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What does a creative environment look like?

Before you can define a creative environment, you need to define what is meant by the word ‘creativity’. I remember some years ago, I was at a Global Creative Summit. When asked to define creativity, a Creative Director from Italy piped-up; “How can anyone define creativity, it’s like asking the Angels what sex they are?” All very dramatic of course, particularly when spoken with an Italian accent and exaggerated hand gestures, but you get the point.

Creativity will mean different things to different people, but fostering a creative environment is more than sticking a few bean bags in the creative department. It’s a culture that permeates through the whole agency. It’s allowing people to flourish in their roles and not be constrained by narrow job descriptions. You don’t tell a plant to grow (unless you’re Prince Charles), you give it the right soil to grow in and it will produce good fruit.

Creative people

What was once the preserve of anyone with the word ‘Creative’ in their job title, has now been blown out of the water. One only has to take a look on YouTube to recognise that there are some very creative people that aren’t necessarily in ‘creative’ roles as a profession. But it does also prove that creativity is innate in every human being to some degree.

At Burrows, we have a very simple mantra, and that is “Ideas can come from anywhere”. I would encourage everyone in the agency to be as creative as possible, no matter what they do. This might sound like a stretch for somebody crunching data all day or a Proof Reader scrutinising copy and spotting a split infinitive at 50 paces. But I am a firm believer in serendipity. I have found that some of the best ideas are almost happy accidents or can stem from a throwaway line in an ideas session, or by observing and listening to the people around us.

We have a young guy who works in facilities, his emails to the agency are highly amusing and very readable. Who knew that a blocked toilet could be so entertaining? But the point he is making gets recognised because in its own way it is creative. This should be encouraged.

Of course, some of us are paid to be creative. Ideas are our currency, it’s what we do. It’s what defines us. Whether it’s the Art Directors, Writers, Digital Creatives, Strategists or the people who face off to the client. Ideas should be shared, they have to be dreamt, realised, made fireproof and then beautifully executed. My experience tells me, the strongest ideas are usually those that have been collaborated on.

Don’t let technology dictate ideas, use technology to deliver the idea, but involve the technologists early in the creative process – they might just have a point of view that makes a good idea a great idea.

So, the challenge for every ‘creative’ person who gets paid to create, is to thrive in their environment. Observe what is all around you, embrace people’s idiosyncrasies. After all, we are the ones that start each day staring at a sheet of white paper.

Getting back to the creative environment. When people in the Agency recognise that they can contribute to their surroundings and are motivated to do so, it will create positive energy. Give people the space they need to do things differently, to take the odd risk, to step out of the everyday.

And when you do hit a home run, make sure you celebrate your success - including those who had a minor role. Even the most unimaginative workers become creative when they have a stake in the outcome of a project.

So, before you go spending shedloads of money on redecorating the Agency (and adding a few more bean bags) to generate a creative environment. Fill it first with hungry, inquisitive people. Empower them. Light the touch paper and let them sparkle.

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