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Creativity for the Masses

“Everyone is a creative,” someone once said, much to the dismay of the art directors, writers and creative directors who deemed themselves the real “creatives.” In their minds, no one else should be coming up with campaigns because they are the experts.

Well, times sure have changed. In-house and agency teams are increasingly adopting the mindset that ideas can be born anywhere and by anyone, no matter what discipline they represent.

Having lived through the past 25 years of agency transformation, I’ve witnessed this massive shift firsthand. And, though I used to think it was an all-out an assault on creativity, I now see it as a result of consumers expecting creativity in everything they experience from brands.

“Consumers are demanding more from brands than ever before, so we have to be creative in our approach and how we go to market to stand out,” says Liz Bunnell, Vice President of Kids Group of Wolverine Worldwide, whose portfolio of well-known footwear brands includes Stride Rite, Saucony, Sperry and Keds. “Creativity drives our product innovation, distribution strategies, and how we talk to consumers.”

Because brands are no longer confined to traditional advertising, they can be expressive in so many new, exciting and immediate ways. Creativity and content are now more important than ever, and as a Creative Director, I like that. Consumers see the work, not the strategies or business plans.

As a result, the pressure is on agencies not only to develop the most creative work, but to find new ways to empower everyone in the organization to think creatively and with a great deal of imagination to solve the business challenges their clients face every day. This is no longer a nice to have, it’s the price of entry.

“Creativity is a must-have from our agency partners,” adds Bunnell. “We expect it not only in the traditional sense, like the voice and look of a campaign, but also when it comes to strategy and execution. In order to break through the clutter into today’s media landscape, we rely heavily on our agency partners to use their expertise in their respective areas to navigate our brands.”

Agencies and brands alike have come to understand that the more creative their teams are, the better their solutions, the more memorable their ideas, the more impactful their results, and dare I say, the more beautiful their expressions.

So, how do you achieve this creative vision within your organization?

Foster an Environment of Trust

Google conducted a two-year study with over 180 teams and identified a singular distinction between innovative (creative) and non-innovative (non-creative) teams—psychological safety. The teams who believed it was safe to take risks were more comfortable trying new approaches, sharing ideas and bringing their full selves to work.

It wasn’t necessarily who was on the team that mattered, it was how those people communicated—notably, openly and with empathy. Psychological safety ultimately comes down to empowering people with confidence in their creative abilities and providing them with the courage to act on their ideas. The takeaway for leaders who want to foster a more creative environment is to start by being more vulnerable and demonstrating what trust looks like within their own teams.

Get Inspired

That next inspiration to spark your imagination and take you somewhere new and exciting may be right outside the door. All you have to do is get up out of your seat to start making discoveries.

Last month, our 360PR+ Studio team visited Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art to see the exhibit,  “Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design.” The show brought together works in painting, sculpture, ceramics, dance and furniture design in an attempt to rattle modernism and minimalism. And while the exhibit may not pay immediate dividends for our day-to-day work, it provides that much needed fuel for our imaginations to drive creativity in everything we do.

We also make inspiration a priority in our weekly department meeting, where we dedicate half of our time to sharing innovative campaigns, passion projects and personal work.

The world is pretty boring if you limit yourself to the four walls in your office or conference rooms. Challenge yourself and your teams to see the world differently and take in other perspectives. Who knows, it may just inspire your next award-winning idea.

Give Credit

Nothing is more motivating to a team member than when their manager recognizes their creativity. When a junior copywriter or account coordinator has a brilliant idea, don’t let it go unnoticed. Champion them and the idea within the agency, giving them credit for their brilliant thinking. This approach injects a healthy dose of creative competition and inspires people by giving them the confidence that their good thinking will propel their own success.

Making creativity the heart of your organization means every employee must embrace it and feel that they are contributing to the company’s success. As Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, recently reflected, “I run the Walt Disney Company, but there are 230,000 employees. I don’t come close to really running the company. They run the company … I give credit [to them], not because it’s cheap to do, but because it’s the truth.”

Matthew Lenig is Creative Director at 360PR+ who’s served in creative roles for 25 years, most recently at McCann Worldwide, and whose work for clients, among them New Balance, ExxonMobil, Harpoon and TIAA, includes many award-winning campaigns and brand films. We’d love to hear your feedback on this topic—send Matthew a note with your thoughts.

This article originally appeared on The Holmes Report and is the second in a series exploring the topic of creativity by 360PR+ and the editorial staff at The Holmes Report. You can read more from the series here.