Let’s Change the Way We Think About Creativity in Marketing

February 15, 2018 Nicola Brown

boy running with musical instrument

Do you ever sit at your desk and think: If only I were one of those creative types—one of those people for whom creativity in marketing seems to come effortlessly, great ideas tumbling with force out of perpetually inspired heads. A quick scan of the top campaigns of the moment is enough to make any marketer feel intimidated, faced with the challenge of trying to match the creative geniuses of our time.

Why is creativity so hard to capture and harness? Maybe it’s because we’ve been thinking about it in the wrong way.

Rather than think of creativity as a form of genius, researchers and psychologists have a very different understanding of what this in-demand skill actually looks like most of the time for people like you, me, your client, your cabbie, your catsitter . . . you get the idea. Psychologists divide creativity into two main types: big-C creativity and little-c creativity.

What’s the Difference Between Big-C and Little-c Creativity?

While big-C creativity is the domain of the Mozarts and Picassos of the world, whose productive output is eminent and lasting, little-c creativity is everyday creativity, the kind of creativity that the average person participates in all the time. In this little-c conceptualization of creativity, it’s less a fixed personality trait that belongs to some and not to others and more a mindset accessible by all.

According to psychology researchers James Kaufman and Ronald Beghetto at the University of Connecticut, little-c creativity has been useful for addressing common misconceptions about creativity: “Too much of a focus on Big-C leads to the ideas that only certain people can be creative, the only creativity that matters is that of the Big-C kind, or that creativity involves negative forms of deviance (e.g., drug use, mental illness)”—often highlighted by the trope of the tortured artist. Shifting the focus to little-c also “helps underscore the important (and, at times, essential) role that creativity plays in everyday life and points to the importance of identifying and nurturing creativity in everyday settings such as schools and classrooms, the workplace, and the home and social settings.”

Tapping into creativity in marketing isn’t about saying, OK, now I need to create a masterpiece. It’s about taking the small steps to solve the immediate problem in front of you. Having a new idea, or even just seeing an old idea differently, are already giant leaps in your creative mind. Because creative insight tends to happen suddenly rather than following a logical progression, any of these small creative “wins” could be the catalyst for the ultimate creative breakthrough.

Sandeep Gautam, writing for Psychology Today, actually believes that studying and practicing little-c creativity will eventually lead us to understand the mechanisms and factors that underlie the enigma of genius.

infant hand on adult hand

Image attribution: Liane Metzler

How to Activate Your Little-c Creativity

Have a Positive Attitude, Even Towards Failure

Researchers have known for a long time that positive mood facilitates creative problem solving. It can be hard to stay optimistic when you’re hitting a creative wall, but viewing challenges and failures as learning opportunities instead can build your skills as a creative marketer. Find ways to remind yourself of where your passion comes from when you feel stuck.

Embrace Uncertainty and Spontaneity

Successfully navigating a demanding creative environment involves embracing uncertainty and spontaneity. Those who successfully navigate this environment are both ready to take advantage of new insights and able to let go of ideas in the culling process. Question your instinctive responses; you may be acting on a bias that’s blinding you to an opportunity. Uncertainty is the kind of environment in which creativity thrives, so push yourself to accept discomfort.

Put Concerted Effort and Persistence into Everything You Do

One of the most important keys to activating the creative skills you already possess is persistence. Creativity, like any other skill, needs to be practiced to be honed. Be honest with yourself about the hard work that goes into a breakthrough—they are rarely as spontaneous as they may appear from an outside perspective.

Take Your Time Off as Seriously as Your Work

The flip side to persistence is knowing when to take a break. Breaks can introduce novelty into your thought process that can free you from the ingrained patterns of thinking that prevent you from moving forward. Breaks can be as short as five minutes to go grab a cup of coffee or as long as a vacation to give your mind and body a chance to refresh and reset. Prioritize this time in the same way you do your working time, because in the end, the breaks are just as important for creating your best work as the time spent in the office.

Cultivating little-c creativity is all about identifying the little steps you can take to get closer to your end goal. If we can stop thinking that we need to deliver genius-level marketing ideas and content from the get-go, we open up the mental space to actually activate the little-c processes that eventually lead there. When I feel myself hitting a wall in my work, I try to remember that creativity isn’t a gift that some people have a lot of and others do not; we all have the skills and capability to be creative when we have the confidence, motivation, and knowledge of how to apply ourselves properly.

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The post Let’s Change the Way We Think About Creativity in Marketing appeared first on The Content Standard by Skyword.

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