This past week, I stumbled across another TED Talk video called “The Daydreamer’s Dilemma” that I found to be interesting, even though it’s a few years old. It’s by Mr. Tor Myhren, Chief Creative Officer & President of the New York office of Grey Advertising. Myhren talks about how society discourages creativity in the workplace. He cites a study from 1992 about three Creativity Killers, to each which he presents a solution to cultivate creativity among employees:
Creativity Killer #1: Surveillance—Hovering over [adults]. Making them feel like they’re constantly being watched. The risk taking and creative urge hides.
Myhren’s solution: Start daydreaming. We never have time anymore to just sit down and think openly without having someone always looking over our shoulders. We suppress our creative urges because we feel confined by the boundaries society sets for us and we know that if we delve outside of these confines, we will most likely fail. But what Myhren says that’s most needed are “heroic failures” that come from spurts of creativity. He uses his personal anecdote of losing a $300 million Cadillac account after his former agency ran an edgy Superbowl campaign that did not go well with viewers. However, having “failed” once already, Myhren was not discouraged from failing again and put his efforts into a campaign that featured a talking, puking, sassy baby, who’s now known as the highly successful and famous “E*Trade baby.”
Creativity Killer #2: Over Control—Constantly telling [adults] how to do things often leaves them feeling like their originality is a mistake and any exploration is a waste of time.
Myhren’s Solution: STOP BEING SO SMART! Everything we do in society seems like it has to be so smart (from smart phones to SmartWater!) that we forget that benefits of simplicity. Myhren suggests that once a day, people should be stupid and explore the ridiculousness. As an example, Myhren talks about this particular E*Trade Baby ad that brought along with it a great deal of buzz, and almost a lawsuit from actress(?) Lindsay Lohan. The original idea sounds silly, but the reception was enormous (the ad generated close to 48,000 media stories in only 6 months and ultimately no Lohan lawsuit!) and it was all due to Myhren’s team simply being, well, stupid.
Creativity Killer #3: Competition—Putting [adults] in a win-lose situation, where only one person can come out on top, does not foster creativity.
Myhren’s Solution: Collaboration does. While Millennials are supposed to be more collaborative than other generations, Myrhen believes that there are still many limitations of being collaborative in the workplace. At Grey, they have ways to encourage employee creativity, such as cork walls to display and comment on ideas as well as having few individual offices that separate workers. But it’s interesting to note that while radical collaboration can be a great driver for creativity, Myhren says that it can also sometimes hinder those urges. Sometimes, we need to be radically un-collaborative. At times, we shouldn’t think about our co-workers, friends, or bosses and instead, we should “follow our hearts” and take the lead on ideas we’re really passionate about.
Here’s the video:
***UPDATE AS OF 7/23/2013*** — Grey Advertising has resigned from the E*Trade account and Ogilvy & Mather has actually taken over the account. Read about it here. Will they keep the baby??
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