Creative is as creative does

The real nature of creativity in our business is changing.

Did you know that no study has ever shown that the, “brainstorming” process works well since it first appeared in 1953?

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, that figure has GOT to be alarming as hell for you. And if you work in advertising, marketing or anything closely related, you know EXACTLY where we are going with this….your team sits around a table and someone opens up the hour-long discussion by asking for ideas or thought-starters. It can quickly become an, ‘Oh, no’ moment, filled with awkward silences and draining conversations.

It’s actually a ‘good-bad’ problem to have. So many clients and companies coming to you asking for ‘great ideas.’ But, nothing can quite kill a good idea like a brainstorm session.


So, what can be done? 

There’s plenty of alternatives to ‘brainstorming.’ And here’s a few that you may have not tried yet.

  1. Brain Writing

Brainwriting is simple. Rather than ask participants to yell out ideas (a serial process), you ask them to write down their ideas about a particular question or problem on sheets of paper for a few minutes; then, you have each participant pass their ideas on to someone else, who reads the ideas and adds new ideas. After a few minutes, you ask the participants to pass their papers to others, and the process repeats. After 10 to 15 minutes, you collect the sheets and post them for immediate discussion.

2. Creating Organisational Memories

An organizational memory is just another alternative to digitizing your ideas. Almost like, Slack, you simply annex your ideas for future use. A lot of teams use internal chat systems and create logs of ‘cool ideas’ or thought-starters to dig back up when a brainstorming session comes around and your team is tasked with crafting a ‘good idea.’

3. Creating an alternative environment

We’ve seen dedicated rooms at agencies before where they blend, mix and mash different employees from different departments and place them inside a room until they come out of it with a solid idea. While the extremes don’t have to go that far, having a dedicated (tech free) space can be a wonderful idea for flushing out new alternatives.

4. Getting outside

A Stanford study showed a 60% creativity boost from walking. It can be walking indoors or outdoors, even those walking on a treadmill showed increases.What’s interesting is that you do not need to go on a half day hike as many of the participants walked for between 6-15 minutes. And if your team is gearing up for a brainstorm, why not take 10-15 minutes and walk a few blocks instead of sitting stationary at a table? You never know, it might just get the blood pumping enough to throw out a few fresh ideas.


Anyway, those are just a few of the best answers we found when scouring the internet, but the real truth lies in an old adage that made us want to get into advertising in the first place.

And that adage goes: creative is as creative does.

Simple. Easy. To the point. Makes sense. But how many people, let alone, “Creatives” live by those words? 

Very few, I’m guessing. But, that’s not the point.

Here at Iphantry, we’ve got a tight-knit team, as well as that ‘good-bad’ problem to have where we are constantly tasked with ideations, brainstorms and creative, user-driven solutions for our clients and partner agencies. Yes, it is draining. But, the blame lies on us.

We’ve fallen into this vicious circle of trying to come up with new ideas with the same-old brainstorms. Remember above when I mentioned that ‘brainstorms’ haven’t been proven to work since 1953?! Well, it’s true. Our team is stuck sitting at the same table, in the same spots, with our computers, phones and about 50 tabs open to distract us while we’re trying to come up with, ‘thought-starters.’

Something needs to change. 

brainstormingHere at Inphantry, our work is better than ever, we’re onto bigger and bolder projects than ever before, but our brainstorms are beginning to get a little redundant. And I refuse to sugarcoat it and ignore the issue. As the competition for clients heats up, and we climb onto the big stage, there’s no excuse for us to have lackluster brainstorms.

Which brings me back to this adage: Creative IS, as creative DOES. 

If you’re a “Creative” agency, then WHAT are you doing to stir that creativity? Every agency has a beer fridge and a foosball table, but when the hell was the last time you USED it? When was the last time you all hung out, outside of work? Have you EVER done a teambuilder? Or just gone out for beers? Or gone for a hike together? Or played paintball, went skydiving, or took a work-vacation with one another? Those things matter! They matter DEEPLY for any team. Not just in advertising, not just in marketing, publishing or any other industry. Teams need to be just that; teams. How can you rely on one another when the bonds have never been tested or challenged, or fortified for that matter?

With companies, agencies, firms and even startups, paying employees salaries isn’t enough. There needs to be another layer tying employees together that’s not a foosball, pool table or beer fridge. The brainstorm sessions your team has, matters. And if you’re the leader of an agency, ask yourself, what are you doing to stir the pot? Are you too busy to do it? Are you encouraging others to not only ‘think’ outside the box, but BE outside of it too?

And whether or you’re the creative type, introvert or extrovert, everyone is capable of great ideas. There’s no need to shun or coddle either, but maybe the trouble lies in the common ground those varying ideas are built on. Maybe a new approach to a brainstorm might do the trick. Which leads me back to: Creative is, as creative does. 

What issues have you ever had during the creative process? Is it a mental block, or is it more? And what solutions have you implemented to stir the pot? In terms of agency life, “You are what you do, not what you say.” – first said by Carl Jung. And that phrase has never been more relevant in the age of experience and customer service. And it all relates back to your internal brainstorms. To think outside the box, sometimes you’ve got to get outside of it.

P.P.S. This TedTalks is incredible. Watch it and follow me on Twitter @CamKing747 or shoot me an email here: to discuss more.