‘Especially extreme space and extreme limitations continually alternate. So, having space in creation and knowing the essence of summarizing, letting someone else work with this whilst offering them the space they need so they can bring it all together, is of great importance.’
In september 2012 I visited Ingmar, to film him for Happyplaces. He was co-working at a wonderful space of friends in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a small village in the vicinity of Amsterdam. I don’t really rememer how we came on each others radar, but I thought Ingmar would have an interesting story to share on how a strategist creates space for brands. Funnily, he wasn’t too certain of that. Which is by the way, the common reply by most people when I ask if they want to share their thoughts with me.
Those moments, almost always, follow a pattern of first being uncomfortable before the camera is ready, then looking into the camera saying ‘I don’t really know what to say, but I just start and see where we end up’, to then start talking. And in most cases, having difficulties to stop talking. Because while talking, new ideas arise that lead to other ideas, to other stories, etc. Fascinating. With Ingmar it wasn’t different. But when he started talking, he really looked comfortable within the moment to then, just share his thoughts like it was his everyday routine. He, in retrospect, was even better prepared and equipped then even he himself thought he was. What followed was a really clear vision in the issue of space in the field of applied creativity. A video I like to watch every now and then, as a reminder, an inspiration and I also occasionally have informally shared with people and an inspiration. Thanks Ingmar!
What I find interesting about space as a strategist is that on the one hand I create space, but on the other hand, I am limiting space. People usually have a tunnel vision when it comes to the brand they prefer. I try to show them that there is more to it and that there are new types of media, new ways other than the ones they are focusing on.
Thus, I attempt to create space in their work. I also try to limit space. When someone knows what they want in this world, they should focus on this. These people should ban things that keep them from accomplishing their goals. This branch of creativity and vision is what I find most interesting. So how do you broaden the space you have in order to be more creative? Or how do you narrow down the space you have in order to focus on one thing?I have learned that a good strategy can only be created when you have space in your head.
So what many strategists do, myself included, is make a long PowerPoint presentation, write all of this down and make sure they have plenty evidence for their arguments. Which allows you to show the client that you have put thought into your work, and that you are worth their time. Actually, this is not good, because you are limiting your own space. You are writing and working towards one goal instead of broadening it.
When I am working on something I try to keep the question in my head and think about it in my spare time until I can explain it in two sentences. Only when I am able to do this, I write it down somewhere. Before that, I give myself the time and space to alter the idea. But after this I always check if I can explain it in two sentences. Because I discovered that if this is possible, all the rest becomes clear as well.
What makes me a bit nervous is sharing this created strategy with the client, and with the people who will take this strategy to the next level. I believe in giving those people a limited play field, like giving them borders. But within those borders, they should have all the creative space they need. This is the ideal combination. They can work in a way that suits them best, but still have to work towards the set goal.
Strategists became popular by using big words such as ‘brand house’, which came across as very impressive, but no one really remembers what it was about. And at this point, the definition of a word can be changed effortless. Concepts which can be summarized in an elementary way fascinate me. For example, Hema’s tagline ‘Extraordinarily Simple’, which stresses the simplicity of the brand, as well as the specialness. Therefore, when you want to share your plans with an organization, you should define the core of your ideas. Because this core is what people will remember. Furthermore, by defining the core, you will avoid losing the overview of your work. The moment when this core idea is established, other people can use it to create new things.
In my opinion, the essence of strategy and creation is extreme space as well as extreme limitations which continually alternate. So, having space in creation and knowing the essence of summarizing. Letting someone else work with this whilst offering them the space they need so they can bring it all together, is of great importance. Things will not go as planned when you are looking for space at the wrong time, and when you are trying put things together at the wrong moment.
I once visited one of the most fascinating lectures in this field, which was given by John Cleese. He stressed the importance of letting your subconscious mind play games in the creative space in your head. He stated that children are the most creative whilst playing. The good thing about children who are playing is that they make up the rules themselves. Like when playing soccer, they make their own rules about the time and place of the match. Adults are always doing more things at the same time, so they are never limited in time or in creative and physical space.
Which causes people to become forced, and causes them to lose the childlike freedom they have. Because of this, they are being limited in their creative process. People easily lose control of the space they have, which refrains them from being creative.
When you are able to define the borders, the creative process will be at its best. It often goes wrong when one party wants to broaden the borders, while the other party wants to stick to the core. So John Cleese’s advice is to make clear rules, and to set borders when working with time and space.