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Taming the creative beast

6 min read


by Julie Pellet Director & Editor

Unstable, volatile and difficult to control, this unpredictable talent brings its share of surprises on a daily basis.

Unstable, volatile and difficult to control, this unpredictable talent brings its share of surprises on a daily basis.

Creativity is a force that lives in each one of us and we’ve made it our profession. As an agency specialised in digital content, creativity is both our strength and our weakness. And when this imperceptible, erratic ability is your principal source of revenue, its presence becomes capital.

Everyone has ideas. But people call on us because we can bring these ideas to life. And we use our diversity of talent to make it happen.

Every profession has its own toolbox. Except that every creative knows that the crucial creativity tool is not like others; sometimes it’s in the toolbox and sometimes it’s not. This absence is similar to the blank page syndrome. So, how do you avoid this?

Having been in the agency market for a few years, we’ve developed a certain number of methods over time that help us overcome this obstacle. And yes, it is precisely because creativity is an ability we cherish and care about that we sometimes put the pressure on. This slightly schizophrenic mixture of sweet and harsh is a cocktail that works. To get there, we call on inspiration first.

The birth of inspiration

Inspiration is the first step towards creativity. You find it everywhere, in artwork, in an everyday object or in a baby’s gurgle…It only takes a spark to get the machine going down the road that leads to an idea. It’s a muscle that we maintain thanks to regular training. Without it, you lose your reflexes and the exercise becomes painful.

At 23bis, we encourage each other to train this muscle by constantly sharing cultural and artistic references that have struck a chord or by regularly asking for feedback on our personal and professional projects. But what really boosts motivation is that we are all driven by our respective passions linked to our work. Brought together, all these ingredients place us in a mindset that encourages creativity. We love our profession and everything related to it. That’s why cultivating our culture is such an easy task.

In spite of our creative backgrounds, unfortunately ideas don’t flourish by themselves. But numerous methods exist for gathering our inspiration, then using it to shape projects.

Spread your wings, within reason

Brainstorming sessions for a start; one of our favourite exercises. Everyone is invited to participate in every session, regardless of their position in the company or their creative experience. Each point of view is important! The floor is open to anyone to share their thoughts, even if the person voicing their proposal thinks it is unusual or poor. By sharing ideas that we shape together, they evolve and eventually lead to the development of concepts.

  1. We start with a warm up to get ourselves in the mood. A good example is the Hyper Island Toolbox that offers different warm up games.
  2. Our “facilitator” keeps the meeting on track by imposing a series of constraints based on the seven rules of a brainstorming session.
  3. We add context in relation to the project communication needs, to move forward in the right direction. We then structure each step of the thought process by setting time limits according to the requirements and constraints of the brief.

Brainstorming sessions quickly tend to become chaotic, so structuring these creative meetings is a true necessity for being efficient in the thought process. We box creativity in to better stimulate it afterwards.

More constraints for more freedom

It may seem strange, but creativity flourishes when it is placed under constraint. Let us guess, you have tons of personal projects in mind but not one has ever materialised. More often than not, the truth is that a blank check gives you such a huge range of possibilities that you end up getting lost and not knowing what to do. On the contrary, imposing a theme or constraints facilitates the flow of ideas by reducing the field of play and giving a clear view of what can be done. The client’s request is a constraint in itself as it poses a problem, communication objective, budget or deadline. The more of these elements that need to be taken into consideration, the easier it is to arrive at a feasible solution. So you have to look at constraints as your allies; they frame the context of a creation to make it even more beautiful.

Deadlines, one of our best allies

Next comes the deadline; that worrisome mark on the calendar that tells us that on this particular day, a concept, a presentation, a project has to be finished and delivered. Known to all of us, we have also turned this enemy into an ally. Actually setting internal deadlines is a means we use to improve our performance.

A project to be delivered in six months has a tendency to stagnate. At 23bis we all recognise that having too much time alleviates the pressure (a little too much). We explore a wide scope of possibilities, get lost in a jungle of ideas and end up astray of the initial intention. When we aren’t moving forward enough, having only our conscience to rely is not enough. We need more stimulation. Setting up timeframes or planning a meeting internally, establishes a rigorous, more productive workflow. Self-imposing deadlines doesn’t necessarily mean that we will manage to tick all the boxes every time, but we will have given our utmost to do so.

Take this article for example: It was not a client mandate so it took us three months to write. At the beginning of the confinement on the other hand, we made a Covid-19 special prevention video urgently. A 3 minute video animation produced from A to Z by three people in only four days. A project that required the full concentration of our energies and abilities.

At the end of the day, obstacles aren’t always where you would expect to find them.

Make the most of it

Whatever the budget, request or visibility of a project, at 23bis, we always strive to give our very best.

We have to look for alternatives not for the correct answer, because there are many correct answers.

Not every communication mandate is super sexy at first glance. But who knows? Maybe that request for a video on the hibernation of squirrels in city parks will be the next masterpiece of communication? If you don’t strive to create something unique every time, eventually you stop striving for it altogether. Again, creativity has to be nurtured. It is the burning flame within that drives us to create original works. Make sure that it never dies out!

But giving your best is also giving yourself time for other things. After hours, even days of racking your brain, sometimes THE great idea just won’t come. Once more, like a muscle, it needs training not over-training. Taking a break, putting your thoughts on hold, are a part of the process. Because even when you are at rest, your subconscious is still working. So it’s only natural to put your research aside so you can come back to it later with a clear head.

Nothing is born of diamonds. Of manure, flowers are born.

To sum it up, creativity is a muscle that needs training on a daily basis. At work and in our free time, 23bis inspiration presents itself in many forms. Feeding it and keeping it alive with everything around us is a constant learning experience.

Some days are worse that others when we think we are no longer capable of tapping into our creative resources. This is the precise time that these different tools we’ve shared with you can come in handy. Don’t expect fireworks, just the sparks.

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