09/28/2015 09:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Taking a New Perspective on the Creative Process

By Mike Mitra, Art Director, Drumroll

2015-09-28-1443447974-9432335-mike.jpgWe all have creative minds, I don't care who you are or what you do.  Face it, you're a creative person. Remember when you were a kid and could make a game out of anything? Or when you could take simple household items, hold them in a certain way, and all of the sudden, it became a "spaceship" or a "drum"? Remember when a pile of Legos meant infinite possibility, and not just the mess on the floor that it probably means to you today? Why did creativity come so naturally to all of us, and when did it become less innate?

I've seen a broad spectrum of creativity, types of innovation that span all disciplines. For instance, there is a beauty in the inventive process that chefs go through when cooking a new dish. There is creative energy in how teachers mold young minds in the classroom, or how coaches motivate and empower their players on the field. With each situation comes unique problems that require unique solutions, all of which come from some basis of creativity.

Let's focus on two types of creativity:

1) The nuance method - creativity through repetition

2) The discovery method - creativity through variety

Creativity Through Repetition
Advertising creatives, or better yet everyone in advertising in general, are well-versed in the nuance method. We work with our clients and deliver products and campaigns that are adaptations from a base concept, branching from a core brand and creating something new and energizing through an evolution of something that already exists. Here, we are creative within the repetition, finding something new with nuance, expanding on the foundation that was already established, whether that is a brand strategy or a tagline.

Although we're used to creativity in nuance, we are missing out on the kind of creativity that comes from doing something brand new, something beyond the everyday, something perhaps even out of your established skill set. I want to explore this type of creativity because I believe it is key to crafting an overall balance to everything we do in advertising.

Creativity Through Variety
The discovery method often requires the creative to branch out and do something beyond what he or she is used to doing or thinking about, and that practice must come from a source of inspiration. Oftentimes inspiration comes from action, not from observation. I think it's safe to say we all admire unique digital campaigns, an interesting outdoor installation, reading blog entries in the Advertising Week Social Club blog - yet we may not all seek or engage in action-oriented inspiration.

That's where Legos come in. At Drumroll, we created something called "Drumroll Perspectives," a vehicle for expanding and exploring the essence of the discovery method of creativity. Each assignment consists of something that is specifically designed to force people to try to do something they're probably never done. When choosing a new project, we like to take inspiring things we see and turn them into actionable assignments for others to try. Some of the assignments are drawn from this inspiration, while others are born organically out of our own brainstorming process. Much like the aforementioned chef creating a new dish, in the discovery method, we're using new ingredients and coming up with something brand new, something outside of our established repertoire.

Perspectives assignments can range from large to small and involve many forms of storytelling. One such assignment was to use one sticky note and draw, write, or do whatever you wanted with it. Another asked participants to take photos that aligned to the word "lines," while another assignment challenged participants to create a word at his or her desk using tiny plastic figurines (a practice inspired by artist Tatsuya Tanaka). Another simply asked each person to write a haiku.

Think about it, have you ever written a haiku? Exactly.

It's like the idea of muscle confusion exercises - the kind of stuff fitness personality Tony Horton made famous with P90X - you can only go so far doing the same workouts over and over. You eventually plateau and don't see any more progress. You have to add variety to your workout, add diversity to the moves you make, the times you make them and the degree to which you make them. Only then will you start to shape your body in a profound way. So too=are your creative "muscles" - you must start to add variety in the things you think about, how you shape them in your mind and how you express your thoughts about them.

By exercising these new or neglected muscles, everyone involved starts to appreciate their own creative process and can start to see everything through a new lens. The beauty of Perspectives is that it is completely scalable. I started these creative exercises with a copy of Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal, creating assignments for myself in order to keep my imagination busy in the off hours. So far at Drumroll, we've been able to incorporate every employee in the agency in a collaborate environment. Not only can employees turn in their submissions for each Perspectives assignment, they have also openly contributed to the assignment pool, offering more unique and fun ideas for the office to do. The response has been great so far and through this process I've been reminded that I am surrounded by a number of really creative and inventive people.

The hope is that we are able to exercise our creative inspirations no matter where they come from and express ourselves in unique ways no matter what end deliverable. The goal is to come up with creative solutions to any problem, and do it quickly, much like how we all used to do it when we were kids. I encourage to start your own Perspectives assignments, first as an individual, then as a small group and perhaps laddering all the way up the an entire agency. These efforts makes all of us better observers, better problem solvers and better creatives.