Fear of failure and busy lives can stop creativity in its tracks. Research has shown that you are more likely to arrive at a creative solution or produce original work if you just keep working.
“Ideas and actions occur and interact as long as innovation is being pursued. Creativity continues as long as the action continues. This is not just desired it is necessary for as long as the innovation processes continue in a competitive environment in the absence of perfect knowledge about the outcomes of actions.” – Tudor Rickards, author and creativity researcher.
While creative inspiration often happens at what seems like random moments, creative work is focused work. So dive in and keep moving. You’ll be amazed at what happens.
Tudor Rickards (1996) The management of innovation: Recasting the role of creativity, European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5:1, 13-27, DOI: 10.1080/13594329608414835
Since 2001, I have been building devices designed to communicate using the Internet. I’m a digital strategist with a portfolio of websites and digital marketing campaigns.
I have grown curious about the effects of my work, and the work of others like me, on people around the world.
In an attempt to scratch this itch, I’ve been asking a lot of questions and digging around in the literature. The bumper sticker on my worn-out Honda CRV reads, “I’m not lost, I am exploring.” That concept is the lens I used as I explored the idea that the Internet has had and is having a profound influence on how we think, what we know, and how we relate to one another.
One concern I have centers around ethics, or the potential lack thereof, within the community of people working in digital strategy.
Corporations and large organizations now hold astounding amounts of data on all of us. With machine learning, algorithmic targeting, and carefully curated messaging, they are trying to deliver you messages that you will find engaging (Davis and Patterson, 2012).
Eric Schmitt explains how it works at Google in this interview on YouTube.
Here, Schmitt says that at Google, the idea “is to get right up to the creepy line but not cross it.” He talks about the “creepy line” but does not draw that line for us. How do we know where that line is? In many cases, companies are not clarifying their ethics regarding online communications. Instead, the line is a proprietary idea held and perhaps only partially understood within that organization.
Don’t get me wrong, I love googling just as much as the next person. My concern is about the ethics practiced by many organizations regarding data mining and targeting. The dilemma is becoming clear. Digital strategist are working to expand the Internet without defined ethical guidelines.
Perhaps a larger concern for me is with respect to my own ethical practices. This exploration has brought me to the realization that my ethics are based on practices of the past even as I help to build the communication machines of the future.
As a digital leader at my organization I have a responsibility to help establish and communicate our ethics and attitudes on this subject. Having a core understanding of how my decisions affect others will aid me in drawing a creepily line of my own.
I start by attempting to answer the following questions:
What is the effect of algorithmically delivered news?
What data do they have on us?
How do we know what to trust?
Who do we trust?
Where does the conversation around digital marketing ethics sit today?
This list is incomplete; there are so many more questions, but it would be impossible to list them all and try to answer them all. My journey is only beginning.
Going to school as an adult is an interesting thing. I think the experience becomes less chase and race and more about simple exploration. Most recently I’ve had the opportunity to take a Photography class with the Harvard Extension School, and while all of the classes I have taken with Harvard have delivered some type of enrichment, this one came in a much more physical form. This is because few people want photos of my home or office, so to pass the class I needed to get out of my routine and explore the world around me.
I like to travel and explore, this time I kept it local and explored my home state of Florida. I wanted to see what I might find if I looked more closely. The images that follow are of several explorative days on the road with my trusty sidekick Candy Clary (my Mom).
I wish everyone took the time to simply drive around and observe. Maybe a few of my shots could encourage others to stop at a few rusty road side attractions.
I had an employee once who diligently worked on each design and architecture plan. She functioned as part architect and part UX strategist for the team. Working from home, she would spend hours perfecting one unadulterated proposal. The problem came in when she would present her plan to the customer. The meetings dissolved into an agitated debate over best practices and customer wants.
Often she had not spent much time hashing out needs and wants of the customer. Instead she trusted only what she learned from books and experts. She would become agitated with the customer and their stupidity. How could they not realize the gift she had just presented? Did they not understand the amount of time and knowledge that had been invested?
This is not a unique story in the business of communication design, but here are a few ideas for overcoming.
Don’t fall in love with your work. For the creative type that can be easer said than done. But you will find, in the long run, that if you are open to critique and criticism your work will improve expediently. Everyone needs a good editor and if you are open to the feedback of both experts and laymen your perspective will be enhanced along with your talent. Yes it does sting a little, especially when you are first starting out, but over time your skin will become thicker.
Always design two options. Not 3 or 15, just two. To many options can paralyze your decision maker. Design two options that you are happy with and proud of. When you present the two options to the customer they may feel like they have some control and voice in the design process leading to increased buy in. Together you can work through both designs and select the best bits from each. Designing a second option is also important for stretching yourself as a designer. While you may think the first design was perfect, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you come up with when you force yourself to create a second version.
For goodness sake, you are not designing the thing for you so listen to the people who hired you. And maybe don’t just listen, watch and observe a little too. Get up close and cozy with your customer’s process, who they are and what they need. It is your job to create a solution to their problem so make sure you fully understand the problem and then apply your expert opinion and best practices to that problem. Just don’t forget that while your understanding of UX or communications may far exceed theirs, their understanding of the business they run and the needs of their customers far exceeded yours.
Sometimes we toil long hours and sometime the ideas just pop into our heads, like divine inspiration. Brainstorming and white-boarding can help, but sometimes letting go a little is what you or your staff need in order to get the creative juices flowing. If you manage a creative workforce don’t forget to nurture their brilliance by allowing a little daydreaming from time to time.
This interesting infographic helps to remind me that while it ain’t digging ditches, it ain’t always easy either.