Last night I was perusing an article from the Harvard Business Review by Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, entitled "How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity." I was really struck by how their principles for inciting creativity are the very same I've written about here for marketers.
It shouldn't be surprising; anyone who has been in marketing for some time knows just how creative you need to be to succeed. Sometimes it's the "big idea" kind of creative. Other times it's a creative endeavour to include 10 message points in one sentence or create a feasible campaign in a week and a half. That's creative too, believe me.
There are 5 ideas in this article that Catmull speaks to that really struck a nerve with me. I'm going to link to some past articles that relate to these points - I hope you take a minute to read them. It proves that not only is marketing a creative field, but that creativity is an exercise only for the brave.
How Do You Promote Creativity?
1) Embrace Fear: Catmull says, "[I]f we aren't always at least a little scared, we're not doing our job...This means we have to put ourselves at great risk."
Not too long ago, I wrote about how risky marketing is, and how we should embrace the fear that comes from it. Today, as I read this quote, I think it's even more true now than it was when I mentioned it.
"Once you get over the fear of being different, of possibly failing, a world of possibilities opens up. Are you still worried? Well, maybe this will help tip the scales:
You’ve got no choice."
Embrace the fear. Everyone feels it. And fear can be debilitating or any amazingly creative stimulus.
2) Welcome Risk: We work in an ever-changing industry. It will never be the "same old, same old." If you don't want to risk your ass, you shouldn't have put it on the line by placing it in a marketing office.
Catmull has some advice for the leadership: "[W]e as executives have to resist our natural tendency to avoid or minimize risks, which, of course, is much easier said than done."
This reminds me of my "Failure Isn't Fatal" post:
"As I wrote earlier in the week, our job as marketers is not to mitigate risk by going along with the status quo. Our job is to manage the risk and sometimes we fail.
That stinks, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s inherent to the job. So it’s better to get in there and figure out your best odds of success (and learn from your mistakes)."
Which leads perfectly into...
3) Learn From Failures: You won't get rid of risk and you are going to fail at some point in your career. But the most creative marketers are the ones who figure out why they failed and learn from it. Failure is inherent in creative people.
From Catmull: "If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it's uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails."
4) Realize That Community Matters: Catmull contends that "community matters" in the sense that a group of highly talented creatives can turn out extraordinary things.
For marketers though, community is something outside of our team usually. They are the hordes we hope to influence (hordes in the nicest way possible, I mean). And we can't do that by simply interrupting more loudly or more often.
I think Joseph Jaffe is correct is his definition of the new creativity - one in which a piece of marketing is gauged by the community's adoption of it.
"I don’t know how much originality is in the idea itself, but it’s in the execution where you see the real beauty of it. And ultimately that control and that power – and to what degree it becomes a meme and to what degree it lives on and gets a life of its own and gets embraced by the consumer – is ultimately in the hands of the consumer.
And maybe that can become the new definition of creativity."
5) Always Be Excellent: Catmull states that the success of Toy Story 2 was, "[I]t became deeply ingrained in our culture that everything we touch needs to be excellent."
It's easy to be crass about excellence. "Blah, blah," you might be thinking.
But I've seen it happen a bunch of times: the kid who excels in everything he does - though he might fail and get scoffed at and underestimated - he eventually almost always reaches that gold ring he'd been shooting for.
It's intimidating to see someone so much an active participant in their success. Intimidating and awesome.
What Did I Forget?
What did Catmull and I miss? How do you promote creativity in marketing?
There's a lot to worry about, a lot of potential pitfalls. But that's never going to change. How are you seizing the awesome today?
(Image courtesy of scragz via Flickr)