How to brainstorm the BIG IDEA step-by-step

creativity in direct marketingBoost Your Direct Marketing Creativity
- Part 6 -

We’ve covered a lot of territory in this series:

The three levels of creative mastery, good creative traits, bad creative habits, releasing your natural creativity, and inspiring your creative staff.

In this final installment, let’s look at one of the most widespread and powerful creative techniques ever devised. When used properly, it can produce more and better ideas than any other process.

It’s called brainstorming. And it’s based on the concept that two heads (or three, or four, or more) are better than one.

Many would argue that you can’t create by committee. I agree. Writing, designing, and other creative acts are best performed by individuals. Creative execution by committee invariably regresses to the mean. The results are weak and watered-down.

However, brainstorming is not about creative execution. It’s about idea creation. And it is almost always more productive as a group activity.

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8 ways to turn your creative staff into idea machines

creativity in direct marketingBoost Your Direct Marketing Creativity
- Part 5 -

Okay, let’s summarize this series on creativity so far:

In Part 1, we listed three levels of creative mastery.

In Part 2, we covered the traits of highly creative people.

In Part 3, we looked at bad habits that can limit your creativity.

And in Part 4, we discovered how to release your natural creative genius.

Now we’ll take the next logical step. If you’re in charge of a creative staff, we’ll see if we can find a few ways to help them be even more creative.

First, lets have a little plain talk about creativity and your staff. This may be a little painful.

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10 easy ways to release the creative genius inside you

creativity in direct marketingBoost Your Direct Marketing Creativity
- Part 4 -

If you’ve been reading this series from the beginning, you’ve learned about the three levels of creative mastery, the traits of highly creative people, and bad habits that can limit your creativity.

Now, let’s pick up where we left off and see if we can discover a few basic ideas for shedding bad creative habits and building new habits that can turn you into a creative genius.

The important point to remember is that everyone has creative abilities. It’s a natural and necessary part of being human. The only difference between the creative geniuses and everyone else is that creative people use and develop their creative skills.

Usually this is not a conscious effort, but a natural result of their personality and upbringing. However, everyone can energize their creative powers and release the inner genius, including YOU.

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Look out! Here are 16 bad habits that will crush your creativity

bad creative habitsBoost Your Direct Marketing Creativity
- Part 3 -

Previously, we’ve discussed the 3 levels of creative mastery in direct marketing and the common traits of creative people.

Now let’s talk about some bad creative habits.

First, a simple question: Why aren’t more people creative?

Well, you don’t have to be a psychologist to know that people are generally pretty lazy. There’s a natural human inclination to do things the easy way.

And let’s face it, most things in life don’t require too much creativity. So for the average person, there’s really no motivation for the extra effort.

The truth is, most people who display higher levels of creativity have simply learned this behavior by chance. Perhaps their parents or friends did creative things. Or maybe certain random events inspired a different approach to life.

It doesn’t matter how you become creative, of course, but there’s a downside to this randomness. Because if you can pick up good creative habits, you can pick up bad creative habits, too. And you usually don’t know which is which until they’re deeply ingrained.

But bad habits can be broken if you are determined to do so. The first step is to identify these behaviors so you can start making productive changes.

Here are some of the more common bad habits that hamper creativity in direct marketing.

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How many of these 11 creative traits do you have?

creative traitsBoost Your Direct Marketing Creativity
- Part 2 -

In my previous post, I talked about the 3 levels of creative mastery in direct marketing.

And I said that if you’re seeking long-term success in this industry, you should aim for the Third Level, where you strive to find a balance between technique and creativity, between the tried and the new.

This time, let’s take a look at the traits of a truly creative professional working on the Third Level .

Despite what you might think, we are all creative to some degree. You. Me. Your accountant. Your hairdresser. The kid who bags your groceries. Everyone.

Creativity isn’t something you’re born with. It’s not some mysterious aura that hovers around wild-haired writers and artists. And it has nothing to do with how smart you are. In fact, research has shown that once you get beyond an I.Q. of about 120 (which is fairly average), intelligence and creativity are not correlated.

So you could be a genius and display little creativity. Or you could be perfectly average in intelligence and wield amazing creative powers.

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The 3 levels of creative mastery in direct marketing

creativity in direct marketingBoost Your Direct Marketing Creativity
- Part 1 -

We direct marketing types are well-known for our reliance on “proven” techniques.

Our books, trade magazines, and club meetings overflow with zillions of hints, commandments, rules, warnings, tactics, and all manner of well-organized wisdom.

That’s why many people in the advertising industry — much of which thrives on ultra-creative, out-of-the-box ideas — consider us rather old-fashioned and conservative.

And that’s just fine with me.

Because we have a different job to do than our brand advertising brethren. We’re looking for immediate and direct response. We’re going for instant return on investment. Our massive technique tool box allows us to make sales, generate leads, and raise funds in predictable and measurable ways.

But while we can chide our chums on the brand side about being too creative, they certainly have every reason to chide us for not being creative enough. While they often don’t follow any rules at all, we often follow too many.

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How Technology Has Changed Creativity in the Ad Business

Note: I wrote this article back in 1995. But while the wow factor of technology has become routine in the advertising world today, the idea this article presents is still as relevant as ever.

IBM SelectricAfter more than two decades of technological evolution, creativity isn’t what it used to be. I don’t mean that the pool of creative advertising talent is shrinking, I mean the way creative people go about creating is different.

It’s more than exchanging typewriters for computers or art tables for graphic design programs; it’s a complete shift in the creative process.

It started when IBM introduced the first affordable desktop personal computer. With a monochrome screen, no hard drive, and an unbelievably slow microprocessor, it proved that a computer could be a practical office accessory.

As desktop units became more accepted in the workplace, other computer manufacturers began churning out armies of clones, with prices always falling and quality always rising.

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Brainstorming doesn’t work?

According to research cited by PsyBlog (one of my favorite blogs), brainstorming may not be as effective as people are lead to believe.

I wrote about brainstorming in The Secrets of Successful Brainstorming on my main website. And because I’ve conducted brainstorming sessions with clients, I know firsthand that there are limitations to this technique and that it’s hard to get brainstorming to work just right.

According to PsyBlog, problems such as people slacking in groups and fear of being evaluated can result in a group producing fewer and lower quality ideas than people working alone.

I can verify this from personal experience, though I have found that poor results come primarily from the wrong group mix, a rigid company culture, and inexperience with brainstorming.

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Direct marketing extra credit reading list

I’ve been busy recently writing articles for everything other than this blog. So here’s a short reading list for a little direct marketing extra credit.

First, Melissa Data recently published The Ultimate Marketing Survival Guide for 2009. I wrote the lead article, “Direct mail remains the king of direct marketing.” Just in case you thought direct mail was dead or that tweeting is better than mailing, this article will disabuse you of that faulty assumption.

Next, there’s a fun little article over at Copyblogger titled The 3 Secret Persuasion Techniques Every Kid Knows. You parents will relate to this one. I don’t have children, but I know they’re often tuned into persuasion better than many adults.

Feeling a little burned out? Mary Jaksch asked me to submit some tips for Write to Done in a post titled 7 Easy Ways to Energize Your Creative Powers. If you’re a professional writer, you can’t just wait for the muse to drop by. You need a few techniques for flipping the switch on creativity when you need it.

Finally, there’s one of my regular columns for DM News, one of the most recent is Problem Solver: Is it smart for an online business to use direct mail? I discuss how you can’t let a particular medium dictate your marketing strategy and ways to use direct mail to build your online business.

This should keep you busy for a while.

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Sharpen your creative skills. Hug a tree.

According to a study cited by Fast Company, urban living makes you stupid. But spending a little time in nature can give your brain a boost.

hug a treeNatural settings, it seems, apply less of a load on our cognitive processes, compared to the flurry of inputs and choices an urban environment – with all its people, traffic, technology and artificial shapes and sounds – makes. Somehow this has knock-on effects deep in our brains. Of course this study simply exposes the results, and an understanding of the mental mechanisms that drive this behavior is much more complex. But it’s clear that our brains developed as we evolved in a natural environment.

And at least the study found that the beneficial effects of a natural environment counteract the negative effects of an urban one–to sharpen up your brain, you simply need to go outside and find a park to stroll in.

I think this has some importance for writers, designers, and others who spend a lot of time sitting inside staring at a computer screen for hours at a time. You gotta give yourself a break now and then or your brain locks up.

Some people can just crank it out all day long. But I start to get fuzzy after two or three hours. So I look for excuses to change the scenery.

If it’s spring or summer, I’ll take a walk around my property and futz with my roses, kick mulch back into the landscaping beds, or prune a bush or two. If it’s fall or winter, I might rake leaves, shovel a little snow, or clean out a gutter. Fun, huh? Well, it’s more fun and refreshing than staring at my computer in a fog.

At the end of the day, regardless of weather, I walk or bike around my home town (which has done a good job of maintaining plenty of green space). This is a little tricky in the winter, but even now with six inches of snow, I get out and about. I’ve always known that time outside recharges my batters pretty fast. Five minutes can give me creative juice for a few more hours.

Writing is largely about managing your brain. The cure for fatigue or writer’s block is right outside your window.

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