BY LYNDSI STAFFORD
Creativity: Is it something innate? Something that can be learned? As a marketer, creativity is needed as much as the air we breathe. But how do you teach creativity? How do you foster it?
During my five years managing in the marketing world, I have learned that everyone has the ability to be creative, you just have to provide the right tools and opportunities.
The following five tips have helped cultivate creativity amongst my teams.
Get out of the office
I have learned that a 6-by-8 cubicle, plagued with fluorescent lights and a buzzing Windows 98 monitor, is a black hole for any creative thought. Even if you do have an open space with windows, being tasked with coming up with something creative can be difficult when you’re sitting in the same mundane spot. If you want to come up with something new, you need to go somewhere new.
Each month, my team picks a new restaurant, bar, house, coffee shop, attraction, etc. to host a creative brainstorm. This allows us to stimulate creative thought outside of our daily habits. We also welcome “brain juice,” which can be ordered at the bar.
Some of our most fun and exciting ideas have stemmed from lighthearted and fun conversation as we foster open-mindedness and willingness to share our thoughts. I encourage you to do this same activity with your own team, as it is not only a catalyst to discover new ideas, but also forges a tighter bond amongst the team.
Look for inspiration
When studying the art of marketing, I often look to Fortune 500 companies for inspiration. These companies are hiring the best and brightest, so why not learn from them?
Numerous times a month, I research best practices in web design, graphic design, campaigns and social media to see what others are coming up with and what is working. Their marketing idea is a seed to my new ideas.
Additionally, as a marketer, it is important to stay present. I am always taking in the marketing that encompasses my life, whether it’s the billboards on the highway, the radio commercial in my car, or the magazine ad as I sit in the waiting room. Why did it catch my attention? What do I like or not like about this ad?
Create a challenge
It can be easy to fall into the same routine. As a social media marketer, I even see this in redundancy of posts. How do we stop this? How do we constantly find ways to think out of the box and try new things?
I have developed a challenge for my team. Each week, I learn about something new in the industry and encourage them to try it with one of their clients. For example, Facebook recently launched Canvas ads. These ads allow you to include video, audio, text and lead forms all in one ad. Therefore, I gave my team the challenge of coming up with a creative Canvas ad for one of their clients. These challenges foster new opportunities and allow us to test out ideas.
Read industry articles
I love to learn. I wish there was a day between Sunday and Monday set aside for learning. But in the entrepreneur world, that isn’t the case. When I can, I set aside time to read industry articles to stay on top of new tools and techniques.
A great app I often use is Newsify. Newsify is essentially an RSS feed that lets you share and read articles within the industries of your choice. I love making coffee Sunday morning and flipping through the various articles for 30-60 minutes. You would be amazed at how much you learn!
Foster open dialogue
No idea is a bad idea. We hear that a lot, but it is important to practice what you preach. Always encourage someone to speak his or her mind no matter how outlandish. I constantly remind the team that our brainstorming sessions are open dialogue and give them stories of times when an employee said a crazy idea and how it turned into something magical. As the “leader” in the brainstorming session, let others speak and always give positive affirmations. Confidence breeds creativity. And, of course, refer back to the brain juice as needed.