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It often strikes me as ridiculous that, within marketing, advertising, and digital agencies, people are categorised as creatives, and — by logical deduction — non-creatives. As though people in strategy, finance, logistics, and sales live and work purely by black and white numbers, grey boxes, and the grinding, 24x7 predictability of non-original thought.
To be fair, those copywriters, designers, filmmakers, and storytellers labelled as ‘creative’ aren’t just found in traditional marketing services. They’re as prominent today within firms like Deloitte as they are in specialist agencies. But wherever they ply their trade, their raison d’etre is the same: to blend experience and insights with in-the-moment judgment and to deliver impact and value through original thinking.
In reality, creativity is an increasingly role-agnostic quality in today’s knowledge-driven, technology-liquid business. Even a data platform can be crafted with elegance and (whisper it) affection if coders, digital architects, and process designers strive to elevate the human experience through their work. Moreover, today’s most successful companies embrace creativity across a spectrum of roles, and at every level. The more powerful and fertile the flow of ideas across a business, the more momentum, impact, and value it generates.
Every individual within Deloitte — whether working in design, audit, technology, or economics — enjoys continual opportunities to create incremental and exponential value for clients, and for our firm, by thinking more creatively. Sure, designers are, frustratingly, still asked occasionally to sprinkle their pixie dust over almost-complete assignments, as though creativity can be turned on and off like a tap. Yet this ignorance of the symbiotic relationship between strategy and creativity should not obscure the reality that Deloitte professionals work in a business whose success heavily depends on the exercise of free-thinking, the exploration and synthesis of diverse fields of knowledge, and the luxurious conceit of trying things never tried before.
Rewardingly, there are also opportunities to help our colleagues’ approach and deliver their own work more creatively. And there’s the rub; ‘creatives’ ultimately beget creatives. Seeing an innovative thinker at the top of their game, pushing the boundaries, and bending an existing framework to craft a better idea, is inspiring and encouraging in equal measure. Creativity is infectious.
Just as every field of endeavor has its accepted orthodoxies, creativity in business has some universal axioms. Like unconscious mimicry, I’ve noted these seemingly intuitive patterns within dozens of agencies and creative shops over the past few decades. To the question I often ask creative leaders inside and outside Deloitte — How can we be more creative? — some consistent themes emerge, to wit:
In business, creativity is a team sport. However besotted you are with your idea, someone else can help you make it more beautiful.
Old stories told in modern styles will resonate. New stories retold as fables will engage. But double newness gets people on the edge of their seats from the get-go— and they won’t look away.
Strive to have your audience see their story in your narrative. Mine the human condition, and you’ll connect at a deeper, more visceral level.
Nobody gets remembered for being safe.
As Bill Bernbach said, if you stand for something there will be people for you, and people against you. If you stand for nothing, no-one will care.
Consider absurd ideas from any quarter.
Be humble, quick, and receptive to critiquing.
You’ll learn something— and better still, feel something — you’ve never felt before.
Above all, never, ever forget you are uniquely creative... and that everyone else is, too.
For each of us, it is a privilege to have the freedom to be creative in our work. But of greater import is our responsibility to foment, inspire and draw out the creativity of those around us.
That’s not just our privilege or responsibility. It’s our duty, our honour, and our joy.
This article was first published in Make, a Deloitte publication celebrating creativity and design, and the work we make. Volume 01, Issue 02.
David is Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Deloitte’s Consulting practice (responsible for marketing, brand and eminence programs), and Leader of DTTL Marketing Strategy. Previously he was Deloitte Australia CMO for 12 years. A partner since 2005, David is a founding member of Deloitte's Global Brand Council. Before Deloitte he worked in journalism, communications, brand consulting, music and photography in Australia, Spain, the UK and US. He’s held positions at Landor Associates, BEA Systems, iXL and PWC. His work has been published or broadcast in the Financial Times, London Times, Chicago Tribune, La Vanguardia, The Guardian, The Australian, Journal of Brand Strategy, ABC Radio, and BBC Radio 4. David was named Australian Marketer of the Year 2012 by the Australian Marketing Institute; he has also won two Cannes Lions for his work on Deloitte's Great Barrier Reef valuation, a New York Telly Award, an IABC Gold Quill, and awards in the global IPPA Photography Awards 2017 and 2018.