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Hi, I’m Mandy Cochran, the Creative Director at Marketwake and I’ve been a creative professional for the last 15 years and along the way I’ve learned a lot about how to sort of create energy and get the best work out of myself and other creative employees. Since we’ve been talking about curiosity I really felt like this was a perfect fit because curiosity is really where innovation and creativity are born. Inventive solutions and groundbreaking changes in process really come from someone who’s willing to ask what if and this curiosity isn’t just the birth of a creative ask it’s really that continual thread that runs through all creative action and I feel like without it our work becomes a lot less effective.

To be honest most people are inherently curious and there are a lot of reasons why. Curiosity is often an action, a personality trait or a characterization that is associated with procrastination, childishness, or intrusiveness like just being nosy. However, I’ve found that curiosity is the key to innovation and creativity so it really does require some of those mental, and sometimes, social boundaries to be crossed.

A lot of people will stifle curiosity because they assume that what they believe, what they know, or whatever they’ve experienced through their own lens is inherently right.

Most of us believe that we’re all above average in any sort of given topic that we’re going to be asked to contemplate or especially rethink, so we stifle our curiosity because we feel like we’ve already experienced and already know the answer.

People also tend to offer or prefer passivity rather than the active mental state that is required by curiosity. Basically, curiosity is giving you shit, and the opposite of being curious is disengage, and I didn’t come up with that Dr. Brené Brown did.

So with that being said curiosity also requires some discipline. You have to create boundaries to manage and limit your curiosity and that can be really difficult too. So on the whole, I find that really inherently people just resist change and whether we don’t have the time, or the resources, or the patience to deal with change, or initiate it, we tend to resist change on the whole, which curiosity is always going to spark change, and I found that on top of that technology makes us even less curious.

For example, have you ever just let something sit with you that you didn’t know? Like you’re watching a TV show, somebody says I know that actor where are they from? It is really tough for me to sit in that curiosity because I have my phone right there I could just Google who it is, but I bet that’s kind of the case for all of us. We’d all rather reach for our phone and Google the things that we don’t know rather than sitting in and thinking about all the possibilities and really being comfortable with that discomfort. 

We’re all less curious and less adventurous in thought when we have those answers so readily available.

Also, social media really has us living in echo chambers. We tend to reach out for information, recommendations, information and opinions from people who are just like us. We tend to limit our ability to find that wide range of answers, that long trail of curiosity. Solutions and horizon widening options when we’re talking to people who are just like us. Our age, our political status, our marital status, even our gender and gender identities.

Conformity really is curiosity’s enemy. Going back to something Dr. Brené Brown says, which I will do all the time. She says that choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it really requires us to surrender to uncertainty. That goes back to what I was talking about with not knowing the answer and also not reaching for your phone. You might find yourself really flexing those curiosity muscles if you’re willing to just sit in that discomfort and come up with an idea, maybe not THE idea, for yourself.

On the whole, humans really don’t like uncertainty. We like to know everything there is to know and to have fact-based decision-making strategy to ensure that we are always as close to right and perfect as we can be. We really like to make those decisions very quickly. But what if we branched out and really tried new things? What if we could sit in our own uncertainty and brainstorm new ideas for the things that make us the most uncomfortable?

I’ve actually found that that’s the best description of what a creative professional does. We take the things without a black and white cause/effect solution and we have to come up with an idea that encapsulates a problem and solves it to its best degree. That is the task of the creative professional.

So in order to do this, first we have to define the problem to the finest degree possible. It’s always important to know what the ask is, but more importantly, get to know why this problem exists.

Why is this important and why are you and possibly your team the most equipped to solve it? That actually can sometimes prevent external sources from trying to solve internal only problems. Get and stay curious with your problem and allow yourself to flex and morph with the problem itself and you’ll come up with the best possible solution.

That really leads me to my next point. Now you want to fortify your solution really and always possible because nothing sucks more than a great idea with a bad execution.

Bulletproof your solution once you’re sure that it’s the best possible one and make sure that you’re executing as closely to perfection as you can. You’ve invested so much in your work, you want your technical abilities to fortify rather than undercut your work.

Once you’re sure that it’s user ready, go back again and test it. Make sure that you’re always daring yourself to up-level your craft. That in of itself is a form of curiosity.

Now we’re all short on time and long on tasks and I know that, but the more effective our solutions to everyday issues and briefs, really the less work we’re going to have to do over time. I feel like the best creative work is thoughtful and thorough and really neither trait comes from haphazardly research tested of executed work.

So the next time you have to be creative whether it’s creating something for a client, or reinventing an internal process, I really want to dare you to get curious first and foremost. Dare to deal with discomfort of not knowing long enough to fully understand the problem and your role within it and I feel like you’ll emerge with a much more effective and efficient solution, even if you have to be super uncomfortable along the way.

Mandy Cochran

Author Mandy Cochran

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