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Five Tips For Igniting Creative Thinking

Akron, OH (April 10, 2014) — When I sat down to write this article, I asked myself, "Why would this audience have any interest in what an executive creative director at an ad agency has to say?" I racked my brain to come up with the perfect topic. And then I decided to speak from the heart about inspiring people to produce great work and igniting excellence within a team of talented people. So here are my top five tips for lighting the creative fire:

  1. Stop doing things the way they've always been done. Repetition attracts zombies. Ditch the agenda and take a meeting outside the conference room — make it a field trip where the team will be inspired by their surroundings. And don't shackle your team with process — everyone needs rules, but a good creative team knows when to break them.
  2. Put down the mouse and step away from the computer. Get out there and find inspiration. Whether it's observing human behaviors, attending a thought-leadership event, picking the brain of other colleagues or just listening to your kids. For example, I always insist on some sort of immersion exercise to better understand industries, brands and the mindsets of target audiences. As someone who's graduated from Glue School and learned how to TIG weld just to get to know clients better, I can tell you that hands-on experience is more inspiring than a white paper, every time.
  3. Find your work soul mate. Speaking of gluing and welding, you should really "connect" with someone who makes your ideas better. Ask them to gut-check your thinking. Let them help make the call if you suspect the work isn't ready. In advertising, writers and designers are better together. We push each other to new highs and arrive at destinations we could never find on our own. Great ideas come from collaborative passion and drive.
  4. The devil is in the details. But there are angels in the architecture. The smallest oversight can derail a project, but attention to detail and pride in preserving inspired thinking can be a beautiful thing. Remember — the craftsmanship of the end design is as important as the big idea that started it all. Pay attention to details and protect your inspired thought down to the last pixel. The fine points are what distinguish true creativity from mediocre groupthink.
  5. Every once in a while, scare yourself. Lay down the challenge to take risks. I'm sure hiding in the bathroom on the Titanic probably seemed like a safe play to some poor guy. Create an environment that cultivates and encourages risk-taking, because nothing great has ever been achieved without risk. So do something supremely uncomfortable, recalibrate your perspective and see what happens. Creativity is a survival instinct. Discover what lurks in the deep.