ignited with sparks

by Susie Lockwood

Do you consider yourself a creative person?

And if you’ve answered yes to that, how often do you act like a creative person at work?

I went to a great meeting just before Easter. I came out with a spring in my step and feeling like I’d been part of some really good work around that table, and the best part was that it didn’t feel like work.

That’s because for the duration of the meeting I’d not only had the opportunity to come up with lots of creative ideas for our Norfolk’s American Connections project that’s launching in the summer but that the people around that table had been really receptive to them. It felt creative, collaborative, rewarding and invigorating - and it made me realise that I want to feel like that more often.

This doesn’t mean having to go to more meetings, it means making sure I apply creative thought to areas of my work where I think it could make what I do, or what my organisation does, more effective.
If you’ve worked in communications or PR for any length of time I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘we don’t need to reinvent the wheel’, and of course there’s a lot of sense in that statement. But there’s a balance to be struck because if we’re not open to new ideas and reviewing what we do, we’re not going to get any more effective at what we do, in fact we’ll probably become less effective. And on that ‘reinvention of the wheel’ point, you’ve heard of the Wright brothers, right?

It isn’t always easy to think creatively at work. If you’ve been in the same role, worked for the same employer or with the same people for a while it can be hard to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

And this is kind of backed up by science. This is a bit of an aside but it was watching the first item on this episode of the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory that led me to write this blog post. It’s about crowd mentalities and individuals’ natural predilection to either conform or rebel. It’s not a ‘must watch’ in terms of what I’m writing about here (and it’s only available on iPlayer until 21 May 2012 so ‘fraid you’ll always have to wonder if you’re reading this after that date) but it is interesting.

In the spirit of being creative, here are a few suggestions that might help you and your colleagues fire on all creative cylinders. I’d love it if anyone has other ideas they want to share in the comments section.

Try to think in terms of outcomes, not outputs – Or, don’t prejudge the solution before considering what you’re trying to achieve. For example, if your target audience are unlikely to read the local paper or listen to local radio, is writing a press release the best tool to use?

Read, talk, listen, learn! – There’s a lot of great, creative stuff being done in the world of comms and PR, and some truly inspiring exponents of it who, fortunately, are happy to share their knowledge, opinions and experiences. Hey, if you’re on www.Comms2Point0.com, you’re doing pretty well. Twitter’s a fantastic resource too, once you’re following the right people for you (a browse through your favourite tweeters’ ‘following’ lists will help on this score). And if you’ve got a posse of enthusiastic, innovative types around you to spur you on, all the better. If you haven’t, could you try and create one in the Teacamp, Brewcamp etc mold? If you’re mouthing ‘Whatcamp?’ at the screen, check out this post from Dan Slee’s blog.

Make the best possible use of your team meetings – They’re an opportunity to exploit your collective brainpower and learn from each other. Run wisely, they can be purposeful, helpful and enlightening. Use them to solve problems, gain feedback, share skills and knowledge and improve as a whole.

DON’T wind your neck in – Got a good idea, some useful feedback or a solution to a problem but it falls outside the parameters of your role? A good idea’s a good idea, whoever it comes from, so screw up your courage and speak up – you never know, you may just save the day, or make it immeasurably better. See Will Mapplebeck’s fantastic blog post for Comms2Point0 for more on this theme.

Do unto others... - Good ideas can be stymied by an unsupportive culture. Not every suggestion can be taken up and some ideas will be better than others, but if the reaction-ometer of a team or a manager to new thinking is generally set to ‘lacklustre’ or worse, ‘disinterested’ then you’ll end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Find inspiration in ways that work for you – Whether that’s taking a windswept walk across a moor, talking to or reading about people you admire in all areas of life or watching an episode of Bang Goes the Theory, anything that sets your mind on new and different paths must be good for your creativity and motivation.

I know it’s a bit cheesy but I really enjoy reading quotes from great thinkers, one or two natty sentences that sum up a belief, a feeling or a theory and get my cogs whirring. On that note, let me leave you in the deft hands of 18th century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Von Herder, who said: “Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.”

Susie Lockwood is Media Officer at Norfolk County Council

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