Fever Guest Blog; Claire Bridges shares her thoughts on creativity and The Apprentice

A few things The Apprentice tells us about creativity

Week 2 and the tumbleweed is already rolling through the Apprentice meeting rooms. The brainstorms show how dire idea generating in a group without some facilitation is. I run around 50 brainstorms a year and have tried it every which way. Here’s some things The Apprentice reminds me about getting the best out of a group.

1. EMBRACE CONFLICT

There’s an adage that always pops out at the start of brainstorms that ‘there’s no such thing as a bad idea’.  We all know that’s crap.

But (and it’s a really big but) the sentiment is right, because psychologists have shown that it’s not productive to try and generate ideas and evaluate them at the same time.

It’s harder said than done because we are judging machines – the minute an idea’s out of our mouth we’re attached to it or dismissing someone else’s. This is normal and good. It’s been termed ‘creative abrasion’ but it has to be managed or it’s just an ideas bun fight.

2. JUDGE IDEAS IN A FRAMEWORK

I find it helps if you lay out some ground rules at the start of the session. Let everyone know that the ideas will be judged in time but the session will be split out into generate and evaluate. By all means put your ideas through a murder board when they’re ready and when people have had their say.

Design firm IDEO is regularly voted one the most innovative companies in the world. Here are their five principles of brainstorming:

Stay focused on the topic
Encourage wild ideas
Defer judgment
Build on the ideas of others
One conversation at a time

Here’s how they do

What both teams did land was to identify a problem for the customer.

3. WORK OUT THE PROBLEM YOU’RE SOLVING FOR YOUR AUDIENCE.
 
“Find this simple problem / solution dynamic and you’ll have found your big marketing idea” says top ad land Creative Director Steve Harrison in his brilliant book ‘How to do better creative work.’

Dove’s pro-age deodorant recently kindly provided me with a problem I didn’t even know I had – not just smelly, now old underarms too.

4. WORK IN PAIRS

We all know ad agency creatives do this but it’s not so common in PR. A pair works really well if you need ideas in a hurry or want to really work an idea up in detail. Find someone who doesn’t think like you. Buddying up with someone also helps avoid the extraverts dominating. If you work in a bigger group you can break it down pairs and come back together to share ideas.

5. SEEK TO MAKE IT BETTER

“…we tend to edit out the bad so that we hear only what we want to hear . . . If, instead of seeking approval, you ask, ‘what’s wrong with it? How can I make it better?’ You are more likely to get a truthful, critical answer.” Legendary Saatchi & Saatchi creative director Paul Arden in his brilliant and inspiring  “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.”
 

6. MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE

Both teams ignored the focus group advice because they got carried away with their own ideas. In improv circles they have the idea of holding ideas lightly, generating as much material as possible to start with and then reviewing it later. You just have to remember to review it.

Claire Bridges is Founder of Now Go Create and Agency4Agencies and runs creativity training and brainstorm facilitation for brands and agencies including Pret A Manger, ITV & M&C Saachi. Claire is running an open training How To Be A Creative Ninja in London on 20th April and 29th June at the Future Gallery. Contact claire@nowgocreate.co.uk

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