Fostering Creativity


Creativity is arguably the most important asset a company has, but also the most difficult one to harness.  The creative capital of a company is what sets it apart or keeps it ahead of the competition.  In the world of business, having a novel concept – whether it be a service, product or a combination of the two – is the difference between grasping the market, marketshare and the profits therein, or not.

Companies are quickly coming to the realization that in order to thrive, they must become more creative, which has lead to the creation of new roles within in organizations  (Innovation Manager, Chief Innovation Officer) or in some cases, entire business units to dedicated to this process.

In terms of the marketing industry, creativity can mean the difference between an average marketing solution and a wildly successful one.  While it can be difficult to measure, grasp and utilize creativity, there are ways to help find more creative solutions to a problem.

1. Reframe the Context – When we attempt to find a solution to a problem at hand, we often rely on our memory to pull from previous experiences that we’ve had in similar situations.  This comparative is what leads to similarities in solutions that an organization, and within it, an individual offers.

A solution to breaking out of this mindset, is to approach the problem from a different context.  Take a moment to think about how you approached the problem, and then attempt to describe it in an entirely different way.  This may require taking the standpoint of a different stakeholder, and can be helped along by asking someone who isn’t currently invested in finding a solution to the problem, such as a friend or a family member.

2. Free yourself from Failure – Outside of creating art for the sole purpose of art, it is difficult to think of a situation where the use of our creativity isn’t required for a right or wrong solution.  More aptly put:


 “Feedback generally promotes effort – because we want to impress the evaluator – but effort is insufficient for creativity.”

Peter Gray

If we are constantly concerned with creating something to a particular standard – external or otherwise – then we are forced to rely on internal understandings of what fits the bill.  Remove these barriers, and freedom reigns, promoting true creativityAn excellent example of this is the 80/20 rule, adopted by Google, where employees are allowed to dedicate up to 20% of their work time on personal projects they believe will benefit the company.

3. The thinker vs. the drinker – Concentrating solely on the problem at hand can hamper efforts of finding a novel solution.  It can be difficult to remove our thoughts from the progress that we’ve made on a problem, thus forcing our train of thought to continuously reach the same or similar conclusions. Sure, looking at a spreadsheet for hours on end, using the test-retest method, can help find what numbers are off or missing, but truly coming up with a creative solution to a problem may require removing yourself from that problem.  This could be anything from going to the gym, pacing your office, having a 15-minute breather with a colleague or yes, even having a drink.

My suggestion: Carry a notebook around with you, write down your inspirations and apply them to the problem at hand – if they are relevant or not!  Often times the best solutions come to us when we are least thinking about them.

4. Get Bored! Giving yourself some free time to do absolutely nothing seems near to impossible today.  From the moment we wake and check the AM emails we are constantly connected to technology that is designed to make our lives easier, but has in turn made us more accessible and therein inundated with the mundane.  When was the last time you didn’t check your phone, nonstop, while waiting for another to arrive for a lunch date?

We live in a culture obsessed with being busy, so freeing your mind from outside distractions can be difficult.  One way to achieve a blank state of mind is to practice meditation (Meditation: Small dose, big effect via PsychToday).  More often than not however, this point will come at the end of the night, as you lie in bed, right before sleep kicks in.  So don’t forget that notebook!

For a more robust reading of how to break of your creative slump, please read Psychology Today, Vol. 46, No.3, May/June 2013.