We live in an age where everything is available on-demand - we get food delivered whenever we want, to wherever we want; We watch what we want, regardless of when it's on; we even get upset when our goods take longer than two hours to be delivered to our door.
But what about the things we cannot conjure on demand? Like creativity.
The Role of Creativity for Marketers
Creativity was once perceived as the luxury of artists. However, today, it is known that creativity permeates nearly every aspect of our lives and is a crucial part of any profession.
For a marketer, creativity is especially vital; A creative marketing strategy will tap into the emotions of potential customers and trigger a deeper need or desire that exceeds the superficial. It is these types of emotions that marketers want to create and recreate because it is these emotions that nurture brand relationships and enhance customer loyalty.
However, one cannot trigger creativity on demand. This is because creativity is spontaneous, and as opposed to analytical problem solving, it does not require a problem to solve. When looking at a problem, there's a clear-cut solution; You analyze it, break it down into smaller pieces, understand the elements involved, and begin attempting to solve it.
With marketing, whether working on something as specific as a niche campaign, or a more holistic strategic plan, thinking creatively is practically a job requirement. However, unlike traditional problem solving, in marketing, there are many answers and many ways to reach a single goal, and they all require creative thinking.
Right Temporal Lobe Luck
Everyone needs to be creative at some point or another. Unfortunately, this never happens when they need to be creative. You may need to think outside the box for days, only to devise a solution while taking a shower, or you might be thinking about where to put the laundry when a stroke of creative genius hits you.
There is a reason that creativity occurs when we least expect it – it is a question of which part of the brain is current being used. To trigger creativity, the right temporal lobe must be active. However, more often than not, the frontal lobe, which is the one responsible for motor movements, problem-solving, organization, and so on, is the one that is active. During this time, creativity is, by default, limited because the parts in our brain that must be active to trigger creativity are not in control.
The magic happens when analytical thinking is turned off, and the frontal lobe isn't in control. That is why some of the most creative ideas come to us when we're not focusing, not paying attention, and not goal oriented – when we do not focus on what we think we must focus on, we are finally able to see things differently... perhaps a little fuzzier, a little less organized, and a lot more outside the box.
Proactively Triggering Creativity in 4 steps
Nobody could have planned an apple to fall on Isaac Newton's head, and whoever drew Archimedes' bath did not intentionally fill it almost to the brim. But it did, and they did, and it changed the course of humanity.
While we cannot plan for eureka moments, we can do things to trigger creativity:
1. Be an expert in your domain
It is often thought that monumental Eureka moments randomly come to people without rhyme or reason. To think outside the box about something, you must first know everything inside the box - That is to say, you must be an expert, or at least have significant knowledge and the domain in which you hope to have a eureka moment.
To do that, you must spend a meaningful amount of time studying a specific field, having all the underlying information and strong control of the different methodologies within that field. Only then will you be able to think of something that has not been thought of before.
2. Get out of your expert domain
While it is important to do your homework, and be an expert in your domain, to trigger creativity proactively, you need to step away from your domain – namely - to relax. Stress, anxiety, and general overload trigger our fight-or-flight mechanism. When this is triggered, we innately do everything we can to avoid mistakes, and we must be open to making mistakes if we try to trigger creativity. If we rely on well-known methods of action and autonomous actions triggered by years of training and preparation, there will be no room for creativity.
Simply put, if we only do what we need to do to meet a goal, meet a deadline, or come up with a solution that we think somebody else already knows, we will approach every situation in a much more analytical way. This, in turn, will subdue the parts of the brain we need to trigger creativity.
Getting out of your expert domain sometimes means physically removing yourself. Scientists often recommend being in open spaces or near large bodies of water to stimulate relaxation. Not only does this reduce the stress and anxiety that triggers our fight or flight mechanism and makes us fear mistakes, but this expands attention and enables creativity to thrive.
At the very basic level, companies have realized this, and we have seen the workplace environment change. From traditional cubicles to creative spaces, from white fluorescent lights to rooms with couches and ping-pong tables, the workplace is changing to make the workforce more creative.
3. Embrace the fuzziness
Being outside, near a body of water, or even in a room with a ping-pong table, will not trigger your creativity if you are not open to it. Ironically, to be open to creativity, you need to be fuzzy about everything else. Many people focus best in the morning or the middle of the night and find the other parts of the day more laid back and less energetic. It is precisely during these times that creativity is more likely to occur.
If you want to trigger creativity, you need to be OK with not being on your "A" game, letting your brain wander, and not being in peak focus mode. During these fuzzy moments, your temporal lobe will kick into action, triggering the right parts of your brain for creativity.
4. Shut your eyes to open your mind
Creativity is a brain game, and the brain needs sleep to work best. To train your brain to use the creative parts more, you need to let your brain relax.
Sleep not only relaxes the brain but enables fixation forgetting, which is critical for creative thinking. Creativity is often blocked when we fixate on a specific subject, and sleep flushes that out and enables us to review the issue from a different perspective. Sleep also enables memory consolidation, reorganizing all the information processed during the day and making it accessible for non-analytical thinking that is necessary for creative thinking.
The future of marketing and its connection to creativity
While marketers may not be able to conjure up creativity on demand, they can do the right things to nurture the right environment where creativity can thrive.
As the founder of a marketing strategy platform, I find myself at the intersection of creativity and science – As a company, we are in the business of analyzing unquantifiable marketing activities, but as marketers, we are in the business of thinking beyond the data.
The truth is that marketers need a bit of both.
They need to know the data behind their activities, measure the value of their campaigns' effectiveness, compare results, quantify customer experience, and more because that is the way for them to become experts in their domain. But they also need to think creatively, and for that, there is no marketing strategy platform or AI-backed intelligence solution – there is only the human brain, the ability to learn, and the willingness to abandon what you know to think about the unknown.