As silly as it might sound, I have a small Post-it note on my desk that says, 'Have fun, Be curious, Stay passionate'. And perhaps I should add 'Kill your darlings' to it. Excelling in any creative role requires the ability to fall in love with your best ideas... and then let them go. No matter how spectacular the ideas are, many of them will die. Some of them a slower, more painful death than others.
Clients, deadlines and red tape have been known to kill your spirit, leaving you stricken with creative block and 'idea fatigue'. Thankfully, there are ways you can fight back.
Over the years, I've studied, collected, curated, ideated, and mashed up left and right brain creative techniques that work for me. Here are my top three, obvious as some may be.
01. Harness the power of music
Whether I'm creating an empathy map of a consumer's journey or designing a strategy for one of our clients, zone-in music is one my biggest creative tools. In an article (opens in new tab) by Amy Fries, music is described as a "rocket launcher of creativity". Top music therapist Andrew Littlefield says our brains are hardwired for music (opens in new tab), which cognitively drives our ability to think abstractly. I couldn't agree more. Music gets my brain firing on all its creative cylinders.
Studies (opens in new tab) into whether music boosts productivity have been inconclusive. The corporate search for the musical Holy Grail to be pumped into the office has failed, and rightly so. We're not bacteria under a grow light, we're human beings with individual tastes. I use Spotify (opens in new tab), Google Play (opens in new tab) and Pandora (opens in new tab) to listen to the music I like, and I encourage my team to do the same.
Many offices are opposed to employees rocking earbuds. I certainly don't want an employee plugged into their iPhone during a meeting, but music is important to people. It's a tool that just needs to be used responsibly. I say embrace it and impose discipline on it.
02. Focus on the task at hand
Creativity may involve the abstract, but it's still critical to stay focused and disciplined. Nothing kills creativity and grinds work to a halt faster than one too many clicks on your browser or getting sucked into the 'social media stream drain'.
Perhaps the number one reason for e-slacking is boredom. My employees are excited about what we do, so boredom isn't usually the culprit. Even still, the wanton sirens of the internet are always trying to lull employees from productive work. I'm a big fan of Momentum (opens in new tab). The Google app replaces new tab pages with a personal dashboard that includes an inspirational photo, a motivating quote, current weather conditions, and a daily to-do list.
03. Take a break
At my studio, we take on big projects for serious clients. To avoid the anxiety of 'The Massive To-Do List', we break things down into smaller 'sprints' and mini to-do lists. Taking a page from the Agile manifesto (opens in new tab), we seek to maintain a constant 'innovation workflow' by focusing on what we need to do today to move us forward tomorrow. These sprints allow us to think big, test often, and fail quickly.
Creativity thrives in a culture where everyone can be creative. As a digital-first creative agency, we recognise the importance of analogue as a creative catalyst and we're tapped into everything that can infuse creativity. We provide our staff with breakfast each morning, as well as healthy snacks.
And when creative burnout is imminent, take a break. At Digital Surgeons, all our employees receive a complimentary membership to Crossfit (conveniently located within our building), couches and multiple collaboration stations, and a creative loft filled with branded DS notebooks ensure ideas can come from everywhere and aren't bound by digital mediums like a laptops and iPads.
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