Can You Teach Creativity?

Creativity is one of these words that gets thrown around a lot in the advertising sphere. As an agency, we advise our clients to be innovative and creative with their ad formats, messaging, and imagry to better attract consumers.

But what does “be creative” actually mean? Is creativity something that can be taught?

Well, let’s start from the beginning…

What is creativity?

Ultimately, creativity is subjective – it can mean different things to different people. Some define it as a characteristic that allows a person to ‘think outside the box’. Others define it as an activity where something new and valuable is formed. According to Stanford University professor, Tina Seeling, there are six characteristics that are shared by people who are viewed as traditionally creative.

  1. Imagination – thinking beyond boundaries
  2. Knowledge – your creativity toolbox
  3. Attitude – the confidence to solve a problem
  4. Environment – your stage
  5. Resources – outside of money: people, community etc.
  6. Culture – they ways in which your culture celebrates or punishes experimentation

Is it Possible to Learn creativity?

Brands often pay lip service to the idea that they are surrounded with creative people, yet, when you look around, there is a strong level of pushback towards brands for getting the message wrong, like Pepsi’s recent gaffe for producing a completely tone-deaf, offensive ad featuring socialite celeb, Kylie Jenner.

While personality, environment, and other factors all play into the limits of one’s initial level of creativity, brands can still nurture the trait in their organisations and teach people to think outside the proverbial box.

Benefits of Creativity

  • Problem-solving: Creativity teaches you to think in new and innovative ways, improving your problem-solving skills. It forces you to be resourceful, and investigate new solutions to old problems.
  • Creativity is disruptive: It challenges the way you think, shakes things up, and forces you out of your comfort zone. Creativity is the enemy of complacency, and complacency is the harbinger of brand death. Any brand that wants to stay ahead of the competition needs to stay creative. So stop what you’re doing, and bring on the big ideas.
  • Builds Better Relationships: Creative environments increase internal morale and engagement. To produce all those great things for your clients, you need to have an engaged, excited, and motivated team. Brands that foster creativity see an uptick in internal collaboration, resulting in higher levels of productivity, and retention. The ability to see things in new ways enhances product and consumer understanding and creates a better overall workspace. Creativity also builds better external relationships; thinking creatively allows you to see things you might normally miss, and also get inside the customer’s perspective.
  • Stand Out: If you can nurture creativity, it can propel you past the competition with minimal effort. Employees enjoy the opportunity to express their creativity. In addition, positive experiences from your creative endeavours will speak volumes for your brand. It will keep you at the forefront of client and consumer minds – and also do the heavy lifting for you. A clever campaign that stands out is far better for brand awareness and recognition than several mediocre, safe campaigns that have been repeatedly parroted.

The are many benefits to fostering creativity. These are just the tip of the iceberg, but they are good examples of how cultivating creativity can help brands, both internally and externally.

How can brands be more creative?

So now that we know you can teach creativity, how do we do it?

Old Foundations, New Twist
You can build on ideas already out there – this isn’t like repeating the same tired trope ad nauseam. Everything that’s new and trendy now once stemmed from an original source with an added twist. Collaborate with your team to find that twist and go from there.

Changing of the Guard
Bring in people from teams and departments you normally wouldn’t consider for a particular campaign. You don’t need to look externally for ‘a new pair of eyes’, they’re already in your office, just sitting on other teams. Shake it up, change it up. Ask the questions people want to ask but are afraid to, challenge your co-workers to get outside their comfort zones, and provide a culture and environment where creativity is welcomed, not shot down.

Mistakes = Creative Take-Aways

Finally, remember, as clichéd as it might sound, embrace failures as learning experiences. See them as sign posts to point your brand in the right direction. If you didn’t fail, you’d never see the path you were intended to take. Failure can set you on the right path by challenging assumptions and forcing you to think creatively to come up with a better solution. It can help your brand grow by taking a negative result or experience and turning it into a positive. Build on mistakes as a better way to do things.


This is not an overnight fix, this is something that needs to become a core part of your company culture in order to inspire the change needed to build and sustain a creative environment.

In times of  uncertainty, with Brexit, brand safety , privacy concerns, and other issues looming over marketers, standing apart from the competition is vital. It may seem safer to stick with what you know, but being risk averse is not an effective strategy. Creativity forces you to evolve, and always stay one step ahead. If your safety net disappears, you will, at the very least, have the tools to rebuild and adapt quickly. Creativity won’t just help you survive, it will help you thrive.