At a recent meeting, a client kept using the words being strategic and being creative in ways that I couldn’t decide if he knew what the words meant. Later on, when I was alone with our team to debrief the meeting, I realised our own people couldn’t exactly define what the phrases meant either.
In a way, I wondered if using being strategic and being creative so regularly caused the definitions to grow stale, like eating too frequently a favourite dish, or hearing too often a favourite song on the radio.
Unfortunately, not completely understanding their meaning can get in the way of developing a proper brief, or worse, implementing the idea in the right way. For this reason, I thought to clarify both aspects.
Being Strategic means that you …
- Know and understand the project’s objective, and to know your role in moving the project toward its successful conclusion
- Analyze and prioritize problems (external threats and internal weaknesses) which might prevent the objective from being reached
- Determine what trends or opportunities can be leveraged to address or eliminate the real or potential problems
- Judge or assess a piece of information for its intrinsic worth. In other words, what insight have we learnt, and can we apply it to this project?
- Know the available and potential resources, and determine how to use them most efficiently and effectively
- Define the criteria for the brainstorm to select the best idea, if by no other virtue than it solves the problem or need
- Measure your milestones along the project’s path, and the final outcome to ensure the campaign achieved its goal
- Develop a focused plan of action if warranted
The question that guides your strategic thinking: Yes or no?
Being creative means you …
- Create as many potential ideas as possible, using the insights as an initial springboard. (See Inviting the Right People to a Brainstorm.)
- Withhold and prevent premature judgment, both of others as well as yourself
- Be intellectually playful, tapping into a full range of diverse people to help look at the problems from every perspective
- Take risks, even perhaps to fail if it meant learning something insightful that could be used in the future
- Can articulate your thoughts, most importantly, either 1) the insight from your knowledge in a way which others can acknowledge and understand, or 2) the idea itself, bringing it to life so others understand it
- Be non-conformist, especially to treat the status quo as another piece of information rather than a restriction
- Seek ambiguity, uncertainty and disorder because this creates new and different explorations, explanations and experiences which creates potential answers
- Inspire the people around you, igniting their curiosity and imagination through your enthusiasm and passion
The questions that guides your creative thinking: What if?
Your Value Comes From Understanding and Applying the Right Tools at the Right Time
If you’re being strategic, your strategic value refers to how quickly you can assess and narrow down information to a conclusion, which could mean any of the following: a decision, a recommendation or an insight, all of which link directly to the project’s objective.
If you’re being creative, your creative value refers to how many different or atypical ideas (both good and bad) you create using actual or imaginary stimuli.
Of course, it’s ideal to be able to think in either mode proficiently, similar to being able to switch between a closed mind or an open mind, or between linear or lateral thinking. Equally important, remember that all thinking modes have their advantages and disadvantages, depending upon the situation and the people involved. Consequently, you can define real fluency in two ways:
- Knowing when to think in a certain style, and
- Knowing how to switch from one style to the other.
How have you defined being strategic or being creative? What tricks do you use to get your brain to switch from one style to the other?