The Search for the Fountain of Creativity

Every year, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity grants Lion awards to the most effective and disruptive advertising campaigns. In the spirit of healthy competition, agencies and brands spend all year looking for the next new idea.

In light of Cannes, I’d like to talk about innovation and creativity. Innovation is a highly desired commodity, and out of the box thinking is constantly asked for. We are endlessly chasing after creativity. 

We spend our youthful years spewing out ideas, unafraid and untainted by the limits of reality, and then we spend our academic years learning to take ideas from our boundless minds and share them with others. Many of us enter careers where we pour our hearts and souls into what we do. Day in and day out, creative people give most or all of their creative energy to their work. Some people burn through their creativity, and some seem to be continuous fountains of new ideas and visions. 

To me, innovation is merely creativity in action, kind of how physics is math in action. I believe creativity and a drive to bring creativity to fruition brings innovation. Creativity is an endlessly renewable resource—and yet it can suffer if it is not nourished.

From my observations, experiences, and numerous hours sifting through articles and TED Talks, I would say a lack of inspiration, repetitive work, and self-editing cut down on our attempts to maintain and grow in our creative selves.

Being inspired is much like being happy—time never seems to move slowly enough for us to fully enjoy it. During times of happiness, people take photos to remember those happy moments. During times of inspiration, people jot notes and scribble doodles to remember their brilliant ideas that are rushing in at a million miles a second. 

Both happiness and inspiration are impossible to force. But, I do believe inspiration can be fostered.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it inspires my work and passion for bettering the world. We should be curious about the new things that happen in our lives instead of just ignoring them. We can be curious about everything. 

Curiosity starts slow, and soon it becomes the main focus—whether you know it or not. It’s easy to wonder ‘what’ when something new comes along. It’s even easier to revert back to your five year old self and just ask ‘why’. Follow the path of a preschooler for a few minutes during your day: they are the most inspired and curious of people. Answer your own questions and continue to ask why. Allow yourself to see things a new after so many hours of seeing the same things.

As for seeing the same things: repetitive work can eat into our creative minds. Seasons and years of doing the same kind of work for the same client creates the same kind of frustration for the same person. There’s a lot of ‘sameness’ happening. This creates expertise, as the people who faces the same challenges overcome them time and time again. It also creates people who are bored and uninspired. Experts are needed, especially if a client has specific tastes, but few people are happy never changing. 

One way to combat such a situation is to unlock the interests of your team members. Swap your experts into new teams for brainstorm sessions. Put people from different departments into the mix for a day of ideation. Fresh eyes will bring new ideas, and teaching is the most effective way to break down a problem. A win-win for all participants! 

To face this issue as a lone soldier facing inspiration woes, it could be beneficial to try out the “rubber duck” method used by software programmers. Very often, programmers explain their code verbally to a rubber duck to spot issues and create solutions. We could easily do the same with a rubber duck, pen, teddy bear or any other office toy to help talk through new idea problems. 

Another solution for the single solver situation could be immersing ourselves in a new world. Find a new skill completely unrelated to what you do or your issue. Learn the skill and get your creative and curious energy flowing before coming back to your brainstorm board.

Being curious and fighting ‘sameness’ may seem time consuming. The reality of it is that creativity is time consuming. As Meredith Norwood, a designer, said, “To some degree, to be creative you have to be selfish.” To me, creativity is worth the time I invest in it.

The last hurdle to creative flow is us. I mean, self-editing. 

Self-editing is when we have an idea which skips across our mind and we shut it down before it gets a chance to propagate. Sometimes we shut down ideas for being too silly, for being unrelated, for being expensive, and so on and so forth. We could be stifling our creativity by doing so. By self-editing less, not only would you be able to see your train of thought and better understand yourself, you may also find some ideas are not as absurd as previously assumed. 

In order to self-edit less, write down all your ideas. As simple as that seems, just write down all ideas. Doodle if needed. Take your ideas and run them against a friend, a coworker, a boss, or your new rubber duck. This will give you a chance to take ideas apart, mesh parts together, and come up with something different and brilliant. The best part about fighting self-editing is it’s the least time consuming and easiest to start right now. 

Being creative may seem impossible, but as one of my professors once said, “impossible is merely I’m Possible.” Feed your curiosity, fight ‘sameness’, and believe in your ideas. You’re brilliant, and your ideas are too.


ATHENA YU

Social Media Community Manager Intern
Collector of fountain pens. Master of the art of the handshake. Believes business can do good, and intends to market to better the world.


ALICE BROWNELL

Copywriter
Copywriting and concert fanatic. Unrepentant seltzer water and sushi addict. Was actually the kid who brought stray animals home.