You’ve heard the phrase, or perhaps you’ve said it yourself to explain behavior or interaction with graphic artists, video editors, illustrators, writers or designers in your company or team: “They’re such a creative type.”
The emotional shorthand doesn’t require further discussion because it’s based on a fabrication that’s existed for decades—maybe centuries. The myth endures that creative types are neurotic, overly sensitive artists—or worse, that they don’t understand or care about business. As a result, it’s all too easy to dismiss their potential contributions and explain whatever they do with a non-specific, narrow description. The myth has legs, as marketers say.
In a 2016 article in The Atlantic magazine, cognitive scientist Scott Barry Kaufman zeroed in on this myth of neuroticism, addressing an opinion piece that cited “a study of advertising-industry employees showing that those working in creative roles tend to score significantly higher on neuroticism than employees in ‘noncreative roles.’ They also cite a study showing that people in creative professions have a higher risk of psychiatric illness and suicide.”
But Kaufman reported that he and his colleagues did research of their own, involving more than 1,000 participants, and found no definitive link between neuroticism and creativity.
Summarizing, Kaufman wrote, “The average correlation between neuroticism and creative achievement was zero. In fact, we found that the only personality trait that consistently predicted creative achievement across the arts and sciences was openness to experience.”
Openness to experience is a basic personality trait denoting receptivity to new ideas and new experiences, according to Psychology Today.
“It is one of the five core personality dimensions that drive behavior—known as the five-factor model of personality, or the Big 5. People with high levels of openness are more likely to seek out a variety of experiences, be comfortable with the unfamiliar, and pay attention to their inner feelings more than those who are less open to novelty.”
But let’s go back to that dismissal of creative types. The fact that how they see the world makes it easy to shrug off their potential contributions to your marketing effort beyond an adlob or finished campaign.
Many writers and designers are highly intuitive types, utilizing a form of information processing found in only 25% of the population. Where most people see things literally and linearly as a collection of facts—that’s a white, ceramic, 12-ounce coffee cup—creatives instead see symbols and metaphor. It’s not simply a coffee cup, but a vessel, container, start to the day, source of energy, handle, hammer, hand-warmer, flowerpot or the second-stage of a Saturn V rocket.
This lateral thinking can be powerful, making seemingly random associations and always asking, “what if?” It’s also potentially confusing to those who don’t harness it to the same degree. But when you’re looking for a way to break through the clutter, to gain a new perspective, that’s where these intuitive and creative types can shine. There are lots of resources to nurture creative thinking in every member of your team, but why not tap into the creativity that’s already at hand? And if you hired those creatives, don’t you have proof that they’re good at lateral thinking?
Here are 5 ways to make sure you get the most out of the creatives on your teams:
#1 – Understand Them the Way You’d Understand Your Target Audience or Clients
Different creative types work differently. That may seem simplistic, but it bears repeating. When you work with creatives’ strengths and use their differing powers to boost your team’s success, that success can be astonishing.
“The best chance at the best idea comes from having a well-curated team with a variety of skills needed to solve the problem at hand. Understanding how your teammates process information and make creative choices is the key to curating this mix and collaborating successfully,” according to Jason Lankow at ColumnFiveMedia, who offers an insightful and multilayered look at different creative types.
Lankow identifies the following creative types:
The Considerate Visionaries are optimists who want loose ends between ideas tied up. They don’t fear the unknown and are more than willing to take a leap of faith. They stay on task until a project is complete and connect the dots between the team’s thought processes and their own. Considerate Visionaries help meet tight deadlines and anticipate where there could be potential roadblocks, but work on the fly rather than adhering to a solid project plan, or the rest of the team’s blueprints.
For Considerate Visionaries to stay considerate, keep conversations with them in the present—not what’s expected over the next week, month or quarter.
The Agile Strategists can be characterized as deliberate, analytical and critical thinkers with a one-track focus on identifying problems. They can keep a long train of thought in their head and will see the holes and missing pieces during a planning or brainstorming session. This ability to reveal blind spots can be frustrating, particularly when Agile Strategists disregard or disrespect the work it has taken the rest of the team to get to this point.
According to Lankow, an Agile Strategist is always looking for impending challenges and anticipates complications that will knock a project off its timeline and will also have a sequence of initiatives in mind for the next six to 12 months. Don’t leave loose ends in a project if you don’t want an Agile Strategist to pull on them.
The Resourceful Builder is spontaneous and analytical, critiquing flaws in the logic of any plan. Resourceful Builders are fueled by a desire to see things through and accomplish tasks in an enthusiastic manner. Include RBs in the early stages of a project to help them increase a sense of ownership in the final product and they will cheerlead the team to victory.
They want to refine details when provided with a strong plan foundation and want to get in the trenches and create and execute according to the project proposal. They are the puter-outers of fires, but can take on too much and then complain they didn’t get the time to do top-quality work.
The Experimental Maximizer is the free spirit of creatives. Experimental Maximizers’ introduction of creative ideas can seem less structured, as they will try something new without having all the details figured out, which is necessary to take novel leaps as a group. They are comfortable with failing and learning (they don’t see it that way!) and will try anything once. They can connect dots between seemingly disparate ideas.
Experimental Maximizers’ creativity can generate grand and wild ideas late in the inning that can compel other team members to feel like their work up to that point is undervalued or belittled. Keep them on-track and on-topic as best you can and offer only straightforward objectives.
Understanding different creative types isn’t all that different from understanding diverse people. And, of course, there are other creative type profiles that might make more sense to you, such as these from Adobe.
The point is to view your creatives not as monoliths of sensitivity or fussy behavior, but as creative brains that can help your marketing or business ideas triumph.
#2 – Provide Defined Objectives and All the Inputs
The easiest way to waste time is to concept without a clear purpose. Some managers and clients will try to avoid stifling creativity and let the conversation roam. You know, the “no ideas are bad” starter sentence. Remember, for creatives, one idea quickly leads to another, and without an objective (and goal!) to focus the effort, there’s no telling how far off-target you’ll end up. If you need a solution to increase click-thru, say it. If you need it to increase sales by 35%, lay that out there. Those become the sun that the ideas will orbit.
Don’t be afraid to provide creative types lots of relevant information—that’s the framework for the ideation process. And give it early. Think of it as baking a cake: you can’t mix everything, put the cake in the oven and then just add the salt at the end and expect it to be delicious. All the elements need to come together at the beginning so they can do their job and be accounted for in the result. What may seem like a small omission early could have a major impact later.
If you have inputs, share them. And if there are limitations, which there almost always are, share those, too.
(Come to think of it, these are some of the basics of a good creative brief.)
#3 – Give It Time
Creativity isn’t just the ability to immediately spit out ideas. It’s a process. From the outside, it appears to involve a lot of things that don’t look like problem solving. Creative types observe, daydream, read, consider, walk around, change their perspectives, argue both sides—all part of the process that helps them drive to solutions. Be sure to allow your creatives time to explore the question before providing their answer.
But a school of thought also exists that says endless creative freedom can be paralyzing, so it’s important to find balance.
“Though most people think that unlimited resources are what fuel innovation, the best ideas are born from creative constraints,” according to Forbes. “In his TedEd animation short, Brandon Rodriguez explains that any project is restricted by many factors, such as the cost, what materials you have at your disposal, and the unbreakable laws of physics. These factors are called creative constraints, and they’re the requirements and limitations we have to address in order to accomplish a goal.”
Find the line, but trust your creatives.
#4 – Trust There’s a Reason
Creatives are problem solvers and if they offer an idea, it’s because they believe it fills a need. Why that image? Why that headline? Why that persona? Chances are there’s more to it than meets the eye—including deep research and reflection. Ask if you’re not sure of the rationale, but be ready for a metaphorical answer vs. a literal one. The leaders who will get the best work out of a creative (or anyone on their teams) are the one who trust creatives and do not stifle them.
#5 – Prepare for Discomfort
As someone wise put it: If you’re afraid of the answers, don’t ask the questions. Creatives view the world differently, so if you’re sincerely wanting more of the status quo, you’re going to be disappointed by what they bring you. There’s a real chance what they propose will make you uncomfortable, which can be transformative. What’s comfortable is ordinary. Every great innovation had a moment when someone could have said no, but was smart enough to ignore or embrace the discomfort and give the proposal or design the go-ahead.
Of course, creativity is messy. There’s no guarantee that using these tips will help your team nail the right idea at the right time—every time—but they will certainly stack the deck in your favor, increasing efficiency, as well as results.
Besides, understanding the best ways to utilize your marketing creative team is its own innovative step in the right direction.
Want more ideas on getting the best out of your creatives and letting them shine? Call or email us to start a (creative) conversation.
The common myth is that creative types are neurotic, overly sensitive artists who may not understand or care about business.
No, research has found no definitive link between neuroticism and creativity. Openness to experience is a more consistent predictor of creative achievement.
Openness to experience is a personality trait denoting receptivity to new ideas and experiences, making individuals more likely to seek out a variety of experiences and be comfortable with the unfamiliar.
Understand their unique strengths and work styles, provide clear objectives and inputs, give them time to explore ideas, trust their reasoning, and be prepared for unconventional solutions.
Enhance efficiency by providing clear objectives, early inputs, and allowing time for the creative process, while also trusting your team’s expertise.