by Michael O'Neill
January 15th, 2013

Be more creative! A challenge often heard in the creative industries, as it goes right to purpose. Creativity is at the heart of what we do. More creative is a good thing, we get that. But the question is not why we should be more creative, but how?

From maker to consumer

Strictly defined, to create is to make. In our world, be more creative usually means more innovative, imaginative, lateral, inventive, surprising and uniquely different.

Modern urban life has separated most people from the creative process. Generally speaking we neither require nor possess the skills to make anything much at all. We have shifted from being makers of products to simply consumers. This shift has disconnected us from the fundamentals of creativity — problem solving, expression of ideas and tactile, tangible experience.

Back in the day, life was different. Creativity wasn’t a career, it was a functional life-skill. Before the industrial revolution and mass production transformed the manufacture and distribution of goods and services, individuals had to be creative, resourceful and highly skilled, simply to survive. Artisans and craftsmen with more highly developed skills became sought after by those with money and influence — to create more refined, expressive and crafted products, beyond simple functionality, adding value in the process.

Technology has once again dramatically changed the way we live. Immersive and ubiquitous technology has enriched our lives and restored our ability to express ourselves as creative individuals. Much has been written about the creative economy and the rise of the creative classes. In most societies today creating is just part of life — making and sharing ideas, images, video, hoping for fame or notoriety on YouTube, espousing beliefs and promoting causes, or simply joining the community of ‘likes’.

So here’s the thing. If the audience is doing the creating, what should we professionals do?

To be more creative, we need to do more creative. Here’s how:

1 Go deeper

Immerse yourselves in the skills of creativity, become better at making interesting ‘things’ and produce great content. Our audiences (well most of them) don’t use PowerPoint — they are on Instagram, Pinterist and Yotube, Weibo, Youku and Tudou. They are shooting video, uploading and downloading, writing, blogging, having views, collating, curating, creating communities, exchanging and expressing their ideas. Creating followers, advocates, and engaging their peers.

Isn’t that what we do? In the new world of mass individuality and mass customization, and universal access to platforms and mediums, we need to be at least as creative as the wider community to cut it.

2 Work to our strengths

Before we despair, as an industry we do have advantages. In addition to the breadth of capability and relentless curiosity that is our heritage as communicators we also have impressive rigour and depth. As we go deeper in skills and expertise, we value more the power of the disciplines and frameworks that enable us to develop insights beyond the obvious. Insights that inspire a response.

3 Get the habit

Creativity is a habit. Most iconic creators and inventors are known for their amazing volume of output, driven by passion to express their ideas. Why should we be any different? Build up the habit of creative thinking and expression, and you will have resources to call on when you need them most. Continually enrich your skills, have the confidence to make things, express your ideas physically or digitally. Get curious, learn more, experiment, combine, connect, work with others, seek ideas widely, filter and create a file of ideas, collect impressions, images and objects. And then make something. Communicate your idea with a short video, a graphic, an installation, an experience. Show is always better than tell.

 4 Be future thinkers

There’s another revolution happening. The next big thing is personal fabrication — the ability to design and produce your own products in your own home with a machine that combines consumer electronics and industrial tools. The implications of personal fabrication is not only will you be able to email someone a bicycle, the coming century will be the one of mass customization — empowering the individual to imagine and create unique local solutions to unique local problems. Become a future thinker with the curiosity that rewards with awareness of the next idea before it goes mainstream — and I don’t mean trend spotting.

Be prepared for another revolution in creativity.

Adrienne Bateup-Carlson is executive vice-president, China, at Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG)

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