Jason Bell
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Blog

A collection of blog posts, hopefully slightly less cringe-y than Live Journal, and who knows, perhaps they’re entertaining.

Let's Get Creative!

Hello!

One thing we have to do when delivering products and services is understand how to successfully utilise creative thinking. Yep, this post is all about getting creative!

Creativity is the secret sauce in products and is currently in vogue at the minute. With the oncoming robotic hordes and automation the thing which will hopefully differentiate ourselves will be creative ideas, approaches and visualisations. What this does mean though?

Creativity in a workplace needs to be implemented constructively and where value can be created for stakeholders. Creativity without purpose or value can end up being farcical or worse, nightmarish.

When we're asked to think creatively, what is it are we actually being asked to think about? Being told to think creatively implies that our current processes are dull and somewhat lacking. However before we decide to come up with creative solutions we must truly understand the problems we're trying to solve.

By truly understanding a user need by deconstructing the problems and motivations we can try to meet our user in their location fully aware of their intentions. Whilst it should go without saying we should know our users inside and out, going beyond the function they engage with us for. Yes we may not have to cater to every user's whim but we need to know where we stand in a process, a situation, a day and a life. All this has to be known before we 'get creative', 'throw stuff at a wall' or 'think outside the box'. Until you know your user, stay inside the damn box.

Right, so now we know our user's intent, their motivations and what we're looking to provide. Let's take a boatload of hallucinogenics and solve the world right? Well, no. Define your vocation and your own parameters. If you're in the business of helping small businesses and sole traders with financial advice you could understand if you grew your company and start providing fantastic accounting software. You wouldn't start an offshoot to the business renting canal boats. No, because it has nothing to do with your company's core goals or vision.

Ensure that when you're defining or interpreting your vision and vocation you understand it's core. For an example take Nokia. Their motto is 'Connecting People'. Nokia have been connecting people long before they created the indestructible 3310. Their trade used to be paper production, allowing people to spread messages and connect in a totally different way. You can see how they link and the natural extraction from one point to another, pivoting in the right place.

Another example happens to be Nintendo, a company over 125 years old truly came to worldwide prominence in the past 30 has always been a toy and game manufacturer. Whilst Sony and Microsoft create consoles to match PCs focusing on frames per second, graphics and processing, Nintendo creatively embraced their vocation and mission of creating toys and entertainment that brings people together. The Nintendo Wii was the must-have console for many, even those who had never played a video game ever before. The controller was even in the shape of a TV remote, clearly a design to increase accessibility, familiarity and engagement. Whilst Sony and Xbox grew their bases providing to their core audience, Nintendo shared their vision with a wider inclusive message, printing money in the process.

So at this point, you should know who your users are and who your users are, is it time to get creative? Nearly.

How are you planning to think creatively? A design sprint? Good idea. Throwing buzzwords and words for shapes together? Bad idea. What follows are things I've felt have worked for me in the past.

  • Ensure you're accountable and have people to speak with and talk with outside your group who could speak constructively and critically with you.
    • Do not get carried away with your ideas
    • Kill your darlings, your first ideas may be brilliant, they may be abominations, be prepared to throw the bad things away

 

  • Create an environment where you are set up to enable creativity
    • Clear, uncluttered and away from distractions - if you're serious about thinking outside the box, get outside your normal surroundings
    • Take your thoughts home to marinate - you may have your best ideas when digesting a problem, maybe during exercise, a shower thought or listening to music. Pounce on those ideas there and then, extrapolating any value later

 

  • Learning styles are divided between visual, auditory and kinesthetic, when creating ideas ensure you cater to each one of these styles. 
    • Show the problem and solution - drawing with processes
    • Create a narrative where you can eloquently describe and talk people through a process
    • Physically walk people through a problem - if you have a wall, start at the left with the problem and guide yourself (and audience) to the other side telling the story and solution

 

  • Avoid burnout
    • Don't overdo it. Tired minds lead to tired ideas, mistakes and awkward flights of fancy. Fuel up on caffeine and fruit but know when to leave it.

So there are my tips to help with creative thinking and I genuinely hope they help. As a victim of too many forced-fun activities, be it 'creative team building' or 'blue sky ideation' sessions I've found the best way to think outside the box is to understand everything about it first.