There’s a certain pressure as a creative company to maintain a good flow of ideas. And not just any ideas, those that stand out or break the mould. Ideas that surpass mediocre. And for me personally, especially as a marketer rather than a designer, illustrator or artist; honestly, I find it hard. After 20 years working on marketing campaigns, my mind effortlessly and frustratingly, revisits old thoughts and tactics and I often have to drag it, kicking and screaming, away from the obvious.
Of course, I have creatives around me to assist, but I wanted to improve my own creative abilities. This spring, we had some company creativity training from the brilliant and respected Paul (Nobby) Davies who spent over 40 years working within big agencies and with household name brands before becoming a creativity coach. He taught us the science behind a creative brain and approaches to coax out new ideas. These greatly help me with the ‘mind dragging’. And whilst I’m not going to give away all of the brilliance as that wouldn’t be fair, I’ve highlighted 4 simple steps to unlock your creative mind and help you generate ideas for your business.
1. Free flow
With physical strength training, repetition and practice builds endurance and ability. It’s similar with your mind – if you practice meditation then it becomes easier to achieve the desired state and at a quicker pace. And like with meditation and mindfulness, if you practice letting your mind flow freely, your brain is able to wander, which is a helpful state for creative thinking. Each day, or every other day, set a 1 or 2 minute timer, take a pen or pencil to paper and close your eyes. Let your hand draw, scribble, write and flow freely. Don’t plan in advance and endeavour to avoid thinking “next, I’ll draw over here…”. See what happens and view the content on the paper to see if anything can be formed from your output. Sometimes lines can be joined or highlighted, transforming a squiggle into something else. Repeating this activity regularly teaches your mind to free flow.
2. Become hyper observant
We’re all busy. And, our culture here in the UK doesn’t promote siestas or a mañana attitude. But it helps our creative mind when we slow right down and look at the details that surround us. Taking a daily walk, away from technology, allows us to see new things and see familiar things in a new way. Shapes, textures, similarities, colours, spaces, markings, positions, sounds, light and shade; these intricacies can all suddenly stand out when we are fully processing what we are looking at. It may simply be a case of looking in a different direction from the same spot, looking up and over a house and seeing the landscape beyond it, for example. If we improve our observation skills, it increases our awareness, effectiveness and productivity. We are training our senses to examine the world around us and gather new information. Then, new ideas can form. Some people even keep observation diaries so that they can look back for inspiration.
Personal examples of seeing everyday things in a new way:
3. Sleep on it
A lot of us have ideas that pop up in dreams or even whilst we’re asleep. When it happens regularly, it’s good to have a notepad next to your bed, to jot those thoughts down. For me thoughts and ideas tend to happen as I’m trying to fall asleep. I’m an organised person and at the end of every day my brain likes to tick things off, ask questions and start me thinking ahead. When we are tired, our frontal cortex performs at a reduced level and doesn’t do as much of the sorting and interpreting that it would have been doing earlier in the day. This means that in simple terms, other parts of our brain are free to run without being continuously sense-checked. Cue, new thoughts and new, perhaps unusual, connections between thoughts. So let your brain think about that pitch or that big event plan at different times of day and in altered states and creative ideas should percolate!
4. Advance past failure
Obvious ideas arrive in our minds first, usually during conscious time. Sometimes they just keep coming! We have to keep going and going, moving through relevance and logic to reach originality. So when you start to generate ideas for a business name, a marketing campaign, an event title or similar, write down all those dull, overused and uninspired thoughts first. You might even reach the point where you think you’ve failed and that you’re just never going to come up with something that is creative. Keep playing around and challenging the rational, sleep on your thoughts, seek additional inspiration. You will advance past this feeling of despair and up into the special place where appropriateness and novelty meet in the middle. Perseverance and variation in thinking styles will unlock your creativity.
Feeling inspired? Start putting steps 1 and 2 into practice right away to retrain your brain. When you need to unlock your creative mind and avoid the mediocre for a specific need, steps 3 and 4 will help you at that stage. And if you’d like to know more, or have some coaching from a true creative mind, get in touch with Paul!
Rachael Dines, Director of Shake It Up Creative