I got an interesting phone call two weeks, from a good agency - nearly global, a big player in a niche category. If this remarkable agency was a home builder, you'd think of them as making well-made but bland, uncharacteristic houses.
I got the call because they heard of me from friends and they wanted some creative 'oomf.' (Their words, not mine.)
Not so ironically, they quickly demonstrated their uncreative self in the interview process. It was the interviewer per so, but her questions that gave it away.
At the end of our meeting, when she asked me if I had any questions, I asked if she was ever going to ask any creative questions.
"Like what?" she said.
She gave me that dazed-glazed look that P.R. people get when they don't know what express to make. (Do they teach it at college?) "Why, I'd go get myself a Venti Latte from Starbucks."
Hmm. Let me summarise. She'd buy legal, mind-altering drugs and have a Taster's Choice moment. I have nothing against coffee (just ask Starbucks, or my corporate MasterCard), but caffeine won't make her more creative, just more jittery.
Herein lies the problem for organisations trying to instill a stronger internal creative culture. Judging by American television, you'd be forgiven for thinking Americans love pharmaceuticals. But, being 'more' creative isn't about swallowing something. The spark is not external.
Yes, of course there is a part of creativity that requires external focus: deep-diving into the facts, articulating the problem, discovering attributes and elements of the situation, talking and learning from the audience, discovery and exploration of the world in general. But even these tasks are taking external information and making it internal.
At the end of the day, creativity is something that comes from inside. I know this will sound like a Oprah-ism, but being creativity is a passion. Hugh MacLeod calls it a 'drive." Donald MacKinnon calls it "behavior, not talent." Call it a hunger, a desire, or a passion. It's an internal struggle not just to make something, but to make something else. To paraphrase a Chinese proverb, if the external part of creativity is creative food for the brain, perhaps the internal focus is food for the heart.
Apologies again for the tardiness is writing. It's good to be back. Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing your thoughts.
Photo from Lifehacker.com.