Insight and creativity can be hard to summon on demand, especially in marketing and advertising. That is why there are entire businesses built around doing just that. But how can we find more of both with the same tools we have at hand?
In my last post I mentioned the effect that calligraphy had on Steve Jobs, and consequently computers. Calligraphy and computers… doesn’t sound too complimentary. Or are they?
As a student of history, I loved the wide range of subjects that were embedded in my studies. Politics, economics, psychology, leadership, art, culture, geography, business, law – all were woven together to paint a holistic picture of how events unfolded over the course of time.
This interweaving of subjects is known as cross disciplinary learning, defined as involving two or more academic disciplines. Allow me to share an example of cross disciplinary learning done right, and hopefully provide some interesting points on marketing.
Dan Cobley, former marketing director at Google, gave a brilliant talk about how he learned key truths in marketing from the most unlikely of places, physics. Let’s look at three of his main points.
Physics: The bigger an object is, the more it takes to move it.
Marketing: The bigger a brand, the more it takes to reposition it.
Takeaway: Keep your brands specific to your target audience. This is why large organisations will keep many smaller brands for their various products and offerings. Think Unilever, Coca-Cola, or Procter and Gamble.
Physics: It is impossible to measure a particle, for the very act of measuring has an influence on it.
Marketing: Measuring consumers changes the way they behave.
Takeaway: Measure what people do, not what they say they do. This is why online data is so powerful, it tracks what people are doing, what people say they are doing (online), and can tell the difference.
Physics: You cannot prove a hypothesis, you can only disprove it.
Marketing: You can invest a lot of time and money in a brand, but one stumble can crush it.
Takeaway: Be vigilant in avoiding those big mess-ups. Warren Buffet said the number one rule in investing is never lose money, and rule number two is don’t break rule one. In investing you can lose in a moment what took years to build. The same is true for trust in brands.
So, to generate some insight and creativity, connect what you previously hadn’t bothered to connect. Look at some of your areas of interest. What topics seemed too unrelated to even consider pairing together. Perhaps there are gems of creativity and insight waiting to be discovered.
Link to Dan’s TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_cobley_what_physics_taught_me_about_marketing
As the media keep reminding us, we are working longer hours than ever before. The average Briton now works 44 hours per week, with many people working significantly more than this. Indeed, for a lot of people, long working hours are a badge of pride, demonstrating dedication and commitment. However, could long hours spent slaving away over a hot computer screen be dampening your creativity?
It might sound counterintuitive, but working fewer hours can in fact boost the quantity and quality of your work. One person who understands the connection between free time and creativity is Stefan Sagmeister, co-founder of design firm Sagmeister & Walsh.
In their New York office, Sagmeister has mandated year-long sabbaticals every seven years. This was in response to a worrying observation, as he explains in his TED talk, “Our work started to look the same. So I decided to close it down for a year.” This brave move had the desired effect. When his employees came back from their time away, he found that the adventures and experiences they gained inspired their work for many years after. What’s more, the mandated sabbaticals made financial sense since the firm charged higher fees for their more innovative work. Win win.
Of course sabbaticals aren’t for everyone. However it does illustrate the importance of giving yourself the time to develop ideas in your conscious and subconscious mind. Whether it’s a regular jog, bath or just shutting down that computer screen an hour earlier, make sure you give your brain time to wander and connect seemingly unrelated ideas.
Modern technology is melting your brain. Constantly flipping between different devices is the reason you are less productive, tired and forgetful. Or so we’re repeatedly warned.
Switching between apps, is proven to regulate dopamine production and actually ‘lights up’ the same part of your brain as cocaine. So it’s no wonder then that we’re all turning into addicts. Surely we should all get ourselves checked into technology retreats ASAP, or could the trend be having other more positive side effects?
Our office is frequently occupied with the subject of creativity and the way it works. An important part of the process is the cross-pollination of ideas. An article in last weekend’s FT highlighted a surprise benefit for our modern multi-tasking lifestyles. It could be making us more creative.
Research now tells us that people who find it hard to concentrate on more than one thing, naturally do something that makes them more creative. There’s a link between being very creative and the natural response humans have to tune out irrelevant stimulation.
If you aren’t able to filter out background noise very easily, you are actually letting more information in. Allowing for combined or uncombined new ideas to flourish. So if you’re one of the unlucky people who just can’t focus with lots of noise around you, you’re quite likely to be very creative. Rather heartening for those school time day dreams out there.
As Harvard professor Shelley Carson says, ‘Think on that, uni-taskers: while you busily try focus on one thing at a time, the people who struggle to filter out the buzz of the world are being reviewed in The New Yorker’.
So next time you’re working on a really tricky problem. Stop focusing on it so hard and do something completely different to induce ‘fixation forgetting’. Which could very well leave you free to come across just the answer you’ve been looking for.