03/27/2013 11:44 am ET Updated May 27, 2013

7 Reasons Your Creative Sucks

There are a lot of horrible creative ideas out there. The kinds that make you wonder, "Who the hell approved that?" Whether you're an agency developing creative for a client or a company looking to refresh a new product, new ideas aren't just nice to have, they're essential to winning in today's world. Here are a few top-level ways you might be doing creative wrong.

1. You don't have a process (or you don't follow the one you have)

When you think of raw creativity you probably don't think of process, but it's the best way to deliver consistently good work. Having an established process that your entire team understands, believes in and follows is fundamental to driving innovative ideas. There are hundreds of creative processes with fancy labels but they all boil down to the same fundamental elements:

● Define the objective
● Get the right data to truly understand your audience and ecosystem
● Define the best strategy to reach your audience
● Come up with tactics to reach your objective

Beyond that, it's all window dressing and pretty charts. Process sounds easy but not everyone follows one. Watch any episode of the AMC's The Pitch to see how many agencies throw ideas at a wall before thinking about what the hell they're trying to do. Sadly, a lack of process isn't limited to agencies vying for work on reality TV. Don't be Mr. Bill and get a process in place.

2. You aren't getting the background data

Data might be the last thing you think about when you're looking for the sexiest of sexy ideas, but it's vital to making creative click. Understanding how your audience thinks, where they consume media and what they care about not only helps you make informed ideas, it helps drive creative itself. Bonin Bough, vice president of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelēz International, told a story during SXSW about a social listening campaign that helped Gatorade realize their customers talked about sports drinks differently before, during and after their workout. This information inspired the new billion-dollar G Series product line that creates differentiated products for each phase of your workout. Just as listening is the first step in any effective social media campaign, listening and understanding your customers is the first step to awesome creative.

3. Your creative brief sucks

Creative briefs are like the baby diapers of creative, they're a pain in the ass to keep doing but the second you don't, you've got a huge mess on your hands. Creative briefs help define the universe that you want to create and eliminate wasting time on ideas that aren't meeting your objective. Hillman Curtis, creative pioneer and all around amazing guy eloquently said, "Limitations can be seen as liberating frameworks that force you to streamline your work, making it accessible to the most people possible, both technologically and aesthetically." Although it might seem paradoxical, the best way to set your creative free is to constrain it.

4. You suck at running brainstorms

There are many competing theories around running brainstorms, blue sky or targeted briefs? Use one large group or multiple small groups? While there are no magic bullets, there are some universal truths. Brainstorms should be safe places for ideas. Don't evaluate good ideas on the fly; it's demoralizing (even if the weird guy on your team keeps pitching Vine). If possible, separate the ideas phase from the evaluation phase. Let a stream of good ideas come out first and then step back to evaluate separately. And always motivate your team. Praise goes a long way in brainstorms towards generating good ideas.

5. You're reading too much about creativity

Yes, I realize the irony... There's nothing more detrimental to finding a spark of genius than over analyzing all your ideas. Let your freak flag fly and just do cool stuff. Throw away your "how to be creative" book and just write random words on a page, see a movie you would have never seen before, get out of your comfort zone. Creativity is a muscle, use it often enough and you'll get the hang of it.

6. You're not documenting your ideas

How many ideas get wasted because you were too lazy to write everything on your whiteboard down? Take a picture of the ideas you generated during your brainstorm. Cataloging your ideas can be a pain but when your creativity is running low you'll be amazed how brilliant your team was a few months ago.

7. You aren't looking hard enough

Steal like an artist. There are a ridiculous amount of good ideas everywhere. Having a few go-to websites to troll for good ideas is a great habit. A better habit is having a place to share those ideas with others so they can add to the collection. Good ideas breed other good ideas. They're a lot like rabbits, dirty, idea rabbits.

Everyone wants to say they have a creative team, but it's much harder to create the right environment to make creative a powerful force for your organization. While structure and planning sound antithetical when it comes to awesome ideas, it's just what's needed to ensure that the one brilliant idea your team came up with isn't their last.