1. Creativity matters — a lot.
“More companies are putting a premium on creative thinking — that is, the ability to approach old problems in new ways,” says Geoffrey Director, Manifest’s head of strategy. In fact, the World Economic Forum ranked creativity third on a list of the top 10 skills we need to survive in the workplace. That’s why creativity courses are becoming curriculum must-haves at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and other higher learning institutions. “It’s actually very marketable,” says Sacha Reeb, Manifest’s chief creative officer.
Having now led three in-person workshops — two at Content Marketing World and one at SXSW — we find demand for our Creative Pushups sessions growing. “Our SXSW session was sold out within minutes of registration opening, and we got invited back to SXSW to do it again next year,” says Mark Kats, head of business development at Manifest. “At Content Marketing World, we did four different sessions, with more than 200 attendees in total, and 25 percent of the people who came to our workshop got in touch to get Creative Pushups cards [prompts for exercises] of their own, and to find out how they could organize a workshop for their company and team.”
2. Everyone is creative. Give yourself permission to unlock your inner creative.
“All of us have access to our prefrontal cortex — this hum in our heads that is always on. We just need to practice activating it, because being creative is a voluntary act. A lot of us don’t plug into it because of the way we were educated, our cultural backgrounds, or, for efficiency’s sake, we don’t turn to it,” Reeb says. “But it’s dormant in all of us.”
What does it take to make the old creativity engines start churning? In addition to exercises like those we do at our Creative Pushups workshops, it takes guts.
“You can’t be afraid of being a fool,” Reeb says. “Often, creativity is about breaking the rules. Sometimes you need to disrupt the establishment to deliver the unexpected.” Let yourself — and those who work with you — go there.
3. Creativity fosters collaboration.
“One thing Creative Pushups does is reinforce the idea that creative collaboration is actually fun and cool to be a part of,” Kats says. “That joining forces with other humans to challenge ourselves to think of unexpected solutions and unlikely approaches is fulfilling and meaningful. That tapping into your most absurd and foolish ideas and being brave and bold enough to say them out loud is freeing and inspiring. That sitting in a room together and doodling or writing on a whiteboard or arguing about some concept pushes the thinking forward, and that good old fashioned in-person collaboration is sometimes worth the dreaded commute.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, one of our most popular Creative Pushups exercises has been the squiggle game in which you are prompted to create a doodle. Next, you pass the doodle to the person sitting next to you, who must create something out of your original doodle. Then, the completed drawing is handed to the person sitting next to them, and they have to come up with a print ad for the brand-new made-up product depicted in the drawing. We’re not saying the squiggle game is a more enticing way to incentivize people to return to the office than, say, pizza and beer, but it turns out this exercise builds a surprising amount of creativity, and camaraderie, in a very short amount of time.
4. Creativity isn’t just key for people in traditionally creative jobs.
Often, people think that creativity is solely the domain of artists, musicians and innovators. But everyone stands to benefit from out-of-the-box thinking. “Our Creative Pushups workshops are not exclusive to marketers and creative types,” Kats says. “They also make for awesome event or conference programming, as well as professional development, employee engagement and enrichment activities companies can customize for their organization.”
“In my experience, tech and business professionals greatly benefit from Creative Pushups, too. I attended a new social media app kickoff party at SXSW and went through some of the cards with the attendees, and they were a hit,” says Letese’ Clark, senior operations manager at Manifest. “Several of them mentioned struggling with creativity, and the exercises were a great way for them to start looking at things differently. I did a similar exercise when I went to AfroTech this fall. A business strategist I talked to said they could see the exercise helping their team think of new ways to approach strategy.”
Even the finance people get into it! “They enjoy getting to think this way for a change,” says Director, who recently conducted a Creative Pushups session for one of Manifest’s clients.
5.Creativity busts you out of any kind of rut.
“Even if these exercises are not related directly to your job, exposure to these exercises can be freeing and thus refreshing, which in turn provides energy for the job at hand,” says Kristen Youngman, an associate creative director at Manifest.
In Manifest terms, we call that being “unstuckable,” and it’s at the root of all progress at work — and in life.