4 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

By: Katie Stout

Digital Marketing Strategist


The world of marketing is filled with deadlines, budgets and fire drills — three things that can put a damper on our creative selves. This month in our Lunch and Learn, our creative team gave us a few exercises to help boost our creativity.

1.Practice Being Uncomfortable

Despite what you may have heard, creativity is a skill that you can hone. It just takes dedicated time and effort to improve. So how in the world do you practice being “creative”?

By practicing being uncomfortable, that’s how! In this sense, being uncomfortable refers to displacing yourself from your norms and challenging yourself to seek out new experiences. If you’ve ever done this, you know that the unknown can sometimes put you face-to-face with your fears.

However, if you push through this little bit of uneasiness, you are bound to learn something new. In turn, these new experiences give you more ideas to pull from when working on your next project.

Our Creative Coordinator, John Tucker, took this to the extreme by moving to Italy for a year after graduating high school. This experience helped him find a whole new side of himself. While living abroad might not be for everyone, there are several others ways to step outside of your comfort zone.

Try one of these simple things to gain a new perspective:

  • Visit a new part of town
  • Try a new kind of food
  • Take a road trip
  • Watch a new genre of film
  • Visit a museum
  • Go to a concert

2. Take Risks

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd

Just because your idea is “new” or “different” doesn’t mean that it will be successful. However, you shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes or sharing every idea that comes to mind. By bringing up these “bad ideas” early in the process, you can avoid being distracted by them as the project progresses. They could even spark a better idea once they are out in the wild.

If you do make a mistake, know that it’s just the beginning of the creative process. Building on mistakes will help you find something successful in the future. Moreso, recovering gracefully from failures is one of the best skills you can have as a creative.

Follow these simple steps to learn how to take risks and fail faster:
Evaluate what didn’t work and why.
Consider if this idea could be the right solution for a different problem.
Use this to inspire your next idea.

One of the best examples of a failure becoming a success is the Wii and the Wii U. The Wii was an innovative gaming console that inspired a whole new category of gaming. The next generation, the Wii U, wasn’t quite as impressive and the number of units sold was far below what Nintendo hoped. The lessons that Nintendo learned with this failed product led them to create one of their most successful products yet, the Switch.

3. Use Design Thinking to Empathize

Oftentimes, designers get caught up in the look and feel of their project and lose sight of its purpose. “Design Thinking” brings the problem that you are trying to solve front and center of the design.

There are five steps to the Design Thinking process.

Empathize

A marketer’s job is first and foremost to solve problems. But sometimes, marketers have no experience with the problems that they’re asked to solve. This lack of empathy for a problem can lead to a creative block. To combat this, marketers can observe and engage with real people who do have experience with the problem that they’re solving. This first-hand observation is a direct way to develop empathy for a problem. Empathy is one of the greatest tools marketers have to make sure they are designing for their audience, not for themselves.

Define

After you have spent time developing empathy with your audiences, it’s time to organize all of the information and analyze it. The goal here is to accurately define the problem. Don’t start solving yet. Let the problem settle in before putting any ideas down on paper.

Ideate

Throw out every idea that you have. Good, bad, new or old. Every idea has its place in a brainstorm with your team. Be sure to explain the problem and the audience in a way that your team can empathize with them as well. The more perspectives you can include, the better the end product will be.

Prototype

After you have all of your ideas down, it’s time to start trying things out. Create a scaled down version of your project that you can share with a select group of people.

Test

Show your work to your coworkers, friends and family. Gather their perspectives and revisit any of the previous steps to create the perfect product.

One of the most well-known examples of this process was the iPod. After spending a good amount of time with people who were using MP3 Players, defining the problems associated with it, and coming up with a few ideas, Apple designed a prototype that helped them solve a problem they never knew they had. This revolutionized the portable music industry.
Morning Pages
The hardest part of being creative is getting through all the non-creative thoughts that float around in our minds. Our Senior Creative Strategist, Arlyn Stotts, explained a process that he uses to purge distracting thoughts so that his inner creativity can shine through. He learned the process called Morning Pages from a book called “The Artist’s Way” and has been using it for some time.
How do you do it?
Snag three pieces of paper and sit down in a quiet space first thing in the morning. Start writing and don’t stop until all three of your pages are filled. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or even if what you are writing makes sense.
What do you write?
Write whatever comes to mind. No really, just keep your hand moving. Arlyn started with “I don’t know what to write. I don’t know what to write.” He found that it’s tough to fill three full pages with this, and other thoughts eventually came to mind.
What do you do with these pages?
These pages are not a journal.

You might end up with thoughts and feelings of your day, but don’t feel like you need to write about personal topics or about one thing.

Don’t look at these pages again for at least three weeks. Don’t show them to anyone else. These pages are just there to clear your mind of your inner critic and allow you to stretch beyond your surface-level thoughts.

Morning pages became a type of meditation for Arlyn. They allowed his logical brain to give his artistic brain room to play. They became a way for him to solve his daily problems without fear or negativity getting in the way.

These four different techniques help our creative team strive for greatness and creativity every day. Not all of these work for everyone, so try them all and see which one helps you stretch your creative muscles.