Let’s face it, in an age where business is moving at the speed of light, organizations expect everyone to contribute innovative ideas to propel them forward. Market researchers need to show forward thinking by continually keeping on the pulse of new methods, new ways of capturing data and new ways of thinking about generating insight.
It’s true that sometimes the ‘tried and true’ methods are best, but thinking forward means thinking creatively about consumer research.
The Playground Factor
Creativity is not a super power. I would even argue humans are born with it. Just look at any child on a playground or at home to learn how to be more creative. They tell stories, build entire worlds and tear them down in the blink of an eye. They aren’t held to conventional thinking and spark creativity at a moment’s notice.
Sadly, somewhere along the path to adulthood many of us boxed up our creative thought and stored it away as a relic of the past. It’s a shame really, since being able to think creatively is just as an important as any other skill in the market research world (or any business / situation).
Why does this matter? Why worry about being creative? Why would you want to know (or care) if the research firm you are working with is creative?
Creative thought is important and integral to all sorts of life situations. It’s a breath of fresh air in how you think – plus, it’s just fun. Being creative helps you see things differently: you can see patterns, make unexpected connections, come up with new things or have new ideas, shape opportunities from obstacles, mold chaos, and make the intangible tangible.
Creative individuals know how to tap into this resource and even if you don’t feel you’re creative (but trust me, you are – you just need to rediscover it). They can help you think differently and be partners for something new and unexpected pushing the boundaries in what you thought possible when making strategic decisions.
Playful Attributes of The Creative Researcher
Of course, you have to trust that your creative partner is leading you in the right direction.
Here are eight important things to keep in mind whether you’re stretching your own creative muscle or looking to a creative research partner for guidance:
- Steal like an artist –If you haven’t read Austin Kleon’s book, “Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative”, you’re doing yourself a disservice. In it, he points out that nothing is original anymore so don’t be afraid to use other ideas as a stepping stone. Creativity doesn’t appear out of a black hole so use the inspiration and ideas around you to create your own.
- Be creative 25/7 – No – that’s not a typo. Creativity takes practice. The more you use it, the better you will be! Constantly flex your creative muscles!
- Step outside your comfort zone – Push yourself. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you’re likely doing it right.
- Have a willingness to look stupid – I can’t emphasize this enough. Check your fear and your ego at the door when you get down and dirty with being creative. All ideas have a ‘spark,’ and while your initial thought might not go anywhere it will likely lead to even greater thoughts. If you’ve ever been a part of or even run an ideation / co-creation workshop you know one of the main rules is to check your judgement at the door. But, you also need to check your fear of being judged as well.
- Look at things differently – I hate the term ‘wear different hats’ but it seriously helps to think about a problem from a different viewpoint. During an ideation session, I had a group of automotive engineers take on character personas from children’s books to help come up with new vehicle ideas. Originally, I think my client thought I was crazy (all about that willingness to look stupid), but it ended up being a very prolific exercise that helped spur thought that eventually led to 2 patented ideas.
- Get messy! – The creative process is not neat and tidy. Even when I’m looking for creative insights I will pepper my walls with post-its, paper, sketches, thoughts and everything else that will help me think through what I need. Don’t be afraid to scrap things and start over again. The process will take you down some crazy paths.
- Use your voice – This ties in with the willingness to look stupid. You can’t be heard if you don’t speak up and your creative side can’t come to the forefront if you don’t yell!
- Structure is everything – Most people when they think about the creative process think of the artist with the blank canvas just splashing paint around until they produce a work of art. The truth of the matter is, that creativity thrives in structure. When you run an ideation session you create structured activities to move things along. Brainstorming sessions work best with parameters and ‘rules’. You can ask someone to think ‘blue sky’ but you have to help them build the airplane to get there.
Learn How to Apply Your Creativity to Consumer Research
Whether you need to better understand your brand, the consumer experience, messaging, concepts or to help your team co-create / ideate new ideas, creative thinking is the powerful tool you need on your side.