Creativity: Thoughts From a Former CMO
Updated: Nov 19
The how and why of out-of-the-box thinking
Fun facts: creativity moved from desired skill #10 for executives in 2015 to #3 in 2020. And it's 85% a learned, practiced skill.
Some of that learning comes from childhood and encouraged behaviors at home/school. But the rest is up to how you choose to view and process your daily experiences.
The Georgetown Marketing Association hosted Jim Speros, former CMO of EY, for a presentation on creativity this week, so I'll share his definition and thoughts:
Creativity isn't about coming up with never-seen-before innovations out of thin air. Most often, creativity involves "connecting the unconnected." Taking old ideas and meshing them together in new ways.
To be more creative
According to Speros
Feed your brain. Expose your mind to more. Fill your thoughts with dots for creativity to connect down the line.
Question often. Running into more doesn't work unless you pay attention and make observations. Questions lead to potentials which lead to more ideas.
Leave your bubble. Associate with people who are different than you. I would also add: physically leave where the expected lives. Eg. I drive to and from the gym every day. The commute has become so familiar that I barely notice my surroundings: I'm just on autopilot. I bet I'd pick up more if I chose a different route where I'd have to pay attention.
Color outside the lines. Fear of rejection or judgment inhibits creativity. If you adhere to "the way it's supposed to be" your results will be 100% expected.
According to me
Record. Jot down your ideas as they come. Creativity doesn’t come from hours of dedicated “creative time”. That’s great for focusing on developing creative ideas and projects, but I find my ideas come to mind for the first time in random sprinkles. The moments right before I fall asleep, mid-conversation, on the StairMaster...
Track. Find a convenient way to keep track of your ideas in those moments. I use Notes on my phone for easy access and seamless phone-to-laptop-and-back sync. I know people who write in a physical "creativity journal" or on a note pad of paper stickies. Find what works for you.
Destress. Stress hinders creativity. Fact. Although artists stereotypically thrive in times of emotional turmoil, day-to-day work or school stress tends to interfere with the creative thinking process. So, among all the benefits of decreasing stress, boosting your creativity lies on the other side of mindfulness, health, anxiety reductions, etc. You know the drill.
Break. Ideas aren't flowing? Take a break. Forcing your mind to keep drilling for a creative breakthrough rarely helps.
Voila a main course of 4 tips from an expert with a side of 4 additions from a novice. Challenge: use upcoming end-of-year final projects and presentations to get creative. There's no bigger flex than breaking the mold during finals, a time of traditionally little creative inspiration.