B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): The Lost 'Process' of Creativity

LanceBGBGuest Blogger: Lance Hill

As a Director of Account Planning, Lance Hill works on briefs and stuff, with a decided focus on the ‘and stuff.’  Lance’s relentlessly inquisitive mind may be a by-product of his fascination with philosophy; he’s long exemplified how a good question is always far more interesting than the right answer.  Sartorially, he is a sneakerhead, with a pair of kicks for most every occasion.  With time at the Forbes Group, Brann and Barkley, Evergreen & Partners, Lance brings a rangy perspective to his work.  Texas A&M remains close to his heart, though practically-speaking, it’s inked onto his calf.  Oh, and he’s pretty deadly at Halo too…  

One of my favorite parts of the family vacations we used to take was the random stuff we found along the way.  I travel quite a bit today for work, but these trips are always based on a “get from A to B as fast as possible” mentality.  I’m glad my Dad never thought this way or I would have never seen the World’s Largest Peanut in Georgia or the countless other random precious memories in my head.  Lance1

Wandering around a bit has always been a good thing for the spirit, the mind, and the body.  The Native American and Aboriginal cultures were strong believers in this.  It’s quite sad that it has been lost by most people.

Truly creative people not only see the value in wandering, they practice it daily, even if only in their mind.  Trying to force creativity into a straight line, into the “get from A to B as fast as possible” mentality is not only wrong, it simply doesn’t produce results anyone really wants.

I’ve been trying to allow for this when writing briefs.  Originally, an exceptional brief was a clear picture of where you were and where you needed to get to.  But along the way, we forced the path itself into the brief as well.  The “big idea”, “the single most compelling thing”–you know the drill.

Worse, this kind of prescriptive direction all-too-often creates the dreaded “it’s off-brief” client reaction, particularly to great ideas that nail the problem and achieve the desired point, but in a different (and often better) way.

Lance2Imagine if Leonardo Di Vinci hadn’t painted over his original version of the Mona Lisa as a portrait of a very tense pregnant woman.  What if Wilbur Wright had turned to Orville and said, “yes it flies and I can control it, but it looks nothing like our original design.  Time to re-brief.”

Yes, we all have to move faster in today’s industry. Great creative ideas can still be had in that time frame.  Just agree on where you are, where you want to go (what success looks like), and let the creative minds start to wonder.   It’s the only way the creative process can really work.

Lance3So how do you draw up and rationally show the creative process?  You don’t.  Two men have nailed, in my mind, the true articulation of the creative process in describing how their agencies work: Dan Weiden’s “Show up stupid every morning” and Brian Brooker’s “Come up with a good idea and then throw it away”.   From what I’ve seen, coming up with great creative is really that simple of an approach and incredibly hard to do.  Both embrace the chaos and the wondering inherent in the mind’s formulation of something truly creative.

Planning as a discipline is supposed to help this process, not get in the way.   So why do our briefs so often try to force creative into a pre-determined path?

By Lance Hill, Account Planning Director, Element 79