coaching squad.
With agencies under pressure to perform with greater speed, agility and commercial acumen, while achieving award-winning levels of creativity and innovation, traditional client-agency relationships no longer work. Instead of being left to it for weeks on end until they crack the brief, agencies need to become challengers and evolve their offerings at breakneck speed to ensure clients receive agile creativity.
This is because clients are struggling to keep pace with what consumers want. Brand lifespans have contracted from 61 years in 1959 to just 18 years today, according to Yale University’s Richard Foster. Dot-coms are planning their tenure around 10 years at most.
A recent study from creative agency Southpaw also found some of the biggest grocery brands of recent times, including Cadbury’s, Birds Eye and Heinz, have become on average 10% less relevant to consumers in the past five years. This figure might seem small, but its impact on global revenue will be colossal.
This is something that can be seen in every sector. We only need look at BHS and Austin Reed to understand what can happen to even the most monolithic retailers if they don’t keep up with the times.
The New Way Will Require New Skills
The rules of marketing were etched in stone long ago.
Rule 1: “Mass communications – ads – are the way to define a brand’s character and create an emotional connection with consumers.”
Rule 2: “Promotions and shopper messaging are used only to compel consumers to act in a way that brings that brand into their lives.”
But it’s 2016, and people have more control over when and how they receive brand messages. This makes consumer interaction with brands rare and precious. Consumers also have higher expectations of brands. They want transparency, convenience and relevant engagement – not a sales pitch.
Things have changed a lot, but there are big opportunities for the brands that get the next step right. It starts with smashing those stone tablets and bringing down the walls that have separated marketing disciplines. And then it’s time to rebuild, in a new way.