This is a piece I wrote for Collective. I highly recommend the whole publication, have a butchers right here.
The Democratisation Of Creativity
Think that ‘Creative’ is a term reserved for an elite few? Think again. We all have the ability to be creative. Here’s how to tap into your potential.
Ever since the industrial revolution, being creative has been fiercely reserved for the professionally creative. Why? Perhaps we can all understand why those who are lucky enough to make a living out of creativity are reluctant to share their trade secrets. It’s akin to a magician never wanting to reveal how they do their ‘prestige’.
Brands, businesses and individuals pay a lot of money to creative people for their ideas. According to a 2010 UN report, the global creative industry was worth a whopping US$2.2 trillion, and at the time of going to press, seek.com.au tells us that there are over 5000 jobs with the word ‘creative’ in the title, yet creativity is still considered an elusive concept to most people. They believe creativity is only for artists, designers, scientists, musicians and the like. This misguided view of creativity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as self-proclaimed ‘non-creatives’ block themselves off to the idea that they have such abilities.
Having worked as a suit and a creative in the marketing world for close to 20 years, I’ve long known that your job title has nothing to do with your ability to be creative. Everyone is capable of thinking creatively. Part of the misconception around creativity comes from a lack of appreciation for what creativity actually means, coupled with the air of mystery that often surrounds so called creative types and their processes.
Professor Øyvind Martinsen from Norway posed 200 questions to 481 students to identify the top seven signs of a creative person, and I think the results may surprise you:
1. Your mind has an associative orientation – which basically means that you daydream a lot.
2. You hunger for originality.
3. You’re highly motivated.
4. You’re ambitious.
5. You’re flexible.
6. You’re emotionally volatile.
7. You’re a pain in the butt.
There is no special gift or God-given ability there, and I guess that’s the point. All of the above are states of mind and everyone has the ability to change their state of mind. Research often endeavours to explain the process by highlighting inspiration in anecdotes from creative types, but these are too often subjective and do little to help others in the development of their own creativity. Some claim they were inspired by the obscure, others by the mundane. Some in the midst of noise, others in the tranquility of calmness.
Various psychologists and creative types themselves have tried to explain the creative process logically and scientifically, but there’s no one-size-fits-all instruction manual that can outline the steps in the creative process.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘creative’ as “relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something”. It is therefore generally understood that the result of creativity is the formation of new ideas and concepts. When looking at how to tap into our innate creativity, my belief is that the most important step happens before you even get to the stage of inspiration, and it is applicable to and achievable by everyone. New ideas are formed by applying previous experiences to new situations, sometimes subconsciously.
Steve Jobs put it simply when he said, “creativity is just connecting things”. Those things that Steve was referring to are all your experiences in life up until that very moment of wanting or needing to think creatively. The challenge lies, therefore, not in frantically trying to be creative, but in making sure that along the way you collect together enough experiences and things that will eventually of themselves create new ideas.
So, how are you going to maximise your everyday life experiences so as to be better equipped to come up with creative ideas in the future? Imagine your brain is like an empty Lego box. Each time you have a new experience you receive a new piece of Lego to put into your Lego box. Those who have the bravest and broadest experiences will collect the biggest and most varied Lego set. Guess who’s going to make the most original and creative Lego creations? Call it ‘cultural immersion’ if you like – but if you want to be creative today, you need to have started yesterday! It’s never too late for tomorrow – start today!
Great times had by all at CIRCUS yesterday. It’s always good to bang heads with some like minded creative folk and muse about the state of the industry. As you can see below, the CIRCUS setup was molto impressive. (I want that screen in my office)
After my speech a few people asked if they could see my slides. Not sure if it’s the done thing but I thought I’d share them and my speech notes here. Please excuse spelling, grammar and ‘notes to self’ – these are my actual raw speech notes.
[[BEND KNEES | GROUND ENERGY | FOCUS ON INDIVIDUALS | USE SILENCE]]
>> Can anyone tell me when their next BIG IDEA is coming??
Yeah, me neither. It’s like City Rail, you never know when the next one’s coming.
>> Client’s will always tell you when they need your next idea though, right?
IDEAS ON DEMAND is about having ideas that drive a positive commercial outcome
Having Ideas On Demand is what I call an APEX PROBLEM.
It’s the kind of problem that goes around giving other problems… problems. [[PAUSE]]
It’s at the top of the problem food chain.
We should all be facing this problem but I fear lots of us are choosing to stay in the shallows and let this one quietly swim by.
Having Ideas On Demand is your job. [[PAUSE]]
It is your problem and you need to tackle it to survive in the communications industry of today.
[[CHECK IN ON WHO DOES WHAT IN THE ROOM]]
And for everyone in the room who thought I was only talking to creatives, well this has nothing to do with what’s on your business card…
My idea today is for everyone – suits, producers, planners, receptionists and creatives.
I’m not sure when the term ‘commercial’ became such a dirty word but if you ask most Creative Directors they’ll tell you that being ‘commercial’ is akin to ‘selling out’. [[PAUSE]]
Yet, ideas that cross the divide between art and commerce and penetrate the commercial world are usually the ones that build brands and actually sell stuff.
This tension between creativity and commerciality interests me greatly and I’ve spent most of my career traversing between the two worlds. [[PAUSE]]
Naturally I was delighted to be invited to speak at a conference all about that very subject, or as the Circus branding says – Circus Festival of Commercial Creativity.
But here’s the rub, when creativity meets commerciality there is often a serious disconnect on timing.
In the commercial world, projects need to run on time and on budget, be delivered specifically as ordered and and achieve a commercial result.
In the creative world, ideas happen sporadically, in bursts if you will, and are rarely conceived with a timeline and budget attached.
In short, ideas just happen when they happen and that’s very hard to build a commercial framework around.
This is the challenge that everyone in our industry should be facing right now. [[PAUSE]]
This is especially the case for Creative Directors who all to often defend the ‘integrity’ of their idea above all commercial common sense.
So, this is the brief I’ve given myself today…
But before I get into the idea, I like us to take a look at some other successful commercial creatives…
Tara Moss is a best selling Crime Author – Her writing process revolves around research.
She’s been labeled a ‘Method Writer’ mainly due to the fact that she’s been strangled, become a qualified private investigator, shot automatic weapons and spent time with the LAPD whilst researching story ideas…
During one of Nicolas Cage’s first films, Vampires Kiss, he ate real a live cockroaches and had real bats bite him on the neck… This acting technique is called Nouveau Shamanic and Mr Cage and others still use it today.
All in the name of character development!
Thom Yorke from Radiohead uses a Dada technique.
When Thom is trying to write a song he goes out for days on end writing down everything he sees. He then cuts up each line separately and puts them in a hat. He then pulls them out at random and forces them together as lyrics.
This is how he wrote the Kid A album… which went platinum in the first week.
[[Dadaism was an artistic movement in the 1920's]]
Hell, even politicians do it… Tony gets out there with the people and he’s had loads of ideas… he just hasn’t told anyone yet…
Seriously though, there is one common thread that links all of these examples…
That thread is cultural immersion. [[HANDS]]
You know, getting out from behind your desk and into the real world to experience the brand, the competitors brands, the consumer and even a little culture that you don’t currently live within.
In theory it sounds simple and I know everyone will tell you to do it before you respond to any creative brief.
Unfortunately, in practice, cultural immersion is time consuming, difficult and somewhat confronting (especially if you leave your comfort zone and do it properly).
But it’s worth the pain.
Yes there are other ways to become more creative but they’re loose and wobbly.
Cultural immersion is quantifiable – the more you immerse, the more ideas you’ll be able to create. [[HANDS]]
People who constantly immerse themselves in culture are able to tap into their prior experiences, make relevant connections, and build ideas from a place of empathy and context. If that’s your starting point it goes without saying that your ideas will be ‘on brief’ and accountable!
So CULTURAL IMMERSION is my BIG THINKING. But I can’t leave you hanging there. I’m an ideas guy and I have to give you an idea… So here comes my BIG IDEA… [[PAUSE]]
I want you to imagine ADNY WARHOL… [[PAUSE]]
is wearing a NIKE FUEL BAND. [[PAUSE]]
I don’t think Andy would care much for a Nike Fuel band…
The Nike Fuel band tracks and motivates physical exercise… which would be pretty useless for a guy like Andy…
But what if the band could track cultural immersion.
THERE IS A WAY TO BIOLOGICALLY TRACK YOUR LEVEL OF CULTURAL IMMERSION! [[PAUSE]]
The idea is called JUICED. [[PAUSE]]
JUICED. Earn Your Creative JUICE.
Juiced is an ‘always on’ way to make sure you’re immersing yourself in culture everyday…
Here’s how it works.
Juiced is ‘snap on’ band that you wear (similar to a Nike Fuel band just way cooler cause it SNAPS onto your arm…)
Juiced tracks when you’re immersing yourself in culture, having new experiences, and importantly, leaving your comfort zone!
Juiced does this by cross referencing your location with your heart rate and your body temperature…
It’s scientifically proven that our body temperature and heart rate combine in a unique and measurable way when we experience things for the first time (and leave our comfort zone)
So imagine, if you will, you’re hiking through Great Dividing Range for the first time, or having your first piano lesson, or maybe just driving to work along a different route.
Your Juiced band will know where you are and be tracking how many new and immersive experiences your having.
All your experiences add up to your Juice score.
You’ll be able to track your level of JUICE on an hourly, daily, weekly or yearly scale.
After all, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it!
[[This is the mobile interface on the right and the desktop interface on the left]]
All you have to do is put on the JUICED band and start earning your JUICE.
You can compete with others, motivate yourself, and even put your JUICED score on your resume…
Juiced would undoubtely make a big difference in the creative industry but I believe it would also help society in general.
A bit of cultural understanding would be equally transformational in politics, religion and mainstream business… I believe that most societal problems are caused (or at least exacerbated) by a lack of context and empathy… but that’s a much much longer conversation.
Thanks for listening.
It’s Saturday and instead of being out at the beach or what have you, I’m at home writing my speech for Circus – The Festival Of Commercial Creativity.
I’ve come to love public speaking over the years but it used to be an absolute nightmare for me. I’m not sure that anyone ever actually masters it but there are certainly techniques for appearing to be a pro. Here’s the best five that I put into practice every time I’m asked to public speak:
1. Tight and loose
Learn it tight. Know every single detail, every pause, every hand gesture. Then, the day prior, throw it all away and deliver it loose.
People love anecdotes. Forget about trying to give a speech and start thinking about telling a story.
3. Converse don’t preach
Make it a two way conversation. Plan for feedback. Better still, actively ask for it throughout your story. Force the crowd to get involved and put the pressure back on them to perform.
An oldie but a goodie. Make a POINT, EXPLAIN THE POINT, REPEAT THE POINT. You’ll think you sound like a loonatic when you’re rehearsing but when you’re live and in front of the audience, it works wonders. This is the best way I know to get people to walk away with your story embedded in their head.
5. Rehearse live
Don’t just rehearse to yourself in the mirror. You must rehearse in front of people. If possible, try to replicate the size of the actual crowd. It’s amazing what a crowd will do to your logic and general flow.
In case you don’t make it down to Circus this Wednesday, here’s a little piece about what I’m going to discuss.
At Tongue we like to carve out a little cash each year to do a few ‘personal projects’. Open briefs that call for widespread creativity and collaboration. This time round we collaborated with two supreme talents – Libby Jane Charleston and Jed De Pyper to create a book for Valentines Day called I Will Love You Until.
The book will be stocked by General Pants Co. nationally starting today and running through to Mothers Day. Big thanks (and love) goes out to Libby Jane Charleston, Jed De Pyper, Luke Hawkins, Craig King, Mary Gilbert, Elizabeth Carruthers, Justin Theng, Alana Wulff and everyone else at Tongue.
Here are some kind words about our book from a few special romantics:
“The world cannot have enough love! This book captures the essence and feelings associated with love and is a simple yet beautiful way to tell someone how much they mean to you.”
- Jesinta Campbell, TV Presenter and Miss Universe Australia 2010
“Love this book! It’s nice to receive something expressive that isn’t just a card. There’s plenty of love in the world and if you feel it, you should make sure you say it everyday. You should never forget to say I love You”
- Kate Waterhouse, Sun-Herald Fashion Editor
“I could never have imagined saying these things until my daughter was born. This will be our new bedtime story because it’s all so true.”
- Sam de Brito, Author and Journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age
“This book refreshingly indulges in what love has the power to be, especially when it’s bursting within. An that, to me, is wonderful.”
- Maude Garrett, TV & Radio Presenter, and still very, very single
“The most hardened cynic couldn’t argue with the message of this book. It’s the perfect gift for that special dime piece in your life.”
- Nacho Pop, Choreographer, DJ and Media Personality
“It’s so important to not just tell, but show love to the one you love. Through my work, it has become evident to me that people don’t show love often enough. Although the way we choose to express love is unique, this book is such a creative way for everyone to make sure their loved one knows just how they feel about them.”
- Dr Nikki Goldstein, Sexologist and Relationship Expert
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the pages in our book:
If you made it down to here then maybe you’d like to buy a copy – Get some love now
I’ve always thought airports and weddings were great places for people watching… well they’ve got nothing on the Bathurst 1000!
This year marks ’50 years of Awesome’ (as it says on the official ticket) and sees more than 200,000 people descend on Mt Panorama. These folks literally live together for 5 days in what has to be the world’s most tribal sport. I wasn’t entirely sure it’d be my cup of tea but after seeing the collective passion, ingenuity, and excitement of these people – I just couldn’t resist.
Always best to get the lay of the land from a chopper
200,000 people camp in and around Mt Panorama for the big race
Looking down the bends from the top of the rock
In the pitts
Best seats in the house at Telstra’s Big Blue
50 Years of Awesome
The grid girls enjoy their 5 days of fame
* ALL PHOTOGRAPHY SHOT ON MY BLACKBERRY (NOT MY REGULAR CANON 7D)
Ideas don’t just pop out of nowhere – It’s widely known that inspiration comes directly before creativity. Something inspires you to make a unique connection between separate things and by doing so, have a new idea. The separate things on their own are meaningless but when combined precisely, they are new, useful, relevant, and entertaining… a great big honking idea!
Sounds pretty simple but here’s the catch. I believe the ‘inspiration’ bit needs to be ‘creative’ too. You need to make sure the inspiration (let’s call it stimulus) you tap into is original and new. Why is this important? Simple. If you get inspired by the same stimulus day in day out you’ll have similar ideas day in day out. Worse still, if you consume similar stimulus to that of your competitor you’ll have similar ideas to them also.
In short – when it comes to ideas, you are what you eat!
This should be a massive worry for anyone who’s trying to have (and sell) original ideas.
I spoke at a Young Bloods conference last week and after explaining this ‘you are what you eat’ concept, someone in the audience asked for some simple ways to hunt down fresh stimulus. I did an OK job of answering it live but felt like I didn’t quite do it justice. Here’s a more thought out answer:
Chat to unusual suspects
- Taxi drivers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, pilots, your mum (anyone who is seemingly distant from the ideas game)
Eat lots of stimulus
- Read magazines and blogs
- Go to movies
- Listen to talk back radio
- Visit art galleries
- Attend talks and seminars (but avoid typical ad industry events)
Walk in someone else’s shoes
- Read a book you think you’ll hate
- Go see a band you dislike
- Go to an irrelevant trade show event
Live in someone else’s shoes
- Job swap for a day with a dental nurse
- Join a cult for a month
- Volunteer in the 3rd world
Above all else, act like Sherlock Holmes – Look for clues, ask the awkward questions and hunt down the things that don’t seem to fit or make sense.
I love New York City and lived there for 7 years (1996 – 2003). I spent most of those years below 14th street so I’m going to focus my observations mainly on that area. Last week was my first trip back to New York since 2009, which I guess is a long time between drinks but I’ve observed some drastic changes. I’m keen to see if anyone else agrees or has noticed.
Please allow me to do a quick roll call of the old haunts:
SOHO – It’s like a box made from glass and steel that’s literally full of expensive home wares and masstige fashion that no real human being needs. Yep, it all glitters but none of it’s gold.
NOLITA and Little Italy – These once uniquely carved out characters now basically blend into SOHO. John Gotti would be rolling in his grave.
Lower East Side and DUMBO – What used to be downright hardcore is now flaccid at best. I actually think I saw a dude wearing a bum bag and a pair of Crocs whilst walking a pug.
NOHO – Dead (aside from Supreme… still gets a line around the block when they drop a new collection)
Greenwich Village, Chelsea and the Meatpacking district – Probably the hottest areas in Manhattan these days. Feels like everything’s gone west. The abattoirs and S&M clubs have been replaced by the island’s best bars, restaurants, and retail stores (the Highline is an absolute stroke of genius).
Midtown – Less of a wasteland than I remember but now totally homogenized and ‘the same’ as its surrounding areas.
Upper East and West Sides – Caught in a time warp. No change to speak of.
So what’s missing?
In a word – DIVERSITY
In a list – artists, struggling creatives, gay people, street rappers, real world Seinfeld characters, skaters, mom & pop video stores, stoop hangers, park performers, jaywalkers, soap box talkers, dive bars, non franchised hole in the wall eateries, pickup ballers, ‘bad’ areas, and all the sole trade pockets (diamond district, garment district, polish district, meatpacking district to mention a few).
Have the diverse people and places been priced off the island? Or have the powers that be ‘cleaned up’ the city so much they’ve washed away the very stuff that made it the best city on the planet? I think a bit of both.
New York City has lost its edge (for now).
This is not related to the Sydney Symphony Vanguard but I wish it was!!
A great story about an old man being awoken by music. The video is a bit slow at the start but well worth it in the end.
Last nights official launch of the Vanguard was a smashing event that saw 300 or so people roll up to the Sydney Opera House. They were there to hear the Sydney Symphony 2012 Fellows play but what they didn’t bargain on was the visual mash up of contemporary dance and symphony music that ensued.
Symphony music is at the root of all music so if you love your music then you need to get involved in this program. A membership gets you invited to all our Vanguard events throughout the year and gives you access to our VIP ticketing concierge at the Opera House. But more importantly, you’ll be contributing to the Sydney Symphony and the cultural fabric of Sydney. Join us here.