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The world needs creativity, but creativity needs diversity

  • 23 July 2020

Data has become a deity.

Ideas have become a mechanism to support what the data says, safe in the confines of analytics and predictable results.

That’s all well and good for the CFO whose spreadsheet rules the domain, but it ignores the fact that data only tells you what has happened, it doesn't show the world that hasn't yet been imagined.

In the toughest of markets that’s not enough.

As Jules Ehrhadt mentions in his brilliant state of the digital nation, perhaps our greatest current opportunity lies in creativity. Not as a ‘nice to have’ but as a key business driver, creating original ideas based on ethnographic insights and playful, even humorous, moments of human reflection.

But where should that creativity come from?


The problem of groupthink

By their nature, truly creative people are hard to find and we have created ivory towers and bestowed godlike status to those we do identify in the fear that we will lose them. Yet in doing so we create something far more dangerous: a homogenous culture that stagnates us. 

If Creatives are only to come from a single background type –  marketing degrees, the arts, design or copywriting – then the way those people look and are shaped will eventually become an amorphous beige of group think. 

Creative is not a department. Advertising creatives of various flavours have specific craft skills that are very valuable, conflating that with having ideas, which should be the dominion of everyone at a creative company and indeed everyone else, diminishes us.

Jay Chiat

Non-normal thinkers and the cost of exclusion

Is there any real damage in creating these silos? 

Yes. If all our Creatives look the same, all ideas look the same too. 

There is a current, and correctly feted, move in industry towards diversity in terms of employment. It’s unquestionable that a more diverse workforce allows for more interesting thinking, better culture and ultimately new and innovative ideas. 

Perhaps the true opportunity here is to look beyond the remit of what we currently call Creative. There exists a large untapped pool of creative that sits outside the normal walled garden.

The hidden creatives

Take for example the hobbyists putting on club nights, creating flyers and already engaging in advertising, social media marketing and design.

Or the drag acts, coming from an underground who have now re-defined fashion. They’ve taken makeup mainstream via the likes of programmes like Glow Up and ingrained the humour and cerebral cynicism of their culture into everyday language through shows like Drag Race.

Match-going football fans often engage in behaviour that wouldn’t look out of place in any Creative department. They create chants, catchy, rhyming songs, and often appropriate modern culture or reference pieces of history. There is a current trend in creating stickers, some of which even cite cultural groups as varied as the Situationists or the paintings of J.M Lowry.

And where to find them

Clearly the ability to hunt these people down would be costly. But there is potential to expand the creative pool even in the most staid of businesses. 

We can look inward at our own organisations to find these people.

There are various scientific documents that prove the link between bilingualism and creativity. Other studies prove learning to code, or programming in general, work to the same parts of the brain as learning a language or being bilingual by birth. 

It therefore seems probable that if we were to remove the stereotypes often associated with programmers and allowed them to work alongside traditional Creatives, they would nurture ideas and concepts that those traditional Creatives would have missed.

Creating weak links

Simply placing people trained in non traditional backgrounds into a creative space may succeed occasionally but the likelihood of failure would be higher too.

There needs instead to be the creation of “weak links”, channels of conversation that encourage the flow and sharing of ideas between those of different shapes. 

Creating conversations, encouraging fun, and inspiring play are key to innovation and creativity. By creating artificial collisions on a near daily basis between departments of different disciplines we increase our chances of new ideas (Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From).

The Department with no discipline

How do we harness this opportunity for original thinking, creativity, diversity, non-normal thinkers and connections?

At Kin and Carta we are privileged to already have the capacity to do this. 

For example, in our Creative Tech offering we combine traditional Creatives, Technologists, Planners, Strategists and CX shaped people to tackle new briefs in ways other agencies don’t. People leave their disciplines at the door, encouraging play, proactive prototyping and thinking, and a deep interest in multiple fields rather than just one specialism. 

This attitude leads to talent that is more M shaped than T shaped. No two Creative Technologists look the same, but all share the same passion and curiosity for what can be done, as well as drive to make what hasn’t been done. 

Supplementing this with other interested agency staff or client stakeholders means that the creative delivery is heightened, and supported by real purpose.

Myth busting

If we prime people by calling a department Creative and build myths, we set the perception that no one else is creative. This limits the chance of ideas gestating and originating from new places, reducing our opportunity for innovation.  

Creative is ultimately the distinguisher that allows for the biggest business advantage. It should be celebrated, encouraged and praised. But it should be done so from all parts of an organisation, and from people with backgrounds of genuine diversity. 

Ideas should be allowed to exist irregardless of the perceived place of the person.

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