Many conversations recently have addressed the misperception that creativity, by definition, takes time, money, and effort that can’t be afforded right now because of the economy. A couple of examples:

  • Someone showed me a meeting announcement for an “ideation” session to which they’d been invited. It referenced the range of ideas under consideration as “creative and practical and everything in between.”
  • A tweet in recent weeks said that while the sender wouldn’t reject innovation, he would “say no to unique creative thinking.”
  • Another forwarded email suggested a group shouldn’t “over think” a topic “out of respect for time & resources. We can do that later when we can be more creative.”


Since when is practical the opposite of creative? And what types of pre-conceived ideas and misperceptions obscure the role creativity plays in contributing to business results?

The image below of three Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors is another exhibit in showing the fallacy of the “creativity only in selected instances” point of view. Ben & Jerry’s demonstrates the myriad benefits of strategic creativity with ice cream flavor names that:

  • Play on and twist the familiar (to help initial recognition and retention)
  • Are funny (introducing emotion, another element in improved idea stickiness)
  • On brand (completely consistent with something you’d expect from Ben & Jerry’s)

These flavors had to be named something. It probably took little if any additional time to come up with names that clearly work for the brand’s benefit vs. generic names that wouldn’t.

The point isn’t to go out and name everything and call it good. The point is that no matter what the economic environment, being strategic and creative doesn’t decline in importance. It’s MORE important.

Strong branding companies know this and act accordingly, while also-rans wait around for economic signals to suggest it’s time to turn creativity back on. Their challenge is they probably won’t make it until their creativity stop light flashes green again. And maybe that’s just fine!

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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7 Responses to “Strategic Creativity Isn’t Expensive – A Brainzooming Rant”

  1. Susan Zelinski The Zen of Business. The Business of Zen says:

    Glad I found your blog Mike! Your messages are spot on! The other thing creativity offers businesses in this tough economy is a chance to be optimistic and have a little fun! Not just for the customer so they remember your brand, also for the employees who are working harder than ever at dealing with significant pressures and limited resources. What’s more energizing than a “brainzooming” session where an idea is born that makes it to market! More businesses would do well to put creativity back on the front burner, regardless of the economy!

  2. Kimber Scott says:

    What ever happened to the adage “Necessity is the mother of invention?”

  3. koerberwalker says:

    Now more than ever, it is important to focus on creativity in the workplace. What was once novel and creative can soon become common. (i.e. Rocky Road was once a new and different name for an ice cream flavor. Today, it is as common as Vanilla.) By holding creative sessions with your team you get those new ideas flowing. Better yet, when you choose and idea and implement it, it energizes your team.

  4. Anonymous says:

    From mikebrownspeaks, kevin fullerton said…
    Can I get an amen?

    Now’s the best time to leap frog your competition – while they’re standing still.

    Great post Mike. Thanks for making the argument for creativity.

    May 22, 2009 7:00 AM

  5. Mike Brown says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone. This piece really seemed to strike a nerve here and on Twitter – it got more retweets and hits than any other post so far. I appreciate your perspectives since they suggest there’s more time to be spent on this topic (and maybe a place for a few more rants)! Mike

  6. stephaniesharp says:

    Great post and I couldn’t agree more. During down economies is when companies should be pulling out all of the stops for creativity to try to get a leg up on the competition and to drive increased sales.

  7. knowpreneur says:

    Mike: I’ve also had similar complaints and rants. After all the subname of my blog Retrain the Brain is “practical creativity”.
    But I’m softening. I can’t blame people for being afraid in this climate. At the best of times, “creative” often equates to “different”, which in hard times is considered suspect and therefore dangerous.
    Of course not everyone is this way right now, but enough are that it seems like everyone. When times improve you’ll be able to better sort out who truly deserve this complaint, i.e. those who “would say no to unique creative thinking”.
    Tony Wanless