Creativity: Is it something innate? Can creativity 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 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 me cultivate creativity amongst my teams.
1. Get out of the office
A 6-by-8 cubicle, plagued with fluorescent lights and a buzzing Windows 98 monitor, is a black hole for any type of creative thought. Even if you do have an open space with windows, creative inspiration can be difficult when you’re in the same mundane spot day after day. If you want to spark something new, go somewhere new.
Each month, my team picks a new place (e.g., restaurant, bar, house, coffee shop, attraction, etc.) to host a creative brainstorm. This helps us stimulate creative thought outside of our daily habits.
Some of our most fun and exciting ideas have stemmed from lighthearted and fun conversation. This happens when we foster open-mindedness and willingness to share our thoughts. I encourage you to do this same activity with your own team. It’s not only a catalyst to discover new ideas, but also forges tighter bonds amongst teams.
2. Look for creative inspiration
When I study the art of marketing, I often look to Fortune 500 companies for inspiration. These companies hire the best and brightest, so why not learn from them?
Numerous times a month, I research best practices in web design, graphic design, marketing campaigns and social media. This exercise helps me see what others are doing and what is working. Their marketing efforts are seeds to my new ideas.
Additionally, as a marketer, it is important to stay present. I always take in the marketing that encompasses my life, whether it’s outdoor billboards and radio spots I view and hear while I’m driving, or magazine ads as I sit in waiting rooms. Why did it catch my attention? What do I like, or not like, about this ad?
3. Develop a creativity challenge
It’s easy to fall into the same routine. As a social media marketer, I even see this in content redundancy. How do we stop this? How do we find ways and try new things?
I developed a challenge for my team. Each week, I learn 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 challenge my team to develop new creative for Canvas ads. These challenges foster new opportunities and allow us to test out ideas for clients.
4. Read industry articles
I love to learn. I wish there was a day between Sunday and Monday I could set aside for learning. But as a busy entrepreneur, 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.
For example, I use the Newsify app. Newsify is essentially an RSS feed that lets you share and read articles within the industries of your choice. I’ll make coffee on a Sunday morning and flip through various articles for 30-60 minutes. You would be amazed at how much you learn!
5. Foster open team 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 our team that brainstorming sessions are open dialogue.
I share stories of times when an employee discussed a crazy idea and how it turned into something magical. As the “leader” of the brainstorming session, I let others speak and always give positive affirmations. Confidence breeds creativity. And, of course, refer back to the brain juice as needed.
This article has been edited.