Two cents blog

Can you teach creativity?

by BCM Group on 24 January 2017

‘Creativity’ is the topic that continues to pop up in every industry. It’s an elusive concept that has been praised, put on a pedestal, redefined, and absolutely picked apart!

So, when I began the 2016 BCM Baptism Internship as a creative, I entered apprehensive, but still inquisitive. I wanted to know exactly what an advertising creative does, and simply – if my ideas were good enough? These are the long-term questions I hope to answer. Short-term, I wanted to know how my mentors were going to teach me ‘the unteachable’- creativity.

How do you teach original and innovative idea generation- a skill that is hands on, intuitive, and highly subjective? So far, I can list at least five things that I’ve been taught about the creative process, that has helped developed my own creativity.

How to recognise a good idea

It’s easy to think of cool ideas. But execution is the pivotal point where ideas live on or die. Part of being creative is having the ability to recognise a good idea, but also kill off anti-climactic concepts. Without noticing, you realise the good ones often have a catchy name, evoke excitement and are easy to explain.

Alternatively, I’ve also entertained insightful concepts with a catchy name, but couldn’t quite bring them home. I had to let them go. It doesn’t matter if you’re excited about your idea, if you can’t tie it together, then it ain’t gonna happen!

You don’t go it alone

I entered the advertising industry with the terrifying misconception that being a creative was a one-stop-shop – from conception to production. It’s not like that at all! I have been fortunate enough to be paired with a talented creative partner that I not only get along with, but our talents balance well. I am words, he is visual, and occasionally we switch strengths.

Agency culture also fosters a buzzing environment thanks to a team of clever constructive critics. It’s strange to think about how I fear but also thrive on critical critiques of my ideas at the very same time. My mentors at BCM have found the perfect balance of letting me know when I’m onto something or when I’ve gone too far off-piste. Their insights and feedback are what keeps the creative process on track and developing.

Strength in numbers

Even if you think your idea is brilliant, don’t just stop at one. You need several!

The amount of times I have been absolutely certain that my idea has hit the nail on the head, it got rejected. Having a list of at least five different ideas forces you to think creatively in different ways, whilst offering a safety net of quick solutions to counteract the ‘not so great’.

There’s a limit

I started with a romanticised idea of the creative process – where you only had ample time to entertain outlandish and imaginative ideas. The truth is, creativity in agency life is on a budget and time limit.

The creative side of advertising you don’t see often comes from dealing with the challenges hurled at you (i.e a last minute to client’s requests). Working around this skill is a lesson about creativity within itself.

Creativity is a muscle, not a bone

This final lesson is not something that I have necessarily been taught, but rather a conclusion I have made on my own. Creativity is a muscle rather than a bone. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

In my short time at BCM, I have learnt so much about the way people think, different ways to approach briefs and recognise the different patterns in creative communication. These patterns aren’t just a way of seeing what BCM or competitors are doing, but a reminder to challenge everything I see.

Is this how you teach creativity? I can’t say for sure, all I know is that I sure have learnt a lot.

Rubini Gunaratnam is a Baptism 16/17 Intern 



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