by: Chris Knotts, PMP – ASPE Creative Director
This week we’re offering insights into how professional creatives keep the mojo flowing. Nurture the pillars of creativity in your day to day work, and the rest will follow.
Part 2: A repeatable creative process is like panning for gold.
The next step in a creative warm-up is to remind yourself that creative thinking is like panning for gold. It’s about winnowing down what’s worthwhile from the constant stream of thoughts you experience as you seek to solve the problems before you. In fact, this same concept is reflected in the way many marketing departments (including mine) operate. Let me use this analogy as an example:
Marketing 101: You want to capture leads to bring into your ecosystem. At the end of the day the lead generation process has one primary goal: to capture as many names as possible for nominal cost per name. Into one end of the business process go all the leads. Out the other end come sales. Along the way, there is a hugely disparate ratio at play in terms of how many leads are captured vs. how many sales are made. Nobody expects all the leads to become customers. Nobody expects most of the leads to become customers. No, everybody knows that only a few leads become customers, and yet those customers make the process worth it. We’re panning for gold.
I’m personally of the opinion that almost everything related to creative productivity works this way. You have to perform the mental exercise of generating a lot of raw material in order to separate the wheat from the chaff and come up with anything of real value. Likewise, a good creative person wakes up in the morning knowing that most of the thoughts in his or her head may not be of much practical value. That may seem a bit harsh, but the reality is that in your day to day routine, if you have a high standard of excellence, a constant supply of ideas isn’t worth as much as the percentage of them that translate as winners. Those truly innovative little nuggets can be pretty rare.
However, they do come. So to find them you have to feed the machine. You have to practice thinking. You have to practice generating lots and lots of conceptual nuggets to find the ones that are useful. Visual designers do this all the time. Why, for every truly solid interface or website, you can bet there’s a stack of multiple concept candidates that ended up as rejects, the raw fodder for what later came to be good work. In design school, students are taught to generate 5-minute thumbnails during the first phase of any project. Dozens, even hundreds, of these thumbnails are generated. Most of them will never see the light of day, but it’s vital to churn them out in order to find that one gem that can be developed into a winner. As I’ve progressed in my career, I find that a lot of this groundwork can be done mentally these days. But there are still plenty of times when a notepad or sketchbook should come out, and quick concepts should be jotted down or sketched out. Don’t worry about evaluating them – that comes later.
Thanks for reading our blog series on creative insights. Every day this week we’re looking at creative advice for creative work. In the meantime, we want to hear about your experiences solving creative challenges, and what you think is valuable. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a tweet: @chris_knotts. You can also follow my training firm at @ASPE_Inc – we love to hear from you.
Further reading - Check out this great recent article from Fast Company on how to brainstorm in a smarter way: The Brainstorming Process Is B.S. But Can We Rework It?
More from this author:
- How to Encourage Innovation and Creativity – Part 1: Find Your Own Voice
- Free Training Advising Service for Everyone