The first article I read this morning was about the pop-up hospital in Central Park. Then I scrolled my social feeds to see personal updates and stories from family and friends affected by this pandemic in unthinkable ways. But then I had to make my to-do list for the week, which includes brainstorming a big idea to help a CPG client celebrate a milestone anniversary in 2021, thinking about a holiday campaign to support a product launch in Q4 and, of course, helping my daughter complete her homework: a 3D fishbowl made of tissue paper.
This is all of us. We are overwhelmed by death tolls and tracking the progress of vaccines. We are caring for our families, homeschooling our kids and saying our prayers. We are digesting what is happening and processing our emotions while trying to take care of the business of life.
Amid all of this turmoil, it’s easy to feel like our best creative selves were left in 2019. I, for one, am longing for the days when bad debate performances dominated the news cycle. But the reality is we are somewhere else. And in this new place, we must find a way to carry on our work to ensure the organizations, cultures and jobs we have created survive and even thrive once we are on the other side of this thing.
For an industry of communicators and extroverts, working from home until further notice may feel lonesome and stifling, but the truth is we cannot afford to stagnate or regress; now more than ever, organizations need creativity to keep their businesses alive. Creativity is the lifeblood that keeps clients coming back and is the glue that can keep us connected to one another. It can be our superpower as an industry, but to call upon it, we must keep the inspiration flowing inside of our organizations and inside of ourselves. Here are a few quick tips to help you find yours during these trying times:
Bring on the virtual networking
One way I’ve always stayed inspired is by maintaining an eclectic network of friends and contacts who I see often. These are people I admire, people who never fail to surprise me with their passion and ingenuity. Whenever we meet for lunch or drinks, I leave bubbling over with ideas. Last week, it occurred to me that a quarantine doesn’t mean I need to cut myself off from those that feed my creativity, so I’ve decided to continue these breakfasts, coffees and drinks virtually. One advantage: Video conferencing has been so normalized that we are no longer confined to contacts within our geography.
Zoom, but make it creative
At M Booth, we aren’t just using Google Hangouts for meetings, we are hosting virtual brainstorms, strategy sessions and creative jams. To maximize productivity and inspiration, our creative leads are facilitating these sessions live and preparing in advance, doing whatever they can to entertain and inspire our staff. From providing MTV-like Cribs tours of their apartments to creating digital culture crawls that expose teams to wild and wonderful trends like ASMR videos of celebrities zipping and unzipping Louis Vuitton handbags, we are keeping each other engaged by providing windows into new worlds. After all, while brainstorms are about idea generation, they also serve another vital purpose: community and culture building.
Get inspired from the inside out
Bringing the outside in is the most critical part of the creative process, that is engaging with cultural stimuli from the outside world to provoke ideas and fuel inspiration and insights. Although we can’t physically access the outside right now, we are fortunate to have culture at our fingertips through dozens of streaming platforms and, dare I say it, books — or as I like to call them, the original binge content. These mediums make it possible for us to get inspired from the inside out. So build your culture muscle while you have some downtime. That means watch Fleabag if you haven’t. Read There There at last. Catch up on Insecure, and while you’re at it, add the soundtrack from seasons one and two to your Spotify playlist.
Try integrating, instead of compartmentalizing
In my two-bedroom apartment, I’m working with a 10-month-old, a three-year-old and my spouse, whose work requires multiple computer screens on my dining room table. Compartmentalizing isn’t an option. So, I’ve recalibrated in the opposite direction and realized there are real benefits if you can integrate your family, or roommates, into your work life. When possible, I have lunch with my husband, even if it’s just a quick peanut butter and jelly, something we would never be able to swing during a normal work week. He’s also proven to be a great line editor for me! I’ve invited my kids on to hangouts with clients and teams and encourage colleagues to do the same. Who needs a hot start when your toddler can show off her heart of Te Fiti at the top of the call? (Thank you, Moana). After all, a genuinely warm moment can be disarming and lower everyone’s inhibitions when it comes to sharing new thinking or being open to new ideas.
Put on your deep thinking hat
The hustle and bustle of our industry has created a world where we are overscheduled and overprogrammed in order to juggle multiple work streams as we manage clients, agencies and teams. Downtime is scarce and the opportunity for deep thinking is rare. But research shows that our best ideas happen as a result of deep thought and mono-tasking, so why not use this opportunity to tackle a Herculean intellectual task? Have a huge 2021 plan due? Need to rethink the structure of your department? Want to get a jumpstart on that white paper you’ve been noodling? Now is the time. Block out two or three hours and get going.
There is a proverb that necessity is the mother of invention. Said simply, innovation is sparked by a need. And now more than ever, the world and our industry need us all to be creative, in any way that we can.
So, everyone please stay safe out there. And also, please stay inspired.