Creative is a Process.


Posted by Mark McGovern - October 15, 2015


5-steps-to-a-creative-process.jpg"Give that to someone creative, I’m not a creative person." We hear that around the office all the time, right? Well stop it—it's a cop-out. Creativity is a form of problem solving and all of us do it all day long. One of the biggest challenges I find is many of us simply don’t have the patience for it. After all, solving problems can be tough work. It's supposed to be.

We find in our shop that making time for creative thinking is a key part of getting to a great result. Sounds simple but guess what? We all still fall into the trap of thinking it's easier than it is. "Quick, write some copy, sketch up an idea and let’s go!" Ugh! Yes, we’ve all become quite good at the quick fire ideas and some of this work is really good. That’s the result of practice and playing creative thinking like a musical instrument. It can work. But, the really big ideas, the game changers and work people talk about comes from a process that takes discipline.

Here are 5 steps to a creative process that can get you to great work:

  1. Get Your Insight Right – Problems cannot be solved effectively if there are not clear and agreed upon goals and insight to why we want to end up with the desired creative product. Be clear and focused. Don’t start without some degree of insight.
  2. Plan for success – Build the steps that allow ideas to build on one another and map out what that process will look like so the team understands the guardrails. Assign check ins, due bys and responsibilities.
  3. Embrace Restrictions – Let go of worrying about the box you’re in and go for it. Restrictions can be drivers to creativity. Deadlines push us to try harder. Freedom often equals less creativity while restrictions often lead to more creative innovation by forcing us to think differently within the box.
  4. Team Up – especially with those who think differently than you. Partner the experienced with the inexperienced and let the ideas flow. All of them. Stop critiquing ideas that you don't like immediately. They might just lead to the inspiration you’re after.
  5. Push for Novel – Keep going. Big ideas and game changers all feel odd or a bit off at first. It’s because they are novel. It’s the unique and the different that we're after. Problem solving starts at relevant and moves toward novel… if you keep pushing. If 5 people in a room all come to the same idea, it's probably not very novel.

Of course, there are many nuances to creative thinking and better brainstorming we've all read about, like finding inspiration, walking away for a bit, or following a hunch. All are important but really much of this comes down to how you personally work best. We’ve found that this basic 5-step framework creates a foundation for better results.


Mark McGovern is Vice President of Alchemy at AMS. He always wears an undershirt that says “Vice President” on it in case he’s needed in an emergency.

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