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Creativity and process, can they co-exist?

Lynda Henderson

As creatives, we read, and we research, we think, we wrestle with our thoughts and ideas, we love them, we hate them, we challenge them, we worry about them and where the next one might come from... constantly. Much of this process is invisible to others. It doesn’t have to be. For creative leaps of faith to be valued and of value - designers, strategists and creators need to bring others on the journey, so what does that look like?

I read an interesting article put up by Idealog the other day called ‘The problem with intuition and creativity is also what makes it so valuable’. It was written by the Damon, CO of DDB. It was an interesting read.

The article touches on two things really close to my heart…. Creativity and the Design Process. It discusses the ‘little gems’ that come to you after many nights agonising over trying to come up with that something special, or the sudden inspiration that grabs you from something someone said or you have seen that enables you to add that special spin or twist to reframe it into something that takes on a life of its own and the guilt, the vulnerability and the anxiety that designers may experience because it came from a gut feeling… ‘intuition’. The example used was the exceptionally famous byline ‘Just do it’. Do you know where it came form? I didn’t either till I read this and it was somewhat of a surprise. But its a great example of how concepts can evolve to create new meaning…

“On January 17, 1977, Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad for two murders he committed in Utah. His final words: "Let’s do it".

In 1988, Dan Wieden read these final words in a newspaper and said if we changed that to ‘Just Do It’, it would work perfectly for that little running shoe company we have as a client.

Nike. Just Do It. The most famous line in advertising came from a dying man’s final words. All because a great creative saw something. A connection. That’s what creativity is.”

Shocking right? Genious though!

So what does this have to do with the process? The article also touches on ‘marketing experts’ and their reliance on the process, foolproof ways and methods. I’m going to make a giant assumption here that with the mention of post-its and vanilla outcomes I’m thinking he's stumbled across a Design Thinking experience or two that didn't follow through and didn't let the designers in the room. It’s likely, that as a result, nobody was able to take the leap and jump the creative crevice.

I get what he’s saying, it is possible to manage innovation and creative brilliance out of a project. But done right, Design Thinking gets a lot of data up on the wall, engage with customers existing and new, establish a collaborative culture and build a team invested in something new, and ideate a new product or way of doing things relatively quickly and make those essential ‘connections’. As a designer, having this information and these people including the end-user or customers in front of you means that you're no longer operating on assumption or in a silo, and your creative energy is invested in testing the creative limits and jumping that creative crevice with confidence and your designing something that customers really need without assumption. I’m all for the messy, disruption, aspiration, discomfort and breaking new ground. I’m a believer that the status quo has no place in this process. Ultimately, whatever the creative outcome, what makes it truly successful is people love it enough to buy into it? Aren’t Design Thinking power users Apple, Google, Uber, Starbucks, Google, Nike, Ideo, Frog and Air NZ proof of this?

I agree ‘A smooth process and a brilliant product are not the same things’... in fact, I’d argue if you're using Design Thinking as your process and it’s smooth and without discomfort your not doing it right!

Lastly, do I think ‘Just do it’ would have made it through a Design Thinking process? Absolutely!

Lynda - Mission Commander