Why Creativity Needs to Drive Agency Culture

Posted on August 10, 2010 by 4 Comments

In the communications industry, “creativity” carries a wide array of meaning and interpretation. All too often, the word is aligned with designers and marketing specialists who are responsible for creating a fancy brand or dreaming up a viral PR/ad campaign. Dangerous.

For agencies large and small, it’s all too easy to bucket out creativity without recognizing the crucial importance of infusing a creative mindset across an agency setting. In essence, creativity should never be thought of as that “thing” that you focus on only during client brainstorms. Similarly, creative resources should never be aligned with “X person” at your agency that is identified as THE creative head.

The reality is that each and every person at your agency has the potential to be creative. How your agency activates and leverages that potential as an asset to your client base and as an overall competitive threat is a key capability differentiator.

Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with David Mahlmann, VP of Ideation and Creative Insights at Waggener Edstrom to discuss his thoughts on infusing creativity into agency culture.

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I couldn’t agree more with David’s thoughts on the topic. Personally, it’s the creative nature of my job and the industry that keeps me excited each and every day. In the world of communications, there are no boundaries to how we craft messages, build narratives and develop compelling prompts to generate action.

Whether it’s the physical environment of your agency, your team’s approach to brainstorming or the unique way you pitch new business and market yourselves online, take a moment to think about the multitude of ways creativity can separate your agency from the pack.

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Deb Kapsner on August 10, 2010

This is a great reminder that great ideas come in all shapes and sizes (and departments!). In that same spirit, I think we also sensor ourselves too much in the brainstorming or ideation phase of a creative project. It’s hard to train your brain to say whatever comes to mind–and foster a work environment that fosters that process. Yes, we’ve all had a good laugh at a silly or ridiculous idea that we spout out–but you never know when a laughable idea will spark another idea that is spot-on. Great post!

Scott Meis on August 10, 2010

Good call Deb. Absolutely, especially with big groups in brainstorms, people tend to get a bit shy. To your point, once that door is opened and people begin to realize that brain flood is an avenue to ideas – that’s when all those little bubbles begin to come together. Thanks for reading!

Heather on August 11, 2010

Thanks for sharing this Scott and David! Totally agree. Love that we’re starting to think about creativity more as a toolkit than a personality trait associated with particular roles or teams.

It’s so often observed that as children we are all inherently creative, but our educational process through to the norms of corporate culture focus on building our analytical muscles at the expense of our creative ones. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have it in us – we just need to adopt the right mental “calisthenics” to build those creative muscles back up.

Andrea Platt Dyal on August 24, 2010

Building on Heather’s point, I think we tend to sensor our creativity by focusing too much on perceived pragmatic challenges, or by filtering through the lens of particular client or business sensitivities. Sometimes a great idea serves as a catalyst for more great ideas, and can have a contagious quality with clients, helping them see things from a new perspective. As long as we’re thinking smart (read analytically) about creative ideas, calculated risks can make for great rewards.

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