Justin Locke

How Do You Manage Creativity?

Six foolproof methods divulged.

July 11, 2011
by Justin Locke

The words “creativity” and “accounting” usually don’t go very well together in the same sentence, but this article is about managing creativity generally, such as in your branding and marketing strategies. 

Creativity is often seen as a single element, a kind of vague inborn “talent,” when it is really a compendium of both unique innate abilities and learned techniques.

While no one can claim to be an expert on creativity, I think it is safe to say that I’m no slouch at it either, so here are a few of my rules and approaches to managing creativity:

  1. Sleep on It.

    Creativity has a lot to do with the interplay between the conscious and subconscious minds. Fully 90 percent of my best ideas come to me either when I am falling asleep or at the moment when I wake up. Ideas can fade quickly from consciousness, so I keep a little voice recorder on my night table. 
  2. Don’t Force It.

    When you expect yourself to “come up with an idea right now,” you are asking the conscious mind to do the job that is really the job of the subconscious, and the subconscious works on its own schedule. Ideas — like baby chicks — hatch when they are good and ready, and not before. Creativity is a lot more like farming than it is like manufacturing. 
  3. There Is No Such Thing As a Big Idea.

    Ideas are very small, and on their first day have no weight, mass or volume. My most successful musical play began as one tiny little thought: it was the phrase “Peter vs. the Wolf.” (“Wouldn’t it be funny if the Wolf took Peter to court?” I asked myself.) That was all I had. Not much. It’s a huge established thing now, but in creating it, the real trick was having faith and seeing the potential of what was, at its inception, a very small idea. 
  4. See Limits As Inspiration.

    When doing a new project, don’t lament the lack of resources. Instead, accept limitations as a challenge, and see them as a chance to show everyone how clever you are in working around them. For example, I could actually present a much lengthier article on this topic, but I am forced to “be creative” by the limits of the CPA Insider™ to keep this under 1,200 words! 
  5. No New Idea Was Ever Universally Approved. 

    Chuck Jones, the director of so many great Warner Brothers cartoons, once explained his team’s creative process. He spoke about having an initial “yes session,” in which anyone could toss out an idea and no one was allowed to say anything, but “yes,” to every idea in that first meeting. 

    This was a brilliant piece of creativity management because when you come up with a new idea, plan, story, approach, whatever … no matter how good it is, it will have its flaws and its detractors. You can imagine how many great ideas have died for a lack of love at their inception. Some people just don’t like change, even if it means an improvement, while others don't like any idea unless they are the ones who came up with it. Still others have a hard time understanding what the heck you are talking about. These are all creativity killers. And finally, …
  6. Address the Fear of Being Different.

    One of the biggest impediments to creativity is the fear of “being different.” Most of us have traumatic memories of being teased or feeling stupid because we once did or said something unusual or failed to conform to “establishment.” Managing that fear is a completely separate skill from having ideas. 


Thinking outside the box is easy. Acting outside the box, in which everyone can see you doing something new, unfamiliar and untried, ah … that takes guts. Show them what you’ve got. It’s now or never. Take that first step and who knows where it will take you.

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Justin Locke is an author and speaker. He spent 18 seasons playing the bass with the Boston Pops, and he is the author of Principles of Applied Stupidity, an amusing look at how to be more successful by going against the conventional wisdom. You can find out more about his presentations on overcoming cultural inertia by visiting his website.

© Justin Locke