creativity Archives - Page 2 of 3 - The Professional Creative

December 5, 2017No Comments

The 3 letter question that kills campaigns

Whole advertising campaigns have been killed by a single question. And it's happened to me.

We were so sure we'd sell that concept. We could already see ourselves shooting the commercial in the Caribbean, laughing out loud over piña coladas paid-for by the client. We made a kick-ass presentation deck. We rehearsed the presentation. We made sure the visuals were tip-top, and in line with the target audience. You know the drill: edgy enough to be impactful, but safe enough to get the client's approval. This was gold!

We presented the campaign to the CCO. And he always asks this one tiny, tough question. After we finished presenting, he said this:

"This is beautiful. I see you guys put a lot of effort into it, and it shows. I really like the idea. Thank you for that... but, WHY?"

A little awkward silence follows.

He meant "Why is this the right idea to solve the problem? Why did we choose to use a walking-talking piñata to sell the product?"

We hesitated. When we answered, the answer wasn't clear. And we knew that meant the idea wasn't right and there was only one place our campaign was going. "Where's the recycle bin?" was my question. We had to start over.

How could we have missed something so basic? So simple? Often times, when we get into the weeds of the creative process we can lose sight of the big picture. Suddenly that joke about candy falling off a living piñata didn't make a lot of sense anymore, even though we were sure it was killer.

Let's explore how questions can save campaigns rather than kill them.

Questions make your mind go places

Questions are a big part of the creative process. They both set you in the right direction and give you freedom to explore multiple possibilities. Asking the RIGHT question is often the difference between success and failure in professional creativity.

It's the question, Neo. It's the question that drives us. It's the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did. – Trinity

Questions that set you in the right direction

Framing your problem in a way that fosters creativity is a VERY important step in the road to originality and innovation. And the best way to do it is with a question.

"A problem well framed is a problem half solved"
- Charles F. Kettering, Chemist

IDEO, the legendary company that pretty much created the "design thinking" process, puts great importance in framing the problem in ways that allow creativity to flourish. Problems are always posed in a question that begins with "How might we..." For instance, "How might we help people achieve their personal goals?" or "How might we make an ice cream parlor the perfect first date venue?"

This quick PDF from Stanford d.school (created by David Kelley, one of the founders of IDEO) will give you an idea on how to create actionable questions.

Questions that help you keep going when you start to lose momentum

Starting with a "how might we" question should get you churning out ideas. For better performance, apply brainstorming rules. You will eventually slow down, though. The more ideas, the better – so what can we do to keep us going? This great article from Fast Company gives a great solutions. They all involve asking questions. Here are a couple of techniques it mentions:

Change the point of view
Ask yourself "how would a child approach this problem?". What about a senior? Or an expert? Or a poor person? A rich one? A farmer? A sailor? Each different perspective will force your brain to switch gears and uncover new insights and ideas.

A similar technique to this is called the Six Thinking Hats, created by Edward de Bono. It's about forcing a perspective change according to 6 different perspectives, represented by colored hats. A lot of people swear by it, but I find it too stiff to be used in the day-to-day of professional creativity. You can find out more about it here.

Why, why, why, why, why.
Asking why is a powerful little thing. It can make and break careers! The power of "why" lies in helping us break the perceived notions we have about how things are. It exposes the "hidden rules" we are subjecting ourselves to for no reason. Genius comes when we deliberately break those rules.

"We make the mistake of assuming that the way we do things is the one right way. For example, we believe that specific types of clothing are appropriate for different occasions, we have preconceived ideas about how to greet someone, and we have fixed ideas about what should be eaten at each meal of the day. However, a quick trip to China, Mexico, Pakistan, or Korea reveals completely different norms in all of these areas."

Another great way of to keep going is to keep asking "what else?". That keeps the train moving. Loosing traction again? Ask "how else?" – that should take you in a different tunnel in the same mine to unearth more ideas.

The boss question

Since 2009 and Simon Sinek's TED Talk on the "Golden Circle", this 3-letter question has picked up more and more attention. "Why?" is the most important question one can ask. Ask it enough and you'll get to the core of an idea. Fail to have an answer to it and be ready to start over.

The important thing is that you must remember to ask yourself the hard questions. Why? How? Why? Why? Why? – you don't want to be in a place where you find yourself in a meeting without answers for all the why's. Because if you can answer all the why's, you'll probably sell that idea. If you can't, you won't. Unless your CCO and the client want to go to the Caribbean, too.

Share your story in the comments. Have you ever been put on the spot by a well-placed question?

November 29, 2017No Comments

5 Creative Reasons NOT to write a listicle

1. Everyone is doing it (me included!)

Originality lies at the core of the creative effort. Everyone is doing it, hence, it's not original. Since "listicles" are a "thing", you feel like it's totally OK to write it. Yet, this is when the professional creative will find the opportunity to deconstruct it. Creative rule #1 - Try to Be Creative. If you're not going for originality, you're breaking the first rule.

Everyone is trying to write original content, of course. But since we live in the hay-day of the listicle, their creativity is stuck to that formula – which is totally OK. And OK is not what creativity is about. If we think a little broader, we'll realize we can brake the "rules" of the listicle to our advantage. Everyone already knows what a listicle looks like. It's time we do it different. I'm having a go at it right now.

2. It leads you to conform

Read more

November 20, 20171 Comment

On Creative Confidence, Clay Horses and Dragon Fruits

"I'm not the creative type"
or
"I'm just not a creative thinker"

Statements like that are not based on reality. Saying that is like saying you don't like broccoli before you try it. Or dragon fruit, for that matter: It's weird-looking, it doesn't resemble any other fruits you've tried before, and it seems to have been designed by a child.

So it must not be for you.

Even though it may taste like a mix between kiwi and happiness. But creativity, unlike that happy-looking fruit, is something we have all tasted. It's something we were born with.

Yes. We were born creative. That's the main argument in Sr. Ken Robinson's TED talk (the most popular TED talk ever – so it must be true, right? :)) and I hope this idea is more widely accepted 10 years later.

The sad part of the argument is that it implies our creativity is taken away from us as we grow up. We start to learn and to comply, and we started building a box around us. Now, learning from earlier generations and from each other is the crux of human evolution, but sometimes unexpected side effects happen. Here's an example: Read more

November 12, 2017No Comments

Free your mind to reach your creative potential

How free are you? Most importantly, how free can you become?

The other day I watched this little 6-minute documentary on Jim Carrey called I Need Color. Turns out Jim Carrey is a hell of a painter. Here's some of his work:

Now, that's not what he's famous for, at least not yet. But the small glimpse that documentary gave me into his process and his demeanor made me sure of one thing: he's free. Jim Carrey is a free man, maybe freer than any man I've ever looked into in my research on creativity. Free of body, we all are in this part of the world. But freedom of mind is rarer. Read more

March 30, 2017No Comments

I have figured out what design is

What is design?

Oh, that haunting question! This is not even the first time I try to answer it in this blog!

After mulling over it for 4 years in college, we never got to a satisfying conclusion. It did lead to many interesting discussions, though. I bet that was the point our mentors wanted to make. It's one of those questions that are better left unanswered, to make us think and ponder on important matters.

"What's the meaning of life?"

"What came first, the chicken or the egg?"

"What are the hell are the Smurfs?"

But sometimes you find interesting answers to those questions. They might not be complete or conclusive, but lead to more thinking, and more discussions.

Except for the chicken and egg, question. To which the answer is obviously the egg. Read more

March 2, 2016No Comments

Keys for inspiration: knowledge and action.

I have recently answered a question on Quora.com 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 Inc.com.

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. Read more

September 12, 2015No Comments

The difference between Innovation and Creativity

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. Read more

June 11, 2015No Comments

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. Read more

December 8, 2014No Comments

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.

Read more

October 29, 2014No Comments

Dishonesty: tap into your dark side to be more creative

"With great power comes great responsibility"

Voltaire or Uncle Ben (Spider-Man's uncle) - depending on your mood.

Dishonest people are very creative. Everyone can agree with that. We all know the examples: the con man coming up with lies to get money out of you, the crooked car salesman and his stories to get you to buy a lemon, fake letters from Nigeria and the sweet talk of the famed Brazilian "malandro" hiding his bad intentions.

Big examples in pop culture, like Kevin Spacey's character Keyser Söze in "The Usual Suspects" (1994) and Christian Bale's Irving in "American Hustle" (2014) drive home the same point – evil geniuses are very creative!

evil genius kevin spacey in The Usual Suspects

Kevin Spacey as an evil genius in the 1994 movie "The Usual Suspects"

But what if I flipped the order around and told you this:

Being dishonest can actually make you more creative.

Read more

SCG-Master-key-visual-final05x

Learn the secrets to coming up with brilliant ideas.

And stop wasting so much time with re-work. Learn with some of the best ad creatives in the world, including CCOs, ECDs and CDs from top agencies.

© The Professional Creative 2020