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Fostering creativity through leadership

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We live in a world where every brand and company is seeking to find new and innovative ways to define your product, service or company. This has become a “fast follow” culture where leaders and executives are exploring new ideas or following the success of others, shifting strategy and trying to keep up with the ever changing environment. However, this is rooted in a lack of foundational strategy, creative culture, and a lack of vision from within – instead the vision is focused outward in hopes of always being seen as successful simply by quickly shifting and trying to stay relevant.

The alternative is to dive deep into how creativity manifests itself – not just visually through art, design, and brand identity – but how every facet of your company is creative and the cultural shift to open creativity will make your brand the one that everyone else wants to follow and emulate.

Leaders, managers, executives have gotten to where they are in their careers by owning and controlling situations. Taking charge. Being leaders. Moving things forward. They are the drivers of business, but when all the business models have been handled and innovation is the next step for growth, leadership tends to use old tactics of driving solutions and taking control into an area that needs more curation, care and a different approach to transform the company. The next level of growth is through inspiration, innovation and creativity.

This is where the difficult growth happens because it is a place of uncertainty.

However, over the course of my career working for major brands, executing on large budget creative projects and leading teams of creatives, I have come to recognize a few truths about how to create certainty within the uncertain space.

Leaders are constantly caught in the oscillation of trying new ideas, hoping the new ideas will work for them because the ideas worked for another company. Execute. Push. Drive. Lead. And then leaders wonder why it fails or doesn’t propel them further than anticipated.

A creative solution working for one company will not work for your company.

You must be willing to take a step back, re-evaluate, and approach this part of your company with a new perspective to transform yourself and your people. Creativity within a brand is a collaborative effort that captures the human spirit from within, and moves it beautifully into existence. This approach will resonate with your audience where brand loyalty, love of your company, and profits will be the results.

My words here are meant to explore how you can start to understand and define a foundation for your brand in those uncertain places of creativity. How you can move forward in confidence knowing that you have a foundation. A measuring tool. A benchmark to allow creativity to foster within your company. This will boost morale, productivity, innovation and inspire your employees and your customers. Foundation is the key. This is the first step in any engagement I use to work with any client.

The foundation provides certainty. It reduces risk. It creates trust and helps to serve as a tool for moving forward rapidly with confidence.

This article is meant to share some insight on defining this process and hopefully give you some clarity about this process.

This article is about breaking down creativity from three aspects: art, design and branding – followed by how you can apply principles of creativity to your company. This application, if done through the sentiments acknowledged here, will begin to foster innovation, inspire employees, delight your customers and increase your profits.

Through my work with companies such as Disney, Netflix, Apple, ESPN, Obama for America, REI, Media Arts Lab, and multiple creative agencies over the years. Understanding the process of large companies while maintaining the spirit of innovation, disruption and reinvention through my work, I have taken my learnings and combined them with my internal creative approach to define a new process that has garnered exponential results for my clients.

This is a ripple effect of creativity.

Communication from creative to audience

Creativity is a deep form of communication of the human spirit. The greatest brands in the world have captured the human spirit and have inspired others through creating beautiful products, communicating inspiring ideas, and serving humanity to help and heal at the depths of our existence. Creativity connects us by allowing the spirit of the human intentions to share, inspire and innovate through these efforts.

We acknowledge and accept that every person is capable of creativity. And those people work for you or with your company. If you want to move your business forward in inspiring ways, you don’t need to hire the best people, you need to foster a new kind of creative spirit within the people you already work with.

There are different ways that creativity can be manifested. Art, design, and branding are an organization’s biggest platforms for utilizing creativity. However, accounting, business, marketing and every facet of your business model requires an acknowledgement that creativity exists throughout your entire company, even in those mundane jobs, there lives creativity. The brands that everyone tries to emulate have captured this spirit. They have dug in deep within people and have resurfaced allowing creativity to guide the progression of a company.

Creativity is usually measured by how someone feels when they receive some form of creativity. Does it evoke the desired emotion from the artist? Does it move the human spirit in new ways? You, like everyone else, have probably been on the receiving end of some really amazing creativity.

Let’s break down a few forms of creativity that effect your company and understand how those are used to build a brand. Below are three sections around art, design and branding.

Art is a one-way communication

Art is a singular vision manifested and put forth into the world. It becomes a one-way dialogue with a sender and a receiver. The artist sends his message into the world and hopes the reception is well liked and enjoyed. The value of that is determined by the price the work sells for, or how many people love the work. The artist continues to create this work and put it into the world from a one-way communication approach. The audience either loves it, hates it, or ignores it.

Painting, sculpture, music, fine art, etc are examples of this work.

In business, we sometimes take the Art approach to communication in hopes of positioning and transforming your brand. But this approach should be defined after some foundational pieces have been laid to determine if this is appropriate. It might work for some, but to adopt it and use it without exploring deeper is dangerous.

Design is a two-way communication

However, in design, this is not the case. Design is about putting a message or product into the world, revisiting the product, gathering feedback, revising, testing and making sense based on a dialogue. The sender puts the work into the world, the receiver provides feedback through testing, analytics, success/failure, qualitative and quantitative information. The design then continues to solve problems, identify new problems to solve or become more efficient at the current problems the work is solving.

Websites, e-commerce, mobile apps, social networks, etc are examples of this work.

In business, we have determined that design is a powerful part of a tool to build a way of reaching customers and building our brand. However, the design needs to be executed in a way that resonates with the core foundational values of the company instead of trying to follow trends, or mimic competitors. These values can only be discovered by diving deeper into the foundational elements of your brand. Once defined, the approach can be better determined and executed to meet the business goals.

Brand identity is a collaborative two-way communication

Branding is when the internal work is built on a balance of art and design strategy formed by a collaborate effort and then put into the world. Leading with an openness to send this collaborative effort between business, creative, design to pursue product, marketing, financial and business efforts. The brand becomes it’s own product balanced between art and design. Sent into the world as a sum of the companies parts, executed through art and design (visual, written and creative efforts) – the brand creates an inspiring and delightful dialogue.

A holistic brand strategy that encompasses the eco-system of design, communication, messaging and innovation to inspire your customers will generate massive returns in the long term.

Creativity within an organization

By understanding the different ways of how creativity is communicated into the world, we can look at how our leadership and the role of business can become an internal part to the success of creativity within an organization.

As leaders, creativity must be facilitated, celebrated and manifested from every part of the organization. Leadership has a vital role in this and must be willing to lead the way to foster a deeper creative spirit. This celebration of creativity will strengthen your organization, foster deeper relationships, create a place of openness and safety, allow for new ideas, inspire innovation, find new ways for efficiency and differentiate your brand in the marketplace. All of these combined will help your business grow from your bottom line to your influence in a marketplace. It is the key to your success.

To allow great creative to shine through, you must be willing to give up creative control within your organization. And by that, I mean that you must be willing to allow the collectiveness of creativity to be open and flourish.

The groundwork

Before I go any further, I must lay some groundwork. You see, opening up creativity to manifest itself doesn’t mean that any and every idea should get made, new ideas for business pursued or changing your entire structure of your organization. No. Not at all.

In fact, I would very much stress that the foundation is about being very selective to scrutinize and approach your brand from an incredibly objective perspective. The notion here is that you must be very critical to hone your brand and company identity to a focus that cannot be shaken. Let me just reiterate for importance on this: you absolutely must be willing to be incredibly objective and critical of how you define your brand to create an honest focus that will never be shaken and used to define exactly who you are and where you want to go.

There is no room for excess in the foundation. The excess can be explored through creative efforts.

There needs to be a foundational layer to measure creative efforts across your organization. This foundation will serve as a guide to allow new ideas, creative efforts and innovative thinking to flourish, while always maintaining alignment to your foundation. This foundational guide should serve as the measuring tool for implementing, creating and measuring these new efforts.

The key pieces of this foundation include an in-depth look into your company’s brand, company values, goals, awareness, efficiency, target audience, competitors, features, benefits, messaging and mission statement. From here, you can begin to measure new creative efforts, company efficiency, goals and fostering the environment in which these manifest through a new creative culture.

The next step is to in-take all of these parts of your company, identify them, acknowledge them honestly and transparently. You must be honest with where you are and where you want to go. It will be the roadmap, however, new creative efforts will be the new vehicle to get you there and bring everyone along for the ride.

By having a deep understanding of culture and seeing where the future of society is moving, you can then decipher a new approach to creativity. Looking through a forward looking lens of metamodernism and combining creative efforts to alignm with the foundation of your company, you will be moving into a new space that will have so much momentum and effectiveness, your vision and brand will begin to be something you could have never imagined possible.

The key is foundation, alignment, creative openness, giving up control and seeing the roadmap to your cultural destination.

The relevancy is in the approach.

The approach is through a metamodern philosophy.

Metamodern approach

I’ve written on metamodernism in the past. However, I think it’s only fair to provide some context within this post to clarify such a new idea to culture and creativity that has not been understood publicly at mass. In short, metamodernism is the cultural shift of what happens to our society after post-modernism (and it’s predecessor modernism).

It is the emergence of defining our grand narrative of the society we currently exist. It is the simultaneous oscillation of sincerity and irony happening at the same time within our lives. We are caught within these elements from every facet of politics, religion, art, economics, etc. Somewhere between, we try and deipcher and make sense of the world in our own lives while also having a greater concern for humanity as a whole. Back and forth, like a pendulum, we swing. The truth of this notion lies within understanding and accepting that the message of the future is having the focus to communicate within both sincerity and irony at the same time. This will transform your brand from the old ways of thinking of post-modern advertising tactics, archaic ways of doing business, and following the models that worked for you up until now. You’ve been trying to make sense of how to move forward, but every clever, witty, trendy idea you have subscribed to has failed. Metamodernism creates a new framework to move your business to the future.

I have personally developed frameworks and tools to help my clients take their brands to this new place of culture. A reinvention of seeing the world. A new form of disruption. And a strategy to innovate. From diving deep into the foundations of a company, redefining the brand, understanding the audience, and mapping all parts of a business to create a metamodern approach for the future.

Keys to effective creative culture

All of this being said, here are my keys to being an effective leader fostering creativity that will strengthen your organization. These will help create new innovative ways of building your brand, business, and profits.

  • You must always use a foundation (as shown above) as the measuring tool
  • You must allow new ideas to surface
  • You must allow others to explore and experiment
  • You must allow those who can execute to seek new ideas
  • You must allow ownership of the brand to be a collaborative effort
  • You must remove your personal bias and let the culture of your company create
  • You must accept that as a business leader, you are an artist of people and culture
  • You must allow for exploration of new visual languages
  • You must be an artist of creating collaborative, safe places for fostering creativity and innovation that aligns to your company foundation
  • You must be willing to serve and lead simultaneously
  • You must have confidence and trust in those around you
  • You must allow yourself the courage to fail
  • You must allow others to fail
  • You must allow conversation to foster new ideas and relationships
  • You must let those who specialize do their job accordingly
  • You must allow problems to be fully explored before diagnosis
  • You must allow the process to shape the creative results

Closing thoughts

Allowing for creativity to express itself within your company and measuring it to foundational truths of your brand will breed success. From creating openness within your organization, collaboration with employees, a two-way dialogue with your customers and looking to the future of your brand, market, and product/service, the return on this practice will impact your company brand value.

By taking a step back, evaluating your brand from a holistic foundational strategy, you can design your entire brand to differentiate itself to where no one will be able to compete with the uniqueness and authenticity your brand holds in the marketplace. This differentiation will resonate throughout your company. The foundation will serve you as a guiding tool to measure any and all creative, design, communication or brand aspects moving forward.