Uncreative people don’t exist
As a creative agency, it’s in our interest to believe that creativity is something only a few of us are really good at. We just happen to be so good at it that we professionalised it.
But we all know the truth: anyone can be creative.
Let’s start with a crucial question: what is creativity anyway?
In psychology, it’s sometimes characterised as ‘divergent thinking’; the ability to think laterally. That really means making connections between unconnected things. We can all do that.
There are so, so many places we can make unlikely connections. As one model of creativity puts it, there’s not just painting a masterpiece or making a great video — what can be called ‘Big C’ creative. You can remix recipes or work out a more scenic route to get somewhere — ‘little c’ creative.
Then there’s learning, which is a whole other type of internal creativity. Learning is forging new connections between what you do and don’t know. That can be at a regular everyday level (Oh! Is that what the metal nib at the back of a stapler is for…?) and a more intentional and professional level (like teaching yourself to code or using a new piece of software).
Creativity is, and should be, part of everyone’s life. It’s a resource for dealing with the new and unexpected.
Another reason that we know anyone has the potential to be creative is a bit counter-intuitive: we might all be past the most creative period of our lives – we disagree. When you think about it, childhood is ruled by the experience of making unknown connections. Try talking to any three-, five- or eight-year-old. They say some wild things that make a weird kind of sense — if you think of it from their point of view.
They might think you should look like your dog because they know that you look like the rest of your family. They believe a blanket will protect them from monsters because it makes them feel safe and secure at night. When you look at the strange things that kids say or believe, they’re connecting their (relatively limited) experience and their (relatively limited) knowledge to make sense of the world.
So what if we — the adults — are the anomalies? What if being a grown-up is just learning to suppress our creative urges? Watch Sir Ken Robinson’s popular TED Talk to get an idea of how we’re ‘educated out’ of being imaginative. Or read about how we reject more creative rationales as we get older, to align with our experience of the world.
You can work it out
So the next time a child tells you they’re Lord Mayor Of The Herb Garden or that they’re secretly a crime-fighting rhino, just appreciate that all of us start out making strange connections between unconnected things. And the idea that we have all been intensely creative in our lives leads to another thought: creativity is a muscle. You have to exercise it to keep it strong.
Agencies and the creatives within them exist because creativity is a matter of practice. It’s not a divine gift. It’s more like being able to do the splits or becoming really great at javelin. You can do it well if you keep at it.
So if you’ve ever strolled through a creative agency’s office and chuckled at the frisbees and balls, the booze and boardgames, there’s a reason why ‘play’ is such a big part of ‘professionalising’ creativity. You can’t make unlikely connections by staring at a word processor all day. You need to introduce novelty and stimulus all the time, in different ways. Creativity is a workout.
It’s not for everyone
But creativity is definitely not for the few. As an agency it just happens to be our job to connect the creative and the commercial. And that means taking the time to be curious, giving thoughts the time to grow before we tame them too soon. It’s a delicate balance of practicality and pushing ideas.
Don’t think agencies are just in the business of big ideas. An agency’s value is in pushing the limits of what’s possible — and that takes a good hard dose of pragmatism.
And believe us, we know.
We happen to do all of our production in-house so it can be our job to turn other people’s ideas into reality. We take plenty of briefs with outrageous ideas that have shocked, tickled and astounded us. (Some of you have missed your calling, honestly.) Producing is about making creativity fit the restrictions of reality, i.e. budgets and time.
Our work isn’t just to have big ideas. It’s to be resourceful enough to turn a big idea into a real one.