I recently had a really great corporate creativity success story that I wanted to share. The creative and problem solving approach is really, really simple. It could be useful the next time you find yourself stuck.
The Background To This Story
VisualFunk was recently invited to pitch for a 200 pax. conference program. The potential client had contacted us via email and given a 2 line brief and contact details. After that, trying to catch up and get more information had been really difficult. My contact only worked 2 days/week and as such, her diary was booked solid with meetings when at work and really hard to get hold of. There had been email back and forth trying to book a time for us to chat and plenty of phone tag. Obviously, I needed to get a great understanding of what the company was looking for before I could put any type of ideas or proposal forward.
As it happened, we eventually connected very late one Thursday afternoon via email. The client gave me an indication of some of their conference themes, the WOW they wanted to see and an indication of an idea that they had seen so far. As fate would have it, I was told the proposal had to be in by 11am Friday morning to be presented to the Leadership team. F……..antastic.
I started to think about what we could offer later that night but I had nothing. It was late, It had been a week with very late nights and lots of travel. Mentally the ideas vault was absolutely bare. Even after my basketball game that evening which normally kicks off lots of energy (I always struggle to sleep after a game and as such, my mind wanders till the early hours) the grey matter was giving me nothing. In that time and space, I just couldn’t think of anything WOW whatsoever. I had nothing other than my mood of mild panic. It sounds bad but I wanted to absolutely smash the other ideas that were out there. I knew that VisualFunk could do a fantastic job of delivering this conference program but my ideas were at point zero.
So I decided to practice what I preach and take on board some of my own creativity advice that I teach in workshops. My solution:
- Get out and about and
- Change your environment
- Open your eyes
- Take in some stimulus
- See what happens
How It Unfolded
We live in a beachside town so there are loads of interesting gift shops, funky cafes and plenty of interesting things to look at. Up very early the next day, I started walking around all the shop windows in our town and just opened my eyes. I had a really good look at everything and wrote down all the interesting things that I saw. When I really, really looked, there was a huge amount of variety.
Some of the things that jumped out and caught my attention were colours, textures, photos, sculptures, quirky sayings, gift cards and even great patterns on cushions and fabric. As I continued to write down everything that I saw, ideas started to come. As I continued to have a really good look at everything around me and wrote more things down, some thought patterns started to connect and build upon each other. More ideas started to jump in to the ideas vault.
I parked myself in a cafe about 45 minutes later with a huge list of words, ideas, themes, plenty of arrows and circles and the odd drawing that I didn’t have the night before when I was stuck. My ideas vault was now crammed full. I went through the list and highlighted all the ideas that connected, took notes and went from there. In just over two hours later, my proposal was sent off to the client.
How It Ended
The great news is that we won this event with an idea that the client absolutely loved. Their conference activity was to design and theme a company branded summer music festival that put the paying customer at the heart of the experience. This would be a huge, multi channel branding opportunity for the client and connect their brand with a whole range of new customers. There was seven different elements to create the perfect music festival. Every team helped to create part of this. To finish off all of the teams created pop up stalls to promote their part of the festival and win the vote of their peers. The best of the best went live on stage to present their ideas to the Shark Tank.
Before I went through the open your eyes process, I had absolutely no idea of what this event would look like. I knew that I have a fantastic team that can came make great ideas come to life but I literally had nothing concept wise. The thought of a branded music festival just wasn’t there. We hadn’t done anything along with this particular theme before.
So what’s going on in this space?
- Fresh Air. I was outside.
- Movement: Oxygen was pumping around my body as I was walking.
- Parameters. The time constraints I had to get this proposal done created parameters that influenced my ideas.
- Changing my space. I changed my immediate environment so what I was seeing and being influenced by was different.
Stimulus and Freshness
- Recording. I was writing down what I was seeing
- I was open to what I saw being part of the solution. When I was writing everything down, I just went with it. I wasn’t in what you would call critique mode and crossing anything off my list.
- A bunch of stuff that I most likely haven’t worked out.
I am not a fan of the people who claim to have the answer. Follow my model, as there is nothing else that comes close! Innovate this way or fail!
We are all different, and different creative approaches and styles work for different people. Some people do their best creative work locked away with headphones on. Others sit in a cafe. Some people find their best ideas come from collaboration with other people and some people get their best creative ideas when they are out running. Some people aren't really sure how they get their creative ideas; they just happen.
If I am thinking up ideas for an illustration or an animation, I just like to sit in my office and draw with music on. I don't like to walk around with my notepad. I just like to sit and doodle.
It’s important to remember these differences when planning your next corporate creativity or brainstorming session. We are all different, and the best environment for ideas often isn't a darkened room with everyone sitting around a table with sticky notes and a few creativity tools.
I don’t believe that there is one firm, concrete way for immediate creative success that works for everyone. There are certainly great principles to follow but in the end you have to find what works for you as the unique individual that you are. It’s the same for teams. Try different things, fail and succeed along the way and hopefully enjoy the process. Having tested it now plenty of times, the take a walk and open your eyes works particularly well for me when coming up with ideas for conferences and events.
So what works for you? Where do your great ideas come from? I would love to hear your thoughts.