Stale workplaces make for stale thinking

Every agency on the planet says they are truly creative, followed by "we really are not like all the other agencies that say they're creative and really aren't — we really are."

Every agency on the planet says they are truly creative, followed by we really are not like all the other agencies that say they're creative and really aren't — we really are.

A+ for being earnest, but what does it honestly take to produce innovative ideas and deliver fresh thinking to clients on a consistent basis? An important part of the answer is in the workplace culture — how free, encouraged, and stimulated account teams feel to ideate. 

To foster an idea-centric culture, the atmosphere should be one that allows teams to present solutions that resonate emotionally, not just functionally. San Francisco-based global design firm IDEO, one of Fast Company's 25 most innovative companies, has pioneered a way of creating called “design thinking.” According to IDEO, design thinking “relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words and symbols. They note that nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an overreliance on the rational and analytical can be just as risky.” This philosophy has worked in spades for them. In fact, early on Steve Jobs asked IDEO to create a mouse with one button for under $15 and the rest is history.

Teams need inspiration to create ideas that are emotionally meaningful, and a solution can come from just about anywhere. Every day, the creative department at M Booth reads 850 blogs to identify creative trends from around the world — how people are thinking differently, developing campaigns, and inventions that may or may not have anything to do with communications. The best ones are culled and published into a daily and then monthly compendium called “Word.” Teams have said they get at least three to five ideas weekly from this resource that help them pass on new thinking to clients.

Creative interruptions foster the kind of freedom, and fun, that gives people the permission to think differently and more intuitively. That's why we also invite in “experts” that can teach us something we don't know. So were we crazy to have a New Orleans jazz band march through our office, a repair person show us how to completely take apart and put together a vacuum, or a theater company coach us on how to tell great stories?  It might seem so, but it sure makes the workplace “quite emotional” and anything but stale.

Margaret Booth is CEO of M Booth & Associates.

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