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Powering up your creative thinking by Zuleika Burnett


Creative thinking is essential in a field where multi-channel, integrated and highly engaging marketing rules and product differentiation expires ever more rapidly. In healthcare brand communication the term ‘creativity’ was once in danger of being reduced to an abstract search for a powerful image and pithy headline. Today we need lateral thinkers who are valuable conduits, capable of extending the definition of creativity to encompass braveness, entrepreneurship and innovation: all skills which are desperately needed to meet new brand demands.

When digital disruption hit healthcare marketing, opening up a world of interaction, connectivity, content creation and the ‘always-addressable’ doctor, everything changed. Stand alone campaigns were out. Multi-channel, integrated and highly engaging marketing aimed at creating an individualised user experience was in.

Despite progress, challenges remain for the savvy marketer. Product differentiation expires rapidly as brands fight to stay fresh. Our inventive energies need to stretch further as we aim to build lasting connections for a future where customers will expect new opportunities for engagement. Not only does this evolution necessitate thinking that drives unique customer experience, it calls for big ideas born of a creativity so powerful that they are capable of changing what people do and how they think.

Indeed, the very definition of creativity now includes notions about inventiveness, agility and entrepreneurship. Clearly this reflects today’s achievements, but now that ‘marketing by repetition’ does little to captivate and much less to build loyalty – it’s no surprise that the traditional Don Draper ways are not enough. Rediscovering the know-how for effective thinking strategies is vital for sparking ingenuity and fostering novel ideas that erupt, disrupt and have the power to change.

Although bewildering to some, the creative thinking process is recognised as increasingly valuable and is something which can be actively developed. At Havas Life Medicom we have harnessed the broader definition of creativity that includes inventiveness and have set about creating the ideal environment for the type of thinking that has greater potential for big ideas. Big ideas that win.

To demonstrate how we can harness different types of thinking, first let’s take a simple problem: “What is one-half of 13?”

Typically, many of us will approach this problem on the basis of similar problems encountered in the past utilising rational thinking skills such as logic to converge on an answer. We fixate on what we’ve been taught in education or work and solve the problem by analytically selecting the most promising approach, excluding all other approaches, to work linearly towards the solution – 6.5. We become arrogantly certain of the correctness of our solution because the process is proven and speed seemed somewhat important.

In contrast, some people practice utilising divergent thinking before selecting preferred options, and use more ‘intuitive’ skills to make connections that are potentially ingenious. When confronted with a problem, they ask “How many different ways can I solve it?” and tend to come up with many different responses, searching for something unconventional or unique. This slower, productive thinker would say that there are many different ways to express “thirteen” and many different ways to halve something.*

Different approaches to creativity have also been referred to as ‘rational’ thinking and ‘emotional’ thinking. ‘Rational’ thinking tends to be a reproductive, verbal and sequential – generally associated with planning, analytical thinking and deduction. ‘Emotional’ thinking however, is defined as how you get the emotional and rational mind to cooperate in ways that open the door to new possibilities and is associated with playfulness and seeing the bigger picture.

We know that this integrated balance leads to the most powerful thinking. That the formation of collaborative groups and partnerships increases our potential, with examples all around us – new products, compelling content, digital tools, stunning visuals – thoroughly conceived and developed by teams of smart people.

But what other strategies can we employ? What was common to the powerful imaginations that gave rise to the ‘Vitruvian Man’ as well as the theory of relativity? What can we learn from da Vinci, and Einstein? Amazingly, scholars have studied their habits and have teased out some similar styles and thinking strategies that enabled them to succeed.

According to experts, da Vinci believed that to gain knowledge about the form of problems, you begin by learning how to restructure them in many different ways. He felt the first way he looked at a problem was too biased towards his usual way of seeing things. He would restructure his problem by looking at it from every angle and perspective. Each time, his understanding would deepen and he would begin to understand the essence of the problem.

Einstein was apparently also a visual thinker who believed that “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” However, whilst Einstein’s initial discoveries were launched by a flash of insight, the greatest part of work on the theory of general relativity was spent applying systematic exploration.

Dr. Albert Rothenberg, noted researcher on the creative process, identified other common traits in many brilliant minds including Marie Curie, Pasteur and Picasso. He describes strategies for suspending thought during the creative process to encourage conditions for newness and value to emerge. He identified the ability to think metaphorically and advocated being brave enough to tolerate chance and failure. Ultimately, he advises persistence in the search for a true insight, new piece of information or understanding that will have the power to fundamentally shift our perspective and spark a big idea.
Knowing “how” to think, instead of “what” to think is the key to finding undiscovered avenues, new solutions and the power to change everything.

At Havas Life Medicom we offer this type of thinking, depth of knowledge and insight, while delivering creativity that cuts through. In perfect balance, blending the magic of science and creativity we have built a highly entrepreneurial, collaborative environment which enables innovation and helps us build brands from every direction. It means we can combine insight with scientific expertise, to craft more effective ideas for the brands of tomorrow. After all, as Armand Trousseau said “All science touches on art; all art has its scientific side. The worst scientist is he who is not an artist; the worst artist is he who is no scientist.”

*In case you are reading this article and are struggling to get beyond 6.5. Other ways to halve 13 are: 
6.5, 13 = 1 and 3, THIR TEEN = 4, XIII = 11 and 2, XIII = 8.
Executive Director, Creative and Innovation