Every marketer knows the turmoil of a looming deadline and a devastating creative block. As someone who is hired to conjure up the most innovative and effective strategies for your clients, you have to ensure that you are always on par creatively. And in the fast-paced world of marketing, you don’t have the luxury to ride out a creative blockage. In this article we will be tackling this issue regarding creativity by helping you understand the concept of creativity better and giving you ten practical ways to ensure that those creative taps keep flowing when you feel them drying up.
What is Creativity?
Creativity is defined in the dictionary as “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something, inventiveness.” Personally, I feel that the following definition explains it in much more detail: “creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions. Creativity involves two processes: thinking, then producing. If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.” This is where it gets very interesting, because a lot of people describe themselves as being creative’s, yet they never do much creating. So, what really separates the creative’s from those who are simply imaginative?
It’s all in the mind.
Remember when you were told that the left brain is the rational and practical side and the right is where all the creativity is situated? And with a mere flip of a genetic coin, you are either predominantly right or left brained? Well, it’s absolutely wrong. The who’s – who within neuroscience has concluded that you cannot define the entire creative process by giving credit to just one specific region of the brain. In fact, by analysing the brain throughout the entire creative process, you will see that various parts of the brain lights up whether conscious or subconscious. In summary; you need both the right and the left side of your brain if you wish to be a successful creative.
In more detail, there are three networks within the brain that is used for creative thinking.
The Executive Attention Network is when the outer regions of the prefrontal cortex as well as the posterior regions of the parietal lobe are used. This is the network that allows your brain to zoom in like a laser. In a typical marketing scenario; this is the network that is used when listening to a client for the first time. You can listen attentively as they explain their problem to you and, at the same time, your mind is already starting its problem solving process.
The Imagination Network is pretty busy; it’s when the regions deep within the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe as well as various outer and inner areas of the parietal cortex are working together. This is the stage in the process that identifies the cream from the crop. If this network of yours works really well, you will come up with new ideas, out of the box strategies and be the ground-breaking marketer any client would want to assign a contract to.
The Salience Network comprises of the dorsal anterior, cingulated cortices and the anterior insular. This network basically plays the role of a personal assistant; constantly going through your inbox, prioritising things to do and sending everything that needs to be done to the correct and relevant departments. This network is PA to the other networks.
Researchers took jazz musicians and rappers and scanned their brains during the songwriting process. They saw that the key to the creative process was what they call a “flow state” between the three networks. We’ve all been in the position where you could think and create creatively within mere minutes yesterday, but today it suddenly feels like creativity just comes in slow waves, or worse – doesn’t come at all. So, what do you do when the flow simply isn’t there?
There are practical ways of naturally inducing creativity and getting the flow back:
1. Get out!
Research shows that an average 20 minute stroll somewhere (even if it is simply around the office block) increases your chances for some fresh ideas. It works on the same premise as “you get your best ideas in the shower” – not desperately trying to force them out behind an office desk. In fact, the more you try to force creativity, the less creativity will flow. Why? Because when we are relaxed and taking a walk, the efficiency of the brains various network connections increase. You are especially encouraged not to take that desk lunch as usual; those who go out for lunch show an increase in productivity afterwards.
2. Get social!
It seems like smoke breaks in the workplace isn’t a bad thing like most employers think. People who socialize with other (even for a brief period of time), show an increase in brain activity which leads to an increase in creativity. This is due to the knowledge sharing that takes place between people in conversation. Plus, talking about yourself makes the pleasure centers in the brain light up like fireworks (yes, we are all biologically a bit narcissistic). When the pleasure centers light up, it’s like taking your brain on a mini-vacation.
3. Collect your ideas.
Keep a notepad with you wherever you go. Any creative ideas or thoughts should be written in the notepad. This is for those “rainy days” scenarios. When you don’t have any creative flow; go through the notepad with all your various ideas and thoughts. You will either stumble on an idea that will work for your specific problem or all the ideas and thoughts will trigger your creativity to start flowing again.
4. Doodle away!
Who would have ever thought that the skill you mastered during boring school classes would one day aid you in your professional career? It’s true; when there’s no flow you should grab a pen and paper and start doodling. It should not be perfect images. In fact, you should try to let the pen move without thinking about it. This will increase creative brain activity.
5. Whatever works.
Since we are all unique individuals, it comes as no surprise that some things might work for you, but not for others. If you have been in the industry for a long time, you probably already figured out at least one way to get those creative juices flowing again. If you found a solution, stick to it. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel when time is not on your side.
This might sound very academic, but it’s merely a nice word for surfing the internet. Google your heart out; read some gossip, catch up on the news, watch a few video’s and take a look at new memes. All of this combines into the ultimate creativity boost. Your pleasure centers will be ablaze, you will be relaxed and what you see or read will spark an idea or a thought.
7. Tidy your office.
It is believed that when you uncluttered your surroundings, the less cluttered your mind will be. A lot of people say they work better in the chaos, but hey; don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.
8. Think tank.
You might not be the only one with the problem. Gather a group of colleagues and hit the boardroom for a good brainstorming session. You will be surprised how quickly you can help solve each others problems with some objectivity.
9. Switch lanes.
IT could be that you have simply become stuck on a certain problem or issue. For a couple of minutes, switch gears and tackle another project in your inbox. You’ll probably be able to solve another project quicker and give your brain some much needed processing time on the issue you’re stuck in (remember, subconsciously the brain never lets go of an unsolved problem & keeps working on it even when you don’t).
10. Catch some z’s.
So, your deadline is at 09:00 and you’re still awake at 02:00 after having tried to come up with that brilliant idea for nearly 12 hours now. Your stress levels are telling you that you can’t go to bed until this conundrum has been solved. False! You are more likely to get the solution after some sleep. What people forget is that the brain needs sleep to function. If you don’t get enough sleep, the hormone balance within the brain is off balance which leads to less connectivity within the various brain networks. Moral of the story; get some sleep!
After reading this article you should have a much better idea regarding the biology and the perceptions regarding creativity. You should also be able to get yourself out of that creative slump. Creativity is a natural talent and should be honed and appreciated. It’s time to keep those creative juices flowing!