On a recent day at the office, the content team spent about fifteen minutes discussing our favorite Harry Potter books, our overall disappointment with The Cursed Child, and our Harry Potter houses. We then segued into a fan fiction discussion, which led to an analysis of parody sites that ended with us all taking a quiz written in a style meant to spoof Buzzfeed’s standard format. After that conversation ended, we sank back into productive silence punctuated by the occasional question or comment about our current projects. All told, it was a typical day.
My team consists of 12 people. But, more importantly, it consists of 4 Harry Potter geeks, 3 podcast addicts, 3 Marvel superfans, 1 Excel aficionado, 1 fast food and dining deal finder, 1 British gentleman, 4 Target-goers, 5 dog owners, 4 cat owners, 10 sport fanatics (the sports we obsess over vary), and the list goes on and on. We’re all passionate about different things individually, but together, we combine our passions into campaigns that examine pet preferences according to Harry Potter house and popular podcasts across the US. We embrace our inner nerds, and that’s really where our creativity begins.
We have a strong and positive team dynamic that allows for these types of interactions to happen, and we work better, harder, and smarter because of these seemingly inconsequential conversations. Given this, I wanted to look at why exactly this brand of productive creativity works in our favor and learn how other content teams can bottle up this same magic. Let’s get started.
Live Like Leonardo
It could be argued that these off-topic conversations are not work-related and should, therefore, be confined to lunch breaks or after work drinks. However, these occasional detours into internet black holes are often the most valuable conversations our team will have all day, and according to Time Magazine’s The Science of Creativity issue, there’s a reason for that. It turns out that we’ve been living and working according to the philosophies of Leonardo da Vinci himself.
Da Vinci was a creative genius, no doubt about it, but he also advocated techniques for creativity that, when employed, allow people to think more creatively on a regular basis. The article outlined tactics that include:
- Seeking for knowledge for knowledge’s sake – Whether it’s random bits of trivia, sports stats, or the latest romantic comedy, a key part of creative thinking involves diving into what interests you, whether it relates to your job or not.
- Go down rabbit holes – Don’t limit yourself to one article or website. Explore all of the sources you possibly can.
- Collaboration – What’s better than one creative mind looking at a project? Two or more creative brains.
- Imperfection – Pursuing perfection limits your options and forces you to work inside a particular box. Creativity, by definition, involves thinking outside the box.
- Create for yourself – Creating for clients is all well and good (and it involves a paycheck) but ultimately, you should try to create for yourself.
The ideas laid out above are what drive our team’s random conversations and forays into very weird corners of the internet. They’re generally quick, usually completely unrelated to our current workload, and in many cases, have resulted in an idea that turns into a wildly successful campaign. We fully immerse ourselves into all things geeky to contribute to an overall culture of creativity where whacky ideas are welcome. We love nothing more than someone dropping a link into the group chat with the caption “This is so weird/cool/interesting/bizarre.” It’s the employment of da Vinci’s theories that keep us moving forward at a pace that allows us to meet our deadlines.
So, don’t be afraid to have those raucous workplace conversations that highlight the topics you love to talk about. In fact, dive deeper into them to nurture your creativity. If it can work for Leonardo da Vinci, it can work for you too.
Flexing Our Creative Muscles
It’s a common belief that creativity is an asset that you either have or you don’t. This person is creative while another person is not, this person is more numbers and logic-oriented while this person thinks outside-the-box. That’s simply not the case. Creative thinking is a skill that can be cultivated, and just like anything else, you have to work hard to make it great. If you want to run a marathon, what do you do? You train. The same goes for creative thinking.
In my experience, one of the most effective ways to flex your creative muscles in content marketing is to (unsurprisingly) immerse yourself in content and collaborate. Our team looks at our daily research, news feeds, and general responsibilities as a smorgasbord of potential innovation. It’s a practice that we encourage in each other, and that ideology is what ultimately leads to our consistent creative success. By inviting multiple people to look at projects, we combine our points of view to create engaging content that we would jump to read — if we hadn’t produced it ourselves, that is.
This ties back to the idea of “creating for ourselves” that da Vinci championed. While we ultimately work for the client, we also make it a priority to find projects that we would love to work on. When we get to put one of these projects into action, they tend to be extremely successful, not just because they’re a creative option, but because we throw our heart and soul into them.
While we all have days where the creative juices just won’t flow, we have many more days that involve rabbit holes, hysterical laughter, random thoughts and ideas added to our dream campaign document. Even as we work to maintain high productivity levels, employing these day-to-day tactics helps us think outside the box and keeps us from burning out or, even worse, relying on the conventional. These techniques are relatively easy to employ in your own life, not to mention a fun excuse to nerd-out over your favorite things. By living and breathing our passions, we’re able to carry that originality to every aspect of our jobs, which is ultimately what allows us to be great at what we do.