Twenty years ago, you would have been strapped to find a corporate business environment willing to employ ‘design thinking’ into their every day practices. In fact, corporate enterprises were historically known for being against creative thinking as a means to improve customer experience and achieve better results, as there were few hard figures to prove the worth of unorthodox solutions. But, as the power of the image moved into the forefront of consumer advertising in the 21st century, it wasn’t long before corporate businesses caught on to the importance of design and creative thinking, particularly in gaining traction and winning bids and tenders.
Design is of course seen as a finished product first and foremost, but it is the process of creative thinking that forms a base to create the most impact at the finish line. It forces teams to understand what their client or customer wants, what excites them, and what will entice them to work together or buy a product. It is no longer enough for corporate entities to disregard design and run off the merits of writing alone. When we think about the most impactful presentations, seminars or advertisements we have seen, we are not drawn to reams of text unless it has context, meaning and is presented in a visually engaging way.
The creative thinking process consists of three key stages:
This is the foundation to the building blocks of content which will be stacked on top, and as we all know, without a foundation a structure will not stand well on its own. Understanding and observing what drives a key decision maker or consumer is perhaps the most fundamental part to achieving results. This stage is where ‘win themes’ are developed which will become the base in the development of moodboards and concepts once an idea moves into design. Learning about the audience for whom you are designing is extremely important, as this will set the tone of the product. If these fundamental elements don’t hit the spot outright, it’s unlikely the audience will be engaged and captivated at any later stage.
Before you explore, it’s important to allow your logical brain to disengage, a.k.a ‘switch off’ or as Einstein coined it, move through the process of ‘mental incubation’. The exploration stage requires the more critical thinkers to cross over into creative thinking by learning to think expansively and visually, hence the need for a fresh, open-mind. A good old fashioned brainstorming session with your team involving a drawing board and visual inspiration will get the creative juices flowing and allow for a hearty, honest conversation on how exactly to turn your insights into tangible ideas. Exploration means discussing all avenues, even those that seem daunting and unachievable, making informed decisions and drafting potential solutions. From here it’s about putting your ideas into motion through conceptual designs, moodboards and imagery that represent all of the key ‘look and feel’ elements of what will contribute to the finished product. Share this with people not just within your team, but other colleagues and outsiders who can provide a fresh perspective and give you constructive criticism. If the option is available, share it with the original user group or client for feedback. This is the time to refine key messages that will enhance the visual impact of your output – don’t be afraid to move, alter, add, remove and even return to step 1 if necessary before moving to the next stage. This process of trial and error helps designers to improve and refine their ideas.
Now it’s down to the true hard work and storytelling. This is where the magic happens – the 99% of perspiration that follows the 1% of inspiration. An epic idea or design is only the first part of the puzzle; the base of the cake; and requires combining the right formulas to create the perfect mix. It’s common for individuals or teams to become overwhelmed at this point which leads to procrastination from a belief that each part of the puzzle requires perfection on completion. Although this is the final stage of the creative process, it is by no means restrictive and if time allows, you may find your ideas will be constantly revolving, stripped and refined. But as we know, most outputs do have an end date, therefore it’s key at this point to get organised. We have all worked with the person who sees that blinding, beaming light at the end of the tunnel all too quickly, unravelling all of the beautiful creativeness that was so carefully crafted when time was of the essence. Don’t forget about the ‘process’ in creative process and get that lover of everything project management on board well in advance to divide and conquer the workload. This will avoid the team hitting a pile up of to-do’s and stress reaching an all time high on due day. They will be your greatest asset to a well functioning team, and will inevitably hold a great amount of the responsibility as to whether the team sinks or swims (no pressure!).
It’s no longer a question of the power and influence creative thinking plays within businesses in keeping well a head within an industry. A common misconception of creative thinking is that it requires exceptional creativity. Of course it requires a level of creative understanding, but it’s not a case of knowing everything about the technical side of design – this is what you pay a design team to do. Instead it is about individuals leading for creativity, by facilitating a creative environment that allows your team to collaborate on, formulate and execute new ideas.
Execute like a genius and deliver like a boss.