From a day-to-day perspective in the corporate world, we didn't necessarily use objective metrics about creative ideas. Too often, it came down to whether an executive liked or didn't like an idea.
After talking with a friend, I think the percent of time you are told to pull back your creative ideas because they are too big and bold may be a good way to assess how your creativity is faring in an organization. My friend explained that over a period of years, her bosses shot down every dynamic possibility she proposed as a creative marketing idea. The cumulative impact is she no longer offers big creative ideas because there isn't any point. Her learned reluctance to push bold creative ideas now creeps into other situations where she does have tremendous latitude to introduce bold ideas. As she describes it, this phenomenon frustrates her professionally AND personally. It takes the creative joy out of side projects she does.
An Objective Creativity Metric
You could define a metric on how often you are told to pull back your creative ideas as a ratio:
Number of creative ideas you suggest
Number of times you have to pull back creative ideas because of bigness and boldness
Here are a few observations about the resulting percentage for this Creative Pullback Ratio (or CPR – yes, it HAD to have an acronym!):
If you are told to rein in every creative idea, that's not a good place. There is a disconnect. It may be time to make sure your bold creative ideas are clearly and understandably rooted in strategy. Alternatively, you may be in a place that is thinking way too small; you should get out as soon as you can.
If no one ever says your ideas are too bold, that is also bad. It means you aren't challenging anyone's thinking with your creativity. You are going for safe and easy instead of innovative and disruptive.
Since neither CPR extreme is good, the right frequency for getting told to pull back creative ideas is somewhere between zero and 100%. That’s a huge range. Where the right place is depends on a couple of things:
- How is your CPR changing over time? Did it start big but has steadily (or suddenly) declined? If so, that could suggest an environmental problem that's killing big creativity.
- Does your CPR vary by client or team? Do you work with multiple types of people or in different settings with varied tolerances for extreme creativity? In that case, does your overall CPR feel right to keep you creatively satisfied?
- Are you of a mindset that (and or in a situation where) the only way to get a reasonable degree of creativity sold-in is through introducing huge ideas? In these instances, you need extreme creativity to shock decision makers into approving a modest amount of creativity.
- Do you consciously vary your target CPR based on what’s needed? Perhaps a low CPR is appropriate in certain situations. But you recognize when you are deliberately offering safer creative ideas without losing your chops for developing extreme creativity to stretch when that makes sense.
Could monitoring a CPR benefit your creative ideas?
I pitched this idea to my friend. She said she didn’t think about developing creative ideas like this at all. That’s fair; maybe the CPR is too calculated (pun kind of intended) for people who are pure creatives.
For someone like me who has to use creative thinking structures (especially extreme creativity exercises) to boost creativity, the CPR may make more sense. I’m manufacturing creative ideas, no imagining them from pure inspiration. When you are a creativity manufacturer, having a creativity metric such as the CPR would help me know if I’ve dialed the right creative recipe.
Could thinking about your CPR help your creativity? Or does it just seem silly? Mike Brown
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