The 2 e’s of creative

I was once told (by a former boss and brilliantly creative lady), I wasn’t very creative. And it was true and to some extent, still is. I don’t regard myself as an overly creative individual.

But upon reading this article, (a Forrester report reporting on the lack of creative impetus from CMOs), it got me thinking about a notion I’ve effectively built a career upon.

Creative perception

Creativity, as the definition goes in our heads, is a bolt out of the blue. It’s reserved for our slightly left field, eccentric friend. The whacky one who always appears to pluck things from thin air.

How do you ‘become’ creative? Because that’s the thing. You’re not born creative.

The truth is, we are all creative and have the capability to do so. I wasn’t overly surprised by the Forrester report. In a world where we think technology is the answer, we’re overlooking the vital component to make it work in our favour. Our brains and the ability to add that extra special layer over the top.

Think about the world today. When you get on a plane or train, how many of us plug the earphones into the phone? How many of us actually look up to see what’s going on outside of the immediate one metre of our personal space. The conclusion from the Forrester report is that CMOs (and their brands) overspend on technology. The sad irony from our own perspectives is we’re closing ourselves off from the outside because of things like technology. Who wants to talk to a stranger or that crazy person with blue hair when I can remain in the comfort of my own bubble?

In seeking a way to explain how to engender greater creativity, I landed on two things vitally important to get the creative juices flowing.

(E)xposure + (E)xperience = (C)onnect the dots

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There are two types of experience to call upon. The first is experience gained over a significant period of time. Granted, longevity isn’t a prerequisite for coming up with creative ideas. But, knowledge and understanding i.e. experience gained, is vital to know if those ideas are going to work with the intended audience.

One of things I’ve come to appreciate is, that after twenty years (man alive has it been that long?) of working in technology marketing and communications, I appear to know quite a fair bit about the industry. And, as such, that’s placed me in the rather fortunate position – it’s given me a niche. From dealing with a multitude of brands both big and small, to interviewing hundreds of their customers, speaking to industry experts. And, literally writing hundreds of thousands of words about it all. When you look back and consider your own niche, it’s amazing how much knowledge you’ve gained. This type of understanding is vital if you’re going to get your ideas off the PowerPoint and into reality.

The second type of experience is what I call more of that life experience. Again, longevity doesn’t have to be a qualifier for ‘experience’. Ever wondered why musicians, actors and alike often appear brilliant at what they do. It comes down to their own life experiences. It could be faced with death or grave illness, or dealing with a whole host of challenges in life. Some of the most interesting and brilliant people have been through some of the most horrific and challenging of times.

I mentioned I don’t feel I’m an overly creative person. And, I guess well, I’m a pretty ordinary white, middle-class guy. I had a great upbringing. Went to a good school. Essentially privileged. To be creative I needed more. It’s probably why in part I choose to run ultramarathons – big stuff, like 100 milers for like 30 hours or so. Or as I put it, to put myself into the pain cave.

Life needs to get challenging. Someone asked me once, what was I running away from? Nothing I said. I’m running towards something. I’m looking for that extra layer. Something that exists a little deeper down inside. To understand how far I can go and what my depths are. Some of the greatest ideas I’ve had in respect of my professional life were born on the trails of the Aussie bush around 4 in the morning, on my own, 145kms into a 175km race. That’s experience and depth. Looking for the unknown, the challenging and then embracing it.


Exposure is about going out of your way to do something different. You don’t need to chat to the stranger in the street. You could simply read The Australian instead of The Guardian. Pick up a copy of Caravan Weekly instead of Runner’s World. Gain a new point of way.

Expose yourself to different places, cultures and things. Build up a collection of different dots, in all manner of shapes and sizes.

One of the greatest inhibitors to our progress is apathy. The indifference we have towards others not like ‘us’. The lack of desire to find out more. And it’s getting worse. Look at the way some political parties and organisations seek to divide us. To appeal to populism, creating rage and division. We’re being pitched against one another, the looney left versus the alt right, and so on.

No longer do we take the time to engage, empathise and understand. Of course, not everyone can be right, but we can learn to appreciate and understand. Because it’s only when we’re exposed, do we have all of the information we need, coupled with our experience to connect the dots.

Connecting the dots

When I embark on a new project, I love the sense of not knowing what I’m going to find out. But I know I’ve built up a whole host of different dots in my lifetime. And, on embarking on a new project, I’ll build up some more.

I have every confidence that I’ll get there, it’s simply a matter of connecting those dots with some new ones. And it’s only our experience and exposure that will get us there. We need to immerse ourselves in not only what we’re experts in, but uncomfortable truths too.

Only then, will you find your inner creative. And, it’s within the reach of all of us – just find your two e’s.