A theory of fear & creativity
Like a part of the spectrum we know exists but cannot see, creativity is an elusive metaphysical property. Like gravity, we need creativity to function. But how can you select the best creative solution when it can be as abstract as anti-matter?
Every business leader wants creative solutions, saying “I’ll know it when I see it!” They have visions of landing on the moon. But when creative solutions are presented — they default back to earth.
As creatives it is our job to reach for the moon and sell our clients on buying great creative. Too often, the C-levels, Directors and Managers are selecting what they know will have least resistance. After all no one likes change. This leads to ho-hum executions that don’t stand out and don’t move the needle.
How do we push them outside their orbits? First we have to help them understand their fears.
A study conducted by Cornell University on the Bias of Creativity reveals a challenge we creatives have in selling our harebrained ideas. When participants were given a creative option vs. practical option they select the status quo. This appears to stem from our desire to reduce uncertainty. Considering our clients pressure to deliver higher earnings, improved profits and outcomes, creativity is the dark side of the moon.
“Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for generation of creative ideas (Audia & Gonzalo, 2007l Tiedens & Linton, 2001), yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.” — Bias Against Creativity.
So how do we reduce this friction?
1. TAKE A TRIP TO THE UNCOMFORTABLE ZONE
Be truthful with your clients from the beginning. Reassure them that you are in their corner and ready to walk them through what may feel uncomfortable at first. Taking that first step into the Uncomfortable Zone isn’t easy, especially if they aren’t empowered by their own superiors to make creative decisions. Give them the power to communicate your vision if needed.
2. VISUALIZE ANTI-GRAVITY
Start with the close-in, the safe. Show the client what happens if they go status quo. If you don’t show it, they will ask or wonder, “What if?” But then step it out. Show them what they would least expect. Visualize the anti-matter with words, video, prototypes. Don’t pitch an idea solely with words. As you present each element pause and ask them if they have any questions.
3. PROVING GROUNDS
NASA didn’t just land a man on the moon in one day. They sent several unmanned rockets with a few fatal mistakes along the way to learn and prove they could make the mission a success. Similarly you may need to phase into the final creative solution. Prove it works by testing it on various touchpoints. Talk with the stakeholders to ensure it can be adopted successfully. Be excited and they’ll be excited.
If you can mitigate the fear with baby steps, you may succeed in selling in that winning idea.