This post is one in a series from a presentation on Creative Slip-Ups: The 11 Most Common Mistakes in Brainstorming. The introduction to the series is here.
The slip-up: The ideas are often separated from the creative process.
Creativity is an activity that’s largely unseen. For most people, brainstorming’s a solo, if not an introverted, activity. Sure, there can be showy displays – the cry of Eureka!, a snap of the fingers, a dash of a drawing. But the complex art of creating an idea happens silently inside the head. The only way to demonstrate the hard work is to show its outcome: the good idea.
This final post focuses on creativity’s invisibleness. Clients don’t see the creative process, probably because they don’t care how an idea’s made. They just want the good idea.
Maybe we too often separate the client from the process, either …
- consciously (some clients are notoriously critical of brainstorming, or we don’t want them to be involved so we can surprise them with our ideas), or
- unconsciously (we don’t see it as their role, we don’t think to ask them to be involved, or we aren’t sure how to involve them).
You might ask, so why do I care? It’s invisible. So what?
I don’t like an idea to just “appear” to the client or senior executive. They’ll assume creativity is easy to do, and by extension, they’ll also take the idea for granted, underestimating its value.
At the same time, I don’t like the concept that “strategic people” work, yet “creatives” have fun. S-People sweat, labor and decide. C-People don’t do anything visible – well, except to wander down to the coffee shop for a venti latte and return with a Big Idea and a croissant.
So yes, I have a problem continuing the mirage that creativity is invisible. Generating ideas is a difficult task, it requires a significant amount of work, and a brilliant idea can be worth millions of dollars.
But my ranting soap box moment aside, I also have to give this post an arbitrary “half-point” because it’s not an argument easily winnable, if at all. Creativity will always be invisible. There is a magic to it that strategic thinking will never have. A small group of clients will always take the process for
granted. For others, we have an exciting challenge to proactively engage people to be part of, and understand, the work, details and decisions that go into making imaginative big ideas that change things for the better.
The solution: Make the invisible visible.
As much as possible, I like to ask my client how much they want to be part of the creative process. Some want only to be involved with the strategy development so they know the creative direction. Some are curious about the process I’d take once I have the strategy: how we’d brainstorm, what activities we’d do, how long steps last, what decisions we’d make. Others want us to have our internal brainstorms first. Perhaps they’d join a later one, or come and see the results of the meeting so they could help select the ideas.
More often than not, your client may not know what you do, so be prepared with articulate answers so the entire process doesn’t sound random and disorganized.[/toggle}
Everyone knows the dangers of bringing a critical or negative client to a brainstorm. Three tips.
- Hear and manage their expectations in advance.
- Ground rules are outlined and enforced.
- Have a brainstorm in advance so you have ideas, just in case.
There are other ways to engage clients. Instead of bringing them to internal brainstorms, do brainstorms externally, for their teams or with the target audience. Use solo brainstorming techniques. Give instructions, games or exercises to team members to create ideas on their own terms, and include directions how to submit or post ideas internally or online for others to see and discuss.
To launch a new ice cream product, we did a brainstorm in a supermarket. We got approval from the store manager to videotape us doing it, and we used the video in the pitch to show the client our ideas, as well as our commitment and passion.
In a brainstorm for a line of women’s fitness products, we created a mood board on an entire wall of a conference room. We took photos of it and used it as artwork for the pitch.
It’s common to embed video of the target audience in the pitch, why not do the same with the brainstorm?
The key is brainstorming these types of opportunities in advance. It’s easy to be creative in retrospect.
What other tactics have you used to engage clients in creativity and ideation?
Previous slip-up: People avoid risky ideas.
To return to the introduction of this series, go here.