Having the wide world open to you is the best way to come up with creative ideas, right? Let the reins loose and you have a chance to stretch your creative muscles. The world is your oyster and stuff.
If you stop to truly reflect, I think you may realize that too little direction can be a roadblock itself. Faced with a blank sheet of paper, where do you begin? Given someone else’s vague expectations, how can you be sure you’re accomplishing what you need to? Instead of using your creativity to come up with great ideas, you’re spending your energy trying to define what the objective is, and you’re only left with the first ideas you can come up with. To help demonstrate, I’ve put together a list of 5 ways that you can implement restrictions to produce more creativity.
1. Give your designer some actual direction
I made this mistake too often in my early days (and hopefully our designers aren’t rolling their eyes saying I still do this… it’s possible – I’m working on it!). The argument I might make was that “the designer should have a chance to use their full creativity, if I tell them what to do then it’s too restrictive.” What I’ve seen is that the designer is then left to guess what I’m hoping for, and then I find out that they didn’t read my mind (what!?). Even a little bit of direction, admitting what you have in mind, but leaving it open for them to try something else, at least leaves communication open and they know what you’re looking for – that leaves them open to use their creativity to build on your idea or tell you that your idea isn’t that great. The result is better designs that everyone is happy with. There may be times that the designer should have an open-ended design project – but your blog header image might not be the most inspiring piece of work for them. Come to terms with that and everyone is better off.
2. Create a mini-challenge for yourself
Feeling like you’ve hit a wall on content for your social channels? Give yourself some unnecessary challenges to kick your creativity into gear. Make yourself come up with five photos that you could post using only the same 2 props. Find one interesting article and think of 10 different tweets you could post with it in under 10 minutes. By creating small challenges for yourself, you’ll get your adrenaline pumping, churn out ideas you would have otherwise ignored, and give yourself a new starting point.
3. Ask specific questions
In a group brainstorming session, questions like “How can we market x brand to millennials” will never provide as creative ideas as a question like “How can we use Instagram stories to get 200 people to vote between x and y product?” Give your team some structure and restrictions on what ideas you want from them, and you go from vague and useless to actionable. Sometimes that can feel restrictive when you need a jumpstart on a wide strategy but use these specific questions and ideas to then provide a jumping off point for other ideas. Hold multiple short brainstorms if you need to, where you can discuss different channels and build off ideas rather than start so broad that you never get down to business.
4. Setting measurable goals
If you don’t know what you’re shooting for, it’s hard to come up with innovative ideas. This is where setting measurable goals can help you be truly creative! Are you trying to get visitors to spend more time reading your blog? Now you can think through specific content ideas and ways to solve that problem.
5. Decrease your budget
No, I don’t mean your overall budget. But if you’re feeling stuck and not achieving what you hope for with the advertising budget that you have in place, consider taking a small portion of that to experiment. While your main campaigns continue chugging along, you’ve given yourself a small space to play, and hopefully, you will discover some new opportunity for a lower cost of conversion than your original campaign. Without having some focus on experimentation, you’ll get too bogged down trying to make tweaks to your existing strategy instead of innovating.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut then add some limits – it will push you to find creative solutions!