What are creativity techniques?
Creativity techniques are thinking tools or methods to generate ideas or solve problems. They are also useful to uncover insights (spot opportunities), and to create new or improve products, services as well as brands and businesses.
Why use creativity techniques?
In a world that is fast-moving, and changing, seeing the world through new lens, or finding new solutions to problems requires new ways of thinking. History also abounds with businesses that failed to grow, because they failed to see a problem coming or failed to think differently. For example, Kodak in analogue film, Blockbuster in video, and Woolworths and BHS in retail. So view ‘creativity’ as a business weapon.
What is creativity?
Creativity is simply a thinking process; it is both an art and a science. Appreciating different ways of thinking also helps lift the lid on how creativity works and better understand how to apply creative thinking to a business. Understanding the principles behind the techniques also helps inspire new creativity techniques or processes.
Everyone can be creative!
Marketers are usually the creative lead in most organisations as they as they hold responsibility for communication development. In particular, for advertising and literature development, but also for product development and packaging. Conversely, in TV and publishing companies, the are many creative functions including copy and writing, and many forms of design. However, while creative skills are often bought-in, it is a myth that creativity is the preserve of the few. In reality anyone can create ideas. You just need to use appropriate thinking skills (creativity techniques) and also to create the right conditions for creativity to flourish.
Example creative techniques
There are three main creative thinking processes though any single one can be combined with any another and at any stage.
1. Divergent thinking
Whereby new solutions are inspired directly by the problem (Figure 1). To generate ideas to address the problem, start by expressing the problem and desired outcome clearly. Moderating a creative session of this nature is straightforward, though relies on the creativity of the team. Thus try and inject new impetus and ideas to sustain the process.
For example, by including diverse people in the process, and then combining them in different ways. Also, by combining different functional skills in small teams, and then passing the ideas from one team to the next for building. All adds energy and substance to idea generation. Research also shows financial advantages in diversity, with more diverse teams generating greater innovations and profits (1).
2. Linear thinking
Whereby a sequential analytical approach leads to a solution (Figure 2). While the steps in a linear thinking approach are usually analytical or logical they can also inspire. To do this, for example, reframe the problem, or change the conditions surrounding the problem to make it easier to solve. For example, taking a challenge to hydrate skin. By reframing this as a challenge to hydrate another part of the body, whole body or another object. Or to re-express ‘hydration’; for example, as exposure or immersion in, a waterfall, dew, rain, snow, sand, or wind. Re-expression requires clear delineation and expression of each part of the problem. Then analyse the individual parts and recombine them in new ways. Thus, the multi-step linear thinking approach becomes as a series of inspirational steps i.e. a powerful creativity technique :-).
3. Convergent thinking
Here analysing all of the facts, leads to the same conclusion or solution (Figure 3). While really the opposite of a creativity technique, this type of approach is reversible and useful to assess a series of ideas or options, and thus determine which is best. The start-point is to take the possible solutions, and generate data or insights on the solutions. Then to assess the arguments for, and against, the solutions. Alternatively, to assess the ideas using a simple two by two matrix. For example, comprising the ease, doability, cost or speed of implementation of an idea, vs. the impact or effect of the idea on the business or brand.
1. Marketing departments have unusual creative expertise and experience, compared with other functions. So use marketers’ strengths and skills to solve pressing business problems. Though draw on professional ‘creatives’ in creative businesses such as media, entertainment, and consulting too.
2. Marketers primary role is to ensure the relevance of their offers. This involves being vigilant to, and also adapting to change, to secure future success. Thus it is opportune, and a natural stepping stone, for marketers to take the creative lead to build their businesses. Marketers should seize this leadership opportunity.
3. No one has a monopoly on good ideas as everyone is creative! Thus marketers should also engage all of their colleagues to this end. So include a diverse group; especially those with knowledge of customers, and those with different technical skills.
4. To create the conditions for creativity, convene a working session in a creative space. Choose a creative name for the session to create an air of expectation and positivity. Also allow plenty of time. Start by setting ground rules, and running a warm-up exercise. Next clarify, and then dissect the problem, before starting to generate ideas. Then develop the ideas into practical solutions, and finally decide which merit working up into a more detailed plan.
We run marketing workshops using a range of creativity techniques as part of many projects. So if you’d like a view on your problem, or help to solve a problem, just give us a call.
- World Economic Forum (2019)