7 Skills you need to be creative,
like a professional

Everyone is creative. However, we all know some people who are clearly about as imaginative as a mouldy boulder. You may even consider yourself to be one of these boulders… But you do have this quality in you. You just forget how to play around over the years, and become especially scared of playing as an adult, or worse, playing at work! And when it comes down to it, being inventive is just that!

My goal is to give you the tools to take on creative challenges in your own company like a Pro.

Of course, learning how to do this can not be fully captured in just one article, but with this I aim to give you the foundation for becoming an inspired creative.. So let’s learn some skills!

Skill 1: Inspire yourself

Surround yourself with things that you like, things that inspire you, things that make you cry, laugh, scream, swoon, and fall in love… Use Pinterest to save these inspirations digitally. And most of all, be very critical. Only the best for your Pinterest!

Skill 2: Stay critical

Now, ask yourself “Why do I like these things?”. Do this so that you get a better understanding of what it is that you really consider to be ‘good design’. It trains your mind so that you can communicate your innovative ideas more concretely, so that others can understand what you consider to be exceptional.

Skill 3: I don’t know?

Allow yourself to not know the answer. This is one of the most powerful tools you have when it comes to developing creative solutions. As humans we are pre-programmed to need to know the answer as soon as possible, so we quickly look for an answer and just go with it… But the longer you hold back from knowing, the more time your brain has to process alternatives. And some of these alternatives are far more creative!

TIME magazine used children to show how time = better creative work

Skill 4: Go Wild!

Your ideas are never stupid! But an idea can be boring. You see, most people are afraid of saying something stupid at work and therefore choose to say something logical, safe, lazy.. something super boring and uncreative. If you want to come up with something amazing, you need to play around with the absurd and the wild.

This is one of the hardest steps for most people to do as it is a leap of faith. “Will I be treated differently for exploring wild ideas?”. The answer is yes.. yes you will.. you will be seen as a creative person who is known for exploring out of the box ideas (hint hint: That is good). And if not, get your boss in on making this a more creative workplace and things will change quickly!

Skill 5: Design vs. the Real World

By exploring you should start finding hundreds of worthy creative solutions to your challenge. So now you have a luxury problem.. Many of your solutions achieve the same result! But which to choose?

Well first of all, there is no right answer. In the end you will need to trust your gut and just choose one, even if you are not 100% sure about it. Your gut knows more about your feelings towards something than your brain ever could. However, some answers are subtly better than others, and for that you need a controlled approach..

The goal of this approach is to figure out which values are important to have in the real world, and which values are bad to have. To figure this out you need to start doing design research (or probing). Essentially this means that you analyse literature, build prototypes quickly, go up to random (likely) users and start trying out ideas! Even show unfinished looking prototypes and ask ‘dumb’ questions, because it is important that you never assume anything to be true until you have experienced it to be true.

By doing all of this you will then have gathered a massive amount of information which you need to abstract into a set of clear targets for your chosen design. Then your near the finish line! All you need to do now is test all of your ‘good’ concepts against these values until you are left with the very best few.

Skill 6: Make it Achievable = Tone it back cowboy

Ok, so now that you are throwing out wild ideas like a silly ninja, the next step is to tone this back to something realistic. This is often a very hard thing to learn at first because it means that you have to embrace criticism and compromise. You suddenly need to tame a wild idea you have fallen in love with, into something more ordinary.

That’s right, ordinary. A big mistake is to think that a wild idea will be embraced by your company and your clients, no matter how great the idea is. People are notoriously bad at changing away from routine. They will only do so if it matches what they already know, and only if the new way is at least 10x better than the current solution.

But how do you make people fall in love with something ordinary? Where is the shiny shiny? Where is the sex (as one of our favourite clients would call it)? Well… you will find this in the most important parts to any design; the details. Or as the famous designer duo Charles and Ray Eames wrote:

“The details are not the details; they make the product”

This is where you gain almost all of your value. And from my experience, execution of an idea is more important than having a good idea. So, make your wild idea more realistic and then break it up into achievable steps so you can build it like a pro.

Skill 7: Good enough

This last skill is the easiest to explain, and for some reason the hardest to do. This is even where a lot of other designers have trouble.. You see, creative work can basically go on indefinitely… You do more research, you do more detailing, you do more exploring… However, this doesn’t make your design better! It actually just means you spend forever NOT finishing it.

So, instead of constantly thinking, thinking, and thinking.. Just do it! Make your design fast; even if you don’t think it’s ready!

Learn to accept that a creative design is not the final solution. It is simply one step, in a constantly improving creative answer to the same problem. And when it’s done, you can always work on creative solutions that improve it further. But if you don’t allow yourself to say “this is good enough”, then you will basically never be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour as your design will never be finished.

Final Thoughts

Wow! I think that just about covers the foundations? but like anything worth doing, creative work & innovation takes lots of practice and experience. And what’s more, it’s incredibly hard to be creative with your business or project… So, at certain moments while using all 7 of these skills, you will find yourself needing the support of a designer. Their craftsmanship and fresh take on the challenge are there to support your creative vision.

But what exactly does a designer do? Most people would say a designer’s job is to make products and services more beautiful. But this is only about 10% of what they can do.. A designers true job is to solve problems in a creative way, so as to add a substantial amount of actual value for an end user. Here is a comparison to make it easier to understand; design is about creating value (making it sellable), Marketing is about capturing value (selling it).

So my main tip: involve a creative as early as possible in your challenge! Only then can they make noticeable impact to the quality of your product or service.

And with that I wish you all good luck! And if you are looking for a creative, hit me up and let’s talk about your vision.