How to Build Your Creative Culture
A great idea can change the world. But they are hard to find. Where do they come from? And how do you get one?
Great ideas come from a great creative culture, a culture that nurtures and inspires, that celebrates experimentation. A strong creative culture can only exist in a safe place. And the only way you can build that trust is through agreeing on the rules. Here at Fundraising Direct we keep the rules simple but they are absolute. It’s the only way people feel safe enough to try something exciting. Your team needs to know that it’s ok to be silly, that it’s okay to try and to fail.
Plan Your Meeting
To give your creative meeting the importance it deserves, it needs to be booked well in advance with a clear agenda and expected outcomes. And everyone has to come prepared. That’s part of the deal.
At Fundraising Direct our creative meetings must:
- Be booked at least 48 hours in advance
- Be at least an hour
- Have a clear agenda that includes some background and context, and expected outcome
- Participants must do their research and come prepared
Structure Your Meeting
Our creative meetings have a unique structure that let’s everybody shake off the daily grind and really focus for the solid hour.
Go over the meeting agenda, background and expected outcomes so that everyone is on the same page. This also gives people a few minutes to settle.
Recite The Rules
Reciting the rules is a ritual that reminds everybody of what’s expected of them. It reinforces that vital trust through collective agreement, essential to building your creative culture.
Rule 1: Your job is to say ‘Yes’.
A creative development meeting is not an argument or debate. It is an exploration. There are no bad ideas. Not all ideas will survive and that is part of the process. Everyone’s job is to say yes and help ideas grow.
“Today, I woke up and I was a penguin.”
“Yes, and what a fabulous penguin you are.”
Rule 2: We are equals
Let’s be honest about the hippo in the room. The highest paid person’s opinion is not always right, it’s not always the best, but it often dominates the conversation. That’s the antithesis of a strong creative culture. Participants should not defer to the hippo’s opinion. I know that a lot of results-driven people are deeply uncomfortable with the freefall of creativity and demand immediate results but trust me: You’ll get great results if you just pile everything on the table and remain confident that you’ll find something. Don’t rush it and certainly don’t just agree with the leader.
Rule 3: Have the confidence to make a mess
We don’t have an answer. We’re here to find one. Have the confidence to know that the answer will come. To find the answer you need to make a mess first. Pile everything you’ve got – all the stats, pictures, news articles, talking points… everything you found during your research – pile it all on the table and start moving it around, turn it over, ask questions, pair it with something unexpected.
Some people will be intensely frustrated. They’ll want answers, they’ll want results. We’re not here for results, not yet. We’re here to find the great idea that will drive the whole campaign and get great results. If teammates are struggling, remind them of the rules and find a way to keep things positive.
Rule 4: One person must run the meeting
A good creative meeting can get a little rowdy so you need to have one person in charge of the agenda, one person who’s going to reel everyone in and keep the conversation on track. That person is also responsible for making sure the meeting is productive and delivers the goods. They can participate and have a good time along with everyone else, they just have to keep an eye on the clock.
Now that everyone is ready and thinking about nothing but the project at hand we do a 2-minute warm up game. It may sound silly but a 2-minute game like one-word stories limbers up the mind and really gives this meeting a special status. Being silly together also has the added benefit of building even more trust. Once the warm up is finished, the conversation really gets going and flows much more easily.
One word stories involves one person starting the story with one exciting word. Try to avoid words like ‘the’ and ‘a’. Start with good nouns, adjectives and adverbs to get things going. Go around the room and each person adds one word to the story. Stop when you’ve gone around 2 or 3 times, or when the story comes to an end on its own.
These first 3 steps should only take a 2-5 minutes but they make all the difference as to how productive your meeting will be.
Putting Everything on the Table
We like to follow a pretty loose structure for the conversation. A white board is a great tool for recording information, regrouping it and developing great ideas.
- Share research and information
- Reorganize, experiment, try something new. Who are we talking to? What story do we want to tell?
- Regroup, synthesize and focus
- Articulate possibilities
- Make some choices
- Feel confident
If you’re struggling or just want to try something different, try the Silent Storm. Everyone take 3 minutes to write down their ideas and then shares. This is a great way for quieter members of your group to share their ideas.
The outcome of a Creative Development Meeting is a clear, inspiring proposition that will drive the creative and deliverables of a campaign. One thing to remember, the proposition is not your final creative copy. It’s the one-sentence story behind it. That’s why it’s worth spending the time and doing it right. With these simple rules, you’ll develop propositions that really nail it, that have a single focus, are relevant, unique, moving and exciting.