What are creativity techniques?
Creativity techniques are thinking tools or methods to generate ideas or solve business problems. They are also useful to uncover insights (spot opportunities), and to create new or improve products, services as well as brands.
Why use creativity techniques in business?
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 you devise 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. There are also some businesses, such as TV and publishing companies, that are home to specialist creative functions such as script and copywriting, and many forms of design. However, for many businesses, while creative skills are often bought-in, it is a myth that creativity is the preserve of the few. Truly anyone can create ideas. You just need appropriate thinking skills (creativity techniques) and also 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 creative thinking
In this process, 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. The success pf this approach relies on the creativity of the team. It also requires facilitation skills to manage the people and process, inject impetus and motivate everyone.
For example, by including diverse people in the group, and then combining them in different ways. Alternatively by combining different functional skills in small teams, and then passing the ideas from one team to the next for building. All adds multiple brains, energy and substance to idea generation. Research shows financial advantages in diversity, with more diverse teams generating greater innovations and profits (1).
2. Linear creative thinking
This is a sequential analytical approach which leads to a solution (Figure 2). While the steps in a linear creative thinking approach are usually analytical or logical they can also provide stepping stones to a new idea. To apply this approach, start for example, by reframing the problem, or changing the conditions surrounding the problem to make it easier to solve. For example, taking a challenge ‘to hydrate skin’, consider the following strategies:
- Reframe the challenge; for example to ‘hydrate another part of the body’, ‘whole body’ or ‘another object’
- Re-express ‘hydration’; for example as exposure or immersion in, a waterfall, dew, rain, snow, sand, or wind etc. Re-expression requires clear delineation and expression of each part of the problem. So break-down the elements as much as possible. Then analyse the individual parts and recombine them in new ways. In effect, a multi-step linear creative thinking approach is a new and powerful creativity technique in its own right:-).
3. Convergent creative thinking
This approach involves analysing all of the facts to arrive at a conclusion or solution (Figure 3). While arguably the opposite of a creativity technique, this approach is reversible and useful to assess a series of ideas or options, and thus determine which is best. The first step is to take the possible solutions, and generate data or insights on the solutions. The second step is 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 often have unusual creative expertise and experience, compared with other functions. So use marketers’ strengths and skills to solve pressing business problems.
2. Marketers primary role is to ensure the relevance of their offers to customers. This involves understanding customers and being vigilant to, and also adapting to change. 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! Thus engage all of your colleagues to this end. So include a diverse group; especially those with different technical skills and those in customer-facing roles. Draw on professional ‘creatives’ if you have them or ‘hire’ them in.
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, making the aims clear, getting everyone up to speed and running a warm-up exercise to make everyone feel comfortable and able to join in. Next clarify, and then dissect the problem, before generating ideas. Then develop the ideas into practical solutions, and finally decide which merit working up into a detailed plan.
We run marketing workshops using a range of creativity techniques as part of many projects. So if you’d like more fresh ideas, or solve a problem in your business, just get in touch.
- World Economic Forum (2019)
- Arnold, Tim, Tomlinson, Guy – Chapter 21, Creativity and Problem Solving, The Marketing Director’s Handbook
- 192 creative techniques.