There is no denying that creativity is a useful attribute when it comes to internal comms. Whether it’s finding the right words, or visually presenting something that will engage and prove memorable, a little creativity can go a long way. We’ve discussed many times, for example, that short videos can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to getting important messages to your people, but we’ve all sat through enough boring and forgettable movies to know that just because a picture is moving (or even cost millions in special effects) there’s no guarantee it will lodge itself in our grey matter or have its desired effect. Creative flair is absolutely required.
But how many times have you heard friends and colleagues tell you that they don’t have a creative bone in their body? It’s sometimes followed by “I can’t draw to save my life”, which is an odd parallel to draw because being able to draw, paint or sculpt is a specific skill – and one which sometimes requires creativity, but doesn’t always.
The truth is, we all have creativity in us. We often lack the confidence to explore it or let it shine. And all too often, we benchmark ourselves against those who are famous for their creativity, forgetting that they are famous simply because of their extraordinary creativity. It’s a bit like saying you can’t run at all because you wouldn’t beat Sir Mo Farah in a sprint. You could still kick up some pavement dust if you were running for the last bus home. Or chasing a £50 note blowing in the wind in front of you.
So, what exactly is creativity? How do you define it? Creativity can be broken down into insight (coming up with ideas, seemingly from nowhere), divergent thinking (generating multiple ideas) and novelty (ideas that are original and unique). So how can we improve these to boost our own creativity and help us to create kick-ass internal comms?
As many a pretty lady has said on a TV advert when trying to flog us overpriced shampoo or anti-ageing cream, “…here comes the science part…”
Neuroplasticity describes our brains’ ability to rewire themselves. This creation of new connections between neurons often results from learning something new or simply doing something differently. And these new pathways can help with our creativity (more detail on that below).
Therefore, if you are wanting to improve your creativity, you can do worse than to break some habits, mix up your routine, or try something new. The more ingrained your life is in regular and unchanging routine, the less your creativity will flow. Try some new recipes, work at a different desk, change the route of your daily walk, or do your supermarket shopping in reverse order (but don’t let your ice cream melt). You may find that, after a short time of mixing things up a little, the ideas start to flow.
Similarly, learning completely random new stuff (treat yourself to a few trips down an internet rabbit hole!) can really help with the generation of new ideas.
Meandering neurons are a good thing
Science has shown that creativity thrives best when the neurons in our brains make slower connections with each other. This occurs when there we have more of the “white matter” in our brains, creating the space required for more different, and more meandering connections to be made.
If Mr or Mrs Inspiration is on a day off (or an extended sabbatical!), the best way to tempt them back is to step away from the task at hand and do something that occupies your mind without mentally challenging you. Most household chores are great for this. (And if you’re on top of yours, I’ve got a mountain of ironing you can borrow. You can thank me later.) Just five minutes of such an activity should distract enough to get those creative juices flowing.
And you can take this one step further if you can allow yourself to daydream. If that’s not in your usual repertoire, try not filling every spare minute with your phone. Relax and let boredom set in for a short while and you may just enter that daydream state, allowing creative ideas to sneak into your conscious mind. (This is not recommended for when you’re on a deadline and your boss is watching you across the office like a hawk!)
William Shakespeare may have written that “Nothing comes from doing nothing” but A. A. Milne told us “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing”.
Show your lobe some love
As well as having more of the white stuff in their brains, creative types also tend to have less active frontal lobes. This results in a less structured and ordered brain, allowing for more creativity. True insight tends to occur when our frontal lobes have a quick kip, allowing ideas to cross the border from subconscious to conscious thought. This is why people often claim to have their best ideas in the shower or when out for a run.
Thus, relaxing the frontal lobe effectively (though meditation, exercise, or anything that helps you to switch off your “logical brain”) should help the ideas to flow.
True blue bonus tip: Colour psychology suggest that the colour blue encourages creative thinking, so if you’re lucky enough to have a blue sky overhead, or a body of water nearby, that walk, jog or run could prove doubly beneficial for your creativity!
Science part over… the truth is, in internal comms, you often need the best of both worlds. Take, for example, a rethink of your Internal Comms Strategy. You’ll need to think logically and strategically to define your key messages, profile your audience, and map out your channels. You’ll need to reflect on what is working and what isn’t. And you’ll need to summon up some creativity to ensure your content is engaging, your messages stick, and you are maximising the impact of all of that logical work.
If you’re still not convinced about your own creative abilities, fear not! If matching socks whilst listening to opera (or maybe Oprah) has failed to get those neurons meandering and creative juices flowing, you can always get some help from those whose frontal lobes are only too happy to switch off for a bit!