How can we foster creative thinking in our industry? It starts in the schoolroom.

Jack Blog

June 20th, 2014 By Jack Morton

There’s never been a more exciting time for creativity than right now, said Marc Pritchard, Global Brand Building officer for P&G.  Media fragmentation may have killed the golden age of advertising but it has given birth to a golden age of ideas — where we can work with an ever-evolving and expanding creative canvas of marketing opportunity.

But how do we get those ideas?  According to BBDO Guerrero you have to create a lot of crap ideas to get to a good one and they have created an online tool, the Crap Ideas Generator, to help you get there.  While it may not be necessary to have a specific tool to manage idea-creation, the principle of idea volume is a sound one.  Sturgeon’s law that 90% of all art forms are crap is commonly cited, but he wasn’t alone — as David Guerrero mentioned in his talk, former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli concurred that 9/10 books are nonsense.  So it stands to reason that if most ideas aren’t great, then we need to create lots of them in order to get a good one and even more to get a great one.

There’s a very healthy debate in the industry about how we go about creating these great ideas — as evidenced throughout the week at Cannes.  Training yourself to find opportunity by thinking in the left-field is a common theme. Jason Silva spoke of ‘the adjacent possible’ where we can seize opportunities by asking ‘what if?’ and Sense Worldwide challenged us to ‘embrace the ugly’ because breakthrough ideas often don’t look aesthetically pleasing.  As Guerrero said, we need to find ways to get our brains to jump out of their pre-set patterns.

If this is a concern for us in the industry, where at least we are having healthy discussions on the topic, how much of a concern should it be for our children?  Tham Khai Meng of Ogilvy & Mather said this week, “We are all born creative. We just got it educated out of us.” This, the next generation of creative marketers, are more often than not in an education system structured to create workers for a 19th century industrial economy, not the ideas economy of now and the future. And it’s not just about effective marketing. Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson warned us that our culture will fade unless we value problem-solving creativity.

This is exactly the issue Sommer + Sommer addressed in their workshop ‘How to Foster Creativity in 21st Century Education?’  Along with the Berlin School of Creative Leadership, the German creative agency asked Cannes greatest minds (and more than 100 other creatives and futurists in 35 countries) to inspire an innovative framework for 21st century schooling which will be published as the Classroom Thinktank.  I can’t wait to read it.  Creative thinking starts in the schoolroom, and if we want our industry to thrive we need to actively participate in the future of education.