Keeping creativity fresh with a trip to Budapest

Last week, our Head of Planning, Angharad Thomas, traveled with a few other members of the Golley Slater Cardiff team, to Budapest. They were attending the ICOM 2017 EMEA Regional Meeting – a four day conference with the aim of bringing a host of global independent agencies together to share experiences and collaborate on solving industry challenges. 

Here on the blog, Angharad shares her thoughts.

The ICOM 2017 EMEA Regional Meeting was an opportunity to catch up with fascinating colleagues from around the world in a beautiful city. We were an eclectic bunch; some had driven ‘down the road’ from Slovenia, others had taken a 12 hour flight from Chicago. Some had set off a week earlier from Uganda, whilst others were feeling lucky to make it at all, given that storms Irma and Maria had done their best to get in the way.

Things we learned from time with our ICOM colleagues:

  • A goldfish actually has a attention span of 9 seconds, which is longer than a human being
  • The word ‘kalsarikannit’ is used to describe the Finnish phenomenon of getting drunk, alone, at home, in your underwear. Until you pass out.
  • There’s a cave fish in Slovenia which has skin that looks like human flesh
    As well as stocking up on lots of trivia, the course was an incredible insight into how other agencies are inspiring people to do their best creative work.

A talk by Mindscapes’ Ravid Kuperberg, was particularly inspiring in this regard. He argued that creativity isn’t an ephemeral talent that’s impossible to teach and possessed by only a select few, but rather a simple system of operating. His talk was geared towards offering guidance during those moments that creative people dread: when they’re in the dark room, waiting to stumble upon that illuminating idea.

Though our brain is our biggest creative asset, it can also be our worst enemy; it’s a creature of habit, it can get stuck in set, familiar ways of doing things. In order to keep our minds creatively active (and keep offering fresh solutions to client problems) we often need the help of structured tools. Rather than being inhibiting or formulaic, these tools will help us take the first steps to the creative idea and help us to think of problems from new angles.

Ravid Kuperberg’s top tips for staying ‘creatively fresh’:

  1. Play with ideas. Young children rarely follow instructions when they’re building with Lego. They play around with the blocks, fit different parts together and work out whether they want to play with what they have or start again. When an agency has a challenge, we shouldn’t resort to the well-worn manual, we should play a bit, kick ideas around, unpack and start again, and eventually work out if the new toy in our hand is the solution to the client’s challenge.
  2. Stop telling creative people to think outside the box. These are words that haunt planners and creatives. When there’s pressure to think originally and freely, the creative block inevitably sets in. Getting to great creative ideas isn’t about setting limitations to one side, it’s about working within parameters and turning restrictions into opportunities. Creatives don’t want limitless possibility, they want a clear problem to solve. Paradoxically, it’s the parameters within the brief, that often bring out the real creative freedom.
  3. Don’t always look at ‘wholes’. There’s a tendency in marketing to think about solutions in one big chunk. But sometimes, it’s during the process of unpacking opportunities into smaller component parts that interesting ideas come out. Creative people should be looking less at big ‘wholes’ and more at variables; anomalies and idiosyncrasies. It’s here that the fresh, interesting and, sometimes, untold stories can come out.

Angharad Thomas, Head of Planning