How to get better at managing creativity

Not another blog on how to be creative during lock down! Well yes and no.

For most people life has slowed down, giving us the space to reset, rethink and schedule in some, well… spontaneity! But as the world returns to some sense of ‘normality’ how do we hold onto those creative forces for good, and not get bogged down in a sea of data where we can’t see the wood for the trees.

One of my favourite quotes recently was by Simon Garnett at The Forge, he said ‘it’s less about what we don’t know, more about what we don’t know we know, and how to reimagine and repurpose that data’. And that’s where design and creative management comes in. Finding new, creative and inspiring ways to bring ideas to life. Here, we discuss the evolution of creativity, providing a few tools and techniques along the way which may help your team better bridge the gap between insight and creativity.

A prejudice against creativity?

In the late 19th Century, France was arguably the global centre of cultural innovation. But towards the end of the millennia the axis started to swing, first to the U.S and now towards the UK. Its art and design education, galleries, architecture, music and theatre are thriving. Live theatre in the UK for instance, now has five times the number of venues in London compared to that of New York.

Historically, there has been something of a cultural prejudice against art, especially in education. The stereotype of those interested in the creative sphere were ‘a bit flaky and not very good at maths’. Indeed, within the academic establishment, art was considered soft, and that education should be more rigorous, rational and fact based. Art and design were considered ‘a bit of fun’ in your spare time.

Yet, times are changing. Driven by the powerful culture makers of today, creativity is being seen as equal to that of intelligence. Donald Glover, Beyoncé, as well as Netflix are producing content focusing more towards creative outlets including cookery, pottery, and upcycling. Ultimately encouraging a positive shift in the consumer perspective towards creativity.

So why do we find creativity hard to assess?

The inventor of ‘lateral thinking’ Edward de Bono argues that western societal thinking has been distorted by the three Greeks: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. By dictating the philosophical foundations of the ways in which we understand the world, its knock on effect to the education system has been profound. Naturally, the human mind is averse to uncertainty and ambiguity, we need answers and do not feel fully satisfied when measuring a piece of work through just gut instinct and feel.

Yet today, circumstances are different. We live in a world that has become increasingly visual and more experientially driven. Therefore, creativity plays a large role in society now.

Leonard Shlain argues that a feminisation of our value systems has shifted us from being a rational, word-based culture to more intuitive, inclusive one, embracing our ‘feminine’ side. One which is more visual and intuitive.

The age of design

Most large global brand owners do not have the management structure or experience to manage creativity well. They have been schooled, to some extent, to deconstruct advertising. ‘It’s similar to GCSE English, right?’ and has some reassuring patterns and precepts, so that’s not too much of a stretch. But single-minded propositions and comms messages are increasingly less relevant.

Andy Fennel, former CMO of Diageo, explains that marketing used to be about advertising, then social media and now we are in the “age of design”. This leaves the modern manager all at sea. We are dealing not only with a multiplicity of consumer touch-points but a medium that cannot be as readily deconstructed as an ad. At long last we are starting to turn around the inclination to flog the arse off what we happen to make and starting to genuinely make things that people want instead. Managing this array of consumer experiences is a challenge.

How to be creative and strategic

In the UK we are grappling with these needs. There is a bedrock of talent and the twin skill sets of creativity and intelligence have always been a forte, whether recognised by educators or not. We are starting to see creative directors increasingly appointed within companies wanting to achieve differentiation, like Sir Jonathan Ive, perhaps the most influential designer of the modern day.

So, what is required to succeed? Well, there is a growing understanding of more elusive, intuitive characteristics of design as a medium. Without putting a straight jacket around it and cutting off the spark of imagination, there are some processes that can be applied.

It is time research was not seen as the enemy by designers and it would be helpful if insight teams were more articulate in this sphere. How come, for example, are there virtually no design companies who have research departments? And for that matter vice versa. The default posture for management is control, now it’s time to understand how to turn it to creativity.

To find out more on how to manage design better, download our 6-point guide to ‘Managing Creativity’ here.

For further support in implementing these techniques, contact us today.