Keys for inspiration: knowledge and action.


I have recently answered a question on about creativity. The question asked “What are the keys to feeding my creativity?” That set me up really well to talk about the two things that are most important to me, when it comes to finding inspiration. The answer was also published on

The answer went as follows:

Creativity is different for different people. Creatives acting in different areas will have different ways of feeding their creativity. A comedian, for instance, may feed his creativity by noticing everyday life events. A creative soccer player may feed his creativity by mimicking other great players.

Since your question didn’t specify what kind of creative endeavor you’re undertaking, I’ll be very broad in my answer. Because, although inspiration can come from different sources for different people, there are basic concepts in creativity that hold true for any kind of scenario.
To me, the most important keys to inspiration are knowledge and action. Continue reading

What is “design”, and how design thinking sparks the best in us

What is design

If you ask me what I do, I’ll tell you I’m an advertiser. If you ask me what I am, I’m going to say I’m a designer. The two concepts, to me, are fundamentally different.

The concept of “advertising” carries with it all the things the ad industry has been accused of in the last century: ruthless capitalism, profit, greed, cheats and lies. Sexist ads and absurd cigarette ads still make rounds on Facebook feeds every now and then. Times have changed for the ad industry, and now our creative minds are much more focused on doing good to society. Continue reading

The difference between Innovation and Creativity

creativity vs innovation

Recently on Quora, I answered a question that deals with a couple of concepts that are super talked about nowadays: “creativity” and “innovation”. In the tech-savvy, always-connected, ever-evolving world we live in, those 2 words are in everyone’s mouths.

Does everyone know what they’re really talking about? Most people are not sure how to define creativity or innovation, and get their noodles cooking when asked to differentiate the two. If that’s the case for you, don’t feel bad. There are a few different definitions out there, so it’s a little bit like religion: you should stick to whatever you believe, but if someone else believes something different, it doesn’t mean their wrong. But there are a some related concepts that are undeniable, like the fact that every new idea generates from previously existing concepts.

Read my answer below, or read it on Quora.

What is the difference between creativity and innovation? How do you define creativity? How do you define innovation?

You’re going to find that the definition of “creativity” and “innovation” vary A LOT depending of the author/source. I have my own take on it, which I offer below. Continue reading

A Shortcut To Ideas

a shortcut to ideas

One day I showed the image below to a couple of American colleagues. It shows a few “caboclos de lança“, a carnival character very specific to a small region of north-eastern Brazil, where I’m from. They wear magnificent hand-embroidered cloaks, carry a white gillyflower between their lips and wear those amazing sparkling oversized wigs. Not to mention the massive spear they swing around.

The first comment I heard was about how much their shoes resembled Converses.

Maracatu Rural

When exposed to something alien, our first instinct is to try to find a connection to something we already know. That’s our way of making sense of the world. We will (unconsciously) try to use previous experiences to better understand new ones.

This concept can help us understand both how ideas are formed and how communication can be optimized by leveraging this fact. Continue reading

Creativity is messy

Creativity vs Mess

“It’s almost impossible to reconcile creativity with cleanliness”, says Marty Neumeier in his great little book “The 46 rules of genius”. In rule #22 – Embrace Messiness – he argues that messiness and creativity go hand in hand. That’s something I felt to be true in my career in advertising. When creatives are at it, “in the zone”, things get messy. And that’s just how it works – creativity is messy.

There are many studies out there that make observations about how the environment around us influences our mood and our actions. I believe today that’s pretty much accepted as universal truth: everybody understands that a quiet space will get you calmer an having too many people in a small space can be very stressful. Just remember your last flight to Sydney.

The nuances of how the environment around you affect your creativity, though, are worth talking about further. A study by Kathleen D. Vohs, as described in her article for the New York Times, shows very clear advantages for creativity in messy rooms:

“Since tidiness has been associated with upholding societal standards, we predicted that just being around tidiness would elicit a desire for convention. We also predicted the opposite: that being around messiness would lead people away from convention, in favor of new directions.”

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Creative Advice for my Little Brother

creative advice for my Little Brother

My little brother (who’s now taller than me) is a talented computer programmer who comes from a family with no background in IT whatsoever. He’s been accepted as an intern at Facebook and he’s carving a promising career for himself without any borrowed influence, and that’s something to be admired. I obviously want him to make the best out of his opportunity, so below is the best creative advice I can give him.

Software development has emerged as one of the most creative fields of our era, so I hope he’ll find some use to the lessons I’ve leaned about creativity – and work life – from my career in advertising. So here it goes:

Dear brother,

1. Learn the rules so you know how to break them.

It’s an absolute pleasure to understand how something works. To master a programming language like you do, for instance, and understand how things work behind a user’s interface must be a pretty great feeling.

Once you master something, you understand its limitations. And only then you can try to overcome those limitations – by breaking the rules you mastered. This is the golden rule of creativity. New results will not be achieved by doing the same thing that has been done before.

The funny thing is that the same principle can be applied to different aspects of life – like your work environment, for instance. When you join a company (specially a big one), you always hear things like “oh, you’ll never be able to get into his calendar” or “The boss doesn’t really have time for us” or “don’t bother presenting new ideas, they never buy it”. Stuff like that and the sheer vibe of the office will make you feel like you should act in a certain way. Those are the rules – and once you know them, you can break them. Try and get that proactive idea in front of the boss, try to get into the calendar of people who may be able to help you, call their extension rather than sending an email. Chat them up by the water cooler. Do what others won’t dare and make sure you have your elevator pitch ready.

2. There’s no shame in ignorance. There’s shame in remaining ignorant.

The way I see it, the kind of person who can make the most damage in a collaborative work environment are those who pretend they know what they don’t. Those who never say “I don’t know”. It’s either an effort to look good in front of others or they are simply ashamed of not knowing something. The curious mind is not ashamed of ignorance; it exposes it so it can be extinguished. How can anyone teach you something if they think you already know it?

An internship is THE place to be curious, to ask questions, to learn. “What do you mean by that?”, “What does that acronym stand for?”, “How did you do that?”, “Can you show me how?” and other phrases like these should be part of your day-to-day. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”, but be ready to chase the answers. The more knowledge you have, the greater your creative potential.

3. Learn from everyone else’s mistakes, too

Learning from your own mistakes: that comes naturally. What’s even more useful – and certainly a tad harder – is to learn from everyone else’s mistakes. It’s harder to learn something you didn’t experience yourself, but it is in truth the only way to improve beyond your own limits.

We learn from someone else’s mistakes when we read a book, watch a movie, when we watch someone fail and succeed, etc. – and when we are given advice.

An advice is knowledge detached from experience – and that missing connection may lead us to disregard them. I do remember being on the receiving side of very valuable advice as a young man. I didn’t pay attention to those, just because I didn’t know I’d need it. Looking back, all I wish is I had the experience I have now when I was your age, so now it’s my turn to give out advice.

Pay extra attention to advice send your way by more experienced people – at work or otherwise (you should also ASK for advice. See #2). It may not make sense at first, but if you write it down and keep it in mind, it will eventually make sense. It just might be the answer to a problem you don’t have yet.

4. There’s always a different way of doing things

As a programmer, you’re aware of this one. In programming, there’s always a more efficient way to make things work, there’s always a way to optimize code to make it faster, or use less processing power. You told me that yourself. This approach to problem solving can be applied in the real world as well.

Creativity comes into play when we actively look for solutions beyond the obvious. “What’s another way to do this?” is a question you should ask yourself not only when you’re writing code, but all the time. Doesn’t matter what problem you’re facing: be it carrying a big box up the stairs or talking to a girl you like – actively exploring options beyond the ones your mind automatically offers is the key to creativity.

5. Collaborate to grow

When I was a young creative in advertising, I wanted to do everything myself. I had a vision I wanted fulfilled exactly how I intended it and didn’t want anyone else involved to mess it up. When I would do that, my work would fall short of others’ and I’d end up frustrated and exhausted. Collaboration is the key to create work that is greater than our own limited capabilities.

One of the most valuable lessons we can learn as creative professionals is that our objective is to make our work as good as it can possibly can be, not as good as we can make it on our own.

6. Watch “The Matrix”

I can’t believe you’ve never seen this movie. Just so you know, “The Matrix” was an absolute turning point for computer programmers. Before “The Matrix” coders were nerds, after that they were heroes. “The Matrix” is one of the reasons why your profession is so hot right now. Know your history!

I hope this helps, bro. Good luck, and let me know how else I can help.

For everyone else reading this, leave a comment and let me know if you have any other advice for my brother.

The Comfort Zone of Conformity


The words “conform” and “comfort” are disturbingly similar. You can’t even tell them apart at a quick glance. Psychologically, “conformity” has a strong link to “comfort zone” as well. Neither word goes well with “creativity”.

The Asch experiment, one of the most famous and popular in psychology, is a big eye opener. It simply exposes our group-confirming nature in an undeniable way. Humans are very prone to agreeing with what everybody else thinks, to go with the flow, to drop their own opinion in favor of the others’, to conform. That’s known as the “Asch Paradigm“.

It’s worth having a look at the video below – and think that you’re not any different from the people being tested. By the looks of the video, you can tell this knowledge has been around for a while, but still to this date too many people change their opinions for the wrong reasons.

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