A creative network of the idea, by the idea, for the idea

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ingredients of a creative brainstorming.

"i think I've got it - Mandela, the After-shave"

I believe that the brainstorm session is the most important event in the life of a creative.

Most of what I know about the process of ideation I’ve learned at brainstorms. I really respect that moment when a thought is transformed from the intangible into an idea.

I like the humbling nature of a brainstorm too. There is nowhere to hide, in a creative brainstorm things are fairly simple; the best ideas raise to the top (This depends on the type of brainstorm and the people in it, but its generally true.) Ideas at this stage don’t know politics, which is another reason why I enjoy this stage of the process.

So after a creative life spent brainstorming, I figured that I could share with you what I have learned, from the inside.
  • Get the right people; Creative, knowledgeable, smart and willing.
  • Gather different people. Variety works wonders.
  • Who is leading? Someone needs to bring us back.
  • Why are we gathered here?
  • NEVER criticize (I don’t like…) NEVER judge (I don’t think it’s good…) I know you’ve heard this before but this is the single worst mistake people make. Criticism during the brainstorm session shuts down the soul of a creative.
  • Explore every idea, see where it leads, look for connections.
  • Pay attention to the flow of thinking.
  • Don’t be in a bubble.
  • Write down ideas on the wall.
  • Anything goes but please make it relevant. Don’t ask the group to do your homework. (there are exceptions to this, but not many)
  • Trust the group, don’t get stuck on one idea, move on.
  • Dip in. Get dirty. Help cleaning.
  • Learn from the guys who use little to create big.
For some reason there is more time spent in meetings than in brainstorms these days. We should reverse the equation and spend more time creating, even if it is for an aftershave.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hard work is the best inspiration.

Annie Leibovitz is a great photographer who has taken many of the most iconic pictures of the last 20 years. On her book "At work" she talks about her career, and offers a valuable insight about the thoughts behind some of her favorite photographs.

I really appreciate that artists, agencies and business alike are opening the doors of their creative process. Allowing us to learn about their work and their thinking but more importantly, I think, teaching us that being creative takes much more "homework" than one would have imagined.

As a creative I have learned to rely a lot on my instincts (the ones you develop after years of practicing the craft) but what I see again and again from books by Stephen King, Annie Leibovitz, Elbuli and Twila Tharp is that all of them spend a long time preparing, studying and getting to know the subject.

Instincts are great and they all use them, but not as a tool but as a safety net.

This can surprise some who think that being creative is mostly about waiting for the inspiration to happen. That some lucky few are granted the gift of creativity and that they can turn the switch on and off at will.

The thing is, none of these creative minds mentioned a word about that.

They rely on creating a process that enables ideas. They rely on teams, dialogue, hard work and surrounding themselves with talent and passion.
They believe that a lot of it is luck and some of it is God given talent.
They all agree that coming up with ideas is pure chance, and that you need to be paying attention to identify and take advantage of those few brilliant moments of inspiration.
They all agree that you need to spend a long time rehearsing, and be ready when the time comes, with the finger in the click button, the fingers on the keyboard or the pan on the stove.

There are no shortcuts to learning.