Creativity Predictions for 2023

Well, a new year is upon us, for better or worse. What will happen, nobody knows for sure. I came upon a recent article that provides some insight as to what may occur. These predictions come from a variety of sources, all tied into the world of creativity in some form or fashion.

I concur with the author of this article when he indicates that the beginning of this new year doesn’t feel so exciting or filled with promise. We’ve had three especially tough years, dominated by the pandemic, collapsing supply chains, a war in Europe, an energy crisis, political chaos, and recession. What fun!

Tom May of the UK publication Creative Boom has gathered the best predictions for what will happen to the creative industry in 2023 from some leading voices. While this is UK focused, it no doubt has resonance with US counterparts. This may be considered a lengthy read but well worth it.

1. The economy will contract

There’s no way of sugar-coating it: we are in for hard economic times. Jesse Reed, co-founder of Order is among those predicting that 2023 will see a continuing contraction in marketing spend globally, as spending power is sucked out of the economy. And unfortunately, that means that creatives will have to work even harder to secure business. But it’s not all bad news, he believes.

“Smarter brands don’t see marketing spend as discretionary and will know that in a downturn, their creative marketing can help them to take up a bigger spot in the shop window,” says Jesse. “So in many ways, it’s a positive opportunity for creatives to maximize the impact of their work in grabbing a bigger market share for their clients’ brands.”

And it’s not like there isn’t room for improvement. “The last few years have been characterized by brands throwing spend at digital advertising, which has become less effective every year as platforms become saturated, customers wise up or simply struggle to differentiate,” says Jesse. “Good creatives with an empathic understanding of their audience and a talent for taking ideas where their client’s competitors fear to tread should have no fear of 2023. They’ll be in high demand.”

Above all, then, it’s about being flexible and ready to react to a fast-changing world: not just now, but for the foreseeable future. “2022 will be defined as the year everyone realized 2020 wasn’t a blip,” says Jesse. “We’re now in the epoch of the perma-crisis. For brands and the creative industries that serve them, it’s highlighted the importance of continuously being agile in calibrating tone and messaging in their creative campaigns and advertising. Brands need to understand what’s prominent in their customers’ minds and what’s leading their decision-making – something that is in constant flux at the moment.”

2. Prompt invoicing will prove crucial

While there may be opportunities in a spiraling economy, that doesn’t mean there won’t be multiple dangers lurking. And Geoff Bretherick, creative director at Fablr, offers a cautionary tale from the last 12 months.

“2022 was a year of witnessing major shifts within our clients’ industries,” he says. “A lot of ups, but a few downs. Everyone’s been reshaping from the pandemic, and from what we’ve seen, taking more risks with bigger opportunities. In theory… great! That said, we had an unfortunate experience with a couple of partners that started as major contracts, and then suddenly, the organization lost their CEO, CMO, and over 50% of staff. Where does this leave graphic designers? Not in a great spot!”

The lesson Fablr has learned is the importance of keeping your output in sync with invoices. “In one case, we had let three months of invoicing go unpaid because we thought there was mutual trust in our partnership,” Geoff explains. “Indeed, maybe it began as so. But when C-suite personnel start dropping, their ‘word’ means very little. To that end, we still highly recommend, if you don’t already, billing at a consistent monthly rate, as opposed to the percentage of work done to date. Because right now, ‘We’re good for it’ means peanuts.”

3. There’ll be a tight focus on costs

John Ramskill, executive creative director at BrandOpus, echoes many agency leaders in thinking that the bottom line will be all-important in 2023, both for studios and the clients they serve.

“Increased costs have resulted in our clients wanting more for less – even more so than previous years,” he points out. “This has meant that we are getting better at focusing our thinking sooner and aligning our teams so as not to waste time and money.

“Fast and fluid lines of communication have been made easier by being back in the studio and having quick conversations on the fly, rather than having to schedule calls over teams. Being more efficient AND effective allows us to meet the needs of our clients while still delivering the high quality of work that BrandOpus has always produced.”

Jo Barnard, founder and creative director at industrial design consultancy Morrama, has also been feeling the strain. “The brief feeling of relief seeing the back of Covid at the beginning of the year was short-lived,” she recalls. “2022 has been another challenging year with cuts in creative spending as businesses look hesitantly towards an unpredictable 2023.

“This pressure can quickly translate into exhaustion and burn-out as we fight to keep the pipeline of work flowing and hit our own growth targets,” she continues. “So in 2023, we will instead be seeing creatives focus on growth in other ways: working on internal projects, deepening their education and building a culture of support and well-being both within their teams and their network.”

4. Retaining talent will be a real challenge

On that last point, studio heads must strike a careful balance: motivating creatives to do more and better without driving them away. Because as Abb-d Taiyo, co-founder of design and impact agency Driftime, says: “The great resignation is real! It has become increasingly harder to find great talent, let alone keep them fulfilled in the team and company dynamic.

“In the UK, a fifth of workers are expected to leave their roles according to a study by accountancy firm PwC,” he adds. “Although there are many reasons, two of the primary ones are purpose and balance. When we look to invest in our people, it’s going beyond the obvious of ‘increased pay’ and starting an open conversation with your team on what they want.”

For Driftime, this investment has been actioned in the form of complete autonomy, four-day work weeks, unlimited paid holidays, well-being perks, and incentives for each employee towards the cost of living crisis.

5. Employees will get more power

Is one way to retain talent giving it more power and influence within the agency? Rachel Cook, managing director at Thompson, believes so. “This year, tired of everyone agreeing with each other, we disbanded our non-executive board, binned off our leadership forum, and introduced an employee board,” she says. “The aim was to introduce a healthy challenge, diversify the voices in the room, and give the whole team a chance to decide how we do things. And it’s been a roller coaster, with learnings at every turn.

“2022 taught me if you ask for honesty, you’ll get it, and you need to be ready for that,” she continues. “The first meeting was about employee benefits, and the team turned up with a ten-page printed, stapled document of feedback, asking for loads more holiday, flexible working and heaps of other great ideas. I admit I wasn’t quite ready for it, but the feedback was great, and I’m so glad they took it seriously. We needed to hear it.”

Rachel has also learned that it pays to act fast. “We’ve stayed true to our promise to action something from every Employee Board within six weeks of the meeting; within a couple of weeks, we rolled out an extra three days of holiday per year. The positive repercussions weren’t just because of the free days off, but because it helped build the trust and confidence of the team that we weren’t just smiling and nodding, but actually acting.

“Finally, I’ve learned that the benefits of doing good stuff are bigger than you might imagine. The Employee Board told us that they thought the forum would be good for them to get insight into how business works, give them confidence, look good on their CV, and be a great recruitment message, too. And I love hearing the team telling potential recruits or clients about the employee board: they took a small idea I had in the shower and made it much more awesome.”

6. The creative profession will redefine itself

Typically, in a recession, big companies see design and other creative services as an easy cost to cut, to help balance their budgets. So Max Ottignon, co-founder of Ragged Edge, believes the industry must counter this by reframing itself. “We need to change the perception of creativity from a luxury to a necessity,” he argues.

“In 2022, we’ve all had to get pretty good at thriving in adversity,” he continues. “2023 doesn’t look like it’s going to offer much respite, so the onus is on us all to demonstrate that creativity can give businesses a vital edge when times are tough. It’s time to prove how valuable our skills are. That starts with asking the right questions in the first place. It means digging deep into the underlying business challenges and genuinely solving those issues in ways that feel tangible and devoid of marketing bullshit.”

Max believes this is in our power to do so, as long as we strike the right attitude. “This is a time for clarity, rigor and a healthy dose of pragmatism,” he says. “But it’s also a time when creativity can be the difference between success and failure. And if we can prove we’re irreplaceable when times are tight, just imagine the possibilities when things pick up.”

All that, of course, is easy to say, difficult to do. But Kirsty Minns, executive creative director at Mother Design, offers some advice on a personal level. “We entered 2022 with such uncertainty after the pandemic and have since navigated even more global challenges, from economic unrest to the climate crisis,” she explains. “And a lesson I used this year is to adopt a beginner’s mind.

“A client of mine was obsessed with this idea called shoshin, which originates from Japanese Zen Buddhism,” she explains. “It refers to the idea that the more you know about a subject, the more likely you are to close your mind to further learning. My interpretation of this was to challenge how things were done before, embrace unorthodox ideas and test new ways of working. New working models in the office were tested, new methods of coming up with ideas were embraced, and new ways of inspiring the team were implemented.”

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Quotes for the Soul and Wherever!

It’s that time of the month again! Time for assorted quotes from a variety of folks. Take them to heart and add them to your diet as food for your soul. Enjoy.

It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one. — Alex Osborne, Advertising Hall of Fame

The heart of creativity is discipline. — William Bernbach, Advertising Hall of Fame

Consumers are statistics. Customers are people. — Stanley Marcus, Advertising Hall of Fame

Be slow in choosing a friend, slower in changing. — Benjamin Franklin, Advertising Hall of Fame

Human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings. This, I submit to you, is not a political thesis at all. It is simply an expression of what I would hope might be ultimately a simple humanity for humanity’s sake. ― Rod Serling

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in art, in music, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.  – John Steinbeck

Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack. – Dr. Seuss

You can’t be a creative thinker if you’re not stimulating your mind, just as you can’t be an Olympic athlete if you don’t train regularly. – Sir Ken Robinson

Success or failure in business is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacities. — Walter Dill Scott, Advertising Hall of Fame

Our job is to simplify, to tear away the unrelated, to pluck out the weeds that are smothering the product message. — William Bernbach, Advertising Hall of Fame

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

How do stress and anxiety impact us as creative people?

What can we do to change our responses? In a recent article posted on his Talent Development Resources site, Dougles Eby features several professionals who address anxiety and creativity. I don’t know anyone among my creative colleagues who has not dealt with anxiety in one form or another. This post may give you some insight into the world of creative anxiety.

 

Heidi Hanna, PhD is the Executive Director of the American Institute of Stress. She writes in an article on her site about one way we can help ourselves deal with stress: humor

“A few years ago, thanks to my friends at the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, I was introduced to a new type of “mental massage” – one that enhances circulation to parts of the brain that often get left out of our day to day activities, such as perceiving amusement, irony and joy.

“Healthy humor is like massage for the brain. It initiates the relaxation response, shifting brain chemistry towards positivity, creativity, and collaboration.

“Physically, humor decreases levels of toxic cortisol and inflammation in the brain and body, while increasing neural efficiency, energy production, circulation, and overall health.

“Our current chaotic and constantly connected society is filled with stressful triggers that keep our brain-body systems stuck in a state of chronic stress, speeding up the development of both physical and mental disabilities and illness.”

 

In his book Mastering Creative Anxiety, creativity coach and psychologist Eric Maisel, PhD asks,

“Are you creating less often than you would like? Are you avoiding your creative work altogether? Do you procrastinate? That’s anxiety.

“Do you resist getting to your work or marketing your work? That’s anxiety.

“Do you have trouble deciding which creative project to tackle? That’s anxiety. Do you find completing work hard? That’s anxiety.”

In his many years of counseling as a psychotherapist, he has found, “Anxiety regularly stops creative people in their tracks and makes their experience of creating more painful than pleasurable.

“It stops would-be creative people entirely, preventing them from realizing their dreams. Anxiety is the number one problem that creative people face — and yet few even realize it.”

In his book he describes “many of the sources of anxiety in a creative person’s life” and provides “little-known anxiety-management techniques” to help you manage that anxiety.

One of the challenges creative people face that affects anxiety is meaning. One related video clip:

One measure of fighting anxiety I have found to help is to break up my anxiety into pieces. Since I may not be able to deal with the entire problem at a single sitting, I’ll be more likely to deal with the individual pieces. What’s really worrying me and why? If I can answer this, I’ll know how to better deal with the factors that make up the problem . . . and my worry.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Emotional intelligence creates climate, enabling creativity

Creativity is all around us. We can’t escape it. There are those of us whose livelihood depends on creativity, the designers, artists, writers, etc. There are countless others who are affected by creative surroundings and may not realize it. Whether or not we do, we all have emotions that definitely affect creativity.

But what if we feel creatively deprived? What if a designer feels one day that he/she just doesn’t feel inspired? What if we feel we’re having an “off” day?

A recent study in the Journal of Creative Behavior shows the power of emotional intelligence to make creativity happen. The study from the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence found that emotionally intelligent supervisors create a climate that benefits creativity and innovation in those they work with.

Zorana Ivcevic Pringle, Ph.D., provided the synopsis of the study, highlights of which are outlined in this blog post. Dr. Pringle is a Senior Research Scientist at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. She studies the role of emotion and emotion skills in creativity and well-being, as well as how to use the arts (and art-related institutions) to promote emotion and creativity skills.

What do emotionally intelligent supervisors do? First, they are skilled at reading employees’ emotions, such as realizing when someone is upset or disappointed or when they are worried about changes at work. They not only can read emotions but acknowledge them explicitly.

Second, they help employees channel their feelings toward achieving important goals. They inspire enthusiasm and they model decision making that takes into account both optimistic and pessimistic voices (and concerns and hopes behind them).

Third, emotionally intelligent supervisors understand how different decisions or events affect people’s experiences at work. And finally, they are able to successfully manage their own emotions, as well as help employees when they are upset or frustrated.

The just-published Yale study asked three groups of questions: One group of questions asked people to describe their supervisors’ behavior. Another group of questions asked about people’s emotional experiences of work. Finally, the third group of questions asked to what extent people have opportunities to grow and make progress at work and how often they are creative at work.

The study results show that when supervisors acknowledge that employees have feelings and that these emotional experiences matter, the work climate becomes more positive and supportive. Employees described dramatically different emotional experiences if they had supervisors who acted in emotionally intelligent ways or not.

The quality of relationships spilled into feelings about employees’ duties and tasks, and that, in turn, affected creativity and innovation in what they accomplished. Our study suggests that supervisors’ emotional intelligence is a job resource for their employees that helps both their wellbeing and successful performance at work.

When people were asked how they feel about work in their own words, two-thirds of the top feelings mentioned by those whose supervisors were emotionally intelligent were positive, while 70 percent of the top feelings mentioned by those whose supervisors were not emotionally intelligent were negative.

Those whose supervisors were emotionally intelligent mentioned being happy three times more often than being stressed. By contrast, those whose supervisors do not show emotional intelligence most often said they were frustrated and stressed. 

How do supervisors and leaders make a difference for their employees’ ability to be creative? Organizational behavior scholars Jing Zhou and Jennifer George have shown that emotionally intelligent supervisors know that emotions provide information about ourselves, the environment, and those around us.

Emotionally intelligent supervisors are able to notice employee dissatisfaction, recognize that dissatisfaction conveys information about a real problem, and can find a way to approach this problem as an opportunity for improvement. Emotionally intelligent supervisors can manage their own and employees’ emotions to help with creative work. They can recognize when people are overly optimistic and can provide informative feedback to prevent settling on ideas prematurely and inspire persistence.

The Yale study shows that supervisors can create a climate where employees have opportunities to grow and are inspired and motivated in their jobs. Supervisors who acknowledge that employees cannot leave emotions at the door, who recognize employees’ feelings, understand where they are coming from, and who help employees manage their feelings, will have both happier and more creative employees.

The results are relevant for anyone who influences others, such as teachers working with students or parents with their children. The emotional climate we create will influence both how those around us feel and what they are able to do.

This holds true for various sets of employees and those independent contractors whose specialties involve creativity and positive emotions. Indeed, the corporate world needs to be aware of this more than ever, especially when an increasing number of employees are rethinking a return to the office.

Here’s to positive re-enforcement of emotions amidst a favorable environment of creativity!

 

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

 

 

The Power of Creative Excellence and the Loss of an Icon

Every once in awhile it’s nice to get another perspective on creativity and its influence in the advertising industry. So this week the creativity blog focuses on an interview with Rob Reilly, the creative lead of WPP. We also acknowledge the passing of an icon who truly embodied the power of creative excellence, Dan Wieden. Below are some excerpts from that interview conducted by Carly Weihe.

In sitting down with Reilly, his passion for creativity and the high quality standards he puts into his work is clear. Under his creative lead, WPP won the Most Creative Company of 2022 at Cannes. Animated and engaging, it’s no surprise he is the chief creative officer for the largest advertising company in the world. With a little over a year under his belt at the company, his outlook on the future is a positive one, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and brand consistency as key factors for continued success.

I have a photograph of the Fearless Girl in my room. I discovered that you had a hand in bringing it to life.

That’s one of the best things someone’s ever started an interview with. I think the accomplishment you can have is to create something that has an impact long after you leave this earth. When the stock brokers come out, they have to face her and remember to do the right thing the next day. The City of New York wanted to move her into a park because she was causing a lot of traffic. We were like, ‘no, we’ll move her to Tokyo or London instead because everybody wants her.’

So, we showed them the comp of the only place we would accept, State Street, and that’s where she is today. We don’t know what the return on investment is on that piece of work, because who knows if it inspired, some president or someone starting a company or finding a cure to a disease, because they were inspired to be a bit fearless.

You’ve been a part of other social justice campaigns such as #NYCSaysGay. How do you leverage real problems to inspire people?

Well,if you’ve seen anything that I’ve done or any presentations I’ve made, I really talk about creativity being today’s most valuable asset. So yes, the NYC Love was a campaign that we did against the Don’t Say Gay issue that they had in Florida. (The campaign was digital billboard advertisements strategically placed across Florida that emphasized NYC’s commitment to the LGBTQ+ community, in partnership with New York City’s mayor Eric Adams.)The idea is great. But the media placement is what makes it really great.

The creative headlines are fun and interesting and pretty punchy, but it’s a fact, that you’re able to buy the media in the States basically telling people to leave Florida, and the state of Florida couldn’t stop it. You need some real ingenuity and real creativity to do that. I have high hopes for creativity being taught to children in schools eventually. We’re teaching our kids a lot of things, and we should be teaching them to use their brain and creative ways to solve problems.

Too many people think, “Oh, I’m not creative.” But you don’t have to be an artist to be creative. You just have to use your brain in different and unique ways to solve things. I feel like more and more creativity is going to be used to get us out of sometimes the messes we create as a country and as a world.

How does hiring talent play into that mission?

I think younger people want to work for companies that are doing the right thing. Whether you choose to work at a company or whether it’s the couple of brands you choose to support, you’re watching what they do. But you also want to have a good career and make money and these two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

I think we’ve got to continue to attract unique and different types of individuals by doing the right things for them, and then the right things out in the world. I think where we’re struggling when we get into the diversity and inclusion aspect. I feel like we got to do a way better job of making sure all types of people with all types of opinions and voices and backgrounds are included and this is the business.

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On Imagination – Another’s Thoughts

“To see, to hear, means nothing. To recognize (or not to recognize) means everything.” – André Breton

This week’s creativity blog shares another’s perspective. I’m on her email list and this particular email dissertation I found quite interesting. She goes by the name “The Used Life” and is an artist extraordinaire.

Here are some of her thoughts . . . what are some of yours?

I think of my art as an articulation of my inner life. That all of the scenes that take shape in my collage art (and poetry, too) also exist within me. There is a mystery in that which I love: that is, the mystery of human imagination. Indeed, it is a rare occasion when I am able to explain clearly and succinctly what I believe my artwork means. I like not knowing. No, I love not knowing. It is the mystery that makes it meaningful.

It is also, I think, the element of mystery that creates something akin to a mystical or religious experience—the feeling that, when I am creating, I am acting as a conduit, or channel, for “something else”, something almost otherworldly or unreal.

But, what’s the “something else”? What do I think is really happening in those moments, and what is the role of imagination in that process?

First, let me clarify by saying that I don’t define “imagination” as the ability to conjure images at will. That, I think, is a very small part of what comprises our imaginations. Here are some thoughts.

Imagination is a loss of separateness.

It is the recognition of ourselves in another—in another person, in an animal or landscape, in a character from a novel, a scrap of discarded paper, or a cardboard box. I would suggest that this “moment of recognition” is where the feelings of awe, of ecstasy, or even love that often accompany or precede creativity come from.

“Imagination is the outreaching of mind…the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images and every sort of psychic phenomena welling up from the pre-conscious.” – Rollo May

What psychoanalysts might call a kind of projection, or a “leaky” subconscious. Imagination is the outpouring of inner images onto the outer world, such that a third image—a new image—may be born.

Imagination is a way of perceiving.

Maslow talks a great deal about what it means to see “unitively”, suggesting that many self-actualizing people encounter the world in a manner that allows them to see the sacred in the everyday. In the essay, “Theory Z”, he suggests self-actualizers may be divided broadly into two groups: those who experience episodes of self-transcendence (i.e., artists, poets, musicians, other creators), and those who are more pragmatic thinkers (i.e., businesspeople, entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists).

The difference between them: pragmatic thinkers deal with the here-and-now, operate within the confines of concrete reality. Transcenders are able to perceive the stuff of everyday life within the context of eternity and, as a result, are able to perceive (or feel they are perceiving) the “sacred” or “miraculous”.

What I think: the latter see imaginatively. What Maslow refers to as the perception of eternity is a function of imagination. It is the natural “outreaching of mind”, the involvement of the subconscious, or preconscious, primordial images and the emotions they carry. That’s where those feelings of “eternity,” “otherworldliness,” “surreality,” or even of encountering “the sacred” in the everyday (or in a work of art) come from.

What’s more: children see imaginatively. We were all, at one time, able to see imaginatively without trying…which leads me to my last point.

Our imaginations transform the everyday into the extraordinary.

Without the imaginative encounter—that is, without the fusion of inner and outer worlds—I doubt we would ever be able to perceive the extraordinary. I think we need those subconscious projections, those “leaky” images, impulses, and ideas. They tell us who we are. They help us make meaning. That outpouring of the unreal is what gives reality its shine.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Nurture Creativity By Building Supportive Environment

Every so often I run across articles on some aspect of creativity. This week I found an article on nurturing creativity by building a supportive environment. It’s a recent study co-authored by professors from Rice University here in Houston and the Barcelona School of Management in Spain. I’ve reflected the study’s findings here in this blog post.

Creativity in children develops their spirits. Playing at or with almost anything spurs their creativity. (I wish this could be said about most adults.) Coaxing creativity from adults is more challenging. Creativity in adults enriches productivity — especially at the office.

Creativity is where ideas come from; ideas form the basis for innovation. In an increasingly competitive world economy, it’s innovation that allows businesses to survive and thrive. This makes creativity a prized commodity in the job market. For managers, cultivating creativity in their workforce is a crucial professional skill. (Note: Yet I think creativity is still a very undervalued skill, if not misunderstood.)

Current academic research takes a more holistic look. By studying the interaction between the character traits of the worker or the team, the leader or the supervisor, and the prevailing atmosphere at the workplace, researchers are unveiling new insights.

Studies show, for example, that the benefits of benevolent leadership expand when workers recognize creativity as an important component of their role. Not only that, creativity is highest in employees who experience high levels of both positive and negative moods and feel supported by their supervisors. Other research finds that leaders who empower their workers get a greater payback in creativity.

To explore these findings further, *Zhou and Hoever developed a typology that sorts out research about workplace creativity based on interactions between the worker (which they call the “actor”) and the workplace (which they call “context”).

The best-case scenario is a positive actor in a positive context, a mix that is synergistic for creativity. Worst case: When a positive actor languishes in a negative context or, similarly, when a negative actor stews in a positive context. At the extreme end of possibility, a negative actor in a negative context is downright antagonistic to creativity, Zhou and Hoever found.

There’s one final type of employee-workplace interaction: the “configurational” experience, which includes factors that are neutral in shaping creativity, but, when combined with other factors, cause a kind of chemical reaction that boosts or blocks creativity.

Zhou’s research serves up some bad news and good news for managers. Choosing and hiring employees who are creative is not enough, it turns out. If your workplace is discouraging, creativity will wither in almost anyone. On the brighter side, cultivate a nurturing environment and creative tendrils may sprout even in the most no-nonsense workers. Best of all, good managers can build a nurturing greenhouse environment. Practically speaking, it means that companies can and should train supervisors to cultivate creativity in their management choices. (Hmmm, wonder what an 8-year old supervisor would do!)

Plenty of research gaps remain, however. To fill them, Zhou has outlined an ambitious agenda for future research, including a close look at the impact of workplaces on collective creativity; exploring as-yet unidentified factors in workers and work settings that spark creative thinking; and seeking ways to vanquish the effects of unsupportive environments.

Making creativity happen at work, in other words, isn’t child’s play. It is, in fact, hard work, especially if the environment is less than stimulating.

——

*Identifying the best circumstances to make creativity bloom is one of the driving questions in this study by Rice Business Professor Jing Zhou and colleague Inga J. Hoever, a professor at the Barcelona School of Management in Spain.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

New Aspects of Creativity for 2022

Creativity can spring from a variety of different sources, some even unlikely. Behind each scenario is a person or persons developing the idea and following it through to completion. Below is a report on such creativity.

Each year, Fast Company reveals a new list of the Most Creative People in Business. The folks we highlight have accomplished something in the past year that no one in their field ever has before, something that’s already having a discernible and important impact.

As you’ll see, we take a different view of creativity than our fellow business media outlets do. To us, creativity isn’t limited to the fields typically thought of as “creative,” such as entertainment, marketing, or branding. We know that creativity is happening everywhere: science labs, law offices, parliamentary halls, and even the open seas—and thank goodness. Creativity is what leads people to fix the world’s most urgent problems.

The work that’s been done by this year’s cohort of 56 Most Creative People in Business showcases several ways that creativity can lead to bold and substantial change. Here are some of the lessons they offer, for 2022 and beyond.

Just do something

Dismayed by the rise in fentanyl overdoses among recreational drug users, Allison Heller and Dean Shold took action. Their organization, FentCheck, is putting drug-test strips where the users are, and saving lives. Reynold Verret, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, is building a robust academic pipeline that’s creating more Black doctors and health industry leaders. Not content to live with the glaring vaccine inequity across the world, Baylor College infectious disease experts Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez developed the first-ever open sourced COVID vaccine, called Corbevax, which has already been administered to tens of millions. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Pavel Vrzheshch redeployed the employees at his branding/ad agency as “creative warriors,” which led to the wide-reaching, Zelensky-endorsed “Be Brave like Ukraine” campaign.

Put people first

After Whitney Pegden noticed that Walmart delivery customers were bonding not just with the service but the delivery workers themselves, she expanded the program accordingly. With various societal needs exposed by the COVID pandemic, Norma Edith Garcia-Gonzalez converted LA’s county parks to health centers, shelters, and food pantries, with great results, and focused on helping (and employing) local youth. Audio engineer Heba Kadry enhances the connection between musical artists—such as Mdou Moctar and Japanes Breakfast—and their fans. Seniors thrive when they’re part of a community, which is why Selfhelp Realty Group’s Evelyn Wolff has built The Atrium at Sumner. As climate change makes hurricanes, floods, and wild fires more frequent and extreme, Resilience Force founder Saket Soni is standing up for disaster recovery workers, and securing them better employment terms.

Protect what’s important

Microsoft’s Tom Burt is calling upon his legal background to safeguard users’ data from hackers, thieves, and foreign adversaries. Through a logistics app called PRoduce, Crystal Díaz is restoring food sovereignty to Puerto Rico, which currently imports 85% of its food. Gina Asoudegan is bringing regenerative agriculture to supermarkets at scale with Applegate Farms’s new Do Good Dog. Knowing that a free (and robust) press is vital to our democracy, New York Times vets Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor have written a book called Chasing the Truth to share what they’ve learned with young journalists and encourage them to “engage with the world and make progress.”

Stand up to the giants

As the behemoths of Big Tech continue to grow even more dominant, several courageous individuals are finding innovative ways to keep their power in check. The EU’s Margrethe Vestager led the passage of two new landmark pieces of legislation that will go further than anything before to level the playing field worldwide. Gretchen Peters is working with lawmakers to expose organized crime on social media. Creative-thinking attorney Jay Edelson is leading winning lawsuits that protect users’ biometric data and more. And while there may be a ton of hype out there about the new world of “Web3,” Molly White sees right through it (and enables us see, too).

Blur the lines

Singer-songwriter Arooj Aftab has made the ancient art of ghazal feel brand new. Sort Of co-creator Bilal Baig positions gender-fluidity in a fresh and sensitive way. Fashion designer Kingsley Gbadegesin channels the queer community’s perspective (and has gained wider following because of it). Former YouTube superstar Casey Neistat chronicles the rise and fall of another YouTube star, David Dobrik, in a revealing documentary called Under the Influence. Puppetmaster Toby Olié figured out how to translate Spirited Away‘s ethereal characters to the stage. Unity’s Timoni West is transporting actual data into immersive digital worlds in order to solve real-life problems.

Run clean

Wind-powered charging buoys that power idling cargo ships at sea? Maersk’s Sebastian Klasterer Toft and David Samad are developing that. An electric speedboat that virtually flies above the water? Candela’s Gustav Hasselskog just built one. Meanwhile, Maxine Bédat wrote a widely read book (called Unraveled) about the pollution-heavy life cycle of a single pair of jeans and is now fighting, through her New Standard Institute, to hold the apparel industry accountable. Sharon Prince is fighting for accountability, too; she’s gotten construction industry leaders and major architecture firms on board to ensure that their materials aren’t produced with slave labor.

Make it fun

Mark Rober is the Willy Wonka of science. Kyla Scanlon uses a spoonful of sharp comedic timing to help to the financial education go down. Walt Disney Studios’s marketing chief Asad Ayaz keeps the multiverses spinning. With Twelve Minutes, Luis Antonio brings character study to gaming. In addition to being a world-class surfer, John John Florence has created a performance-wear and clothing line, Florence Marine X, that lets other surfers in on the creative action.

 

Thanks to Jill Bernstein of Fast Company for contributing the information.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

 

Contradictions and Creativity

There appear to be many factors that infiltrate the creative realm when dealing with problem solving. Obviously, the way we think is of paramount importance. Rarely do we think along the “straight and narrow” but usually have to navigate various problematic areas before arriving at some conclusion. Notice I didn’t say the “correct” or most viable solution.

Studying this trait in creative development, Art Markman, Ph.D., a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think, drew upon a paper, referenced below, that deals with creativity research and how contradictions play a part in evolving a solution.

Research on creativity points out that most thinking follows a path of least resistance in which a situation reminds people of experiences related to that situation, and they determine what to do based on what emerges from memory. This use of memory is valuable, because it is what enables people to use their experience to guide their actions. After all, people should generally do what they did in the past in order to navigate a situation effectively and efficiently.

As a result, if a situation calls for creativity, it is important to block that path of least resistance in some way. A paper by Ella Miron-Spektor, Kyle Emich, Linda Argoe, and Wendy Smith in a 2022 issue of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes suggests one way of blocking this path of least resistance in group creativity.

They suggest that there are two factors that can come together to promote creativity. The first is that teams need to embrace contradictions when generating creative ideas rather than choosing a trade-off between them. For example, when designing a product, there is often a trade-off between expense of the materials and design and the performance of the product.

A designer might opt to create a luxury product that is high in price and performance or an economy product that is low in price and performance. But a creative team that embraces contradictions might seek new materials that provide an improvement in performance while keeping prices low.

In order to do this work of embracing contradictions, though, teams must also be motivated to think carefully about the problem rather than just going with the first idea they think of. The researchers suggest that the ideal combination for creativity requires both an orientation to embrace contradictions and the motivation to think deeply about the problem.

They tested this possibility in two studies. Participants were placed into teams of three people and given a design problem to make a prototype for a creative but affordable car using parts from a building set. To simulate the expense of the car, each part had a price associated with it.

The researchers manipulated both people’s orientation to contradictions as well as their motivation to think about the problem. They influenced people’s orientation to contradictions through instructions. Some groups were encouraged to embrace the contradictions they saw rather than deny them. Other groups were just told to review different perspectives without suggesting that they embrace the contradictions.

They manipulated people’s motivation to think in different ways in different studies. In one study, participants given high motivation to think were told they would be interviewed about their team strategy after the study and that they would watch a video of their brainstorming and be asked to comment on it.

Knowing they would have to justify their responses was expected to create high motivation to think carefully. The control group was not told about any interviews. A second study manipulated motivation to think through instructions that either asked participants to review and understand opposing perspectives or simply said that successful teams look for compromise.

The creativity of ideas was assessed by independent raters who examined how novel and useful the ideas were. This is a standard way of evaluating the creativity of the ideas people generate. Consistently, the most creative ideas were generated by those groups who had been asked to embrace contradictions and had a high motivation to think about the ideas.

All of the other conditions had lower and roughly similar levels of creativity. One of the studies also had raters look at the group dynamic and assess whether all the group really elaborated their ideas by discussing them and explaining their usefulness. The groups that embraced contradictions and were motivated to think were more likely to elaborate their ideas than those in the other groups.

This research suggests that contradiction can be a fruitful source of creative ideas. Contradictions can be used as a motivation to seek a new way of resolving a conflict rather than just compromising. However, putting in the effort to really embrace a contradiction requires being motivated to think through ideas carefully rather than just reaching a quick compromise and moving on. Ultimately, creativity requires effort, and so teams that are asked to be creative need some incentive to want to do that work.

Agree? Disagree? No opinion? Regardless, drop a comment if you so choose and  let me know.

Key points

  • Most thought follows a path of least resistance and is not creative.
  • Embracing contradictions can be a fruitful path for creativity.
  • Teams embrace contradictions only when they are motivated to want to think deeply about a problem.

Thanks to these sources for supplying the information on which this blog post is based.

References

Miron-Spektor, E., Emich, K. J., Argote, L., & Smith, W. K. (2022). Conceiving opposites together: Cultivating paradoxical frames and epistemic motivation fosters team creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 171, 104-153.

Art Markman, Ph.D., is a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.

Originality: Not required for creativity

Whether or not you agree with the premise, I found the following essay from Psychology Today an interesting take on a myth that still finds itself debatable in certain circles. Where do creative ideas come from? Are they truly original? Well, according to the essay . . .

One of the most persistent myths is that a creative idea is a totally original idea. That is, to be creative one must be able to create ideas that have never been thought before, ideas that never existed before, absolutely original. {Personally, I don’t buy this.}

{One could consider saying that all original ideas are creative but not all creative ideas are original. I would not necessarily agree with the first part of that statement but I would agree with the second part.}

The truth is that most innovative ideas are not original ideas. In most cases, they are simply the combination of previous ideas into a new concept or format. It’s about making connections with stuff that’s already there. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, brought this all into perspective when he said:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they really didn’t do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or that they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

 

One of the most-oft cited cases of creativity centers around Johannes Gutenberg who, in 1450, combined the wine press and the coin punch to create movable type and the printing press. Movable metal pieces allowed pages to be printed much more quickly than the standard wooden blocks used to press ink onto paper.

His “combination of pre-existing technologies” created printing presses that could print thousands of pages a day. This revolution allowed books to be printed more quickly and more efficiently, allowing the middle class to obtain them as never before. The result was the rapid spread of knowledge across the European continent. That intellectual revolution came about due, in large measure, to the combination of two previous (and seemingly unconnected) ideas: a wine press and a coin punch.

Creative Combinations

Ancient Greeks were also aware of the power of creative combinations. For example, it was the Greeks who combined soft copper with soft tin to create hard bronze. At their most basic levels, Gutenberg’s printing press and the creation of bronze were simply a combination of already existing ideas. History also records these interesting combinations of pre-existing concepts:

1. Copier + telephone = fax machine

2. Bell + clock = alarm clock

3. Trolley + suitcase = suitcase with wheels.

4. Igloo + hotel = ice palace

5. Mathematics + biology = laws of heredity

We like to believe that creativity is the result of a determined, focused, and solo entrepreneur who, through a flash of inspiration solves a problem for the betterment of humankind. It’s a great plot line for a TV special, but it ignores a basic fact of life about the stories of most innovations: They rarely include the human networks that sustain (and make possible) radical new ideas or changes. In fact, history is frequently edited in order to recognize a sole genius or innovator. Phil McKinney, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, Killer Innovations, puts it this way:

We have a saying in the innovation industry: “There’s no such thing as a truly new idea. Ideas are the result of building on the work of others.” Many of the creative ideas that led to creating great companies were the result of a team. Some examples: Microsoft, Intel, Google, Skype and many more.

We continue to think that to be creative is to have the ability to create new ideas rather than to combine old ideas into new configurations. It’s a persistent myth that frequently blocks us whenever we’re faced with a personal challenge or work-related endeavor. To the contrary, however, creativity is not always a series of “brilliant new ideas,” but often is the result of a lifetime of experiences and diligence in working on combinations of those ideas (instead of giving up on them after one or two failures). The myth that every idea must be an idea never considered before (in the history of humankind) is a significant impediment to our ability to think creatively.

Key Takeaways

  • We often make the mistake of assuming that creative ideas are always original ideas.
  • Creativity is, quite often, a combination of two “old” ideas.
  • One’s creativity can be enhanced by linking two or more disparate concepts.

Regardless of one’s viewpoint, never be afraid to brainstorm with your own imagination and consider borrowing from other ideas. Those ideas can always be improved upon and/or give birth to a totally new and different idea. That’s being creative.

 

Thanks to Dr. Fredericks for the essay and for the various examples of original thought on which this post is based. Anthony D. Fredericks, Ed.D., is Professor Emeritus of Education at York College of Pennsylvania and the author of From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them.

 

Hopefully making a ruckus, one blog post at a time!

Be sure to check out my other blog, Joe’s Journey, for a different kind of playground for creativity, innovation and inspiring stuff.