We’ve Got Creativity All Wrong 

There is no doubt our industry thrives on creative output. From the environments we create to the methods of communication, from sensory stimulation to guest engagement, people pay for our creativity, and we get so much of our satisfaction out of being creatively challenged. Our problem as an industry is we leave so much creative capital on the table, untapped, unused, unrealized. And it is our own fault (yes, one more thing you are to blame for, along with diphtheria, the national debt and the youth of today).

When I speak to audiences about their creative output, they are surprised to learn a few things. First, anyone can be creative. Second, there are distinct phases and rituals to the creative process that should be followed. Lastly, failure needs to occur far more often than it currently does. Why are people surprised by these things?

Let’s look at the first point. We all have our creative go-to people in our companies. They were born with an ability to express ideas easily. The issue is, we often simply go to them for any and all creatively based problems. This has a compounding effect. It often overuses that person, and it lets other team members' skills atrophy. How often are we exercising the creative muscles of others in the company? How often during the brainstorming process do we say to others, “We need to rely on you, too?” If you aren’t exercising your entire team’s minds, you are leaving creative capital on the table.

Let’s look at the second point. If people were born fully formed the way they are as adults, most of their mothers would try to shove them back in. Ideas, like people, need time to form correctly, from an inspiration moment to a road-tested concept. They don’t come out fully baked. And as anyone who cooks or bakes knows, if you don’t do things in the right order and in the right amounts, your idea will fall flat. The creative process follows a set of steps that allows ideas to mature correctly.

Idea generation, refinement, collaboration, engineering, focus groups and road-testing are all a part of getting an idea out of someone’s head and into practice. Too many times we attempt getting to an idea in its perfect form. In doing so, we miss a lot of opportunities. Also, in this quest to make sure it's perfect the first time out, we shoot down a lot of ideas that are stronger. They just aren’t fully formed yet. We need to slow it down and tinker more.

Why do we need to tinker and play with ideas? So that they can fail. Like broken bones resetting stronger than before, failed ideas lead to even stronger, more powerful ones. But knowing my fellow practitioners in this business, we are perfectionists, and the word "failure" hurts our ears. I say this—fail fast and fail small, but fail the most. It will mean succeeding the most. And it will mean you’ve got the creative process down pat.

Name: Kevin White, CSEP
Company: XPL
Address: 24 Jenny Lind
North Easton, MA
Phone: 212/477-4993
Email: kwhite@2xpl.com
Web: 2xpl.com