What Creativity Looks Like at Media Cause: Part 1
This piece is the first of a four-part series we’ll be sharing over the month of April on the creative rituals we use at Media Cause to stay inspired and deliver the most impactful work possible. This first installment explores some company-wide rituals that help make Media Cause a creative (and fun) place to work.
What is a Creative Ritual?
I remember reading somewhere about the famous modern dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp’s morning routine: every day, she’d wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on her workout clothes, leg warmers and multiple sweatshirts, walk outside, hail a taxi, and work out for two hours at the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue. What struck me more than the incredible discipline she must possess… was how she defined the ritual.
According to Tharp, “The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.”
Her words strike me as true. As anyone working on a creative project would probably tell you, the hardest part is getting started. As an Account Strategist at Media Cause, I’m often juggling multiple deadlines and projects, and it’s a perpetual temptation to prioritize the most urgent and demanding work. But I also know that the most valuable and important work often requires some creativity, and creativity requires carving out a little dedicated time and headspace. So how do we make time for creativity at Media Cause? What kinds of rituals do we, like Tharp, employ in order to create the momentum that will inevitably lead to more creative ideas and outcomes?
Creativity at Media Cause
This past winter, I took my creative muscles to bootcamp when I enrolled in the IdeoU “Leading for Creativity” course. (Sidenote: two of the great things about Media Cause are that every employee gets “non-billable” (i.e. not client-related) hours and a professional stipend in order to invest in professional and personal development.) One of the big things I took away from this course was the power of creative rituals. As a result, I’m helping craft new rituals for fostering creativity, as well as appreciating the rituals already in existence here at Media Cause.
Quick creativity pep talk: It’s easy to fall into the dichotomy of “creative person” or “not creative person”. According to Innovation expert, Warren Berger, “If you’re human, you’re creative.” I tend to agree. Creativity is a skill, not a trait. Here’s one definition of creativity that I really like: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, or interpretations.
We all thrive on ideas, but could all use help sometimes tapping into them. Here are a few things we do to foster creativity at Media Cause.
Part 1: Company-Wide Rituals
We’re a hardworking and focused bunch and there are so many cool client projects and new experiments happening at any given moment. How do we all stay abreast on the amazing work we’re all doing and make time to share big ideas while also staying on top of deadlines and deliverables? Every other week, our four offices gather via Google Hangout to present client case studies, new tools, or areas of expertise. These “Biweekly Bi-coastals” (or BWBCs) stimulate rich conversation and help us prioritize growth and creativity amid busy schedules. Recent BWBC topics include Intro to Peer-to-Peer Text Messaging, Improv 101, and What We Cannes Learn From Award Shows. We recently unveiled a new BWBC format called 3×3, where 3 Media Cause folks each give a 3-minute presentation on any topic of their choosing, including an incredibly memorable rap about Slack Reminders, the “ABCs of Living on a Houseboat?”, and “Incredibly Delicious Jewish Foods” (complete with fresh hamantaschen for each office!). In addition to being fun and refreshing, these 3x3s also are great practice in distilling down an idea to its most (sometimes literally) digestible form. Creative ideas are only as powerful as our ability to transmit them.
This is a new experiment we’re piloting (and further evidence that Media Cause runs on Slack): A SlackStorm is essentially a 20-minute, lightning-round brainstorm that takes place on Slack and allows anyone at the company to tap into the creative ideas of the rest of the company on a project or challenge. The beauty of it is is that the brainstorm happens in real-time, allowing participants to focus for a short period of time and then turn their focus back to their own projects. Yay single-tasking (a.k.a “whole-assing”)! One recent creative challenge: How might Media Cause most meaningful contribute to the International Women’s Day conversation? (For the answer to that question, check out our #FacesofChange campaign).
Every week, Amy Small, our tireless and talented VP of Creative and Brand Strategy, writes a company-wide inspiration email chock full of creative case studies and thought-provoking questions to keep us inspired and exposed to creative marketing approaches across industries. Here are some highlights from this week’s Thursday Thinky:
- Unreadable Books: an imaginative initiative aimed at creating the empathy needed to address the adult literacy problem in New York.
These weekly digests ensure that we’re taking inspiration and examples from other industries. And because it’s a ritual, it’s a welcomed nudge we come to expect… to spend an extra 10 minutes every Thursday thinking creatively.
All days of the week, our company-wide Slack channel is a hub for must-read think pieces, clever marketing campaigns, and other creative nuggets. Here are a few recent examples of good reads from #creativejuice:
- The women running for president are breaking the rules of branding – Fast Company
- Spice Up Your Creative Life With the Koncept Sutra, a Kama Sutra for Advertising – Muse (contrary to the suggestive title, this one is actually appropriate for work 😉
- This Place Will Be Water (very cool guerilla marketing campaign to make climate change visible in public spaces)
This channel gives our creative hivemind a playground and lets everyone at Media Cause be a source of creative inspiration.
Our offices regularly organize volunteer activities to get out of the office and give back to the community. Not only is volunteering together great for team-building, but it exposes us to local organizations doing great work right here in our communities. Helping good causes on a tangible, person-to-person level can unlock new ways of thinking and spark new ideas for better serving our clients. Most recently, the Boston team volunteered at The Daily Table, a not-for-profit retail store that offers a variety of tasty, convenient and affordable foods competitive with fast food prices. The Daily Table has done an amazing job of creating a brand and a shopping experience that feels accessible and “shame-free”. This experience inspired us to consider ways we can help our clients provide superior quality social services with dignity and without stigma.
SF office organizing the wardrobe closet at HealthRight360, a California-based agency that provides compassionate and comprehensive services (including primary medical care, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, and job/interview clothes) to more than 38,000 individuals every year.
How Do You “Get in the Cab”?
Creative rituals help us think big picture, stay agile, innovate, get inspired, expand the possibilities, and identify approaches for solving problems that we may not have considered before. What does creativity look like in your work? What are your “get in the cab” moments that help you make space for creativity?
Tell us about what creative rituals look like for you!
Read on for part 2 in this series, where we explore what creative rituals look like in each of our 4 offices.
Looking for more creative juice to tackle your brand strategy or design a killer campaign? Get in touch.
Stay tuned next week to find out what creativity looks like in each of our four offices. Hint: it sometimes involves puppets.