OPINION: Time to create

Matt Wheeler
By Matt Wheeler | 30 July 2013

Currently it feels like we’re in the ideas industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution changed things forever, enabling industry to merchandise processes to produce products faster and most cost effectively. However with every revolution something gets marginalised. Today it’s the craft of creativity that’s getting marginalised and with it beautifully unique ideas.

Maintaining a level of craftsmanship in the industry means having the time and the understanding of the human mind to create. The irony is that it needs a process. It is all too common now with millions of ideas floating around social pages/blogs/web, everyone feels they are a creative powerhouse. Unfortunately, the majority of these ideas are ‘remixed’ as per Kirby Ferguson’s theory.

Although I don’t have a problem in principle with remixing – I do it myself – I do feel we are experiencing the industrial version of creativity. We do it because it’s fast, cost effective and we’re time poor! Let’s consider the following ideas that all work on the same construct:
o   Push Button to Add Drama
o   Rembrandt Painting The Night Watch
o   The Escape Machine

All the above are great executions, however they all adopt the same basic construct. The main similarities being the type of trigger (what starts the experience), the surprise (what happens) and the location (where is it situated). It is the genetics of ideas – only the best and most replicable ideas survive and prosper.

The notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ has meant that people have become amazing problem-solvers. We learnt to save the solutions to problems in our sub conscious/conscious mind so that if we ever face a similar problem we access that solution much like a computer. The origins probably saved our ancestors’ lives, however, ideas (contrary to what some believe in the business) are no longer a matter of life or death. Therefore to find unique/beautifully new ideas that are different from ready-made solutions we need time. We need time to work through all the old ideas, so we can head into new territory. Time allows us to do the following:
Start from a different place: Run a series of creative sessions/workshops to work through all the existing solutions in our minds, so we are forced to start from a new place. During his TED talk, Sagmeister shared several tips on how he keeps his ideas fresh during the design process, three of which are relevant to this piece: 1. ‘Think about ideas and content freely – with the deadline far away’ 2: ‘Use a wide variety of tools and techniques’ and 3 ‘Travel to new places’.
Access different minds: Get the right people in at the right time for divergent and convergent thinking, as we often just throw a group of people in a room and hope for the best. Different minds offer different elements/experiences we can draw on, however the chemistries needs to mixed carefully in the right measures at the right time to produce great ideas.
Playtime: As children we learn by playing – whether free play or structured play – it’s a crucial part of our development and understanding of the world. Unfortunately as we grow up we grow out of play as it is no longer seen as a priority. Creative labs and experimenting is a critical part of success in many industries. We need to be physically trying stuff, not just theoretically producing an idea. So let’s create time to play!
Keep pushing: Keep on trying to push the boundaries, so we can get to a new place. It’s worth going through the pain. Julia Cameron (author of The Artist’s Way) urges creatives to write ‘morning pages’ to free our minds from everyday clutter. These are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. She says this practice is “The bedrock tool of a creative recovery.” Hemingway woke at 7am every day and tried to write around 500 words a day. This routine was what enabled him to produce three novels, four collections of short stories and three non-fiction works. Many of these are now considered classics of American literature. It also earned him a Nobel Prize in literature in 1954.
Hemingway is just one example, however this dedication is common amongst the foremost creative minds in the world. They were/are all prolific in creating. Thomas Edison, debatably the most prolific inventor of all time, stated: "Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Accordingly a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework."
Take everyone on the journey: Continue to involve all key stakeholders, including the client, in the process. This saves time, offers insights and helps align everyone on the development of the idea. Often we don’t involve key stakeholders (especially clients) in our thinking until the last minutes, so it’s hard for everyone to understand where we’ve come from or are going. Involvement helps us create and sell unique ideas.

My conclusion? I believe we need to address the churn of ideas and start taking more time to work through our stock of ideas and access new areas. In an age of clutter and churn ideas are essential for brands to stand out! Ideas are arguably marketers’ most valuable tools in helping a brand/campaign deliver against their business needs. Isn’t it essential we give ourselves the time to create the best solution? It might sound like a utopian dream, however, we can plan for success by starting early, after all “slow and steady wins the race” according to Aesop's fable of The Tortoise and the Hare.

Matt Wheeler
Strategy Director
Ensemble Australia

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