I’m a very lucky man. When it comes to getting a good work / life balance, I think I’ve hit the jackpot because I get to squeeze in quality time with my kids during the week. I’ve got two, an energetic four year old boy who goes around claiming he’s ‘Batman’ and a two year old daughter who, for a young lady with such cute little hands, has the biggest ’pointy finger’ ever… most of the time directed at yours truly!
My two have their ‘moments’, maybe more than their fair share, but when it comes to creativity, I think they could hold their own in any brand or agency team on the planet. In fact, I think any child, given the right level of freedom and stimulation, could hold his or her own too. So with this in mind, I decided to note down a few things I learnt when I was holding the fort a few weeks back.
1. ‘To Do’ lists rock whatever your age
At the beginning of the day, we created a list of things they would like to do. I didn’t get involved. I purely noted things down. Why did this work? I’m a firm believer in always following your passions and this simple task, very naturally, enabled this to happen. They loved everything we did and, importantly, they felt a high level of ownership over the direction of the day. This reflected in their behaviour and motivation to try new things out. Wow and did we get a lot done too!
Follow your passions. Own them. Life is too short to be doing stuff that doesn’t interest you.
Map out your day or week; you’ll achieve a great deal more. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.
2. Creativity takes time and commitment
One of the first activities we took on was ‘Build a Tower’. Out came the Lego, on went some chilled Balearic beats for me, and the construction started. Now here’s the deal. Normally my attention may start to wander and the dreaded phone rears its ugly head, or the kids loose interest and want to move onto something else. Not this time. My phone was left upstairs and, as a team, we started to create. My role was to keep up momentum and encourage, their role was to use their imagination and build. This focus extended the time of the activity and meant the ‘masterpiece’ was far more developed and thought out.
Creativity is an investment. Sitting a room with someone at the front saying “So, who’s got an idea then?” will not cut the mustard. Plan your session, provide a wide variety of stimulation (unique venues, pictures, quotes, games, magazines etc) and set aside plenty of time. Then relax, have fun and enjoy yourselves. The more laughter you hear, the better the ideas you will create.
Never, ever have your phone on you when you want to unearth that killer idea.
3. Set the boundaries but leave plenty of space to play
If you have ever worked for an agency, you’ll know all about the dreaded ‘poor brief’. No direction. No inspiration. No information. No idea. Kids are no different. If you give them zero direction, encouragement or support, the results and experience will also suffer. To set the scene for them, all I did was ask a few probing questions. In the case of the Lego, these included ‘What does your dream tower look like? Does it have any windows? Is it big or small? Does anyone live in it?” then they had a think and came up with a variety of concepts, before knocking the blocks together.
Questions are key. Always have a few open-ended beauties up your sleeve to help develop and broaden the thinking when teammates are struggling to get into their ‘creative flow’. Release your inner coach! There’s no harm in having a few questions pre-prepared but, as and where possible, react and probe around the topics and themes people are already discussing in the session.
Don’t be too formulaic and never be regimented and start barking orders. Put people at ease. A bit of time pressure does work well though e.g. you have 30 minutes to come up with 20 ideas for such and such audience group.
4. Expect some turbulence
This had to be in there. Any parents reading this are now quietly nodding away in agreement. Dealing with toddlers is never straightforward but lets face it, dealing with adults is often the same. It’s fair to say, we went on an emotional rollercoaster ride. There were many ‘ups’ matched by a range of tantrums and ‘downs’. My tactic to shorten the length of the tantrums generally involved trying to distract them with some daddy dancing or an equally terrible rendition of the Paw Patrol theme tune. I know, how cool I am?
At FizzPopBang we whole-heartedly believe in the power of honest feedback given with good intent. In his insightful book ‘Creativity Inc’ Ed Catmull continually references ‘honesty’ and ‘candor’. Whatever industry you are involved in, creating an open and honest environment for feedback will be key.
Healthy confrontation is a good thing where people debate their case in a professional manner and remain open minded. This is where the magic happens. Shouting and screaming at one another, fighting your case is not the ticket.
5. Plans change. Flexibility is a must.
Maybe it was my dancing, maybe it was my Paw Patrol singing but half way through the day, and with three activities already ticked off the list, my daughter decided music had to be the next activity for us to tackle. Oh no, this was not on our list! What should we do? Surely we shouldn’t deviate from the existing plan? Of course we should! I know this is a super straightforward example but I hope it makes a clear point. When someone is passionate about something, it’s vital to feed his or her passion, as and where possible.
Creativity is all about going with the flow. Steer clear of rigidness. It does not work.
Always leave plenty of time to chat ideas through and build, build, build. I think one of the main mistakes people make is trying to cover too much in a workshop or creative session. Although the kids and I had lots of activities on our list, we had only done five by the end of the day. Our approached involved focusing on fewer tasks but giving each the attention they deserved.