Monday, October 17, 2016

Why diversity matters

It’s a hot topic today, to be sure. Lots of headlines and lots of people caught behaving badly pushes it into the forefront. Calls for quotas or mandates for more opportunities abound. And as a creative, I can actually tell you why it matters.

We don’t all think the same.
The beauty of being a creative in advertising is that our ranks have been filled with amazing diversity for as long as I’ve been in the business. The only real thing that we all have in common is creativity. We have liberals, conservatives, independents and anarchists. We have women, men, transgender and people trying to figure it out. We have religious zealots, active atheists and a whole bunch of people somewhere in the middle.  We have all races and people of all cultures and languages. And each one of us brings amazingly different ideas and thoughts to the table

Divergent thinking creates better ideas.
In the creative department, we know we can’t surround ourselves with people who think just like us, or we will never get beyond the limitations of our own thinking. My opinion and way of thinking is already in the room. But creativity is additive. Once my idea has emerged, I need someone else’s thinking to make it better. I need someone with a different point of view to see what I’ve missed. If you’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of a great creative team, then you’ve seen this in action, and it’s powerful.It’s also addictive. Once you see how far you can go on the power of collective and diverse thinking, you won’t ever turn back.

You become comfortable being uncomfortable.
Let’s face it, working with people who have opposing points of view can be challenging. Especially if they have stronger arguments than we do. Or better ideas than we do. I can see why some people would rather squash that than engage with it. It’s tough to have to explain or defend your own ideas to people who don’t agree. It’s also wildly uncomfortable to be challenged or bested by people around you. But it makes you work harder, think harder and consider other options. There’s always more than one right answer, and you have to consider the possibility that the other person might be more right than you. As a creative you learn to get comfortable with that, because that’s how it works. And that’s how you get better at your job.

It’s remarkably easy to do.
Give it a shot. If you’ve been surrounding yourself with people who think like you, walk like you and talk like you, bring someone else completely different into your next project or assignment and see where you end up. Better yet, bring in a few. And then allow yourself to be disagreed with, argued with and bested. You might be surprised not only by the outcome, but by how much more fun the journey is, as well.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Who sees commercials in an ad-blocked world?

Quick! What was the last great tv commercial you saw? Hard to answer, isn't it? I even find myself straining to remember what spots I loved during the Super Bowl (which really wasn't many, if any, this year!)

Ad blockers. DVRs. On Demand. Cord cutters. There are a lot of ways to get content without actually getting the ads these days. So are the commercials and ads we create being seen by anyone anymore? And if not, then what are we getting paid for? (Ouch, right?)

It's a great question, and one we creatives certainly grapple with daily. It used to be so easy. Even as a consumer I find myself being tortured by the same 3 spots on Hulu, none of which are relevant to me. In this episode of The Pod Couple (below), Barbara Lippert and John Immesoete discuss this very topic. John happens to be my boss. Which clearly means he has the tolerance and patience of a saint to put up with me, but also that he is smart enough to have hired me. :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

My Own Chatbot

Ok, this is a very preliminary chatbot... but check it out!


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Reawakening the Beginner's Mind

Eric Wahl was the keynote speaker at our Epsilon Symposium today, giving us a thought-provoking look into how we need to unthink our way to being more creative.  Even as a card-carrying creative, who knows quite well how creativity has been ‘schooled out’ of most people, I was moved by his presentation, and his insights.

Did you know, for example, that the mere scent of crayons can help lower our blood pressure by 10 points? How amazing is that?  As he proudly showed us his box of 64 Crayolas (with the built-in sharpener, of course) I smiled and thought of my own box of 64 sitting back in my office in Chicago. I loved that this guy saw the same magic in that box that I do.  

He asked the audience how many people can draw, and only about 3 hands went up. (Part of that was probably because nobody wanted to be part of an audience participation event where they had to get up in front of 300 people and draw, but part of it is absolutely that they’ve “learned” that they cannot draw.)  When he asks high schoolers that question, as you might expect, a lot more of them raise their hands. And when he asks preschoolers? Every hand is raised. Of course they can draw.

When we’re young — when we’re beginners — we believe.   And we haven’t yet been told what we can’t do, and what we’re not good at.  For Eric, it took decades for him to come back to being an artist, after being told, and him believing, that he wasn’t.

It isn’t easy to swim upstream, but for some of us, it was likely made easier by parents or teachers who championed our creative talents.  I was told I was creative my whole life.  And my parents knew I was a writer way back in the third grade.  So did I.

Twenty years into this amazing career, I realize how lucky I am that I have a creative talent that was supported, and nurtured, because frankly, I can’t imagine having missed a single moment of it. Creativity is everything to me, in many different forms: from writing, to drawing, to solving business problems, to selling my ideas — there are endless outlets and avenues.

Eric posed a beautiful question to us all today — “how are you going to reawaken the beginner’s mind?”  I love this idea.  The confidence and certainty that you see in the face of a child with a crayon in his hand who KNOWS he can draw is powerful.  Even those of us who have been ‘creative’ for decades need to embrace this ‘beginner’s” mentality, because it takes us back to that place and time when we truly believed.  Back when our own opinion of what we were capable of, and our own assessment of how good we were, was all that mattered.  Long before we allowed doubt to creep into our minds, or the opinions of others to hold us back, when we knew we were powerful beyond measure.  THAT is where we need to begin.  And when we do that, as Eric suggests, we stop insulating ourselves against risk and start allowing ourselves to be truly free.  And that freedom is the absolute birthplace of our creativity.