When we think about creativity and innovation, we often think about individuals - the ones who mystify and amaze us with their talent or their ‘genius’. We think of Madmen’s Don Draper coolly pitching his idea for an advert, we think of Steve Jobs reviving Apple, we think of Elon Musk unveiling his latest rocket launch.
So, is creative success truly the pursuit of a lone wolf, or the result of a team effort? Is innovation about Eureka! moments or strategic analysis? We've all heard the saying ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, but we’ve also heard ‘two heads are better than one’ - which one is it?
When it comes to maximising creativity and innovation in terms of event strategy, many heads can certainly be better than one - as long as the process is right. Handled inexpertly, you could very well end up with spoilt broth but with careful planning and facilitation, you may find the perfect recipe for unleashing innovation and creativity. Here’s everything you need to know…
Why your event strategy needs creative thinking
The days of simply booking your event space and turning up with a spiel and some handouts are well and truly behind us. Without creative, strategic planning and innovative implementation, running an event will simply be a waste of your time and money.
The competition is fierce and if you can’t offer attendees something engaging, relevant and exciting, they’ll simply move on. In other words, when it comes to your strategy, you need to get creative or go home.
A compelling, creative event strategy can increase your ROI, improve your brand reputation and awareness, and leave people wanting more. So, while your creative thinking shouldn’t have parameters, it should seek to answer specific questions, such as:
Why are you running the event? Who are the people attending? What does each persona want to gain from the event? How will you appeal to these different personas? How will you ensure your attendees have a positive, memorable experience? How will you make them feel valued? How will you increase dwell time? How will you boost your brand’s reputation?
When you open this process out to various teams within your business, you might be surprised by the results. For example, your product team are likely to focus on innovative product-based solutions to the above questions.
If they’re thinking about creating a memorable experience for attendees, they might contemplate whether attendees would actually get to handle the product or experience it through a digitalised game. Will you have multiple products or just focus on a new product? Perhaps they could have a go at customising a product?
Your sales team are likely to think about the ways in which leads can be generated and followed up on. Is there a creative way to incentivise attendees to give you their details? How can you gauge levels of interest in a unique, interesting way?
As long as the focus is on finding solutions to specific problems or questions, each team within your business will be able to offer a unique perspective, which in turn can help to create a truly innovative and creative strategy. This type of approach is not the same as unbounded ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘design by committee’.
The problem with design by committee
While the concept of everyone putting forth their ideas sounds like the makings of a collaborative, egalitarian utopia, the reality of ‘design by committee’ is not so rosy.
People love the idea of brainstorming: it’s fun. Huddled around a table with cups of coffee, letting their creative juices run wild, no ideas are bad ideas, etc etc. While this type of approach might be fine for a GCSE drama project, when it comes to planning the strategy for your event, it’s likely to hinder rather than help.
When ideas are imagined for the sake of ideas, there is no end. They’ll keep coming, each one having to be considered and discussed, with plenty of conflicting opinions along the way. With so many ideas and differences of opinion, the process can become complicated, frustrating and time-consuming. In short, the true objective or purpose of the brief can easily be lost.
While a good idea can come from anyone, the process of actually designing an event space requires specialist training and expertise. Opening this up to everyone without stringent direction and parameters is a dangerous route to go down. So, how do you bring together the creative capabilities and collective experience of various teams without falling into this trap?
How to get great ideas out of your team
In order to get great ideas out of your team, you need focus and direction. Creative design and innovation are not mystical notions; they’re not about open, endless brainstorming, free-flowing ideas or personal preferences. They’re about meeting a brief or solving a problem with an innovative solution.
Instead of keeping the parameters wide and asking your teams to brainstorm ideas, ask them to brainstorm questions. By questioning why you’re running the event and what you want to achieve, you’ll determine the problems you’re trying to solve. Rather than coming up with as many ideas as possible, the aim is to come up with as many questions as possible.
Once you’ve established the questions, you can establish which are the most pertinent, and, ideally, arrive at a handful, or just one ultimate question. This question provides the basis for creative thinking.
You can then run a workshop, inviting teams to share creative suggestions, while always reiterating that any ideas should seek to answer the question posed. Rather than entertaining an idea because someone likes it or dismissing it because someone doesn’t, you can simply ask: ‘does it answer the question?’
This process creates focus and objectivity. It unifies people, allows them to be part of the creative process - which for many is something they would otherwise never get the chance to do - and aligns everyone with both the event and overall business objectives.
Most importantly, working in this way plays to people’s strengths. Your sales team are not designers, your accounts team are not visualisers or tech whizzkids. Of course that doesn’t mean they can’t play a part in the creative process. It simply means they need to approach it from their area of expertise, rather than from a broad perspective.
Co-creating your event strategy shouldn’t be about giving everyone the green light to pretend to be a designer or event organiser. It should be about involving people in a productive way, and optimising all the talent within your business to create a truly innovative and creative strategic brief.
Rapiergroup run strategic workshops so you can learn how to effectively involve all your teams in the creative process. If you want to find out how we can help your business unleash innovation, we’d love to hear from you.