Creativity as a Problem Solver

During my recent presentation on creativity and creative thinking to the AAF Rio Grande Valley, I referenced using creativity to help solve problems. No matter how cutesy an ad looks or what kind of special effects one uses, if a problem does not get closer to being solved, the process is not doing any good.

The following video is one I suggested that interestingly addresses how creativity helps solve problems. It’s an excerpt from this year’s Aspen Ideas Festival, where a group of people who work in media, design, and the arts were asked about how the creative process can lend itself to unlocking solutions.

 

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Kick Starting Creativity in the Rio Grande

I recently had the honor and pleasure to present “Kick Starting Creativity Without Screwing Up the Idea” to the American Advertising Federation Rio Grande Valley. As with my other presentations in this series, I did some fine-tuning with this version.

I was last in the Valley before this same group back in 2008. The landscape and development may have changed (more of it) but the people have not – still friendly, wonderful, courteous . . . and, of course, creative!

Those of you who were in the audience can, hopefully, enjoy it again and get some useful tips. Those of you who did not experience it that day, may learn a few things. Naturally, what follows is just the visual and not, unfortunately, the experience itself.

Kick-Starting Creativity Without Screwing Up the Idea

Keynote version (no audio)

PDF version (no audio)

 

Creativity and Fear: Seth’s Take

Last month I posted a blog on creativity and fear. Interestingly, two days following my posting Seth Godin posted this:

 “How do I get rid of the fear?”

Alas, this is the wrong question.

The only way to get rid of the fear is to stop doing things that might not work, to stop putting yourself out there, to stop doing work that matters.

No, the right question is, “How do I dance with the fear?”

Fear is not the enemy. Paralysis is the enemy.

* * * * * * * *

I’m a follower of Seth’s and subscribe to is blog (linked above). There are times, however, when I wish he’d get into more detail or provide more insight about his points. This is one of those times.

In his brief post referenced above, he’s right. Paralysis is our enemy. We can do nothing when it envelopes us. We have to meet it head on and that can be scary. How do we do that? Well . . .

My earlier posting of “13 ways to deal with fear” also touches on the paralysis factor. We need to do something to jar ourselves out of this newly immobilized state.

When Seth states that paralysis is the enemy, how would one deal with one’s enemy. You can’t ignore him (the enemy), but you could go in another direction to get around him. You’ve faced him before and you’ll face him again. How each of us reacts depends on us. There is no one solution or antidote.

What do you think? How have you dealt with paralysis?

Creativity: Not Your Typical Loaf of Bread

As Rodney Dangerfield would say, “I don’t get no respect.” Creativity is like that, as are, for the most part, the artisans and thinkers who practice it everyday.

Creativity is not a commodity, like a loaf of bread or a carton of milk. Those items are commodities.

But what if that bread was a special blend of pumpkin, barley, cranberry and wheat? It would still be a loaf of bread but the process of blending different ingredients to make the loaf atypical (and still tasty) is creative. A lot more than just adding ingredients goes into making this special bread loaf. The baker has to know what he or she is doing, what may work and what may not. It’s a process, and a creative one.

Do they teach that in culinary school?

Thanks to iStockPhoto

Thanks to iStockPhoto

The art of creativity is a disruption to the normal way of thinking. As a society, we need to be more disruptive, more open to solving problems while exploring opportunities. In being creative, one doesn’t accept the status quo; one wants to change and improve upon it.

This frightens some folks. They don’t like change, and don’t have a great deal of respect for those who do. They don’t understand the creative mind or the process. They merely view it as a commodity.

How do we change that? Maybe we don’t. We can educate and explain, and that will help, but we need to do that with the right audience – folks who are at least open to dialogue, are curious. They may even ask “Well, instead of pumpkin and cranberry, what about pineapple and mango blending with the barley and wheat?”

Hmmmm, a showing of respect for the process?

Who knows, if they’re really daring, they may consider introducing a new line of baked breads. Heaven forbid that the consumers get another choice!

This creative thinking is a disruption to the status quo. This won’t set well with those who don’t want the status quo changed.

Respect for those of us who do? Forget it!

Yet, creative ideas for the most part have flourished over the years. Along with this, various media have caused a different type of playing field to be formed with creativity serving up some new and different rules.

Creative options equal what-ifs. Commodities don’t care about what-ifs.

Creativity lends itself to storytelling. Commodities don’t (I suppose they can but it would be rather challenging). Creativity allows for storytelling to be transformed into Web, mobile, social, broadcast, print, wherever.  There’s a disruption in the creative process, and the art of storytelling is leading the way.

You can’t do that with a commodity. Long live creativity. Long live disruption.

 

 

13 Ways to Handle Fear When It Attacks Creativity

We’ve all been there. We’re never quite sure what do to but we feel like we’ve gotta do something. NOW.

But we can’t. We can’t think other than in scattered ways. Incomplete. Disjointed. Frustration sets in. We feel stymied because our creativity has stopped flowing for whatever the reason.

Uh-oh, what’s that. A strange sound. It’s him! Fear comes a’knockin.

Thanks to iStockPhoto

Thanks to iStockPhoto

Fear, as in being afraid (what if the client hates my ideas), being scared (what if I can’t come up with any ideas), feeling intimidated (there’s always someone lurking in the shadows with better ideas).

Fear is also what you get when you sense F.E.A.R. – Failure to Execute Achievable Results – with the key word here being  “achievable.” The results need to be just that and not unattainable.

 

The three F” words: Fear, Failure, Fun

Up to now, we’ve referenced two of the three “F” words, fear and failure. The third one we don’t experience nearly enough. That would be fun.

As long as you have fear of failure, you’ll never have any fun!

Dealing with failure is easier than dealing with fear; not that dealing with failure is ever easy. It’s not. It’s embarrassing, even humiliating at times. But failure tends to be short­ lived, relatively speaking.

Society and corporate culture-wise, we talk much more about weaving failure into our systems, our processes. Sometimes it’s all talk and not nearly enough practice. Many successful and innovative companies build and accept failure as a natural way of doing business. More companies should but probably will not. They don’t seem to understand that in order to achieve success, failure is part of the journey.

Fear, on the other hand, can torment, destroy, self-inflict. It can absolutely kill creativity.

You’re angry (about a shortened, possibly unrealistic new deadline), depressed, distraught (you do not want to fail to execute anything). You may even be mystified as to why this happened to you.

Ever receive a phone call late on a Friday from an upset client telling you that new and much better creative needs to be on his desk by first thing Monday morning . . . or else (he doesn’t have to say “or else;” the intimidation suffices)? And nothing you can say will alter how he’s feeling at that point in time.

Hell’s bells, you didn’t have plans for the weekend anyway, didja?!

How do you deal with fear when it attacks creativity, especially when on a deadline (realistic or not)?

13 ways, in no special order, to handle fear when it comes a’callin:

–Walk away – change your surroundings, get into another room or leave for a bit

–Talk it out – if possible, share what’s going on with a colleague, friend or spouse

–Write it down – capture what you now know or understand needs to be done within the new timeline

–Pray – this may be first on some lists and as you’ll see, it’s on mine more than once

–Focus – look at your project from another perspective and focus on different portions of it, thus making it more manageable and doable

–Pray some more – you can never do this one too many times (but you still have to do the work)

–Get more focused – set  realistic parameters that allow you to work on specific aspects of the project without getting overwhelmed

–Think positively Amen! Repeat this step as often as needed

–Remember past good results – remind yourself that you’ve done this before; that’s why they hired you in the first place

–Acknowledge worry and anxiety – this one is tricky because you need to face what’s happening to you, acknowledge it, then move on

–Get to work – actually doing the work can be therapy in itself and when the thoughts start flowing, creativity will thrive

–Don’t give in to what-ifs – try to avoid thinking too much about that over which you have no control or you simply don’t yet know; this is wasted energy

–Pray for the others – I actually mean the clients (or whoever is giving you grief) who are putting you through this; remember, they may not know (or care) what they do

Fear is hardly ever dealt with, but is dished out way too easily and usually without a care. That’s unfortunate since fear is a dangerous and deadly poison to the creative mind and process.

Now, you may have your own way of dealing with fear. Whatever works! We can’t stop it from happening but we need to try our damndest from letting it totally shut us down.

I have fun when I’m head over heels in the creative process, and I try and remember that when fear comes a’knockin.

Come to think of it, I guess I could also change the locks!

 

 

 

Innovation: There’s Apple, Samsung and the Rest of Us

We hear it probably more than we should. Is it becoming an overused word or has it attained that status yet?

Yes, I believe “innovation” is an overused word. And, it’s applied by folks, some of whom should know better, who think every creative endeavor is innovative.

I wish that were the case. It’s not.

OK, reality check time.

According to Wikipedia, “innovation” is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as a consequence, new that “breaks into” the market or society.

So, the next time you change that blue logo to green and make it larger (along with a change of font, of course), you’re not being innovative. It may still be questionable as to how creative you’re actually being.

Of course, innovation goes far beyond a logo or font change. Today’s innovative spheres are super competitive. Just look at the escalating war between Apple and Samsung.

In a recent article by the Associated Press in the Houston Chronicle, the two are back in court this week, accusing each other of stealing ideas and features on their smartphones. Litigation could lead to more expensive devices for the consumer and slow the overall pace of mobile innovation.

The Chronicle article cites Rutgers Law School professor Michael Carrier as saying, “What’s even more worrisome for the effect on innovation is the impact on small innovators. Apple and Samsung can afford this litigation. The next upstart cannot.”

Apple and Samsung are in a league of their own. They share that “super league” with the Googles, Amazons and Microsofts.

For the rest of us on this planet, how should we approach innovation? What should our mindset be?

Well, according to a creative team leader at Google, one should only start looking to innovate when:

– one has totally nailed every best practice and has tapped out on what that can deliver,
– one has an insight to justify an innovative approach.

Otherwise, he says, what one ends up making is gimmickry, inevitably destined for the digital landfill.

One thing is for certain:  We cannot stop innovating, thinking differently, and, yes, counting our failures (they will come, ya know).

So, what’s your take? 

Agree? – Disagree? – Thoughts? – Comments?

 

29 Ways to Stay Creative

Being creative is fun. It’s also a challenge.

Staying creative can drive ya nuts!

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen lists of various ways to improve on our creativity. There is no all-encompassing list, and, no doubt, if we shared our lists with one another, there would be overlap.

I recently came across this video in a post by Kevin Allen on Ragan’s PR Daily and couldn’t help but smile and chuckle a few times because of their take on compiling the list, not so much the elements on the list (they’re all valid and we should take them to heart).

The video link below is from Japanese design firm To-Fu. It highlights 29 techniques designed to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve had good success with some of these techniques.

However, #4, Getting Away from the Computer,

#10 Be Open,

and #21 Break the Rules . . . we probably don’t do enough.

Enjoy! It’s a little different.