In front of you is a fresh sheet of paper. At the header is written the word “ideas”. It’s been underlined a few times. The rest of the page is blank. You make your third cup of coffee and put some inspiring music on. You underline the word “ideas” again. The page remains stubbornly blank.
We’ve all been there. Sometimes the ideas just won’t come, especially when there’s a deadline involved. It’s the bane of any planning session and is particularly problematic when coming up with ideas is a core part of your job.
Creativity is one of the most essential skills in the PR industry. Our clients rely on us to devise distinct comms strategies to help them stand out from the crowd, and interesting individual campaigns to capture the attention of journalists and their target audiences. The ability to come up with unique ideas and execute them successfully becomes even more valuable in fields that see a lot of competition, and it’s become increasingly essential in the increasingly crowded cybersecurity sector.
At éclat one of our go-to creative strategies is to gather our collective brain power and combine it with the power of pizza. These ‘pizzastorms’ usually serve up some great ideas along with the calories, but even pizza has its limits.
Unlocking our inner Creative Ninjas
We recently decided to take our imaginations to the next level with the help of Claire Bridges, founder and Chief Spark of leading creative consultancy Now Go Create. With 20 years of creative thinking in the PR industry and experience with some of the biggest brands around, as well as the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Claire knows a thing or two about inspiring new ideas.
A significant factor in creative thinking is that each individual’s mind works differently, and there is no golden rule that works for everyone. To that end, Claire introduced us to a number of different techniques during our session, such as using random visual stimuli to inspire you. In my case, I had a surprisingly insightful time considering a postcard with concept art of Woody the cowboy from Toy Story.
The approach that really seemed to resonate with me however was the “questionstorm”, which you have probably correctly guessed is a form of brainstorm. However, whereas a brainstorm is focused around finding solutions, the questionstorm is entirely concerned with simply asking as many questions as possible.
This can help it to overcome one of the most common problems with brainstorms and creative thinking in general, where participants see flaws in their ideas and shoot them down too early – often before they’ve ever been spoken out loud. By focusing on questions rather than feeling pressured to deliver answers, the questionstorm approach can help to overcome mental blocks and free your brain to come up with fresh new ideas.
Once you’ve filled a page or whiteboard with queries, the next step is to refine them into open and closed questions. Closed questions are straightforward and usually call for a yes or no answer – “Can we afford it?”, “Do we have time?” and so on. Open ended questions are more exploratory and can inspire multiple other questions as they are answered, such as “Who is it for?”, “What are the benefits?”.
The final step is to prioritise the questions and pick the three most important ones that need answering. With this done, it’s time to start answering the questions and hopefully discovering some insightful ideas along the way. While the technique is by no means guaranteed to end with a eureka moment, it is certain to transform your blank ideas page into a constructive process.
So, the next time find yourself suffering from mental block when you should be busy creating, try taking a step back and trying a questionstorm or another technique you’ve never tried before. Who knows, maybe you’ll unlock your inner Creative Ninja too.