Covid or Not, It's Time for Virtual Creativity

It’s time to challenge a basic assumption in the creative community—that brainstorming sessions are more productive in person. That, and the idea that some things like the energy in the room, being able to look into each other’s eyes, and feeding off each other’s energy all make for a better brainstorm. While I don’t question the power of some of these human dynamics, I do question whether they are more powerful than the very different dynamics virtual creativity can provide. I would go so far as to say that virtual creativity is better than in person. I’ve seen it.

Virtual creativity eliminates negative human dynamics.
It’s been a long time given the pandemic but think about the last in-person brainstorm you attended at the office. A bunch of people cram into a room with a whiteboard. The leader corrals the group and explains the assignment and then it’s “No bad ideas!” and “Let the ideas flow!” What really ends up happening when no one is looking or even aware? Stuff gets directly in the way of creativity. And, ironically, it’s the human stuff.

There’s always the loud guy who loves to hear himself talk and thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. There’s the quiet one who actually is the smartest in the room, but you wouldn’t know it. There’s the more subtle creativity-killers found in unconscious biases, like gender and race. There’s the posturing that goes with office politics. All of these forces work against unbridled, fearless creativity.

There’s none of that in a carefully crafted virtual space. I’m not talking about live Zoom meetings as those only magnify the human problems inherent in an in-person brainstorm. I’m talking about a virtual space where the team is literally reduced to a typeface. A place where they can take in the creative brief on their own, think about it, post ideas that the rest of the team can see, and then build and riff on the ideas the rest of the team posts. In this way, each member of the team is on equal footing so it’s all about the ideas, not the shouting.

Ideas happen while you’re busy making other plans.
Another problem with an in-person brainstorm is the urgency inherent in a “meeting” within a one or two-hour timeframe because this manufactured urgency ignores how creativity works. An idea happens after your brain is inspired with a great creative brief and you’re out there living your life. The inspiring brief doesn’t go away. Not with idea people. Idea people can’t help but get obsessed with the assignment and carry its energy one imperceptible layer beneath their consciousness at all times, ready to pounce when confronted with a fresh potential collision. A collision that happens not in a meeting but, again, “out there” living life.

At the grocery store, on a train, reading a book, Zooming with a friend, taking a shower, or even just being at home. Ideas can’t be forced and a meeting to come up with ideas suggests they can. With virtual creativity, agencies can post their brief (video and PDF, say), invite the perfect team, have that perfect team be inspired by the brief, and—here’s the important part—allow their team to go live life. All the team needs is access to whichever virtual platform you use on their phones and ideas can be posted from anywhere, at any time.

Virtual idea-generation allows creativity to happen naturally, never forced.

Always have the right people colliding.
Lastly, when holding an in-person brainstorm (back when we had them, prior to Covid), we were typically restricted to those in the office with exactly who would make up the team. What’s liberating about virtual creativity is, when fielding a team, you are no longer limited to those in an office or even a time zone. When the entire process happens online ANYONE ON EARTH can be invited to your assignment.

Think about that.

If you need ideas for a retail promotion for a smart-home product, you may or may not have the right experience in your in-house agency. That’s okay in a virtual environment because you can recruit exactly the right experience from other offices or freelancers who could live anywhere. You may want a hardcore retail expert to anchor the rest of the team in the realities of in-store promotions. You may also want a smart-home expert who doubles as a social media pro. Throw two of your own creative directors on the team and look out! That kind of team engineering is far more difficult to accomplish when limited to those available in person.

Technology is the answer to the flawed in-person process.
Here’s the good news: in-house agencies can use assorted tools and platforms to bring creatives together for virtual idea generation. These emerging technologies make it easy to brief your people, bounce ideas around and share files. Some even provide access to networks of freelancers who can augment your current team as needed.

Now, I’m not saying that in-person creativity doesn’t work. It obviously does and I’ve seen it at my agencies past. What I am saying is that I’ve seen virtual creativity work and work exponentially in comparison. More ideas, faster ideas and often for less money than typical freelancer day rates.

And, there’s nothing virtual about that.

Will Burns is an advertising veteran and CEO of Ideasicle X, a SaaS platform designed specifically for virtual idea generation. To find out how Ideasicle X can better enable your team’s creativity (even when you’re back in the office), contact Will directly.

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