One of the biggest challenges CMOs face is ensuring that their teams continue to deliver fresh thinking for their brands.
Though many brands lean heavily on their agency partners for great creative, this is a skill that should never be entirely outsourced. Even if the extent of the creative skills you want in brand managers is for them to simply recognize great creative when they see it, they will be ill-equipped to do so if they aren’t regularly flexing those muscles.
Depending on the size of your team or company culture, these strategies can help shake things up and set your team on a path to greater creative thinking:
1. Inspiration missions: Doing the same thing day in and day out can breed complacency and stale ideas. Encourage time away from desks and screens with inspiration missions. Each mission should have a purpose with the outcomes either formally or informally shared.
These can happen individually or as a group and include anything from taking in a new art exhibit to attending the launch of a pop-up store. Just taking an hour to walk the streets of a new city during a business trip can inspire new ideas. Cultivate curiosity and a seeker mentality by embedding the continual search for inspiration into your team’s culture, and commit the time and resources to ensure they know it is a priority.
2. Disrupt patterns: Some of the best ideas can spark when our bodies are in motion, allowing our minds to wander more freely. Weather and space permitting, grabbing a pad of sticky notes and heading outside can break groups out of a rut. Even going to a different part of the building or another conference room can help shift thought patterns. If none of those options are available, at the very least people can resist the urge to sit in their typical seats, which humans are prone to do with everything (for evidence, check out any yoga or fitness class) and take in a different view.
Change up the order of how things happen as well. If the same person always leads, encourage another team member to step forward. Or have people initially come at a challenge from a different angle, perhaps starting with the retail experience first (if that is not the norm) and then expanding out to the other brand touch points.
Regardless, the goal is to help your team members disrupt their current pattern. Give them ownership of ways to do that as well so everyone is bought in.
3. Invest in the new: Lifelong learning for the brain is like exercise for the body, keeping it fit and flexible, which is essential for creativity. Curiosity begets curiosity and helps to shift perspective, allowing us to be more open to possibilities.
Consider providing each team member with a personal growth fund with the only string attached being that it must be used to learn something new. Photography. Improv. Wine tasting. Italian. Encourage them to share these experiences with each other either one at a time or at another site where everyone can put his or her new skill into play.
4. Engage all six senses: Human beings are highly visual, and it is often the de facto sense we rely on when generating new ideas. But what if we started with sound instead? Composers are hired to score movies for reasons beyond just creating a soundtrack. They are setting a mood, one that can be every bit as important as the visual on the screen. (If you’re skeptical about the impact of sound, just watch the infamous shower scene from the movie "Psycho" on mute).
What about scent or touch? Each of our senses can trigger different emotional responses, and sometimes starting there and letting the visuals follow can open up a completely different approach.
While you’re at it, don’t let people neglect their sixth sense—the one they should bring to every creative endeavor—the gut instinct that unfailingly tells us when we're on to something good.