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Why experimentation in creativity should be the norm.

One of the most mindset-shifting (and humbling) experiences of my career has been working at a tech startup.

I had spent a huge chunk of my life on the creative side of advertising, working on brands across every category you can think of. Creating everything from global brand campaign platforms, not-for-profit behaviour change initiatives, to building apps and digital products.

So I had a ton of experience to draw from.

But everything I thought of as gospel was tested (quite literally in some cases), when I was part of a scrappy startup of 5 people.

When you go from an industry with a culture that relies on the creative genius of a few rock stars, to one that embraces experimentation, and favors evidence over hunches, it can be quite a shock to the system.

I learned very quickly that I didn’t have all the answers. But more importantly, I didn’t have to.

Tech companies tend to take an evidence-based, scientific approach to everything they do. Which many creatives find stifling and counterintuitive to fuelling creativity.

But I found it quite a transformational environment to be in.

When failure is a natural part of getting to better work faster, instead of the flood gates to negative self-talk, and a crushed creative confidence, it’s incredible how much more creative you can actually be.

The hardest part wasn’t being creative, it was unlearning ad industry conditioning.

That’s not to say some of the assumptions I held weren’t valid.

For instance, I had always recommended against using stock images and videos because they'd never authentically reflect a brand. Stock isn’t fooling anyone.

So when our SMA ads would perform poorly anytime we’d use them, I’d feel vindicated.

But there were many other instances when creative I thought would work, didn’t work well.

Or when one small change made a massive difference in how people understood our product.

And yes, AI can do a lot of optimizing, but it cannot replace a human’s ability to creatively evolve work.

Experimentation in creativity should be the norm.

I get a lot of push back from the creative community whenever I mention the word “testing”.

But I wish every creative could experience for themselves how much better the work can get when you combine science and creativity.

I suppose for that to happen though, the industry would have to shift from enabling rock stars, to empowering the humble and curious.

[Image: Angus Greig]


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