Implementing a great digital marketing strategy requires left- and right-brain skills: attention to data and details as well as creative and abstract thinking. There’s data aplenty in the modern marketing landscape, but creativity can be harder to come by when your job requires it day in and day out. Here are some ways to keep your marketing team open to new ideas and thinking creatively.
Look around your field and identify who has the most interesting or unexpected marketing. What do you like about it? What makes it unusual? Is there a way it’s not working well, even if it made a splash?
Examining what other organizations with similar goals are doing is a good way to kickstart curiosity about what you’re doing internally. And don’t stop there—also look for organizations with different goals who are working in similar ways to yours. The goal with this is not to emulate what others are doing, but to approach their work with a curious mindset and try to understand their methods in order to take inspiration from them.
Learn about unrelated things
Educate your team about topics that aren’t related to work. Take a Friday afternoon break to watch a documentary together. According to a survey by MagellanTV, 70% of people share something they learn from a documentary with others. Discussing observations and learnings can spark conversation on subjects your team hasn’t previously explored, which may just help get their creativity flowing, especially when they’re stuck for new ideas.
Ask obvious questions
“There are no dumb questions” is a good rule to implement. Adopting this mindset encourages team members to ask rather than assuming, which is a good start to supporting creativity. It also helps cultivate beginner’s mind, a frame of openness, curiosity, and expansive thinking that can help people come up with new solutions to old challenges.
When someone asks the obvious, you might just discover a new answer. Or, in hearing your answer, they might think of an alternative you haven’t seen.
Question the status quo
Similarly, take nothing for granted. Why are you doing things the way you are now? A strong digital strategy should be always evolving, always responding to changes in the industry, your capabilities, and your audiences. Something that was working three months ago may no longer be your best option, but if you don’t question it you won’t find out.
Creativity works best in spurts. A study by HBR found that “participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written.” The study concluded that scheduling set intervals to switch away from thinking about one problem was the best way to boost creativity.
There are a number of structured ways to do this, such as the Pomodoro method, but it will be just as effective to remember to get up once an hour, stroll around the office, and stare out the window for a couple of minutes.
Try something new
Even if what you’re doing is working well enough right now, try something new. Hold a brainstorm session and pick one of the most interesting ideas to implement on a trial basis. Rather than putting the pressure on when you need new ideas, make it a habit to come up with new ideas just for fun. Creativity feeds on itself, so consistently trying something new is a good way to keep your marketing team in the right mindset. It will also keep them internally motivated since they’ll get to work on what they think might be fun, not just what you want.
Have your marketing team members schedule time regularly with other teams in the company to learn about their work. Even if it doesn’t seem related, this fosters curiosity and can lead to unexpected connections between marketing projects and the work other departments are doing. The strongest marketing strategies account for what the entire company is working toward, and the best way to know what that is is to talk to a diverse set of employees. Remember that every point of view has something different to offer the bigger picture.
Go out for breakfast
Changes in scenery change the way people think. When you’re used to looking at each other in the same conference rooms, with the same blank walls, it can be surprisingly generative to take an outing to breakfast, lunch, or an afternoon coffee break and chat about your work.
Another option is to have meetings in a nearby park on nice days. More than one study has shown that time in nature boosts creative thinking.
Provide downtime in the office
Productivity, while necessary, can be the death of creativity. In the same way that scheduled breaks are important, downtime for the brain helps boost creativity. Provide a break space with magazines, video games, board games, and coloring sheets for team members to unwind and have a change of pace, either together or alone. Some amount of procrastination is actually good for creativity, according to organizational psychologist Adam Grant.
Change the work environment
Getting out of the office can be a nice change, but it’s not feasible on a daily basis. So make some changes to the office environment to support more creative thinking. Two scientists postulated that “darkness would offer individuals freedom from constraints, enabling a global and explorative processing style, which in turn facilitates creativity,” and found this to be true over a handful of studies. The simple change of adding lamps or swapping out the types of overhead bulbs you use could produce a marked uptick in your marketing team’s creative thinking.
Apply curiosity to creativity
What better way to encourage the kind of creative thinking you need than to apply curiosity to the subject itself? Start a monthly book group in which your team reads books on creativity, like Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray or Simply Brilliant by Bernhard Schroeder. Ask them to identify what seems familiar, what they haven’t tried yet, and what’s most appealing to them from each text.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of suggestions; just about anything that gets your team out of the status quo can spark creativity, and a supportive, encouraging workplace culture will communicate to employees that it’s safe to ask questions instead of pretending they already have all the answers. Implement these practices and mindset, and you’ll see creativity and curiosity flourish in your marketing team.