Thee secret strategies for creativity

It’s difficult having fresh perspectives throughout your career. Especially when you’ve been immersed in a subject long enough to see trends repeat themselves.

Whether you’re actively creating within an industry or just reporting on it, I found these three bits of advice absolutely critical to keep me actively engaged and rolling with the times.

1. Not knowing the rules is good.

I came to the world of watches from a completely unrelated place: marketing. From the beginning, knowing nothing about the craft seemed to play in my favour when developing ideas for brands because I wasn’t familiar with the common tropes they repeatedly fell into.

This naturally led me (without knowing it) to suggest ideas which clients hadn’t considered before, and challenged them to break out of their habits. Instead of focusing on watch features alone, I told the stories behind the models.

This point was reinforced in a recent podcast episode hosted by Todd Searle, speaking to Benoît Mintiens of Ressence watches, explaining the inspiration behind his novel designs.

The essence of the episode is that Benoît’s timepieces completely rethink the form of a watch.

He approached the task as an industrial designer who’s normally focused on other product categories, applying different rules to the challenge because, he says, he knew very little about the watch industry.

The results are simple and stunning. Being unhindered by the institutional norms enabled fresh thinking and engineering solutions that give Ressence watches their unmistakable DNA. Simultaneously benefiting the products and the brand.

Going back to marketing, I never accepted job offers internally with brands, because I knew that staying “outside the rules” wasn’t a limitation, it was a secret weapon. I firmly believe brands benefit more by hiring external agencies/entities. It keeps their communication with customers fresh, enthusiastic and relevant.

So, don’t discount creative thinkers who don’t know the rules, because they can spark solutions, unhindered by industry norms.

Visit Ressence watches here:

Download Forward Momentum podcast here:

2 Actively find outside influences.

Whether making decisions or staying creative in general, it helps to keep consciously open to new influences. Marketers appropriating ideas from the world of art isn’t anything new.

Instead, I think you can supercharge this strategy by focusing on things that you initially dislike.

It can be tough to do because it’s unnatural, but actively seeking the good in something outside of your interests develops critical thinking, empathy and brighter insights than anything else I’ve learned to do as a creative person.

What do I mean exactly? Well, are you ever surprised how some things grow on you? For whatever reason, a detail or aspect of something changes your opinion about it - even a person - and it’s soon followed by an “aha” moment. When you understand its appeal or value.

It’s that process I’m suggesting you practise doing more of, because that wisdom is incredibly useful.

Research shows that we form first impressions of other people within 4 seconds of meeting them. It’s a survival instinct, but unfortunately we transfer that thinking to car designs, watches and clothing too. And that’s unnecessary.

Opinions should evolve, because we do. For example, I’ve shifted my preferred watch style once or twice in my life. Like most watch enthusiasts, I started in one place - in my case with simple, time-only vintage watches from the 60s - and then moved into my tool watch era - chunky divers and chronographs. Now I’m looking at dressier models rather than functional ones.

It was a watch in a window that opened me to this. Dress-style watches make more sense to me now because through experience I realise that functionality doesn’t only mean a GMT or chrono function. Sometimes lighter, less complicated pieces are more comfortable to wear all day. And that’s also “functionality”. I never understood that before, but now that I do it opens me up to a new level of understanding purchasing choices.

It’s important to acknowledge that personal preferences sometimes create limitations. Looking outside of your comfort zone supercharges your ability to find solutions. And that’s a necessary tactic for creative survival in my opinion.

3. Spread your information sources.

I love podcasts, so this one’s easy for me. The idea here is to have a range of news and information sources because it makes you more creative.

The best part is that most of it is done by your ever-working subconscious mind. Let me explain.

The source of this valuable advice was a very smart communicator called Erica Wolfe Murray. She wrote a book aimed at helping small business owners exceed their resources.

I met her at a talk she gave, where she revealed to me that her trick for staying on top of marketing trends is by reading multiple newspapers.

Media-source aside, her view is that absorbing knowledge from various sources will inevitably lead you to connect ideas between. The best part is that your brain does it automatically, and all you have to do is curate the right source material going in.

Choosing the right stuff is critical for this to work. More interesting still is the notion that everyone’s mix of sources will be different, resulting in an endless amount of possibilities that someone else could miss.

I’ve built a selection of sources based on my interests:

  • UK and US news
  • Watchmaking and New watch releases
  • Marketing
  • Behavioural science
  • AI and tech
  • Creative thinking.

I bounce between topics instead of bingeing on any one for too long.

This is a huge life hack in my view and every creative person should follow this technique. At the very least, it helps you be more confident knowing you're on top of current news, and creates another data point for informing your gut instinct.

Find Erica’s book here: Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Wolfe-Murray, Erica: Books