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What Creativity Looks Like at Media Cause: Part 4

This piece is the fourth of a four-part series on the creative rituals we use at Media Cause to stay inspired and deliver the most impactful work possible. This final installment explores some of the personal rituals and “creative hacks” we employ inside and outside the office to stay creative at work.

Part 4: Personal Creative Habits

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 I do to foster creativity in my work.

Walking Meetings

“Walking meetings” are a great tactic for getting away from the computer… and catching a creative second wind. These are generally standing one-on-one meetings with a colleague or my manager, where the purpose is to catch up on client projects, troubleshoot challenges, spot opportunities, and discuss big-picture goals. I find that putting away the computer and getting fresh air helps me zoom out and get perspective. The conversations become more expansive when I’m not looking at my to-do list. Plus, studies show that walking significantly improves certain types of cognitive efforts involved in creativity, specifically convergent thinking (the ability to come up with solutions to a problem), and divergent thinking (conceiving open-ended, original ideas).

Visit Public Spaces

The SF Media Cause office is literally next door to the SFMOMA public entrance, which is a great place to go for a change of scenery. When I get an afternoon energy slump or just need to get away from the computer, I like to go there with a pen and paper and jot down some big picture ideas or brainstorm creative approaches to sticky problems. Check out SFMOMA’s Free to See for more art-filled spaces that are free and open to the public. Another favorite spot is the Linkedin building first floor, which is open to the public, has lots of natural light, and some of the nicest baristas downtown (Equator Cafe). Folks on the Boston team have even been known to take an offsite meeting at a nearby museum. Media Cause co-founder, Cody Damon has a membership to the Institute of Contemporary Art recently, where he goes about once a month instead of booking the conference room. And it’s not just being around art that helps stimulate creativity. Interestingly, high ceilings prompt free thinking and positive feelings, while moderate levels of ambient noise is linked to improved creative task performance. Can’t get to a cafe? Check out Coffitivity.

Media Cause is lucky to have public art right next door at SFMOMA – pictured Richard Serra’s “Sequence”

Exercise

Kyle Buetzow, Senior Account Director is currently training for a marathon. For him, establishing a running routine is about more than just the health benefits. His early 5 AM runs are a kind of “creative rejuicer”. As he says, “I forgot how grounding those quiet morning runs were, and I’m so glad I brought this back into my daily routine.” Account Director Katey Parker agrees: “Exercise is also a necessity for me to reignite my energy and clear my mind – I cherish the days I can find time during lunch to go sweat for a bit, and come back with a renewed outlook and energized spirit.”

Account Director, Michelle Thai invited me to run in a 10k fundraiser for her client, Lucile Packard Foundation. Having a race to train for was a great excuse to start running regularly.

Brainstorming & Improv

For many folks at Media Cause, group brainstorms are an important part of their creative diet. Says copywriter, Sarah Ackerman, “Brainstorming sessions always give me life. Even the ones where all the ideas are garbage and you don’t feel like anything was accomplished, there was still mental work  done and connections made behind the scenes.” Sarah even channels her passion for improv theatre into her creative brainstorming sessions (turns out the same rules apply for both!). Katey also stays inspired by tapping into what she calls the “power of the collective”. As she says, “I find so often that dialogue breeds better and clearer thinking”, whether via Slack or Google Hangouts or a good old-fashioned whiteboarding session.

“Extracurriculars”

Staying inspired outside of the 9-5 is an important part of showing up with energy and creativity at work. Renaissance woman, Sarah Ackerman is a big advocate of “refilling the creative cup”: “I also do a lot of stuff not at all related to advertising or writing. Improv, yoga, woodworking, working on my house (she’s 100 and needs some help), heading out to nature, spending time with friends – it all fills me up and I can draw parallels from experiences into work.” Folks in the DC office also have a strong extracurricular game: from painting to plant parenting to podcasting.

When I travel, I like to take watercolors with me and just find a spot to sit and paint. It helps me to observe and appreciate little details I would have missed with a camera.

Self-care & Reggae

Staying creative requires not just stimulation but relaxation, i.e. quieting the central nervous system. For Sarah, “Sleeping well, eating right and not letting energy levels get too depleted throughout the week puts me in a better mindset to have bigger, bolder ideas because I’m coming from a more positive, energized place.” For Katey, music is a helpful tool for de-stressing: “Music helps me relax and be more present, which is needed to have heightened awareness and thinking.” (Reggae is her go-to).  

Start Your Own Creative Ritual

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. How do you keep creativity present in your work?

Leave us a comment and tell us about a creative ritual you have!


Looking for more tips to nurture your own creativity? Check out these 4 steps to giving yourself the gift of a creative routine.

Looking for more creative juice to tackle your brand strategy or design a killer campaign? Get in touch.

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