One of the ways I like to see strategy students improve at the Brandcenter is in their willingness to think creatively. There’s a lot written about how we are all born creative, only to have it beaten out of us in school.
We see the results of this first-hand.
Students often arrive for their first year programmed to fill Word documents, as many as possible, with fancy words, as over-written as possible.
The hard work is deprogramming that behavior. Getting them to think again isn’t easy, especially in the context of students who are learning to be art directors and copywriters — the traditional creatives of advertising.
It becomes a zero sum game.
They are creative. We are strategists.
They have ideas. We write documents.
They have been anointed. We do research.
All of which is nonsense. It becomes a comparison mindset fueled by job title and output. And that becomes self-reinforcing, as per Kathryn P. Haydon:
When you’re in a comparison mindset, you inadvertently diminish your own creative ability. You envision Picasso and your highly divergent friends on a pedestal that you cannot possibly ascend. All you can see is yourself standing in the shadows on the lowest rung of your tiny ladder. Creativity looks so far off, so unattainable.
Society has perpetuated the myth that creativity has to be comparative, and if comparative, mutually exclusive: “If Picasso is creative then I am not.” This reasoning is incorrect.
Traditional creatives might be more creative. Some of them won’t be. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
The point is this:
Strategy isn’t about research. It’s about solving problems.
Solving problems, by it’s very nature, is about creativity. It’s about having ideas.
Yes, research should inform those ideas.
But so should observations and movies and culture and life and the world.
Yes, strategic ideas need to be grounded, but they also have to be good enough to to inspire further actions, behaviors or other outputs.
This is where the best strategy comes from, and ultimately, it’s how the best strategists help to make great creative work.
So stop hedging. Pull your head out of your PowerPoint deck, and start having some ideas.