Hi my name is Michael and I am creative director at a leading marketing firm.
It’s 6am and I am watching the sunrise at the waterfront on the beach with my laptop wide open and a blank page staring back at me. I feel inspired but not sure what to write about. I am on a fact finding mission to understand two different consumer groups on behalf of the organization I work with. With the information I collect, we will be able to generate insights that we we use to develop creative strategies for our clients. This is what sets us apart as one of Africa’s fastest growing below the line agencies. Personally I can’t help feeling lucky and undeserving because deep down I know that anyone can do the job that I am about to do.
Some people are born artistic; that I totally agree. But the notion that some people are born creative is the thing that I will never concur with. I believe that everyone has the ability to be creative and I also believe that regardless of what profession or walks of life we come from, we all need creativity because it’s what sets us apart in everything that we do.
Growing up, I loved drawing and painting and one of my greatest influences of my life was my mother. You see, when I first showed her something I had drawn, she immediately told be it was the best drawing she’d seen in her life. That made me very happy and I can only remember that from then on drawing became my oxygen. I’d draw everyday and everywhere just so I could make people happy. Looking back, I think the first drawing I showed my mom was the most horrible sketch ever. She just happened to know the secret of inspiring talent. She knew that her response should ignite a spark that in turn would open up a world of possibilities for me. And that is exactly what happened.
As I grew up I realized that the world was flooded with artists and good ones at that. In my three decades, I have seen amazing talent often unsung and appreciated. You will always find them in art centers and street corners, broke, spiritual, conscious and unmotivated. In the art circles we are always joking that an artist only becomes rich and famous when they die. Ironically this is true most of the time. As painful as it sounds, the world really doesn’t need art if it [art] doesn’t address any challenge. So art without purpose just breeds artists. Art with purpose gives rise to creatives and problem solvers.
When I was 18, I decided I would be a graphic designer. Upon trying it out I realized that it was harder than I had earlier imagined. The responses to my work were more brutal and hardly encouraging. This is because design is all about addressing challenges. I discovered that being good in art wouldn’t just cut it if no one saw it’s usefulness. The world wanted something that addressed ITS challenges. I was used to making art straight out of my heart and this was new ground; I had to create art that needed to address the needs of others. To save my budding career now under threat, I decided I would try to understand what it is that successful designers did different.
I discovered that successful designers had one thing in common. They were always seeking to understand the dynamics. I realized that all along I had been seeking to understand myself and that is why I produced work that only made me happy and thus ended up seeking only positive encouragement from others. This was my eureka moment that changed everything.
Nowadays I get offended when someone calls me an artist because I don’t make art, I solve problems. I am a creative.
To harness creativity, I learnt that I needed to absorb knowledge from the environment. Yes, it was as basic as reading the paper everyday or asking everyone the most awkward questions; always seeking to understand who everyone else was and what they needed. I noticed the change immediately as I started realizing how the world is overwhelmingly filled with opportunity.
I’d passed by the shoe shiner’s everyday just so he could tell me what was going on in the city. The newspaper vendor always knew the politics of the day and what was going to happen tomorrow. I discovered our teal lady at the office always had an opinion on the challenges women were going through and all this information just opened up my eyes to a world I had been blind to since birth. I began to understand why companies and brands were going down while others succeeded within the same environment. It became my purpose to always seek information. It changed my paradigm and made my work better and as a designer. I had started making real impact.
I realized that as a creative designer, my work determined the bottomline for the organization I worked with and also the value of the brands I worked on. As a result I firmly believe that in creativity, knowledge is power. The key to creativity is understanding the dynamics of the situation in question in great detail and using this information to produce fresh, exciting and impactful solutions. This realization has been my lifestyle since then.
I believe that regardless of what your profession is, creativity can give you positive results and lasting impact. Whether you are a brand manager, accountant, actuarial scientist, doctor, janitor you name it. The principles of creativity work in the same way. Everyone has the ability to be creative. First get to understand the dynamics well, then ask yourself how you can do it bigger, better, different and with a more lasting impact. Creativity expands the playing ground and increases opportunity. With creativity you have competitive advantage and an improved bottom line. To be effective, creativity needs to be part of our daily life. Creativity is not rocket science but rather a power that is within reach to all of us. Creativity makes what we do enjoyable because it fuels passion.
So everything you have put down on your to do list today is essentially an opportunity to tap into your creative potential. That my friends is creativity lesson 101.
Next time I will write about how we can inspire creativity in organizations for better performance.